4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant! I am really enjoying it.,
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This review is from: Tough (Audio CD)
I have been a fan of John Mayall since my early teens (1970). My introduction was the compilation/retrospective "Looking Back". Loved the Clapton/Green years,Bare Wires, Laurel Canyon, USA Union, Sense of Place, Wake Up Call, Spinning Coin.............
Above all, I love his voice - a haunting, anguished tone that simply drips blues, melancholy.
To be honest, I have not tracked his career, although I have about 20 of his albums I have just realised. Every so often I remember to look at what he has released recently, or a "recommendation" pops up on Amazon for me.
I saw "Tough" appear and I decided to buy it. Boy, do I NOT regret it!? I think it is one of his best.
I think many of us go through phases/moods with regards to what we like to listen to. At times I really dont want to hear another "standard" 12 bar blues, and I have to say many times I simply am not in the mood for another country-jog with John.In recent years I felt he was overdoing the "country feel" - for my mood/tastes. I think the last album of John's that I bought was Padlock on the Blues,although I dont listen to it as often as Sense of Place or Wake Up Call.
SO, I have not followed his evolution of the last 10 years, or the band member changes. This is the first Mayall Album that I have bought for 10 years simply because I saw it pop-up on Amazon and I was signed in to 1-Click ordering. 2 days later I received it, and 1 further day on I am blown away and writing this review.
Several of the tracks are quite rocky, with a brooding heaviness cut-through with John's haunted vocals, and some atmospheric guitarwork. I must say, John's vocals seem as powerful as they ever did.
For my taste, I like that fact that John has moved a little away from repeated country feel that some of his 90s albums over-did just a little. The feel is still there in places but less obvious or up-front.
Only 3 of the 11 tracks are written by John Mayall. I would have to look back at previous albums to see if this is a change or not. But I dont think the album suffers for this.
I really like the sound of the band and the mix throughout the album and in just a day and a half of listening it has grabbed me and is definitely one of my favourite recent music purchases. I would strongly recommend this.
The sleeve notes have a 2-3 line summary for each track, that I would say are pretty well spot on, if slightly pretentious in places.
Sleeve Notes (copied):
"1. Nothing To Do With Love: An eerie opening introduces the tone of a bleak urban landscape against the backdrop of equating the unfairness in the world with the unfairness of love, utilising a searing guitar solo and screaming harmonica.
2.Just What You're Looking For : Follows the ghostly essence of track one with a wicked funk meditiation about the false hope that medication or money is what we're tempted with to solve our problems, featuring Tom Canning and Mayall dual-soloing on two Hammond organs.
3. Playing With A Losing Hand: A song written by former John Mayall guitar player - and legend in his own right - Walter Trout, about how being tempted by those baser instincts is futile, like a losing hand, and that the pursuit of love is our only salvation. Featuring more blistering harmonica.
4. An Eye For An Eye: After the heaviness of the first three tracks, we come to a loping blues-shuffle about bartering with love, featuring John's funky piano and primitively raw guitar solo, with the band clearly showing its adept blues prowess.
5. How Far Down: The thematic focal point of the whole, a moody piece that opens with a lone acoustic guitar and Mayall's vulnerable voice. This is a poignant piece with another searing guitar solo and the cry of Mayall's harmonica conjuring feelings of powerless regret and closing with the bookend reprise of a lonely acoustic guitar.
6.Train To My Heart: A relieving rocking tale that no matter how old you are, or how much you've been knocked around - the heart can lead to salvation. A perfect example of the driving power of Greg Rzab's base guitar and Jay Davenport's drums and another awesome guitar solo by Rocky Athas.
7.Slow Train To Nowhere: A welcome slow blues at this point, written by Mayall, this autobiographical piece is about his old days of partying and drinking. He makes the statemement that he realised this wasn't the answer to life.
8. Numbers Down: Goes back to the theme of life's struggles, bringing us a reminder that one has to be ready for when luck runs out. Featuring Mayall on his signature 12-string guitar.
9. That Good Old Rockin' Blues: Written by John Mayall, an all-out rocker gives us a romping break at this point in the set. Mayall makes no apologies for how he feels about various contemporary music trends.
10. Tough Times Ahead: A low-down and dirty slow blues song by John mayall, making commentary on where the world economy is right now.
11. The Sum of Something: Mayall closes this set with a song that perfectly sums up the themes of the album both in title and in subject matter, exclaiming that it is in the search for love that we find hope. Coming from a pit of depression, redemption is born and love will lead the way. "