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Live in the seventies - take two,
This review is from: Crossroads 2 (Live In The Seventies) (Audio CD)
Perhaps the release of the 1983 CD Live In The Seventies had suggested that something much more fitting was needed to reflect Eric Clapton's live work throughout his first decade as a solo artist. Although it would be a long wait for this 4 CD box set, it was well worth it.
Covering tours in support of five studio albums, there was a wealth of live material to draw from which ably demonstrated how Eric frequently reworked songs to keep sets varied - not only between tours but also from night to night. Every show would be different and if this approach had its risks, the results could be spectacular. There is an emphasis here on numbers from Slowhand, Eric's most successful studio release (with very little from other albums) and on the blues.
Oddly for an album titled "Crossroads 2 (live in the seventies)", it opens and closes with studio tracks. In effect, these serve as a prologue and epilogue to the live material - introducing Eric's American band for this period, through to its dissolution and a new beginning. For that reason, although the later all-British band's live album Just One Night was recorded in December 1979, it doesn't feature here. Also (unlike the single album compilation album mentioned) it doesn't include Derek & The Dominos - so this box set actually covers just half of the seventies, from 1974 - 1978.
Almost all the tracks were previously unreleased and although Disc 1 includes five numbers said to be "previously released on EC WAS HERE in different mix", there's much more to two of these than the wording implies. "Presence Of The Lord" is over two minutes longer (8:48 / 6:40) and "Rambling On My Mind/Have You Ever Loved A Woman" is also longer (8:16 / 7:38) than "Rambling On My Mind" is on E.C. Was Here. Whilst the full-length versions are an interesting listen, they show what a skilful job producer Tom Dowd did with the original album release - editing these songs to avoid repetition and strengthen their presentation. A controversial approach, maybe, but it certainly worked.
Disc 2 illustrates very well how Eric would sometimes take the studio version of a 'pop' song (here "Badge" and "I Shot The Sheriff") and use it as a vehicle to to explore new areas with lengthy improvised solos. And Disc 3 illustrates how sometimes he wouldn't ("Lay Down Sally" and "We're All The Way"). At nearly 25mins. "Eyesight To The Blind/Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?", which features Carlos Santana, is something else altogether - a real highlight, of which there are many.
Finally, Disc 4 continues the high standard - and with Eric having decided to tour without the support of a second guitarist, he really had his work cut out. A sign perhaps of a re-found confidence, or maybe an early indication that a bigger change was coming soon? Either way, Clapton certainly delivers and there's no sign of the band sounding jaded.
Arguably, it's the extended work-outs which are the stand-out numbers in this collection. And it would be easy to say that Clapton is clearly at home with the blues and that those tracks are the most satisfying. But he's clearly at home with music; whether blues, or bluesy, rock, reggae, country or pop - all are represented here.
A real labour of love this - presented very nicely in a book format, there is a beautifully produced bound-in colour booklet full of recording details and a background essay. Although it cost £40 when it was released back in 1996, this superb box set was worth every penny - highly recommended for anyone looking to delve deeper into Clapton's live output.