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The Turning Point

John Mayall

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Album Review

This prophetically titled project represents yet another crossroad in John Mayall's ever evolving cast of prime British bluesmen. This album also signifies a distinct departure from the decibel drowning electrified offerings of his previous efforts, providing instead an exceedingly more folk and roots based confab. The 2001 "remastered & revisited" edition of The Turning Point boasts vastly improved audio — when compared to its previous CD counterparts — and a trio of three "bonus tracks" from the same July 12, 1969 performance at Bill Graham's fabulous Fillmore East in New York City. The specific lineup featured here is conspicuous in its absence of a lead guitarist, primarily due to Mayall recommending himself out of his most recent string man. After the passing of Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones decided to tour and at the behest of Mick Jagger, Mayall suggested Mick Taylor — who had been with him since Crusade (1967). Mayall gave this potentially negative situation a positive outcome by retooling the combo into an acoustic quartet featuring old friends as well as some vital new sonic textures. Mayall (vocals/harmonica/slide guitar/telecaster six-string/hand & mouth percussion) joined forces with former associates Steve Thompson (bass) and Johnny Almond (tenor & alto sax/flute/mouth percussion), then added the talents of Jon Mark (acoustic finger-style guitar). It becomes readily apparent that Mark's precision and tasteful improvisational skills place this incarnation into heady spaces. The taut interaction and wafting solos punctuating "So Hard to Share" exemplify the controlled intensity of Mayall's prior electrified outings. Likewise, Mark's intricate acoustics pierce through the growl of Mayall's haunting slide guitar solos on "Saw Mill Gulch Road." The Turning Point also examines a shift in Mayall's writing. The politically charged "Laws Must Change," the personal "I'm Gonna Fight for You J.B." and the incomparable "Room to Move" are tinged with Mayall's trademark sense of irony and aural imagery. As mentioned above, the supplementary sides "Sleeping by Her Side," "Don't Waste My Time," and "Can't Sleep This Night" — which were left off of the original disc owing to the restrictions imposed upon the vinyl medium — are sourced from the same mid-July 1969 Fillmore East set as the main program.

Biography

Born: 29 November 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....
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