John Mayall: The Godfather of British Blues/The Turning Point
Sound: C- Extras: D Main Programs: B+
So the British have the Blues. Who knew? Not this
obviously ignorant American music fan.
Oh sure, we’re all aware of the influence Blues had on
Eric Clapton. But, really, does anyone
else in pop music from the last 40 or 50 years jump out as being a) British and
Turns out, though, that a number of our most celebrated
musicians of the various British invasions were Blues-inspired. And not just any Blues inspired them — it
was the work of John Mayall, a pioneering musician who inspired Clapton,
Clapton’s first band The Yardbirds, Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones and Mick
Fleetwood, John McVie and Peter Green who were all, at one time or another, in
Not too bad for a guy who has limited name recognition on
this side of the pond.
John Mayall: The Godfather of
British Blues/The Turning Point sets out to change all
that. And while a Brit audience will
take more from what’s presented on this disc, it’s not bad viewing for American
music fans, as well.
The disc contains two programs, The Godfather of
British Blues and The Turning Point. The former is a BBC-created
special that chronicles the influence Mayall has had on British musicians in
the run-up to a 70th birthday party that will see Mayall and
Clapton, a former member of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers band, reunite for the first
time since the late ‘60s. The latter
program is a short documentary (clocking in at 24 minutes) produced in 1968-69
centering on Mayall’s transition from straight-up Blues to a simpler, stripped
Both programs are decent watches, packed with information
about and testimonials about Mayall and his importance and impact. On The Godfather of British Blues,
Mayall has a larger speaking role than he does on The Turning Point. (Suppose he was in that “Don’t bug me, I’m a
brooding artist” mindset?) What’s
revealed in the first program is a soft-spoken, talented artist whose personality
off-stage betrays the charismatic and affecting musician on-stage. We also see
just what made this guy so influential on so many other British artists at the
But, when watching this disc, do yourself a favor: Watch The
Godfather of Blues before The Turning Point. It might be tempting to watch the older
program first, but if you do and you have no prior background on who Mayall is
and what his music stood for, it will make little to no sense. It’s minimalist and avant-garde to a point,
and will leave you scratching your head.
If you watch the BBC documentary first, though, you’ll get a more
complete picture of Mayall — it even includes clips from The Turning Point.
For as good as the programs are, though, it’s a shame a
greater care wasn’t put into the sound, video and extras quality of the
disc. The only extra to speak of is a
photo gallery that is as much a throwaway extra as you can get. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio on both
programs is lackluster, which is understandable to a point for The Turning
Point but wholly unforgivable for the BBC doc. The full frame video quality on the longer program is decent
enough, but the same can’t be said for the shorter one. It’s scratchy and difficult to watch. It’s a beat up old short doc, I know, but
someone should have gone in to clean it up at least a little bit.
All in all, John
Mayall: The Godfather of British Blues/The Turning Point is a decent
enough package for the discerning music fan looking to expand their
horizons. Just don’t go into it
thinking you’re getting the best possible presentation of the most important
musician you’ve never heard of.
- Dante A.