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Eric Clapton - Give Me Strength: The 1974/1975 Studio Recordings (Review)

Eric Clapton, Give Me Strength: The 1974/1975 Studio Recordings

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

IF EVER there was a must have re-issue, here’s one. The fertile year that signalled the spectacular creative resurgence of Eric Clapton is being celebrated with the Super Deluxe release of Give Me Strength: The ‘74/’75 Recordings – and they sure ‘aint kiddin’ when they save ‘super’.

This is an exemplary collection of tracks, featuring live recordings, previously unreleased golden nuggets, cleaned up originals… you name it. The five CD LP features no fewer than 29 bonus tracks (12 of them previously unreleased) from the period between April 1974 and June 1975, in which ‘E.C.’ reclaimed and enhanced his status as one of rock’s most legendary guitarists and singer-songwriters.

Give Me Strength houses expanded, remastered versions of his acclaimed studio albums from the period, 461 Ocean Boulevard and There’s One In Every Crowd, the subsequent live set E.C. Was Here (now both remixed and expanded into a double CD), and a disc containing the complete, fabled Freddie King Criteria Studios Session.

A sixth Blu-Ray disc adds a newly-available 5.1 Surround Sound mix of 461 and the original quadrophonic mix of both studio releases and the live album.

461 Ocean Boulevard was released in the summer of 1974 and derived its name for the Miami beachfront mansion where the band lived during the recordings. It marked Clapton’s return to recording after an absence of three years, and emphatically announced his creative and personal rehabilitation.

Previewed by his signature interpretation of Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff, which topped the Hot 100, the album followed suit, leading the Billboard chart for four weeks, and going on to sell four million copies in the US alone. The new edition contains session outtakes and unreleased versions of Getting Acquainted and the album staples Please Be With Me and Give Me Strength.

There’s One In Every Crowd, recorded in Kingston, Jamaica at the landmark reggae studio Dynamic Sounds, was created in a break from the triumphant tour that followed the stunning success of 461. This restored edition offers Clapton’s non-album single interpretation of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and a selection of session outtakes and unreleased tracks.

That tour would be commemorated by the E.C. Was Here double set, now expanded across two discs with numerous unissued extras such as versions of Layla, Crossroads and Little Wing. That’s followed by the historic sessions at Criteria, where 461 had been made, in the summer of ’74 with Clapton’s hero Freddie King, for King’s Burglar album.

Four tracks from those sessions appear here, including a glorious, 22-minute Gambling Woman Blues. If that’s a terrific slice of lazy blues, then the track that precedes it, another unreleased gem, is a blistering display of Clapton’s guitar proess. Boogie Funk opens with a drop-dead gorgeous blues into before picking up the pace for a boogie funk strut (complete with hammond organs) of immense pleasure. He may be called “Slowhand” but there’s nothing lethargic about this romp.

But then this is a treasure trove of majestic moments, the majority of which – it has to be said – come on the live CDs featuring the EC Was Here sessions. Blistering versions of Layla, Crossroads, Can’t Find My Way Home and Driftin’ Blues/Ramblin’ On My Mind just create a masterclass that is without peers.

While a session out-take of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and Fools Like Me are equally thrilling.

But in truth, we could keep tossing out the superlatives. This is as great now as it was upon first release – and quite possibly even better, augmented now as it is by all of those unreleased gems and session insights. If ever there was any doubt that Clapton is one of music’s true legends, then this dispels them in emphatic fashion.

It’s a treat to have been able to hear it. And we’re not even going to offer up any download picks because the whole collection is essential.

Track listing:
Disc: 1 – 461 Ocean Boulevard

  1. Motherless Children
  2. Give Me Strength
  3. Willie And The Hand Jive
  4. Get Ready
  5. I Shot The Sheriff
  6. I Can’t Hold Out
  7. Please Be With Me
  8. Let It Grow
  9. Steady Rollin’ Man
  10. Mainline Florida
  11. Ain’t That Lovin You
  12. Meet Me (Down At The Bottom)
  13. Lonesone Road Blues
  14. Getting Acquainted
  15. Getting Acquainted 2 (Too Late)
  16. Eric After Hours Blues
  17. Please Be With Me
  18. Give Me Strength (Dobro 1)

Disc: 2 – There’s One In Every Crowd

  1. We’ve Been Told (Jesus Is Coming Soon)
  2. Swing Low Sweet Chariot
  3. Little Rachel
  4. Don’t Blame Me
  5. The Sky Is Crying
  6. Singin’ The Blues
  7. Better Make It Through Today
  8. Pretty Blue Eyes
  9. High
  10. Opposites
  11. Burial
  12. Whatcha Gonna Do
  13. I Found A Love
  14. (When Things Go Wrong) It Hurts Me Too
  15. Fools Like Me
  16. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
  17. Someone Like You

Disc 3 – EC Was Here (remixed and expanded version)

  1. SMILE 3:35 Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  2. HAVE YOU EVER LOVED A WOMAN 7:41 Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 19, 1974
  3. PRESENCE OF THE LORD 8:47 Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  4. CROSSROADS 4:38 (previously unreleased) Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  5. I SHOT THE SHERIFF 7:35 (previously unreleased) Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  6. LAYLA 6:00 (previously unreleased) Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  7. LITTLE WING 8:57 (previously unreleased) Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  8. CAN’T FIND MY WAY HOME 5:18 Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  9. DRIFTIN’ BLUES / RAMBLIN’ ON MY MIND 11:38 Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974

Disc 4 – EC Was Here remixed and expanded version

  1. RAMBLIN’ ON MY MIND / HAVE YOU EVER LOVED A WOMAN 8:15 Recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, December 4, 1974.
  2. WILLIE AND THE HAND JIVE / GET READY 11:27 Recorded at Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, California, July 20, 1974
  3. THE SKY IS CRYING / HAVE YOU EVER LOVED A WOMAN / RAMBLIN’ ON MY MIND 7:25 Recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, December 5, 1974.
  4. BADGE 10:43 Recorded at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale New York, June 28, 1975)
  5. DRIFTIN’ BLUES 6:55 Recorded at Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island, June 25, 1975.
  6. EYESIGHT TO THE BLIND / WHY DOES LOVE GOT TO BE SO SAD 23:50 Recorded at Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island, June 25, 1975.
  7. FURTHER ON UP THE ROAD 7:35 Recorded at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale New York, June 28, 1975)

Disc 5 – The Freddie King Criteria Studios Sessions

  1. Sugar Sweet
  2. TV Mama
  3. Boogie Funk (previously unreleased)
  4. Gambling Woman Blues (previously unreleased full length version)