Eric Clapton – Give Me Strength: The ’74/’75 Studio Recordings

clapton-1386607189Eric Clapton is a name I’ve been familiar with since my younger years but for one reason or another I hadn’t listened to him in much detail. I was watching a documentary on George Harrison that talked in length at the pair’s friendship and it got me thinking about how I should start listening to him properly. As fate should have it I obtained a copy of Give Me Strength: The ‘74/’75 Studio Recording and I’ve been listening to it for about a week now – I am absolutely hooked; the guitar work is so warm and easy, heartfelt vocal performances, dips into blues, rock and reggae; everything I hoped and expected the full on Clapton experience would be and more.

The album is a 5 CD boxset and includes  461 Ocean Boulevard, There’s One In Every Crowd, E.C Was Here (2 discs) and a session CD made up of tracks featuring Clapton and singer/guitarist/Clapton’s idol Freddie King. For fans of Clapton it’s an awesome collection. Not only are the tracks remastered but there are additional versions of tracks from the album, rare live performances and alternative versions of ‘Layla’, ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Little Wing’.

461 Ocean Boulevard

From the jingle-jangling intro to ‘Motherless Children’ this remastered album sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Clapton sounds magnificent throughout both vocally and with his trusty guitar showing off his broad range on bluegrass-inspired tracks ‘Give Me Strength’ and ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’. A magnificent version of ‘I Shot the Sherriff’ shows off his passion of reggae and his ability to sound like a Wailer if he so desired.

There’s a bit of everything on this album from blues to rock to the aforementioned reggae. Particularly warm and full of 70’s fuzz is ‘I Can’t Hold Out’ which as a newcomer to all things Clapton I absolutely adore. Some beautiful acoustic guitar work features on ‘Please Be With Me’ and ‘Let It Grow’ with the latter painting a wonderful image of a warm summers day strolling in the country hand-in-hand with your one-and-only.

More blues await towards the second half of the album on tracks like ‘Meet Me (Down At The Bottom)’, ‘Lonesome Road Blues’ and ‘Eric After Hours Blues’. Album closer ‘Give Me Strength’ closes on a nice bluesy acoustic feel the album so perfectly shows off throughout.

There’s One In Every Crowd

Opening with ‘We’ve Been Told (Jesus Is Coming)’, it’s a different feel to 461 Ocean Boulevard. Yes, the blues roots are still there but as the opening track shows off a nice gospel tone throughout. A reggae version of ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ follows that never fails to raise a smile, giving a totally different sound and feel to a song I associate with rugby matches.

There’s a bit more Reggae on this album too interspersed with smoky honky-tonk bar soundtracks like ‘The Sky Is Crying’ and ‘Pretty Blue Eyes’. This is Clapton as I expected to hear him but it’s much wider reaching than I ever imagined. His blues guitar work is magnificent throughout but I was so impressed with the reggae jams on here too as well as his acoustic work which I was most familiar with.

‘Opposites’ was a standout track for me on this album. Building sweetly with a warm, clean guitar it’s a smooth treat for any easy-listening fans out there. Some great slide guitar layered over the top and warm backing vocals creates a really magical track to enjoy with your feet up pondering life. Foot-tapping anthem ‘What’cha Gonna Do’ leads into a blues-piano driven ‘I Found A Love’ to bring us near the end of the album.

Almost closing the album is a reggae version of ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’ so great that just 15 seconds in I decided it was the best version I’d ever heard. It creates a whole new vision of the song for me, still with the tragic overtones but with that reggae spirit of positivity, joy and celebration. A truly remarkable track that, paired with eventual album closer ‘Someone Like You’ finishes the album off perfectly and turns me into a full-on Clapton fan. Magical.

E.C Was Here

E.C Was Here is a live album originally released in 1975 but this time around featuring more tracks and a full digital remaster. From opening track ‘Smile’ it’s a soulful, blues and reggae experience that captures the live sound very, very well.  A great version of ‘Crossroads’ is a new edition in this re-release along with an almost disco-reggae-funk version of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ coming in at 7 and a half minutes, merging seamlessly into a blistering live rendition of ‘Layla’.

If you can sit your air guitar down for long enough after that you’ll be treated to some spectacular renditions of ‘Little Wing’, ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’, ‘Driftin’ Home’ and a massive version of ‘Ramblin’ On My Mind’. To sit and listen to this album as essentially a new Clapton listener it’s just extraordinary. The energy of Clapton and the band is captured perfectly with backing singers on perfect form and a responsive crowd – you could not hope or ask for more.

A 10 minute clap-and-sing-along version of ‘Badge’ starts bringing the album down to a close but with no sign whatsoever of the energy from the album slowing down at all. ‘Driftin Blues’, a track that reminds me of hearing ‘Little Red Rooster’ by The Stones for the first time – warm, fuzzy blues guitars, swelling keys and pained vocal delivery really shows off his ability and album closer ‘Further On Up The Road’ is a bouncing blues hootnanny I would have loved to have seen live.

The Freddie King Criteria Studio Sessions

This is a collection of session tracks from Eric Clapton and Freddie King. Just 4 tracks in total but it’s worth keeping in mind that one of them is almost 22 minutes in length. The album was created when Eric Clapton’s idol Freddie King joined him in Miami for a last-minute jam session and the result is a showcase of how to play blues guitar. The tracks are ‘Sugar Sweet’, ‘TV Mama’, ‘Boogie Funk’ and the 21:44 monolith ‘Gambling Woman Blues’. It’s a treat for blues fans, guitarists, Clapton fans or someone wishing to soundtrack a swaggering walk into a saloon. Absolutely magnificent and captures the energy and talent that must have been in that room perfectly.

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