Eric Clapton – The New National Pastime (Godfather Records GR373/374)
Disc1. Country Boy (Albert Lee) – A Salty Dog (Gary Brooker) – Tulsa Time – Lay Down Sally – Wonderful Tonight – Worried Life Blues – Stay Away From My Baby – Double Trouble – Rita Mae – Blow Wind Blow – Ramblin’ OnMy Mind / Mean Old World / Have You Ever Loved A Woman – Blues Power
Disc2. Cocaine – Layla – Further On Up The Road – Cocaine ( alt. analogue source) – Blow Wind Blow (March 6, 1981) – Rita Mae (March 6, 1981) – Blues Power (March 6, 1981) – Cocaine (March 6, 1981) – Layla (March 6, 1981).
If you’re a Clapton collector you’re in luck! GR gives silver treatment to one of the few documents that are likely to exist from EC’s very short US Tour of 1981… and what a document this is!!! An excellent – and complete! – audience recording of EC’s third and last show in Seattle – the fifth one of a tour which wouldn’t go further than eight gigs before EC had to cancel it due to health problems.
The show surprisingly starts with an Albert Lee song I am not the biggest fan of: the fast Country Boy. (I have always preferred Pink Bedroom or Sweet Little Lisa from the 1982/1983 tours over Country Boy). The second tune is Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog which could not feature anyone else but Gary Brooker on vocals. I admit I have rarely been exposed to material by Procol Harum other than A Whiter Shade Of Pale, which I like a lot, but A Salt Dog and its symphonic tones quickly grew on me too. I miss an EC solo over it but it still is a very nice discovery for me.
The real EC show begins with the country flavoured sounds of Tulsa Time and the gentle swings of Lay Down Sally which also sees a nice solo from EC on the first half of the song. Wonderful Tonight is very slow and brilliantly close to the original and is a highlight for me. Next comes a real blues treat with a great cover of “Big Maceo” Merriweather’s Worried Life Blues followed by a funny Stay Away From My Baby, another blues tune that can’t be found on any other EC tour but on this one. Double Trouble is the third blues number in a row, and is a true diamond with the same arrangement to the version found on the “Just One Night” album.
At this point EC asks how many loonies are in the audience and then tells them to “stick to it” before kicking into a rousing version of Rita Mae that leaves the blues behind for eight minutes and is so great that it makes me play air guitar!! Then we are taken back to the blues of Muddy Waters’ Blow Wind Blow with EC singing his heart out. Blues tunes won’t stop here as we still have to be treated to one of the jewels of the crown of the night: a stunning medley which consists of renditions of Ramblin’ On My Mind, Mean Old World and Have You Ever Loved A Woman with EC playing some great lead guitar all throughout. Shame it is just eleven minutes long as I could spend the whole day listening to it. Blues Power is powerful and features brief solos from Chris, Gary and Albert Lee before EC and his more-than-three-minute-long solo on wah-wah pedal steal the song.
Disc2 starts with Cocaine which is introduced by EC this way: “This is a song about the new national pastime… hope you all are enjoying yours as much as we are not enjoying ours, which we are not because of certain pressures. Here we go anyway”. After an extended intro, EC shouts “I really want some!!” right before his solo. The second one is saved for Albert Lee before we are treated to another extended outro.
I believe there is some slight problem with the speed of the tape at one point during the first seconds of Layla – but it definitely is nothing you cannot live with…. EC’s solo on Layla is so different to nowadays… Helped by the fact that there is no coda, it is longer, much more extended, also it is on wah-wah….. Anyway, this is an outstanding rendition of EC’s high-water mark. Funny to hear EC stop playing to say “Thank you very much, Ladies & Gentlemen!!…. God bless you all!!….. Goodnight!!” while the band keeps playing the main melody. The blues-rock of Further On Up The Road with most of the band members taking their fair share of spotlight closes the show but not the disc, which is bonused with appropiate material that is added to my enjoyment.
We get Cocaine from an alternate analogue tape – very similar to the first source to my ears – and then five tracks from the previous night. If a complete recording of that night exists, someone will be seated on a barrel weighing gold just like GR were with this tape, because quality wise these five tracks are as good. As for the performance is cocerned, I might stick to The New National Pastime… but simply because I prefer the Layla there!! Did I say it was g r e a t ?
Featuring an excellent quality for the era – with almost no crowd interference – and being an excellent, complete show, The New National Pastime is a must-have in your collection.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)Eric Clapton - The New National Pastime (Godfather Records GR373/374),