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Life’s Soundtrack – A Good run made Special by John Mayall’s latest – A Special Life

Art Work by John Mayall

Art Work by John Mayall

This week has been a topsy-turvy week, Monday it was in the 80s and then was  cloudy all day yesterday (Tuesday) it looked like it was going to rain and the temperatures were in the 60s!  Today (Thursday) it was supposed to be back into the 80s. so last night (Wednesday) I decide that I better run then or face another hot day running! So of course today turned out a lot like yesterday, but I’m still glad that I ran last night!!  I decided to run on of my oldest routes, a slightly up and down run going up and down the highest point in Riverside on Pancoast Avenue. On my last run I ran with on of the younger blues musicians, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who by the way is celebrating his birthday today. Happy Birthday Kenny Wayne, so last night I decided to run with someone older than me, by almost two decades!! That would be “the godfather of the British Blues” John Mayall, who turned 80 last November, and his latest release A Special Life. Anyway the run was a good one, while I didn’t set any land speed records I did feel fairly strong throughout the run, well except when I was going up the steepest parts of Pancoast!! The only good thing is that I do get to go down hill for a good part of the last mile!! The splits weren’t too bad. First mile 10:20 – Second 10:28, Third 11:04 – the uphill battle, 4 – 10:42  Total Time – 42:34 and when compared to Monday’s 44:54 it even looks better!!

Now back to the music A Special Life is like Mayall’s gazillionth release since he formed the Bluesbeakers in 1965. I started to listen to Mayall during my freshman year in college with the first album that  I bought being The Turning Point and it has through the years been on of my favorites.This time period in Mayall’s music is my favorite. The Turning Point along with Jazz  Blues Fusion and Movin’ On are three of my favorite albums. I loved Johnny Almond’s sax and flute work and every body on the later two albums, Jazz Blues Fusion introduced me to the trumpet of Blue Mitchell. For most of the world John may be best know for the musicians who have been a part of the Bluesbreakers…..from Wikipedia here are of some ex-members of John’s band…..

  • Guitar: Eric Clapton, Roger Dean, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Harvey Mandel, Freddy Robinson, Jimmy McCulloch, Kal David, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, Randy Resnick,Sonny Landreth, Buddy Whittington, Eric Steckel, Robben Ford
  • Bass: Jack Bruce, John McVie, Steven Thompson[disambiguation needed], Larry Taylor, Tony Reeves, Hank Van Sickle, Greg Rzab
  • Drums: Hughie Flint, Keef Hartley, Aynsley Dunbar, Soko Richardson, Jon Hiseman, Colin Allen, Mick Fleetwood.
  • Keyboards: Dr. John
  • Vocals/Harmonica: Paul Butterfield

I think that the first time I heard Coco Montoya was on John’s 1987 release Chicago Line. What I didn’t realize until a short while back, was that Walter Trout also played on that album. Looking at the list of guitarist see that both Eric Steckel and Robben Ford have recorded with John, so I will certainly look up the albums they played on. 

The current lineup for the Bluesbreakers includes: Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, and drummer Jay Davenport. Rocky Athas and Stevie Ray Vaughan both hail from Oak Cliff, Texas. By the time Athas was 23, he had already established himself on the Texas Blues scene and was named one of the first TEXAS TORNADOS by Buddy Magazine’s Top Ten Guitarists. The list of Texas Tornados went on over the years to include Eric Johnson, Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and Johnny Winter. Both Greg Rzab and Jay Davenport grew up in the Chicago blues scene. Rzab has been a member of  Buddy Guy and jimmy Page’s bands, and Warren Hayes’ Gov’t Mule! Davenport has likewise played with some top blues musicians including: Junior Wells, Valerie Wellington, Pinetop Perkins,Jimmie Johnson and for the last several years he has been the drummer for west-side guitarist Melvin Taylor,  where the other half of the rhythm section was? – Greg Rzab!!. Last year, Mayall asked about his current band and he replied, “The band I have now is the best band I have EVER had. I think it would be impossible to do better than that!”

Now I’ve babbled on for long enough and I’m not going to tell you about each track on the album. I’ll just say that they’re all really good. Here’s what the American Blues Scene says about the album…..

Mayall is at the top of his game here, and the band comes together nicely, serving up some of the finest fare we’ve heard in a while. This music draws listeners in, and engages them on so many levels! The more we listened to A Special Life, the more we wanted to hear it. Superbly crafted and performed, it is at once earthy, elegant, and soul stirring. Listeners will wear this album out.

So Check IT out!! Here’s “Speak of the Devil” from A Special Life – and I will say this may be my favorite track on the album and that I hope that I’m going as good as John, when I hit 80!!!