John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers Stories

John Mayall represents the heart and soul of British blues, although his true contributions have often been overshadowed by the staggering list of musicians who have benefited from his guidance, if not his uncanny ability to discover and harness talent: Clapton, Green, Taylor, Montoya, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Walter Trout. Yet, at age 70 and sitting atop his 52-disc catalogue, he is unquestionably a blues survivor. Stories is typically Mayall, with tracks ranging from good to great in the context of his current stable of Bluesbreakers, who have been together for years. You can hear it in their fluid sound — buoying Mayall’s paper-thin, yet distinctive vocals without submerging them or rising up to gale force required by their unfaltering leader. A "concept” album, Stories refers to this collection of 14 songs whose writers have some connection to the Bluesbreaker family. The guitar remains the dominant storyteller. The album’s most captivating track, "The Mists Of Time,” is a beautiful Mayall original that lasts almost eight minutes while "Dirty Water” is another high point, given Mayall’s moody, Bayou-esque guitar, near-ghoulish vocals, stirring harmonica, plus witty lyrics from the pens of Buddy and Julie Miller. Stories may not be Mayall at his very best but his stories are always well worth the telling. (Eagle)