John Mayall is often more remembered for who has passed through his group than he is for his music. Such artists as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and a host of others are ex-Bluesbreakers. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers: Live At Iowa State University was recorded in 1987. His band at the time consisted of dual guitarists Walter Trout and Coco Montoya with Bobby Hayes on bass and Paul Hines behind the drums. He was in his mid-fifties at the time this concert was recorded and appeared healthy. His voice is in fine shape. He even seems to be having fun on stage.
The music contained on this DVD is excellent. I wish I could say the same for the packaging. The songs are listed out of order both on the DVD package and on the DVD menu itself. Some of the songs are not complete and are joined in progress. There is little flow between many of the tracks, which takes away from an actual concert experience. The extras promise a backstage interview with John Mayall which consists of one question that was not answered. I am going to take their word that the concert was actually recorded at Iowa State University. The music is superb. John Mayall plays the blues and nothing but the blues. The band is tight and the sound is full. He always sounds better when he carries two guitarists in his band. He and Walter Trout trade creative leads. Trout is an excellent player who can get almost a weeping sound from his instrument. Mayall also rotates to keyboards and harmonica with equal aplomb.
“Parchment Farm” is an old Mose Allison tune that features frenetic harmonica playing by Mayall. Very few people can use the harmonica as a lead instrument but he pulls it off, complete with some improvisation that always returns to the songs original structure. “Birthday Blues” is a song that focus’ upon Mayall’s blusy vocal. He accompanies himself on keyboards and this is as close to a one man show as he will come during this concert.
The Little Walter instrumental tune, “It Ain’t Right,” is a complete group effort. It is a two guitar attack by Trout and Montoya along side some more harmonica by Mayall. It is an virtual assault on the senses. The different guitar styles of Trout and Moore are obvious on their respective solos. Trout is more of a classic and technical blues guitarist while Montoya is a rock/blues fusion player. It is a good union and neither of the musicians intrude upon the others territory.Trout plays lead guitar almost as much as Mayall. “Little Girl,” “Steppin’ Out” and “One Life To Live” all showcase his skills. He is just one of those creative guitarists who can almost make the instrument talk. His tone is also crystal clear.
“Room To Move” can be considered to be funky blues if there is such a thing. It is a virtual extravaganza of Mayall’s harmonica playing and a must listen for any blues lover.
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers: Live At Iowa State University proves that John Mayall was still on top of his game in 1987. Ignore the package and just listen to the music.