selfDENIAL (Mid Valley MVR-436/437)
Woking Leisure Centre, Woking, Surrey, England – December 31st, 2005
Disc 1 (57:46): Knock Ron Wood, Reconsider Baby, Ohh Poo Pa Doo, Can’t Judge A Book, Hoochie Coochie Man, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Sweet Little Rock And Roller, Not Fade Away, Black Jack, Hand Jive, Jerry Lee Song
Disc 2 (65:41): In The Midnight Hour, Stormy Monday, Poison Ivy, Irene, Mojo, Blueberry Hill, Five Long Years, A Whiter Shade of Pale, Cocaine, Little Queenie, Kansas City
Eric Clapton’s annual New Year’s Eve Dance is an alcohol-free celebration of sobriety and the possibilities of having fun without being plastered. The few recordings from these events that have been pressed are great to listen to because it reveals Clapton and friends in a relaxed atmosphere and loose enough to play some rare tunes not otherwise played.
These shows are usually held at the Woking Leisure Centre in Woking, Surrey, where Eric grew up and are not played for the public. That there are tapes around indicates a breech of trust, but hearing and appreciating these performances is much more important.
For the December 31st, 2005 show Clapton dubbed the band “Denial” which consisted of Gary Brooker on keyboards and vocals, Chris Stainton also on keyboards, Dave Bronze on bass and Henry Spinetti on drums.
selfDenial on Mid Valley was released in March 2008. It is sourced from a very good but slightly distant stereo audience DAT recording. The low frequencies are emphasized over the treble.
The show begins with Clapton’s cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood.” He covered the tune on Behind The Sun in 1985 and it makes rather faithful appearances in his set lists. Mid Valley print the set list as it appears on the band’s printed list (a photograph appears on the artwork). “Knock On Wood” is printed as “Knock Ron Wood,” an example of back stage humor. Unfortunately Ron Wood wasn’t there to play with the band (he was probabl off getting plastered with Keith Richards).
After “Reconsider Baby” Gary Brooker introduced the third song as “a little bit of voodoo charm from New Orleans” and sings the vocal. Some sources are confused about the song, calling it “One Track Mind.” However, it is indeed “Ooh Poo Pa Doo,” written by Jessie Hill in 1960, covered by Wilson Pickett (among others) and traditionally sung at Mardis Gras.
The first half continues with many interesting cover tunes. Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Rock And Roller” is an interesting choice. Clapton covered a lot of blues artists throuhgout his career, but rarely bothered with Berry. On this night he covers two Berry tunes. The second, “Little Queenie,” was a frequent encore in 1974 and lead to many hilarious, drunken jams.
Brooker sings the cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” It’s played in a unique progressive rock-oriented arrangement.
The two more familiar tunes in the first half are “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Hand Jive.” The Dylan tune is played in it’s reggae arrangement from the seventies. “Hand Jive” is “Willie And The Hand Jive” by Johnny Otis, a favorite tune from Clapton’s 1974 US tour. Unlike those performances, this one lacks a female lead and doesn’t segue into “Get Ready.”
The first half ends with the old Stephen Foster tune “Poor Old Joe (Old Black Joe).” At the song’s end an mc says they will take a break from the music and wait forty-five minutes for the ball to drop.
Disc two captures the show after the ball drops. The first (and obvious) song is Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour.” In other years he’s played “After Midnight” in this spot.
“Stormy Monday” is a song familiar from his early days and “Goodnight Irene” recalls the finale of the ARMS shows in 1983. “I Got My Mojo Workin'” he plays in the same raucous arrangement from 1992.
After “Five Long Years,” Brooker takes control of the mic. He plays piano and plays a bit of “When A Man Loves A Woman” and Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” The reggae beat segues into the progressive rock classic “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” by Procol Harum. It’s obvoiusly a strange but very satisfying transition.
The show comes to an end with “Cocaine,” perhaps his most familiar tune of the night, and Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie.” The only encore is a great version of the Leiber / Stoller song “Kansas City.”
selfDENIAL is packaged in a standard double slimline jewel case with inserts printed on high quality glossy paper. Because these shows are so scarce, any silver pressing is worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)