Disc1 (55:54). Introduction – Hello Old Friend – Sign Language – Layla – Key To The Highway – Tell The Truth – Can’t Find My Way Home – All Our Past Times.
Disc2 (47:30). Blues Power – One Night – I Shot The Sheriff – Further On Up The Road
Disc3 (74:54). Hello Old Friend – Sign Language – Badge (Dallas) – Knocking On Heaven’s Door (Dallas) – One Night – Tell The Truth – Can’t Find My Way Home – Blues Power – Layla (Dallas)
Eric Clapton – Guitar & Vocals
George Terry – Guitar & Vocals
Carl Radle – Bass
Dick Sims – Keyboards
Jamie Oldaker – Drums
Sergio Pastora Rodriguez – Percussion
Marcy Levy – Vocals & Harp
Yvonne Elliman – Vocals
The front cover of “It’s Layla’s Birthday” reads the following essay which is a perfect introduction:
“Eric Clapton’s 1976 tour started in England with a rather amusing seaside town itinerary. There were a few exceptions such an appearance at London’s Crystal palace. Eric was joined on stage by Larry Coryell, Freddie King and Ronnie Wood. It was a short show, around 70 minutes, and was not a fair representation of what the tour would offer.
A few shows had the surprise appearance of Van Morrison who joined Eric for several numbers, including a stunning version of “Into The Mystic”. Despite various guest appearances, the real highlights of the tour were the long jams and grooves that the band would get into. By the time they reached the US, these had been finely tuned. The highlights were “Badge”, “I Shot The Sheriff” and “Tell The Truth”.
Surprisingly, RSO did not record any shows themselves, but the King Biscuit Flower Hour did. Luckily! They recorded the Dallas and Houston shows and later edited down parts of both shows into an hour that was syndicated throughout the USA and even reached the John Peel show on BBC Radio One in a shortened version of 45 minutes. Interestingly, most of the show was taken from the Houston recording, even though the shows went out as being from Dallas.
Here you have the complete Houston 1976 show in glorious sound taken from the King Biscuit multi-track vault. This is the only complete professional recording of a complete show of Eric from 1976. The show is dedicated to a young girl in the audience whose birthday it was. Her name was Layla. Eric and the band put in some incredible playing. The playing is generally tight and the jams are just amazing. Listen to “I Shot The Sheriff” and you will see what I mean! Enjoy the show!”
Amazing, astonishing, awesome, fabulous, staggering, stunning, sublime, wonderful stuff……….. this is what this tape is about!!!! It’s Layla’s Birthday is MidValley’s umpteenth home run in the world of bootlegs!!
It was a shock for me to learn that the show I had always considered to be Dallas….. is actually Houston!!! Wow…. that was a kind of Holy Revelation to me…… one that really hit me hard, I promise!! There are so many silver pressed releases out there that should be renamed – you can add Tarantura’s “EC King” to the list of bootlegs that you can find on the review of Beano’s “Dallas Pre-FM Master“. At least it is good to know the truth…. finally! Off to the review!!
Clapton goes acoustic for the first two numbers of the night – Hello Old Friend and Sign Language – but he is not missed at all as George Terry is a superb commander delivering a fantastic electric work on both songs. Clapton shifts to electric at this point and says “I’d like to start out this evening by making a dedication to someone who’s having a birthday today – her name is Layla. This one is dedicated to her.” What comes next is no mystery!!! The rendition is excellently solid and features a very interesting jam in the middle extending the tune at nearly 10 minutes even without the coda! Clapton wishes “Happy Birthday!” after the song is over. You may think this was Pattie’s birthday…. but as you know by now, it was someone else’s!!
The only blues number of the night is the standard Key To The Highway. Clapton plays a nice solo before Marcy Levy plays hers on the harmonica and then it’s Clapton’s turn again before it is George Terry’s. Tell The Truth is an amazing exercise of spontaneity and is an awesome showcase of musicianship!! In my humble opinion, this may be the best live rendition of this song…. ever!!
Clapton introduces Yvonne Elliman for a very solid version of Can’t Find My Way Home. She tells the audience she was feeling a little bit rough because she had had a real big Mexican meal!! Then she says she’s starting to feel better and she thinks it has something to do with the audience and of course, Eric. Marcy Levy’s harmonica fills the song nicely and George Terry does a terrific job – exquisitely subtle in places – on guitar.
At this point Clapton says they’re going to play a song from the new album they just made. Clapton and Terry share vocals and solo on All Our Pastimes, one of my all-time favourite Clapton songs. No guitar fireworks but the rendition does not let you down with Clapton sounding more inspired than Terry on the short lead that they share.
Disc 2 begins with Blues Power. Clapton plays a great solo before the song is taken to a very loose jam for a few minutes before the song gets all of its energy back for a rousing finale. Clapton introduces Marcy Levy who dedicates a beautiful cover of Elvis Presley’s “One Night” to a friend of her who is in attendance. Her fantastic vocal ability and passion are matched by George Terry’s fine guitar solo.
I Shot The Sheriff can’t be more epic. Clocking at some outrageous 17 minutes, it sees Clapton sing his heart out on every verse – the last one needing a special mention! – and also includes a 6+ minute drum & percussion solo which ends up being used by Clapton to introduce just three!! members of the band – Dickie Sims, Carl Radle and George Terry. He introduces himself too but he does not mention none of the rest!!! Clapton leaves the stage with a “Thank you very much and good night!”
The second and last blues number of the night is saved for the encore: Further On Up The Road is one of Clapton’s concert staples of the 70’s and sees the musicians in the band take turns to have their own share of the spotlight. Clapton plays a couple of flawless guitar solos just before and after the last verse to close the song. He farewells the audience by saying “Thank you very much! God Bless you all!” and the tape ends with a two-minute sustained cheering and clapping from the audience begging for more.
Disc 3 features the KBFH master tape. Totaling nine tracks, six of them are taken from the Houston show and three of them – namely Badge, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and Layla – are taken from the Dallas show. This is a nice addition to the set and is previously available on Beano’s “Dallas Pre-FM Master”. The two-minute solo on Badge still remains as my favourite Badge solo of all time!! I may have listened to it hundreds of times….. but that’s still not enough and it keeps on blowing me away pretty muck like the first time!!
The artwork and packaging for It’s Layla’s Birthday is excellent as it comes with a slipcase and a couple of inserts, one featuring pictures of a backstage pass and ticket stubs for the actual show and another one promoting Mid Valley’s “Rider On The Storm”, the title that Mi dValley released back in 2004 which covers the San Antonio show that had taken place two days before on Nov 12th.
A professional recording in pristine soundboard quality, a Holy Revelation and a great performance that you won’t soon forget. Ain’t that cool enough??? “It’s Layla’s Birthday” can’t be nothing but a true gem to own!! Essential in anyone’s collection…. not to be missed by any means!!!!! ….. and all nicely presented by Mid Valley. Enough said!!!
PS: Since Mid Valley put their hands on the KBFH’s Houston tape I think I can assume they did put their hands on the real Dallas show too? I can only hope more than just three songs were recorded and they see the light of day soon!
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)