John Mayall, British Blues giant and blues rock pioneer, nurtured the careers of Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie and many other rock luminaries. Now his earliest and best recordings with them in the Bluesbreakers as well as Mayall’s other stellar work throughout his debut decade on record are heard on the 4-CD box set So Many Roads: An Anthology 1964-1974 (Hip-O/UMe), released August 17, 2010.
The anthology for the first time comprehensively covers a period during which Mayall released a staggering 10 albums each on Decca and Polydor. Filled with 74 vintage tracks, each newly digitally remastered from the original master tapes, the box also features a 40-page booklet with liner notes and previously unpublished photographs.
On the package’s first two discs, So Many Roads dips into his classic Decca albums from 1964 to 1968: Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton; A Hard Road and Crusade featuring Peter Green; and Bare Wires and Blues From Laurel Canyon featuring Mick Taylor, plus tracks taken from non-album singles and EPs. The Decca period ranges from his first recordings, “Crawling Up A Hill” and “Mr. James,” to gems with Clapton such as “All Your Love” and “Parchman Farm,” to the quintessential Sixties flashback “Miss James.”
The set’s third and fourth discs are devoted to his Polydor recordings between 1969 and 1974, when Mayall was essentially living and recording in America. For The Turning Point, his first album for the label, he dropped the Bluesbreakers name and redefined the boundaries of contemporary electric blues. Gone were drum kit, amplifiers or keyboards. Recorded live at New York’s Fillmore East, the album became the most successful U.S. release of Mayall’s career, with “Room To Move” his best known and most requested work.
He later assembled his first all-American group of musicians for USA Union and albums such as Memories, the live Jazz Blues Fusion and Moving On from L.A.’s Whisky A Go Go followed before exiting Polydor with the studio albums Ten Years Are Gone and The Latest Edition. During this period, along with his fierce Chicago-inspired blues, Mayall experimented with what he called jazz blues. Yet the final selection on So Many Roads–“Gasoline Blues”–is arguably among the most straight-ahead rockers he has ever recorded.
By the mid-Seventies, Mayall was acknowledged as one of the most pivotal and seminal figures in blues rock in general and British Blues in particular. A listen to So Many Roads: An Anthology 1964-1974 demonstrates why.