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Find a Way to Care

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Album Review

John Mayall, the pioneering octogenarian British bluesman, has been on a late-career tear. Last year's A Special Life received wide approval from fans and critics alike, while its supporting tour found him playing well-attended shows. Find a Way to Care, his second date for Forty Below Records, is again produced by Eric Corne and features the same band that's been with Mayall for years: guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport. A horn section also augments select tracks. The material, as usual, is divided between originals and covers. This is a Mayall album that — uncharacteristically — focuses on his keyboard skills: he manhandles B-3, Wurlitzer, piano, and clavinet (and also plays harmonica and some guitar). His hard-grooving Hammond on Percy Mayfield's "The River's Invitation" seamlessly weaves roadhouse blues and vintage R&B. Mayall's grimy Wurlitzer fuels a thorough reinvention of Lightnin' Hopkins' "I Feel So Bad," with meaty fills interacting with the horns. His 12-bar piano progressions and chord voicings on Don Robey's "Mother-in-Law Blues" are fat and greasy. Athas gets plenty of playing time too. His stinging leads pierce through swaggering horns and Wurlitzer on the title number. The B-3 and clavinet on "Ain't No Guarantees" are meaty and tight, underscored by breaks from Davenport and a deeply funky bassline from Rzab. Lee Baker, Jr.'s "I Want All My Money Back" finds the band in a house-rocking groove. "Ropes and Chains," co-written with Rzab, places the clavinet and bass (the latter played like a lead guitar) way up-front in the mix. Chicago blues frames the tune, but skittering cadences and deep down-home funk add a new textural palette. "Crazy Lady" is a solo piece for vocals and piano that displays Mayall's ample knowledge of the New Orleans piano tradition, nodding to both Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. Mayall also gives props to British blues guitarist Matt Schofield and co-writer Dorothy Whittick in a moody, steamy reading of "War We Wage," with a great solo by Athas. Mayall's voice is beginning to show its age (on the slow tunes in particular), but he can still sing and shout clearly. Find a Way to Care doesn't break new ground, but it is exploratory. Mayall is still actively seeking the depths of the music he's been playing for nearly 70 years. His vast experience as a bandleader has made him hungrier; he still pursues the music with the fervor of a man less than half his age. If you're a fan, you need to grab this one.

Customer Reviews

John Mayall -Find a Way to Care

Like the actor, Morgan Freeman, one thing about John Mayall, and very few other musicians, is that you can tell it is Mayall from the very first listen. One of his very earliest recordings released not too long ago, ‘Live in 67’, has been nominated for several blues awards and is one of the finest live recordings I have had the pleasure to listen to. And despite the critical and long term success John Mayall has achieved, he remains then and now, true to the blues. Every pore of every song on this latest release is true blues. ‘Find a Way to Care’ is filled with twelve blues numbers covering several themes from the shuffle of ‘I Want My Money Back’ to the slow blues of ‘Drifting Blues’. While most noted for his harp work, it takes a back seat to the keyboards on this album. John Mayall’s keyboard playing is front and center for much of the album, just give a listen to ‘Crazy Lady’ and you will find a touch of Johnny Johnson influenced hopping keyboard work. Whether John Mayall is playing the piano or organ, there is a real vitality to his work. His sterling harp playing supplements and enhancing many tunes as in ‘Ropes and Chains’.
Mr. Mayall has had a long and productive career, he was a part of the a small contingent of musicians who inspired a resurgence of interest in the blues and helped so many whose careers began under his tutelage. With his release of ‘Find a Way to Care’, I do not see a man resting upon his laurels. If anything, he comes with the same feeling for the blues as the best of those who came before him and continues to feed the ravishing hunger of blues affectionados for the real thing.

Father Mayall

He just turned 82! Among many others who played in his Bluesbreakers band were Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, Hughie Flint, Jon Hiseman, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser, Johnny Almond, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya and Buddy Whittington. His voicing & instrumental abilities are legendary ... still going strong!

Biography

Born: November 29, 1933 in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As the elder statesman of British blues, it is John Mayall's lot to be more renowned as a bandleader and mentor than as a performer in his own right. Throughout the '60s, his band, the Bluesbreakers, acted as a finishing school for the leading British blues-rock musicians of the era. Guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor joined his band in a remarkable succession in the mid-'60s, honing their chops with Mayall before going on to join Cream, Fleetwood Mac, and the Rolling Stones, respectively....
Full Bio