Padlock on the Blues
First Appeared at The Music Box, September 1999, Volume 6, #9
Written by John Metzger
After all these years, John Mayall is still going strong. Almost like clockwork, he enters the recording studio before returning to the road with his world renowned outfit, The Bluesbreakers. Over the course of his career, he has released more than 40 albums — a truly staggering number for any artist, and on July 13, he added one more to that total with his latest effort Padlock on the Blues.
Most artists might have become formulaic and stale after concocting so many efforts, but Mayall somehow manages to keep his songs sounding fresh and vibrant. His lyrics on Padlock on the Blues seem even more personal than usual, and on many tracks he reflects on his long and successful career as well as his relationships with his audience, his band, and his music. The Strip, for example, documents a trip to perform in Los Angeles, while A Hard Road examines the life that he has led.
Since its debut in 1964, The Bluesbreakers has been in an almost constant state of evolution. Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Walter Trout are just a few of the musicians who have passed through Mayall’s band, and the latest addition is bassist John Paulus. The other members of Mayall’s current line-up — guitarist Buddy Whittington and drummer Joe Yuele — have remained intact since his 1995 release Spinning Coin. In fact, the group picks up right where it left off, though Padlock on the Blues shows that the ensemble certainly has benefited from playing together for a few years.
This time around, Mayall has augmented The Bluesbreakers with a horn section plus a few special guests — the legendary John Lee Hooker, saxophonist Ernie Watts, and guitarist Coco Montoya. Watts lays down a soulful solo on the opening Don’t Turn Your Back that perfectly complements Mayall's graceful, rhythmic keyboard playing. Hooker appears on a pair of tracks, including the pulsating Somebody’s Watching. Though the song was written by Mayall, it easily captures the style and sound for which Hooker is known.
Over time, Mayall’s brand of the blues hasn’t really strayed all that far from where it began, but his vision has remained crystal clear. He always has had an ear for discovering talent, and he consistently has arranged his songs to showcase The Bluesbreakers’ strengths. It’s no surprise that Padlock on the Blues continues this excellent tradition. After more than 35 years of touring and recording, it’s good to know that John Mayall still has plenty left to say.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box