John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
Out of Reach
“Out of Reach” originally appeared on the B-side of a non-hit single in early 1967. Though credited to John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, this is really fronted by Peter Green, who wrote and sang the song. While it’s since been made readily available on album reissue, it still remains frightfully unknown, even to many blues-rock, Mayall, and Green fans. Despite its obscurity, it endures as the first real full flowering of Green’s peculiar brand of tortured genius. “Out of Reach,” melodically, is a basic blues; there’s nothing extraordinary about its chord structure, other than perhaps a greater emphasis on minor chords than most blues. What is extraordinary, though, is the eerie arrangement. It’s hard to take a blues song, or a song in any popular music idiom, slower than “Out of Reach” is taken by the Bluesbreakers. The tempo is a lurching dirge-shuffle, one of the guitar parts wavering between notes as if it’s part of an old tape that’s wearing out and speeding up and down due to technical problems. That effect is deliberate, though, adding some otherwordly despair to Green’s icily reverbed lead guitar licks. The lyrics, sung movingly if gruffly by Green, are even by the standards of the blues downcast, almost to the point of hinting at a suicidal state of mind. The foggy gloom is magnified by the drawn-out, hypnotic tempo, periodically punctuated by parts at which the band comes to a stuttering halt for Green to deliver particularly emotional lines of the verse. The solo sparkles, especially at the very end, when it descends and almost trails off into nothingness, ending on a whimsical note progression that very few standard blues guitarists would have chosen. Green’s final sides with Fleetwood Mac have long been analyzed for their indication of a troubled mind whose demons were getting the better of him, causing him to question the whole meaning of his life. “Out of Reach,” seldom brought into such commentaries, indicates that his propensities for such work were already in evidence in his Bluesbreakers days and stands up to most of his best Fleetwood Mac work in its level of bummed-out brilliance.