Romantic Isolation (Mid Valley MVR243~248)
It has become an Eric Clapton tradition to play an extended engagement of shows at the Royal Albert Hall. Normally a time to experiment with different themes and playing with different musicians, this began on the August tour with six shows. Mark Knopfer and Phil Collins on the final two shows joined the band and on January 8th Sting and Steve Winwood joined them onstage for the encores “Money For Nothing” and “Sunshine Of Your Love.”
These shows were professionally recorded for a planned live album but Polydor, after releasing the Crossroads boxset and The Cream Of Eric Clapton were concerned about saturating the market with Clapton product. From the last three RAH shows “Miss You” from January 10th and “I Shot The Sheriff”, “Hung Up On Your Love”, “Tearing Us Apart” and “Layla” from January 12th were intended for this project.
Poor sounding audience tapes exist for the concerts on January 6th and 8th, but almost complete soundboard did surface for the final three and various labels have utilized the tapes. The EC Is Here label attempted to create this project with The Unreleased Live Album 86/87 (DJ Copy 33/34) which includes “Holy Mother” and “Miss You” from the 10th, “Tearing Us Apart” from the 11th, and “Crossroads,” “White Room,” “Hung Up On Your Love,” and “Layla” from the 12th. The Electric Monkey label released The Unreleased Live Album 1986-87 (EM04) with “Miss You” from the 10th and “Crossroads” and “White Room” from the 12th.
Silver Rarities released the complete January 12th concert on On Tour 87 Parts 1 & 2 (SIRA CD-5, 6). All three shows were released on 3 Nights (Zigzag Records) in 1999 and five years later Mid Valley released Romantic Isolation. The Mid Valley covers the same ground as the Zigzag release by presenting the three soundboard recordings in excellent quality but is cleaner than the others and can be considered to be definitive.
British rhythm and blues revival act Big Town Playboys are the opening act for each of the nights and Clapton is joined on stage by Mark Knopfler, Nathan East (bass), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), and on January 10th with Steve Ferrone on drums.
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – January 10th, 1987
Disc 1 (51:26): White Room, I Shot The Sheriff, Hung Up On Your Love, Wonderful Tonight, Miss You, Same Old Blues
Disc 2 (61:33): Tearing Us Apart, Holy Mother, Badge, Let It Rain, Cocaine, Layla, Money For Nothing (Mark Knopfler), Sunshine Of Your Love
The first two discs document the January 10th show. It is clear and well balanced with hints of distortion as the show goes on. Also for thirty seconds in “Layla,” between 6:05 to 6:35 it switches to mono. “Crossroads,” the set opener, is missing and the tape begins with Ferrone’s count-in to “White Room.”
“I Shot The Sheriff” is introduced as by Clapton as “an old Bob Marley number.” Several times during “Wonderful Tonight” someone, beginning at 2:01, someone hits the drum machine that is used for “Hung Up On Your Love.”
After that song Clapton introduces the new song “Miss You” as something “from the other end of the spectrum.”
“Same Old Blues” lasts twenty minutes and is the centerpiece of the set with Clapton, East and Knopfler all taking solos. But the highlight is Clapton’s solo in “Holy Mother.” He’s able to raise the song’s eighties neon pastel glow to the heights of sublimity.
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – January 11th, 1987
Disc 3 (57:17): Crossroads, White Room, I Shot The Sheriff, Hung Up On Your Love, Wonderful Tonight, Miss You, Same Old Blues
Disc 4 (59:43): Tearing Us Apart, Holy Mother, Badge, Let It Rain, Cocaine, Layla, Money For Nothing (Mark Knopfler), Sunshine Of Your Love
Discs three and four cover the January 11th show and unlike the previous is complete with the first number “Crossroads” present. For this and the following concerts Phil Collins plays the drums instead of Steve Ferrone.
This is another excellent sounding soundboard recording. Many collectors complain that the guitars are somewhat buried down in the mix, but they are still audible. After the opening song Clapton greets the audience by saying, “This is one from the sixties, it’s called ‘White Room.'” He jokes about the length of “Same Old Blues by saying, “I’m gonna leave the theater now. This goes on for quite a long time. It’s called ‘Same Old Blues.'”
In all these shows the introduction for “Badge” is played to a Latin salsa beat and is segued, after eight minutes, to “Let It Rain.” Clapton takes the solo in the former and in the latter Knopfler develops his signature solo (sounding very close to “Sultans Of Swing”). The only thing lacking are the keyboard raindrops Chris Stainton used to play on past tours.
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – January 12th, 1987
Disc 5 (56:46): Crossroads, White Room, I Shot The Sheriff, Hung Up On Your Love, Wonderful Tonight, Miss You, Same Old Blues
Disc 6 (61:45): Tearing Us Apart, Holy Mother, Badge, Let It Rain, Cocaine, Layla, Money For Nothing (Mark Knopfler), Sunshine Of Your Love
The soundboard on discs five and six cover the final night at the Royal Albert Hall. It contains the show in its entirety and is well balanced like the tape for January 10th. There is also a sense of urgency not present in the other shows with the first couple of numbers being delivered at a quick pace. What distinguishes this show is the extraordinary finale.
Clapton sings “Layla” so passionately that his voice comes close to going hoarse. Phillinganes’ transition to the coda is subtle and ends with a nice duet between Clapton and Knopfler. The encores “Money For Nothing” and “Sunshine Of Your Love” (with the Bolero interlude) close the show.
Romantic Isolation is packaged in a six disc fatboy jewel case. A two-sided insert has photographs of the master cassettes used, and the two four page inserts have the track listing and band line ups for each of the three concerts with period photographs. The front and back cover is a bit puzzling with a close up of Clapton’s hair. For those who love the late eighties Clapton, this is a fantastic release worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)