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Print Version
Reviewed by -
Matt Rowe
John Mayall & Friends
Along For The Ride
Released: November 18, 2003
Origination Year: 2001
Time: 64:06
Tracks: 14
Produced by: David Z
Style: Studio
Format: SACD - Stereo
Enhancement: DSD / Hybrid
Label: Audio Fidelity

Track Listing
  1. A World of Hurt
  2. Along For The Ride
  3. Put It Right Back
  4. That's Why I Love You So
  5. Yo Yo Man
  6. If I Don't Get Home
  7. Testify
  8. Early In the Morning
  9. Something About My Baby
  10. So Many Roads
  11. World War Blues
  12. California
  13. She Don't Play by the Rules
  14. Bad Dream Catcher*+

* Bonus Track
+ w/John Lee Hooker

John Mayall

John Mayall is the shadowed entity behind many of our better-established blues artists today. If you have any inkling about blues-rock and its history, you would know the name of John Mayall instantly. Despite having nurtured a post-Yardbirds Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor along with many other luminaries that have sprung forth from the Bluesbreakers, Mayall is virtually unknown…unless you know your stuff.

Begun in the early 60s as a blues-rock band, which featured soon to be Fleetwood Mac bassist, John McVie, Mayall’s Bluesbreakers went on to filter through literally dozens of star performers who have achieved far greater success than Mayall would ever enjoy. With 40+ albums under his belt however, time would rank John Mayall as one of the more proficiently prolific white bluesmen.

His history is deep and it would serve you well to indulge a few minutes to investigate this dynamo of British blues as it would yield a lifetime of musical pleasure and knowledge. A good place to start is the Audio Fidelity SACD re-issue of Eagle Rock’s Along for the Ride, a collection of hot John Mayall recordings with many of his past recording cohorts recorded recently. This album reconvenes past members with John Mayall and then provides a merge with Mayall’s current lineup to make an argument for blues rock as the true currency of Rock n Roll.

John Mayall & Friends starts off with a “A World of Hurt”, a kick off tune that expresses the blues rock style that belongs to Mayall. Basic, controlled, stripped-down with emphasis on guitar as blues transmitter, this intelligently compiled collection moves effortlessly through a selection of 14 tunes. Of course, to pinpoint 14 extraordinary tunes from Mayall’s career is as impossible as finding the proverbial pin in a haystack due to an industriously recorded output that number in the high hundreds. Therefore, the choices on this album are new recordings that highlight a spectrum of Mayall’s old band mates, giants that have moved through his mentoring system.

Some of the songs do an amazing thing in this set, which is to reveal the embryonic sounds that became the band that the players moved on to. An example is “Early in the Morning” that has John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, founding members of Fleetwood Mac, crafting a song that is unerringly like early FMac songs. This song also has guitar by two other classic performers, Steve Miller and Andy Fairweather Low. Regardless of the shaping, every song contains the unmistakable piano of John Mayall, a stamp of authenticity, if you will.

The Tony Joe White penned “Yo Yo Man” is another Fleetwood Mac styled song that adds the unearthly slide guitar of Peter Green. If you want to be amazed by a great song, move over to the spectral “If I Don’t Get Home”, a basic tune that emits a late 60s stream of glory as expressed by blues-rock bands such as Savoy Brown, The Band, and other quality performers of the time.

She Don’t Play By The Rules” gives another slice of Mayall as it provides the fluidity of Mick Taylor’s expert lead guitar playing. It’s easy to see why The Stones liked Taylor’s style and incorporated his guitar into the band during their most creative period. Mayall wasn’t a bad tunesmith himself. He chose predominately to utilize other people’s songs but here he writes a smoking tune on his own. “California” is such a tune that smoothly blends jazz to make a jam piece. This collection inserts a bonus track with John Lee Hooker, “Bad Dream Catcher”. At 70, Mayall is, respectfully, one of the elder statesmen in the history of rock.

Although this album has made an appearance before in 2001, it becomes more essential as it is the only SACD remastering of any of Mayall’s tunes. And Mayall fans will be pleased. The glory of DSD is to bring out the shape and nuance of every recorded note. And it is becoming a thing of legend amongst the knowing. You know who you are. Audio Fidelity is a label that extols the virtues of DSD while providing a hybrid disc for portability and, for some, the ability to enjoy a better quality album with built in expanded capability for the future.

The DSD layer provides the best way to enjoy this album of Mayall tunes. Right out of the gate this album's superior DSD mix is noticeable. As "A World of Hurt" kicks in, the drumming is shaped as well as the vocals and Hammond. Jeff Healey's guitar is vibrant and gives you an impression that you sit amongst this group. This quality is advanced almost immediately with the next song. But it still leaves you unprepared for the intensity of the drumming that literally leaps out at you in "That's Why I Love You So". Regardless, it is the sonic brilliance of "If I Don't Get Home" that is the convincing element. With its stunning presentation you become sold on SACD as a format that you need. And so this is true throughout the recording. Every instrument is alive, the vocals are rich and you're absolutely there. I'll have to say that this album's DSD mix is the most lustrious in the Audio Fidelity catalog...for now. Like all labels, the bugs and kinks are getting worked out. The science of recording in Hi-Res is being mapped out and the pioneers are ahead of the game. Audio Fidelity's commitment to SACD and its 180g vinyl offerings is an extraordinary one. I'm convinced that Audio Fidelity is positioned to offer the best quality SACDs in the future.

Despite this recording availability in Stereo only, this may be SACD's singular shining moment. And I'm serious about that.

Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
All trademarks are properties of their respective owners.
Disclaimer: various news pieces may state a specific media publication or program as a source. All other news is considered 'rumour' only. That goes double for release dates.

212 Frech

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..."
Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon, 2003