John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers – A Hard Road

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – these early UK stereo LPs are the only way to fly
  • “Eric Clapton is usually thought of as John Mayall’s most important right-hand man, but the case could also be made for his successor, Peter Green. The future Fleetwood Mac founder leaves a strong stamp on his only album with the Bluesbreakers, singing a few tracks and writing a couple, including the devastating instrumental “Supernatural.” – All Music

This vintage Decca import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What these outstanding sides on A Hard Road have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1967
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on A Hard Road

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A Hard Road 
It’s Over
You Don’t Love Me
The Stumble
Another Kinda Love
Hit The Highway
Leaping Christine

Side Two

Dust My Blues
There’s Always Work
The Same Way
The Supernatural
Top Of The Hill
Some Day After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry)
Living Alone

AMG Review

Eric Clapton is usually thought of as John Mayall’s most important right-hand man, but the case could also be made for his successor, Peter Green. The future Fleetwood Mac founder leaves a strong stamp on his only album with the Bluesbreakers, singing a few tracks and writing a couple, including the devastating instrumental “Supernatural.” Green’s use of thick sustain on this track clearly pointed the way to his use of guitar riffs with elongated, slithery tones on Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” and “Black Magic Woman,” as well as anticipating some aspects of Carlos Santana’s style. Mayall acquits himself fairly well on this mostly original set (with occasional guest horns)… Highlights include the uncharacteristically rambunctious “Leaping Christine” and the cover of Freddie King’s “Someday After a While (You’ll Be Sorry).”