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Ghost Canyon

'John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Friends'
(John Mayall & Friends, et al / Blu ray / NR / (2003) 2009 / Eagle Rock Ent.)

Overview: Liverpool's King's Dock on July 19, 2003 was the venue for a long awaited and much anticipated reunion between Eric Clapton and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. The occasion was both a celebration of John Mayall's 70th year and a fundraiser for UNICEF. Also invited to the party were former Bluesbreaker and Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and veteran trombonist Chris Barber.

DVD Verdict: Clapton was always going to be the ace card in this show and his presence is arguably the most compelling reason people will want to hear this concert. It is ironic that resident Bluesbreaker Buddy Whittington smokes him on the territory that Clapton pioneered. Clapton is like the Stradivarius of blues guitarists - once upon a time he was so good at what he did that people have become blinded to the possibility he may no longer deserve his reputation.

Mick Taylor is the first guest onstage, and starts off with some nice understated playing - which is exactly where he stays. He seems oblivious to Buddy tearing up the other side of the stage, and although his lines are solid he appears at times to be searching for inspiration. Clapton follows him on halfway through the set and plays with a calculated air. If Taylor tries and fails to reach the depths within then Clapton flatly refuses to do so. He finally rises to the occasion on "Have You Heard", earning a standing ovation for a performance that Whittington bested at least half-a-dozen times during the show to far less acclaim. The dichotomy between the old guitar heroes and the only-slightly-younger unknown illustrates the divide that plagues the blues today: whether the blues is best represented by the form of the music or the spirit of the music. For my money, Buddy's was the more persuasive argument.

Some have complained about Mayall's harmonica playing, but being a harp player myself I found Mayall's performance very honest and unadorned by cliche - no small achievement given the quirks of this instrument. That is not to say that Mayall is more than a journeyman (at best) on the harp, but it illustrates his awareness of his own limitations as well as his sensitivity and taste. If it doesn't sound like Little Walter, well, that puts Mayall on Whittington's side of the argument above. Mayall was never a hack and this is why he can continue to surround himself with stellar musicians. [MS] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Three tracks from the concert that had to be cut from the original DVD issue for space reasons: 1) Grits Ain't Groceries 2) Jacksboro Highway 3) California Plus: Interview with John Mayall.