Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton

I was going to write about some music from a more modern era this time, but I thought it was worth covering one more classic blues album before moving on to other things. 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, most of my early exposure to blues and roots music came from cover versions on early records by the English groups. In late 1968, I bought this classic album by John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. It was one of the first blues albums in my growing record collection.

I saw Cream play live in November of 1968 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. My good friend Neil Ayer and I escaped from the Pottstown Lock Up to catch the show. It was only the second rock concert I had been to in my young life (A Hendrix show the year before was my first), so I was quite impressed with everything that I saw that night. Although I didn't take any photographs of the show, I can still remember clearly the look of the players in the band. I also remember how loud the music was and the long jams they played like Toad and Crossroads. Great stuff.

Unfortunately, this was in the era of the revolving stage at the Spectrum. The band was in the middle of the arena and the stage revolved around. This was a terrible decision in terms of the sound, because it was either blasting straight at you or bouncing off the other side of the venue when the musicians faced the other way. 

At the time, I was oblivious to any of this. Neil Ayer, who played guitar and had a little more knowledge about music than I did, declared it all to be "quite bogus" or something like that. He might have been right, but it still was a historic night for me. In retrospect, we were lucky to see this band that played so few dates, regardless of the presentation.

Because of my interest in Eric Clapton after the concert, I bought this John Mayall album. Recorded in 1966, after Clapton left the Yardbirds and joined the band, it is probably the best blues album ever recorded by an English group. It is amazing to listen now to 21 year old Clapton taking on the blues standards and making them his own.

This was my first exposure to Hideaway, the Freddy King classic instrumental, which is still one of my favorite blues songs. Clapton and Mayall also do a great job on Robert Johnson's Rambling On My Mind, on which Clapton makes his recorded singing debut. They also nail Otis Rush's All Your Loving.

From start to finish, it is a wonderful album and one you should have on your playlist. Available from Amazon as well. Pick it up.


  1. A revolving stage? That's hilarious. When did they take it out? My first Spectrum shows were in the mid-1970s and the stage stayed firmly in place.

  2. Yea, it didn't do much for the sound. Either it was in your face or bouncing off the other side of the Spectrum. They used it for the Hendrix and Cream shows that I saw. If I remember right, the Blind Faith show that I saw later had the stage at one end. Thanks for reading and the comment.