Blues From Laurel Canyon

Blues from Laurel Canyon is a 1968 album by John Mayall, featuring British blues music. It was his first album after the breakup of his band the Bluesbreakers on 14 July 1968. It was also his last album with Decca before moving to Polydor.

John Mayall sings and plays harmonica, organ and guitar on the album. Other musicians include a young Mick Taylor (guitar), Colin Allen (drums) and Stephen Thompson (bass). The guitarist Peter Green is featured on the track First Time Alone. The engineer was Derek Varnals. All the songs on the album were written by John Mayall. It was recorded at Decca Studios in West Hampstead, London, England between 26 and 28 August 1968, and was released on the Decca label.

The title of the album derives from Laurel Canyon, California, USA (in the Los Angeles area) where John Mayall subsequently lived from 1969 to 1979. It forms a record of his visit there before moving to the US on a more permanent basis. The area was favoured by many musicians at the time.

The album was innovative for its time, especially by the standards of blues recordings. The first track opens with a recording of a jet airliner landing, dissolving into the driving rhythm of the song. There were no visible track divisions on the vinyl album. Some songs fade or segue into the next track, others stop on a chord which is immediately followed by the introduction of the next track. Tabla drums are used, as is the technique of hitting guitar strings with a drumstick. The final track is a short song which moves into an extended lead guitar solo underscored by Mayall's Hammond organ, fading into a simple unaccompanied guitar figure which repeats until it too fades.

The lyrics are autobiographical and refer, if obliquely, to people Mayall met on his first visit, such as Frank Zappa and Moon Unit Zappa (on 2401), the band Canned Heat (on The Bear), and famous groupie, Catherine James (on Miss James).

From a technical point of view, the album demonstrates the limitations of the recording technology of the time. A substantial number of vinyl albums were issued in monophonic format, since many home record players, at least in the United Kingdom, could not reproduce stereophonic sound. On the stereophonic releases, including the CD re-releases, the stereo imaging separates the instruments quite strongly. For instance, in the song Walking on Sunset, the drumkit, situated on the left, is inaudible in the right hand channel. The overall impression is that of being in a hallway with several rooms off it, each one containing a particular instrument. There is no sense of being in a room with several instruments playing and generating an ambient sound-field, as might be expected from a live recording, or one mixed with more available sound inputs.

A remastered and expanded version of this album was released in the UK in August 2007.

Read more about Blues From Laurel Canyon:  Personnel

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