John Mayall – Find a Way To Care (ALBUM REVIEW)

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mayallalbumWith the release of Find A Way to Care, John Mayall has effectively shed the oft-overused moniker of “Godfather of the British Blues.” The appellation may remain accurate, but the longevity of Mayall’s career, and the continued vitality he demonstrates here, posit him as one of the most important figures in contemporary blues of the Twentieth Century.

As an opening number, the easygoing shuffle of “Mother In Law Blues” sets the tone in a slightly deceptively fashion. Mayall and co-producer/engineer Eric Corne mix things up here, beginning with the prominence of the artist’s keyboards and the appearance of horns on “The River’s Invitation,” while the fulsome clarity of the audio mix effectively highlights the multiple textures  here and throughout  the record. Not to mention highlighting an instrumental skill of John Mayall’s often overlooked in the perusal of his discography. The man’s vocals meanwhile remain strong, as evidenced on “Ain’t No Guarantee,” and further notably, sound hardly unchanged in tenor and tone since the days of his work with Eric Clapton in the early Bluesbreakers.

As one of a half-dozen honestly rendered covers included in addition to original material that, as usual, comprises the better part of this Mayall record “I Feel So Bad” highlights one of the album’s other distinctions. The cut also marks the first appearance of piano, the leader nonchalantly rolling up down and along the electric keyboards to sets a relaxing tempo that might belie the title of the tune were it not for the urgency injected by the horns of Ron Dzublia on saxophone, Richard Rosenberg on trumpet and Mark Pender on trumpet.

Like the closer “Crazy Lady,” the title song unfortunately features prosaic lyrics that sometimes blemish Mayall’s self-penned songs, but the first high-profile appearance of Rocky Athas’ electric guitar more than amply distracts from that shortcoming: he might even be further upfront as the all too easy rhymes ensue, but, like the rest of these dozen numbers, its economical duration lessens the offense and keeps it in proportion to the attributes of Find A Way to Care. One of which is the ever so astute sequencing of the tracks which finds Mayall and co offering an ominous take on Muddy Water’s “Long Distance Call.” Restrained boogie-woogie piano bounces off muted electric guitar and vice-verse, making for one of the few intervals here where improvisation takes precedent over arrangement. The level of inspiration within Find A Way to Care begs the question of whether John Mayall will, as he has done so often in the past, might disband this particular lineup of musicians–together for seven years at this point– simply as a means of continuing to nurture his creativity (as he did with the drummer-less phase of his career beginning with The Turning Point).

The inclusion of a number titled “War We Made,” co-written by modern bluesmaster Matt Schofield, might hint at a future, fruitful collaboration if the latter hadn’t already so full established himself. Regardless of where and with whom John Mayall decides to move next, he will do so with impeccable taste comparable to that which permeates Find A Way to Care.

 

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