Ostensibly a tribute to the late Freddie King, this CD also serves admirably as a showcase of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers themselves. The band displays both versatility and finesse on a combination of covers by the Texas guitarist as well as two originals. Meanwhile their front man exhibits his usual authority as a band leader, while at the same time demonstrating enough humility to pay righteous homage to a kindred spirit of the blues.
Mayall's pleasure in playing and singing is palpable on "You Know That You Love Me, and if that track, or "Living on the Highway, is not exactly innovative, that's not the point. The Godfather of British Blues has not always been inspired during the course of his now fifty-seven album career, but he's always endeavored to be and on this CD not one track of the fourteen is anything less than passionate and professional. Recent albums have betrayed a certain sense of ennui in Mayall's writing, but here "Time to Go is a bittersweet nod to his recently-deceased mother while "King of Kings faithfully keynotes the source point of this whole project.
The Bluesbreakers display a similar sense of commitment to the music and Mayall. On cuts such as "You've Got Me Licked the rhythm section of drummer Joe Yuele and bassist Hank Van Sickle recall Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble in their surety if not flair. And when guitarist Buddy Whittington takes over for vocals as well as lead guitar on "Big Legged Woman he demonstrates how he turns his limitations into strengths: the simplicity of his playing and lack of affectation in his singing focus his emotion.
Former Bluesbreaker Tom Canning offers keyboards on most of the album to add color to the mix. Mayall's own piano expands the sound on Now I've Got A Woman much as he uses harmonica on "Some Other Day or Some Other Time. The real bonus of production and arrangement here however, (apart from the beautiful sound achieved through Jon Astley's mastering) is the use of horns. Numbers including the title song add atmosphere as well as scope thanks to Lon Price and Lee Thornburg, while the stately sound they achieve on "Now I've Got a Woman hearkens to Mayall's own jazz-blues fusion. In a similar vein, guitarist Robben Ford, who accompanied Mayall & Co on a 2006 blues package tour, guests as leader and composer on the instrumental "Cannonball Shuffle."
In the Palace of the King is another valuable entry in the redoubtable legacy of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. There will surely come a time when they themselves are the object of the kind of sincere honor they pay Freddie King on this recording.
Track Listing: You Know That You Love Me; Going Down; Some Other Day, Some Other Time; Palace Of The King; I'd Rather Be Blind; Time To Go; Big Legged Woman ; Now I've Got A Woman; I Love You More Every Day; Help Me Through The Day; Cannonball Shuffle; You've Got Me Licked; King Of The Kings; Living On The Highway.
Personnel: John Mayall: vocals, piano, electric piano, lead guitar, harmonica; Buddy Whittington: lead and rhythm guitars, vocals and backup vocals; Joe Yuele: drums, cowbell, percussion; Hank Van Sickle: upright bass, bass guitar; Tom Canning: organ, electric piano; Michael Arnold: rhythm guitar; Lon Price: saxophones; Lee Thornburg:
trumpets and trombone.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.