While On Tour With Eric Clapton, issued in June of 1970, was a stop on Clapton’s musical journey through life, the album stands as a testament to one of the long-lost and overlooked bands of the late sixties and early seventies. When I listen to this album it is not really to hear E.C. but rather to experience the energetic blue eyed soul of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett.
In the span of eight years, Clapton had been a part of The Yardbirds, The Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith and had established himself as one of the guitar gods of rock ‘n’ roll.
Delaney & Bonnie had opened a number of Blind Faith concerts and Clapton found himself envying their tight and focused approach to music. And so, after the demise of Blind Faith he joined their touring band for a spell. He was joined by such luminaries as Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Rita Coolidge, Carl Radle, Bobby Keys, and even George Harrison for a few performances. On Tour With Eric Clapton was assembled from their December 7, 1969 concert.
After being the focal point for a number of years it seemed that Clapton was satisfied to just be a member of a band. He takes a few of his classic solos but in general he just assumes a part of the overall sound. It's actually difficult at times to tell if it is he or Dave Mason playing certain parts.
Clapton has stated that Delaney Bramlett was a great influence on his development as a vocalist. Delaney had a soulful voice that could transform a song. Bonnie was more of a wailer who was greatly helped by the back-up vocals of Coolidge.
There are two tracks in particular where Clapton shines brightly. He co-wrote “Comin’ Home” and his pure guitar lines are very apparent. As well, “I Don’t Want To Discuss It” has one of the better solos of his career.
If you want some good old rock ‘n’ roll at its best check out “Little Richard Medley,” which closes the album. Also of note is “Poor Elijah – Tribute To Johnson Medley” where a number of guitars weave together with the vocals to pay homage to the old bluesman, Robert Johnson. A performance of Besse Griffin’s gospel tune, “That’s What My Man Is For” presents Delaney’s vocals at their best. Eric Clapton aside, Accept No Substitute (1969), Too Bonnie From Delaney (1970), and Motel Shot (1971) are all studio albums by Delaney & Bonnie that are well worth seeking out.
Clapton would quickly move on again but would take Radle, Whitlock, and Gordon with him for his next project. Still, his time with Delaney & Bonnie allowed him to recharge his engines as he moved into the seventies. On Tour With Eric Clapton remains a fine album on many levels and has withstood the test of time well.