John Mayall has essentially made a career from presenting a British version of the American art form of the blues, so perhaps it’s ironic that he has half as many chart albums to his name at home as he does in the US. But on 23 September 1967, his fourth LP (and third studio) release kept up his initial hot streak in the UK when Crusade entered the bestsellers.
The great British blues figurehead and his famous band line-up of the time had first made the top ten in Mayall’s home country in September 1966 with Blues Breakers. That was the set otherwise affectionately known as the Beano Album, since it featured a certain Blues Breaker by the name of Eric Clapton reading that august journal on the front cover. Just six months later, Mayall and co were back in the top ten with A Hard Road.
Crusade, like those first two albums, was produced by another vehement British campaigner for the blues, Mike Vernon, and was notable for marking the recording debut of John’s latest protégé, 18-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor, later of course to find worldwide stardom and acclaim as a Rolling Stone.
Soon-to-be Fleetwood Mac co-founder John McVie was still an official member, along with Keef Hartley on drums, while Chris Mercer played tenor sax. The expanded version of the album featured ten extra tracks with two more Mayall alumni bound for the new outfit, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green. Crusade was the usual mixture of Mayall compositions and the band’s expert interpretations of such blues staples as Willie Dixon’s ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ and Sonny Boy Williamson II’s ‘Checkin’ Up On My Baby.’
The album entered the chart that September day at No. 22, climbing in its second week to No. 13 and then again to its peak of No. 8. Three top ten albums in a year proved just how successfully Mayall had taken blues to the British masses.
Crusade can be bought here.