John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Friends – 70th Birthday Concert, Blu-ray (2009)

by | Jul 23, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Friends – 70th Birthday Concert, Blu-ray (2009)

Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment EVBRD 33335-9 [Release date: June 30, 09]

Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color, 1080i HD

Audio: English DTS Master Audio 5.1, Dolby 5.1, PCM Stereo

Extras: Interview, Bonus concert footage
Feature Length: 159 minutes

Rating: ****1/2

John Mayall has been called the Father of the British Blues, and with good reason. His Bluesbreakers have helped launch the careers of a number of notable artists, including the likes of Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. And for this seventieth birthday celebration for John Mayall, both Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor show up for extended sets with the current incarnation of the Bluesbreakers, which is both fantastic and highly unusual – guest artists at these sort of soirees usually only hang out for a song or two! And while most of the current members of the Bluesbreakers aren’t household names, they’re all incredibly talented musicians – John Mayall always had an eye for top-notch performers.

Mick Taylor joins the proceedings on the song “Somebody’s Acting Like A Child,” and adds some really tasty slide guitar work, trading solos with Bluesbreaker guitarist Buddy Whittington, who’s no slouch at the instrument either. And John Mayall is a really talented musician, interchangeably playing electric piano, guitar and harmonica in addition to handling all the lead vocal chores. The next song up is “Blues For The Lost Days,” which is a classically slow blues vamp and features several truly impressive solos by Mick Taylor and Buddy Whittington, and an almost unbelievable organ solo on the Hammond B3 by organist Tom Canning. Eric Clapton comes on stage to thunderous applause and joins in on a honky-tonk duet with John Mayall on piano, “No Big Hurry,” that really hearkens back to a bygone era. This reunion marked the first time Clapton and Mayall had appeared onstage together in 38 years! John Mayall and Clapton are then joined on stage by trombonist Chris Barber, who was responsible in the early fifties for bringing the likes of Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to England, giving English audiences their first taste of American blues music. The full band then returns, and they tear through a torrid “Hideaway,” with some remarkably good guitar runs from EC. The concert concludes with all three guest artists onstage for “Talk To Your Daughter,” with Clapton, Taylor and Whittington exchanging scorching guitar solos.

The image quality on this Eagle Rock Blu-ray release is superb, with deep blacks, good contrast and highly detailed images. And the sound quality is also superb; I used the DTS Master Audio HD 5.1 track, and it provided an immersive and seamlessly realistic re-creation of the event. John Mayall’s vocals were rock solid in the center, and the individual players occupied a very realistic space in the surround mix. And in terms of bonus material, there’s a really great interview segment with John Mayall, and three bonus tracks from the concert. The first two bonus tracks feature the Bluesbreakers sans Mayall, and Buddy Whittington proves he’s no slouch handling the vocal chores in addition to being a superb guitarist. A third bonus track, “California,” brings back Mayall and Mick Taylor, with Mayall and keyboardist Canning joining for a really nice four-handed piano solo, and of course, Mick Taylor tosses in another of his seemingly effortless trademark solos – he’s just an astonishingly good guitarist!

This is as authentic British blues summit as you’re likely to find anywhere, and Mayall, the Bluesbreakers and their guests cover the gamut stylistically with some pretty amazing chops on display from everyone involved. John Mayall looks pretty spry for seventy years old – I would have guessed he wasn’t a day over sixty! Highly recommended.

TrackList: Southside Story; Kids Got The Blues; Dirty Water; Somebody’s Acting Like A Child; Blues For The Lost Days; Walking On Sunset; Oh, Pretty Woman; No Big Hurry; Please Mr. Lofton; Hideaway; All Your Love; Have You Heard; Hoochie Coochie Man; I’m Tore Down; It Ain’t Right; Talk To Your Daughter.

— Tom Gibbs


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