Many 80 year olds are taking it easy in a retirement community anticipating visits from their grandchildren. Such is not the case with John Mayall who remains active on the road and in the studio. Despite his age, he remains an important link in the electric blues movement. He has just released one of the better albums of the second half of his career titled A Special Life.
Close to one- hundred musicians have passed through his Bluesbreakers down through the years. Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Taylor, and Mick Fleetwood all honed their craft while playing with Mayall. At times this constant flow of musicians has affected the quality of the music. This is not the case with his latest release as guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Gregg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport have been together for over five years and form a tight band. Also a lean four piece band gives Mayall and Athas room to stretch out and improvise.
Many of Mayall’s better albums contain original compositions and a number of cover tunes and that is the approach here. The only guest musicians is accordion player C.J. Chenier who plays his instrument on a rollicking cover of his father’s classic song “Why Did You Go Last Night.” Sonny Landreth’s “Speak Of The Devil” provides room for Mayall and Athas to trade guitar and harmonica licks. Mayall also brings his harmonica expertise to “That’s All Right” in one of the more innovative performances of his long career.
Mayall contributes three new compositions and one re-make from the Jack Bruce era. “World Gone Crazy” contains just the right amount of weariness one would expect from an octogenarian. Mayall takes the lead guitar position on the title track as well as on Albert King’s “Floodin’ In California.”
John Mayall remains a force in the world of the electric blues. A Special Life” is an excellent addition to his legacy.