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John Mayall: The Masters

Ed Kopp By

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After guitarist Mick Taylor bolted John Mayall's Bluesbreakers for the Rolling Stones in 1969, Mayall opted for a stripped-down, "unplugged" sound. The independent-minded Brit centered his new band around acoustic guitars, and hired saxman/flutist John Almond and mellow guitarist Jon Mark. In a move viewed as revolutionary at the time, Mayall also eschewed a drummer. The result was the classic album Turning Point, a gentle but jazzy blues album recorded live at the Fillmore East. The record was embraced by peace-loving hippies across the planet, and it still holds up pretty well today.

During this same period, a team of young film makers decided to record Mayall's every movement and utterance in 1969. Their film recently resurfaced in England, and apparently it's being re-released there. The Masters is a companion two-CD package that contains sound excerpts from this 1969 movie — a mix of live performances, rehearsals, spoken snippets and interviews.

The performances are not nearly as sharp as on the original Turning Point, and the sound quality is bad in comparison. The spoken snippets and interviews should only interest Mayall fanatics. The songs are virtually the same as on Turning Point, with a couple of added selections. The performances are also similar, though Mayall's off-key singing pretty much ruins "Sleeping By Her Side" and "Thoughts About Roxanne," two favorites from the original. In short, Turning Point is a much better album.

Casual Mayall fans should steer clear of this one. Still, if you're among the multitude of aging hippies for whom Turning Point summons warm memories, you'll probably want to own The Masters. Even though it's a two-CD set, it's priced the same as one CD.

Consumer alert: The film has also spawned a separate CD release, Live at the Marquee 1969, which has even worse sound quality — so bad that it's unlistenable.

Title: The Masters | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Eagle Records

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