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E.C. Was Here ... and over there
on 3 June 2012
This is a superb live set compiled from US and UK tours in 1974 and '75 - and although they quickly followed the release of two solo studio albums (461 Ocean Boulevard and There's One In Every Crowd), there are no numbers included from either. Instead, we have two Blind Faith originals and four (or five - more on that later) of Eric's blues favourites. Most performances are from Long Beach Arena, California, with the enthusiastic American audience much in evidence - adding to the atmosphere, which is noticeably different from London's much smaller Hammersmith Odeon.
E.C. Was Here is book-ended (if that can be said of an album) by two of Eric's finest live recordings, "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" - which features breathtaking interplay and some serious sparring with second guitarist George Terry which Eric clearly enjoyed - and a rousing rendition of "Further On Up The Road". If heavy drinking had already replaced his heavy drugging (and is apparent in some of EC's vocals), it certainly didn't hinder his playing. In between are Blind Faith's "Presence Of The Lord", sung as a powerful duet between Clapton and Yvonne Elliman - played with lots of space at a slow tempo (until the instrumental mid-section) and the acoustic "Can't Find My Way Home", sung beautifully by Yvonne Elliman and EC. "Ramblin' On My Mind" is another highlight, which sees Eric calling out key changes throughout his extended solo - the band reacting on cue, like a big old classic car changing up through the gears ... brilliant stuff!
That only leaves mention of "Driftin' Blues", which had closed the original LP's side 1 - a delightful acoustic blues which, pre "Unplugged", was a real treat as 'acoustic Eric' was relatively rare on record. Intriguingly, the vinyl version had faded out just as George Terry took over on electric lead guitar, leaving the listener to wonder what happened next. The answer is here, as Terry's solo allowed Clapton to swap his acoustic for electric guitar before embarking on an extended slide workout. But he hadn't finished yet; the number then leads into another version of "Ramblin' On My Mind". This isn't revealed on the track listing - you have to refer to "Crossroads 2 (live in the seventies)" to see this described more accurately - and, frankly, it would look odd to have two versions of the same song listed on one live album. Despite the subterfuge, however, it does make for a slightly confused (if interesting) listen for the same reason - although to have a live fade midway through the CD would have seemed equally odd. You may well decide that Eric can ramble on as much as he likes (and who am I to argue?) but I'll always prefer the LP to the CD. The original LP version was skilfully edited by producer Tom Dowd and the Crossroads live box set includes the actual full-length versions of "Presence Of The Lord" and "Rambling On My Mind/Have You Ever Loved A Woman" - even longer than on EC Was Here although they are only stated to be different mixes - "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 8:16 / 7:38). But sometimes less is more ...