Please note: This reviewer did not received the Blu-ray and therefore cannot review it. I can only give information for it. The Blu-ray, according to the press release, contains “a new 5.1 Surround Sound mix of 461 Ocean Boulevard and original quadrophonic mixes of 461 Ocean Boulevard and There’s One In Every Crowd.”
Also, the set comes housed in a 60-page hardbound book with liner notes and rare pictures which I did not receive. This review is strictly of the five CDs of music in the set.
1974 and 1975 were very prolific years for Eric Clapton. He released the legendary 461 Ocean Boulevard and There’s One in Every Crowd and followed them up with the live E.C. Was Here, which is now remixed and expanded into two discs, including more live music from Long Beach Arena and elsewhere. In fact, all three albums are expanded, with a total of 29 bonus tracks, 12 of which are previously unreleased. The fifth CD is the legendary Freddie King sessions, including the 22-minute long version of “Gambling Woman’s Blues.” There are 88 tracks altogether on the 6 discs.
461 Ocean Boulevard introduced us all to Clapton’s version of “I Shot the Sheriff” and for that alone it is memorable. But there is much more to appreciate here. The remastered sound is a real treat on songs like “Motherless Child,” “Give Me Strength,” “Let It Grow,” and “Willie and the Hand Jive.” The unreleased bonus tracks are “Getting Acquainted” and “Getting Acquainted 2 (Too Late)” and the more interesting acoustic takes of “Please Be with Me” and “Give Me Strength” with a dobro.
The next CD, There’s One in Every Crowd, was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, and has a strong reggae influence. Favorites here are the high energy “We’ve Been Told (Jesus Is Coming Soon),” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “The Sky Is Crying,” “Singing the Blues,” and “When Things Go Wrong (It Hurts Me Too).” This version includes the previously unreleased “Fools Like Me” and the non-album single “Someone Like You” as well as Clapton’s single version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
The two-disc version of E.C. Was Here gives today’s listeners the chance to hear what it was like to attend a Clapton concert in ’74 or ’75. The songs on the first disc were recorded at Long Beach Arena in California. They include a version of “Smile” which is great fun to listen to, an excellent performance of “Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” and a slightly too slow take on “Presence of the Lord.” There’s a long jam on “Can’t Find My Way Home” and an enjoyable medley of “Driftin’ Blues” and “Ramblin’ on My Mind,” but it is the unreleased material here that really shines. The performances of “Crossroads,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Layla,” and especially “Little Wing” which were previously not on the album, are all excellent.
The second disc contains “Willie and the Hand Jive”/”Get Ready” from Long Beach and a number of performances from other concerts in London, New York, and Rhode Island. The best performances are the medleys of “The Sky Is Crying,” “Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” and “Ramblin’ on My Mind” from December 1974 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and “Eyesight to the Blind” with “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad” from Providence Civic Center in Rhode Island in July of 1975.
Aside from the 22-minute “Gambling Woman Blues,” the fifth CD in the set contains three other numbers from the Freddie King sessions at Criterion Studios: “Sugar Sweet,” “TV Mama,” and the previously unreleased “Boogie Funk.” Clapton does not sing on these numbers but it is fun and interesting to hear him play with one of his blues idols as well as a chance to remember or discover the great King.
Altogether, this collection has a lot to offer any Clapton fan. Older fans will enjoy reliving where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the first two albums and recalling Clapton’s live performances of the time, while newer fans will get a vicarious taste of those glory days. All of the bonus material makes this an essential addition to any collection, even if that collection already contains the original albums.