Sunday, April 10, 2016

John Mayall - 1970 - USA Union

John Mayall 
USA Union

01. Nature´s Disappearing 5:50
02. You Must Be Crazy 3:55
03. Night Flyer 5:35
04. Off The Road 2:50
05. Possessive Emotions 5:20
06. Where Did My Legs Go 3:45
07. Took The Car 4:05
08. Crying 6:25
09. My Pretty Girl 4:20
10. Deep Blue Sea 5:10

Bass – Larry Taylor
Guitar – Harvey Mandel
Violin – Don Harris
Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica – John Mayall

I have a vivid memory of what struck me mostly when I 1st heard this LP around 81/82: to realize you could actually get a good groove without drums – an instrumental setting which so far I had only heard about in Classical music (ignorance is an Evil thing!)
But today I still think it was a wise move by Mayall, to use the Canned Heat’s Rhythm engine (minus the drummer, of course); the greatness of this album comes from the way the 3 musicians JM employs served so masterfully his whispered and peculiar style of singing and playing the Blues (I only know a small part of JM’s vast discography, but based on that think this is one of the most suitable environments he has ever created around him); the music perspires Boogie and swing from each and every pore and that’s not only valid for fast tempos;
Harvey Mandel’s slack strings feel and EQ’ed-out mid frequencies guitar tone, constantly springs out licks, flourishes, solos and rhythm counterpoints to Larry Taylor’s restless and swinging bass lines and the way the later trades entire soloed chorus with the band on “Off the Road” is only an upgraded and more front mixed way of what he does all over the album;
As for “Sugarcane” Harris he rightly deserves the title of King of the Blues violin; not that there’d been many doing it, but that’s also the point: his genius was to adapt the instrument technique to the plaintiff minor Blues idiom, never being reluctant in using electronic devices to heighten it (who could deny he’s a master wah-wah user?)
What about the boss? Well he’s very alright thank you, either boogie-woogie-ing the acoustic piano, sensitively but convincingly brushing his rhythm guitar, blowing his harp in a distinctive way or singing his well spirited or thoughtful lyrics, one can feel his excitement throughout, in a very well arranged and mixed work, where not a single note gets lost or is played out of context;
I can’t get tired of this…

P.S.  In these times of wide spread Eco-consciousness, it’s ironic to wonder or speculate about the echoes that warnings like the one made in “Nature’s Disappearing” , with JM’s alerts about the Environmental problems caused by Man, that “filthy creature”, could have had or not, in the generation that now commands Politics around the world

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