Sound — 10
First of all, I must say that I'm shocked and a little bit disgusted that no-one has given this a review yet! Anyway, JMB with Eric Clapton, commonly known as the "Beano album" (as it features Clapton reading the famous British comic book on the album cover) is possibly the most celebrated and (arguably) the best British Blues album ever! First of all, let's look at the background to the album. It was 1965, and Britain was gripped by Bluesmania that was defined by bands such as the Rolling Stones (yes, the same ones) and the Animals. At that time, a 20-year-old guitarist by the name of Eric Clapton, who had just left the Yardbirds in disgust at their pop transformation, teamed up with a relatively unknown blues musician and bandleader in John Mayall. Mayall had released a live LP that didn't even make it in the charts. After he had disposed of his guitarist and took on board Clapton, things took a dizzying upward turn. Now, Clapton had just gone and bought himself a secondhand Gibson Les Paul after seeing Freddie King with one on an album cover (King's song Hideaway was subsequently covered by Clapton and is featured on this album.) Anyway, Clapton discovered if he turned up his 30watt Marshall amp to full, combined with the Les Paul, that he created a fantastic, creamy sustainful sound from it, now famously known as the "Woman Tone". In fact, the noise was so loud in the recording studio that sound engineer Gus Dudgeon (who'd later work with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Elton John) repeatedly had to tell off Clapton for placing the microphones too close to his amp, fearing that they'd simply pop at the noise. Clapton, however, refused, and thank God! The sound on this album is quite frankly, phenomenal! Jimi Hendrix actually bought it in America and was blown away by it! If that ain't proof then I don't know what is. The album, on a whole, is a superb example of Clapton's early, fiery style that would make his name with Cream little less than a year later, and was probably the album that really highlighted the lead guitarist in all their glory.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics in the album are very blues based, not hugely innovative, but still great nonetheless. The lyrics slot in great with the music. The singing and guitaring is the sort of rough/soft mix that is featured plenty in blues, in this case the soft being Mayall's distinctive voice, which is great yet harsh and mournful which as mentioned before holds up great with EC's fretburning. Bluesbreakers, was also the first ever time that Clapton was to be heard singing on vinyl, namely in his rendition of Robert Johnson's Ramblin' On My Mind.
Overall Impression — 10
The closest you could get to this album for overall sound would probably be what Clapton did with Cream and possibly Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. To be honest, there still really isn't anything like it. I wouldn't put down any of the songs, they're all great, from the mournful Double Crossin' Man (which was inspired by Clapton's future Cream bandmate Jack Bruce leaving JMB for Manfred Mann, and originally had been called Double Crossin' Mann! ) to the harmonica driven Parchman Farm. It's the standout tracks that make this album what it is. The first song, All Your Love, is for me the best song on the album. When I first heard it I was like "what the hell!" at Clapton's sound on it, and my dad just said "that's a Les Paul being played the way God (namely Clapton) meant it to be played"(! ) The two instrumentals, Steppin' Out and Hideaway, are fantastic lightning-quick wailing blues and amazing showpieces of Clapton's ability, and the aforementioned Double Crossin' Man and Ramblin' On My Mind are affecting with great bits of guitar in there as well. I just love everything about it! If it was stolen, then I would understand the motives for it. Of course, I would buy it again! Simply put, it is possibly the greatest blues album EVER and the making of a one of, if not the, best guitarist ever. Well, easily the best blues guitarist ever (with all due respect to BB King and the late great Duane Allman.) If you're just getting into blues, are a guitar fanatic or simply just music fan, this album is a must!