430

John Mayall: Tough

Doug Collette By

Sign in to view read count
John Mayall: Tough John Mayall looks alternately dignified and defiant in the photos that adorn Tough. The music, however, is permeated with a consistent resolve. Displaying his usual emotionalism, the Godfather of British Blues offers an album largely comprised of covers recorded with an almost entirely new band.

The wisdom of his concept(s) becomes apparent on the very first track, "Nothing to Do with Love." This atmospheric number features not just the familiar wail of Mayall's harmonica, but the lead guitar of Rocky Athas—the latest in a string of guitar prodigies Mayall has discovered over the years. The Texas native makes a case for himself on "Playing with a Losing Hand" and throughout the disc, as an axeman worth watching.

Keyboardist Tom Canning is the lone holdover from the various most recent incarnations of Bluesbreakers, and his electric organ swoops its way over the tighten-up funk rhythm of "Just What You're Looking For," which is right where the surety of the Greg Rzab (bass) Jay Davenport (drums) rhythm section begins to impress. Mayall's self-production doesn't allow anything fancy, but by collaborating with engineer Michael Aarvold to create such a clean resonant mix, he further fosters the profile of the band in a most pragmatic sense: they can always be heard, clearly individually and collectively.

John Mayall has a tendency to succumb to the trite lyric when he tries too hard to make a point, with "An Eye for An Eye" a case in point. But the easygoing shuffle of the quintet is sufficiently winning to compensate: the musicianship from Athas and Mayall himself on piano is particularly tasty. As he and his comrades inject what is so often a stolid progression with lighthearted, authentic joy, the music also contrasts the acoustic guitars at the heart of the following track; "How Far Down," sounds even more ominous in this juxtaposition, as Mayall's vocal is particularly pointed in tone.

As befits its title, Tough is one of the more hard-rocking efforts Mayall's released in recent years. "Train to My Heart," which features more bristling lead work from Athas, reinforces that impression, as does the twelve-bar blues that follows; on "Slow Train to Nowhere," the electric guitar leads alternate with piano and organ fills to create as genuine an expression of Mayall's vulnerability as anything on the album.

It's one of three self-composed piece on this nearly hour-long CD. In its debt to The Rolling Stones, among others, "That Good Old Rockin' Blues" might sound precious in the hands of a musician not so deeply schooled in the genre as this man. Yet any bluesman worth his salt would be proud to write and perform the ghostly current events story of "Tough Times Ahead," especially fronting a band as self-assured as this.

Track Listing: Nothing To Do With Love; Just What You're Looking For; Playing With A Losing Hand; An Eye For An Eye; How Far Down; Train To My Heart; Slow Train To Nowhere; Number's Down; That Good Old Rockin' Blues; Tough Times Ahead; The Sum Of Something.

Personnel: John Mayall: keyboards, organ, harmonica, guitar, vocals; Tom Canning: organ, piano; Rocky Athas: guitar; Greg Rzab: bass guitar; Jay Davenport: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Eagle Records | Style: Blues


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Circles CD/LP/Track Review Circles
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Windmills CD/LP/Track Review Windmills
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Ugly Beautiful CD/LP/Track Review Ugly Beautiful
by David A. Orthmann
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Trickster CD/LP/Track Review Trickster
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Caipi CD/LP/Track Review Caipi
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 24, 2017
Read United CD/LP/Track Review United
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "The Journey" CD/LP/Track Review The Journey
by James Nadal
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Pasar Klewer" CD/LP/Track Review Pasar Klewer
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 7, 2017
Read "Vortex Generation Mechanisms" CD/LP/Track Review Vortex Generation Mechanisms
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 25, 2016
Read "Metal Na Madeira" CD/LP/Track Review Metal Na Madeira
by Jim Trageser
Published: January 6, 2017
Read "Mundo" CD/LP/Track Review Mundo
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 30, 2016
Read "Solstice" CD/LP/Track Review Solstice
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 30, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!