John Mayall: The Turning Point (2001)
John Mayall's position in the British Blues world of the 1960's was akin to Art Blakey's position in the North American jazz scene. Both were gifted discoverers and developers of talent in addition to being notable musicians. At various times, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, John McVie, and Jack Bruce were members of Mayall's ever changing band. In 1968, about the time when the talented blues guitarist Mick Taylor left to play for the Rolling Stones, Mayall radically reconceived his usual electric guitar led format. His live album The Turning Point was the refined result of this risk taking.
Mayall eliminated the drummer in his new mix. Perhaps this was partially inspired by the presence of the talented bassist Steve Thompson, a deeply jazz influenced musician who provided a surprisingly flexible foundation for this innovative band. Both Mayall and acoustic guitarist Jon Mark ably switched off in the rhythm guitar role, helping to highlight the intricacy of exchange among the band's musicians. With an acoustic guitar and, at times, a flute in the mix this drummerless arrangement was ideal.
Jon Mark's excellence on guitar was in many ways the hub of the band, bridging the strong voices of the band's bassist and saxophonist. Whether soloing or working as an accompanist, Mark was consistently imaginative, at times displaying impressive classical technique. Johnny Almonds' bluesy, jazz saxophone generated much of the fire. His long solos, for example on "Thoughts About Roxanne," drove the band from above, providing a foil for Mayall?s vocals while Steve Thompson's bass guided the band from below.
This was a passionate band that listened and played intensely. Whatever his occasional shortcomings as a vocalist, when Mayall was on he was a distinctive and heartfelt singer, and that night in 1969 at the Fillmore East he was in good form. In addition, his famous harmonica work on "Room To Move" is still fresh and a pleasure to hear. The Turning Point manages somehow to be both laid back and exciting with a unique and sophisticated mix of musicians who play together like a great band is supposed to. In short, this is a blues-rock "classic" that deserves the tag.
Track Listing: The Laws Must Change; Saw Mill Gulch Road; I'm Gonna Fight For You J.B.; So Hard To Share; California; Thoughts About Roxanne; Room To Move. Added to the original tracks are: Sleeping By Her Side; Don't Waste My Time; and Can't Sleep This Night. All compositions are by John Mayall except for three composed by Mayall and Thompson. The 2001 sound re-mastering of this 1969 concert is excellent.
Personnel: John Mayall, vocals, harmonica, slide guitar, telecaster 6 string guitar, tambourine, and mouth percussion; Jon Mark, acoustic finger-style guitar; Steve Thompson, bass; Johnny Almond, tenor and alto saxophones, flutes, and mouth percussion.