Album Remarks & Appraisals:
John Mayall, the Godfather of British Blues , returns with the Bluesbreakers for his latest studio album In The Palace Of The King. This new album is John's tribute to one of his blues heroes, the late, great Freddie King. King was a blues guitar pioneer from the mid-50's through to his tragically early death in the mid-70's and he influenced everyone from Peter Green to Dave Edmunds to Stevie Ray Vaughan and probably most of all Eric Clapton, who produced and played on King's final album. In The Palace Of The King features John Mayall's take on his personal selection of Freddie King favorites and is a fabulous combination of two true blues legends.
"Ostensibly a tribute to the late Freddie King, this CD also serves admirably as a showcase of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers themselves. The band displays both versatility and finesse on a combination of covers by the Texas guitarist as well as two originals. Meanwhile their front man exhibits his usual authority as a band leader, while at the same time demonstrating enough humility to pay righteous homage to a kindred spirit of the blues.
Mayall's pleasure in playing and singing is palpable on "You Know That You Love Me, and if that track, or "Living on the Highway, is not exactly innovative, that's not the point. The Godfather of British Blues has not always been inspired during the course of his now fifty-seven album career, but he's always endeavored to be and on this CD not one track of the fourteen is anything less than passionate and professional. Recent albums have betrayed a certain sense of ennui in Mayall's writing, but here "Time to Go is a bittersweet nod to his recently-deceased mother while "King of Kings faithfully keynotes the source point of this whole project.
The Bluesbreakers display a similar sense of commitment to the music and Mayall. On cuts such as "You've Got Me Licked the rhythm section of drummer Joe Yuele and bassist Hank Van Sickle recall Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble in their surety if not flair. And when guitarist Buddy Whittington takes over for vocals as well as lead guitar on "Big Legged Woman he demonstrates how he turns his limitations into strengths: the simplicity of his playing and lack of affectation in his singing focus his emotion.
Former Bluesbreaker Tom Canning offers keyboards on most of the album to add color to the mix. Mayall's own piano expands the sound on Now I've Got A Woman much as he uses harmonica on "Some Other Day or Some Other Time. The real bonus of production and arrangement here however, (apart from the beautiful sound achieved through Jon Astley's mastering) is the use of horns. Numbers including the title song add atmosphere as well as scope thanks to Lon Price and Lee Thornburg, while the stately sound they achieve on "Now I've Got a Woman hearkens to Mayall's own jazz-blues fusion. In a similar vein, guitarist Robben Ford, who accompanied Mayall & Co on a 2006 blues package tour, guests as leader and composer on the instrumental "Cannonball Shuffle."
In the Palace of the King is another valuable entry in the redoubtable legacy of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. There will surely come a time when they themselves are the object of the kind of sincere honor they pay Freddie King on this recording." -AllAboutJazz
John Mayall: John Mayall (electric piano); Michael Aarvold (guitar); Buddy Whittington (guitars); Lon Price (saxophone); Red Holloway (tenor saxophone); Lee Thornburg (trombone); Tom Canning (electric piano); Hank Van Sickle (bass guitar); Joe Yuele (cowbells); Buddy Wittington (background vocals).
It's common knowledge that two of the most renowned blues guitarists of all time happened to share the same last name (no relation though): B.B. King and Albert King. But there was also another "King" of the blues, Freddie King, and while he doesn't seem to rake in the same amount of accolades as the other two players, blues buffs far and wide know Freddie was a force to be reckoned with. And one of his biggest admirers through the years has been John Mayall, whose band, the Bluesbreakers, has been covering Freddie King songs since their inception in the '60s. However, on his 56th album overall (!), Mayall offers an album's worth of songs that Freddie King had either written, inspired, or was "closely associated with," for 2007's In the Palace of the King. Stylistically similar to Mayall's last studio effort (2005's solid Road Dogs), Palace is full of tasty blues guitar throughout, with Buddy Whittington supplying the lion's share of the lead work, especially on such standouts as "Palace of the King." But one of the album's undisputed highlights is "Cannonball Shuffle," an instrumental track that features some fine soloing from Robben Ford (who also solely penned the tune). And for guitarists who are looking to jam along with the album, Mayall was kind enough to list what key each song is in (inside the CD booklet). In the Palace of the King is a much-deserved tribute to one of the blues' greatest yet oft-overlooked guitarists. ~ Greg Prato