Give Me Strength: The ’74/’75 Recordings by Eric Clapton (Boxset)
A commemorative, ‘Super Deluxe’ remastering of the releases where Clapton began to really stretch himself as a singer and songwriter
riginal ‘Clapton is God’ iconography of the 60s only really alluded to his revered reputation as a frightening guitar-slinger; the all-round singer, songwriter and considered musical statesman we see today, was probably only a distant possibility in Clapton’s then drug- and drink-befuddled mind. He started the process as quietly as his rock god status would allow by being a sidesman with Delaney and Bonnie, hiding within Derek & The Dominoes and jamming and recording with anyone he wanted.
By the time 461 Ocean Boulevard was released in 1974, the transmutation was well under way. His song contribution is still only minimal, but the influences of JJ Cale and Bob Marley were beginning to kick in. These still colour his work, as do the old blues masters that inspired him right from the beginning; so the record company is quite right in drawing our attention to this ‘creative resurgence’. As well as 461 Ocean Boulevard, 1975’s There’s One In Every Crowd, EC Was Here and four tracks from The Freddie King Criteria Studios sessions get the super deluxe treatment in this five-CD/Blu-ray package.
While I can see the point in flagging up this moment in Eric Clapton’s development, I do question the lavish re-packaging and then re-re-packaging (the Blu-ray disc contains a 5.1 Surround Sound mix of 461 plus the original quadraphonic mix of both studio releases and the live album).
Producer Tom Dowd did a wonderful job both in the studio and on stage in the first place, so the remastering to digital stands up well. Much is made of ‘previously unreleased’ material, but studio jams, long ignored out-takes and rejects do not do anything but detract from the points of true interest on this leg of Clapton’s musical journey.
If you have facility to make the most of a Blu-ray Surround Sound disc, if you are a dyed in the wool EC fan with completist tendencies and have around £45 to spare, then this will probably be for you. Otherwise just buy the three CDs that are already out there.
Verdict: Noteworthy music by a rock icon but an unnecessarily lavish packaging concept