Thursday, 21 August 2014

"Give Me Strength: The ’74/’75 Studio Recordings" by ERIC CLAPTON (2013 Universal 2CD 'DELUXE EDITION' Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

                                                   (2CD Deluxe Edition)

                                (Super Deluxe Version - Note Different Artwork)

"...Where Would Love Be Without Fools Like Me?"

EC fans will have seen "461 Ocean Boulevard" re-issued just one too many times in the last 8 years on a plethora of formats - and here it comes again. But this time I'd argue you should sit up and take notice because this vaults trawl is a superb reissue - and in a festive season of over-priced and dubious Deluxe Editions - a star in a reasonably price car.

Firstly - there are two versions of this "Give Me Strength..." CD release. 

This 2CD DELUXE EDITION by ERIC CLAPTON is called "Give Me Strength: The '74/'75 Studio Recordings" - while a 5CD/1DVD SUPER DELUXE EDITION Book Set drops the word Studio in its title because it includes lots of live stuff (the "EC Was Here" album and more). Both were released Monday 9 December 2013. 

This review is for the 2CD edition on Universal/Polydor 0602537618583 (Barcode is the same number) and it breaks down as follows...

Disc 1 "461 Ocean Boulevard Expanded Version" (79:31 minutes):
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
Tracks 1 to 10 are the vinyl album "461 Ocean Boulevard" issued July 1974 in the UK on RSO Records 2479 118 and SO 4801 in the USA.

Tracks 11 to 18 are Session Out-Takes:
"Ain't That Lovin' You" (11) was first issued on the 4CD/6LP "Crossroads" box set in April 1988
"Meet Me (Down At The Bottom)" (12) and "Eric After Hour Blues" (16) were first issued on the "Blues" 2CD set in July 1999
"Lonesome Road Blues (Walking Down The Road)" (13) was first issued on the 4CD box set "Crossroads 2" in April 1996
"Getting Acquainted" (14), "Getting Acquainted 2 (Too Late)" (15), "Please Be With Me (Acoustic)" 17) and "Give Me Strength (Dobro 1)" (18) are all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 2 "There's One In Every Crowd Expanded Version" (71:04 minutes):
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
Tracks 1 to 10 are the vinyl album "There's One In Every Crowd" issued April 1975 in the UK on RSO Records 2479 132 and SO 4806 in the USA.

Tracks 11 to 17 are Session Out-Takes:
"Burial" (11) and "Fool Like Me" (15 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
"Whatcha Gonna Do" (12), "I Found A Love" (13) and "(When Things Go Wrong) It Hurts Me Too" (14) first appeared on the 4CD/6LP box set "Crossroads" in April 1988
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" (16) and "Someone Like You" (17) are a non-album 7" single issued August 1975 in the UK on RSO Records 2090 166 and in the USA on RSO Records SO-513.

Compiled by BILL LEVENSON - the 24-page booklet has in-depth liner notes by JOHN LYNSKEY on both albums and is filled with the kind of facts fans love. They do at times refer to tracks that are clearly on the 6-disc version (especially out-takes), but that's only a minor irritation. The annotation at the rear is also admirably laid out.

ELIOT KISSELEFF and ANDREW SKUROW handled the Tape Research and Transfers while SETH FOSTER and KEVIN REEVES (names that have graced hundreds of Universal reissues) did the Remasters and Mix Engineering. Both Foster and Reeves handled the sonically praised "Slowhand" Deluxe Edition issued in 2012. The sound here is fabulous - it really is. Never too showy - loads of presence - especially in the rhythm section of Bass and Drums with Tom Dowd's original production values now more evident than before. On tracks like the Traditional "We've Been Told (Jesus Is Coming Home)" and the lovely vocal break on the infectious "Pretty Blue Eyes" - the audio is so warm and there - just like you'd want it to be. I'd also forgotten how good most of "There's One In Every Crowd" was - excepting the terrible cod-reggae of "Don't Blame Me" - nuggets like the blues cover of Mary McCreary's "Singin' The Blues" and Clapton's own "Better Make It Through Today" are superlative (especially the gorgeously soulful keyboard work by Dick Sims when it meets with Clapton's plaintive solo).

I've had the Deluxe Edition and 2004 SACD of "461 Ocean Boulevard" and the remaster here is subtly different. I'd have to say the SACD has the edge in terms of sheer power - but when I play the Elmore James opener of Side 2 "I Can't Hold Out" - I'd swear the mix here is more upfront (which is what I want). The cover versions of Cowboy’s obscure (but lovely) “Please Be With Me”, Johnny Otis’s classic “Willie And The Hand Jive” and Robert Johnson’s “Steady Rollin’ Man” all Rock as does George Terry’s fabulous album-finisher “Mainline Florida”. And of course Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” has renewed presence.

The outtakes (as fans have known since the "Crossroads" release in 1988) are amazingly good - and in some cases - should have been on the album. The 6 previously unreleased on here are certainly not scraping the bottom of the barrel. "Getting Acquainted" are funky rock workout instrumentals with the second being shorter but so much better and tighter (and features some superb fretwork from EC). Rougher round the recording edges is a truly lovely acoustic take of "Please Be With Me" minus Yvonne Elliman's duet vocals - very sweet indeed. The Dobro jaunt through "Give Me Strength" again has that same kind of intimacy but this time with wicked slide work. I could live without the cover of Peter Tosh's "Burial" quite easily but the rocking blues of "Fools Like Me" is just the kind of out-takes fans love. It was written by Jack Clement and Murphy Maddux and was recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun - it chugs along and features trademark languid slide (lyrics from it title this review).

To sum up - at just over a tenner you're getting two quality Eric Clapton albums with superb sound quality, thorough presentation and out-takes actually worthy of the moniker 'bonus'. I'm seriously tempted now to fork out on the bigger 6-disc issue.

Never the flashiest of artists - Clapton's classiness nevertheless exudes here - and how good is it to hear him get down and dirty with that mean blues slide...

Top stuff - and for me a clear 'Reissue of the Year' for 2013....

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