John Mayall - In the Palace of the King

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
In the Palace of the King


First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2007, Volume 14, #7

Written by John Metzger

Thu July 26, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT


At 73 years of age — 60 of which have been spent playing the blues — John Mayall has every right to be reflective. His latest effort In the Palace of the King serves as a loosely based tribute to Freddie King, the Texas artist who inspired Mayall to spark the British blues scene all those years ago. Interspersed among the covers of songs that King wrote and recorded are several tracks that were inspired by his work — such as Robben Ford’s rousing instrumental Cannonball Shuffle and Mayall’s own King of Kings. Nevertheless, the most telling tune on the set is Time to Go, a memorial that Mayall penned for his mother who passed away last year just before reaching her centennial birthday. Granted, there are moments on In the Palace of the King when his vocals feel a little frail in comparison with the firepower of his backing band — the continuously evolving and everlasting Bluesbreakers — but on Time to Go, Mayall turns his tears into a mournful and moving eulogy, thus giving the collection its resonance.

The most surprising thing about In the Palace of the King, however, is that despite having 56 albums under his belt, Mayall is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. In fact, the 14-track set is a remarkably energetic and passionate affair, though as has been the case so often in his career, it helps immensely that Mayall has assembled a stellar backing band to support his work. Guitarist Buddy Whittington, in particular, rises to the occasion repeatedly throughout the effort as he weaves his stinging lead through the title track’s horn-splattered arrangement and wrenches every drop of sorrow that he can from the slowly simmering Help Me through the Day. Elsewhere, the group collectively attacks both You Know that You Love Me and Going Down, while Mayall’s deft harmonica playing is showcased wonderfully on Some Other Day, Some Other Time. For the record, there’s nothing on In the Palace of the King that Mayall hasn’t done before, but that doesn’t diminish the amazing fact that he keeps finding ways of making the blues sound fresh and vibrant. starstarstar ˝

In the Palace of the King is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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