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Eric Clapton – Turn Up Down: The Unreleased Album (Godfather Records GR354)

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Turn Up Down:  The Unreleased Album (Godfather Records GR354)

Surrey Sound Studios, Leatherhead, Surrey, England – March to April, 1980

(43:34):  Blues Instrumental #1, There Ain’t No Money, Game’s Up, Rita Mae, Freedom, Evangelia, Home Lovin’, Hold Me Lord, Something Special, I’d Love To Say I Love You, Catch Me If You Can, Blues Instrumental #2.  Extra Tracks:  “Another Ticket LP” radio spot, “Another Ticket American Tour” radio spot

The end of the 70’s was a difficult time for Eric as he had just reconciled with Patty Boyd and, by his own admission, was drinking heavily and becoming more withdrawn.  He also found himself becoming more and more disenchanted and isolated from the American members of his band, Carl Radle, Dick Sims and Jamie Oldaker,  and  finally ended their 5 year association in June of 79 by firing the three by telegram.

For the next tour an all English band was put together featuring lone holdover on guitar Albert Lee supported by Chris Stainton (keyboards), Dave Markee (Bass), and Henry Spinetti (Drums). The band hit the road and, while they were a tight and technically proficient unit, they stayed true to the recorded versions of Clapton’s songs and offered little in the way of spontaneity and improvisation.

The band went into the Surrey Sound Studios to record their first album together with Eric adding talented Procol Harem keyboardist/ songwriter and old friend Gary Brooker to the band lineup in the hopes of beefing up the sound and sparking some creativity. With Eric happy to stay in the background the resultant collection of songs was deemed unacceptable by his record company RSO for being too laid back and not commercial enough and was more of a band album than an Eric Clapton effort with Brooker and Lee singing lead vocals on several songs. 

This material has been released before by the EC Is Here label (DJ Copy 26) with two additional tracks, “Thunder and Lightning” and “Oh How I Miss My Baby’s Love” and by MidValley label (056) without these additional tracks and without the opening and closing instrumental tracks found on the Godfather  and EC releases. According to Marc Roberty’s book “Eric Clapton , The Complete Recording Sessions 1969-1992″ the two additional tracks on the EC Was Here release were part of the original recording sessions so if this is true they are also missing from Godfather release. While I don’t have either to compare I have read that the MidValley release supposedly has significantly better sound quality to the EC Was Here version but I can’t say how they compare to this new Godfather version.

This Godfather release comes in the usual mini album cardboard trifold with liner notes, the set list/ band lineup and two color photos of Eric on the inside covers and a picture of what appears to be the original master tape studio index card with set list on the back cover.

The tape for this release is an excellent plus multitrack recording with nice warmth and instrument separation which could pass for an official release.  Godfathers house style of mastering really shines here as it gives the recording a very mellow three dimensional sound. Eric’s guitar and the vocals are up front and, if I had to nitpick, I would say the drums are a little subdued.

The songs themselves are very laidback even by Clapton’s standards.  The disc opens with an ordinary very short 33 second blues shuffle which is reprised by a similar 55 second blues instrumental at the end of the track list.  While this is not a typical Clapton album several  of the songs, such as “Game’s Up”,  “Rita Mae”, “Something Special” , “Catch me if You Can”‘ have a very familiar Clapton signature sound  from the era and would be at home on any of his 70’s solo efforts. There were several songs with nice Honky Tonk piano feel such as “Freedom” and ” Hold Me Lord”. But the biggest surprise for me was the songs which sounded like outtakes from an early Eagles album with that California country sound including background harmonies in some cases. This was especially evident on tracks like “There Ain’t No Money”, “I’d Love To Say I Love You” and “Evangelina” featuring Albert Lee on vocals. While not your typical Clapton sound, being a big fan of the pre Hotel California Eagles, I found these songs to be a very enjoyable listen. But the highlight song for me was the “Procol Harem meets Clapton” flavored song “Home Lovin'” featuring Gary Brooker on vocals. It has a very unique sound with the merging of the two styles. Hard core Clapton fans will probably find the versions of “Rita Mae”, “Catch Me” and “Hold Me Lord” to be of special interest as they differ significantly in tempo and arrangement from the versions which ultimately appeared on the “Another Ticket” album.  The disc finishes with two bonus short radio promo spots for the “Another Ticket” album and tour.

While I can understand RSO’s reluctance to release this album, as it has too little standard EC on it, and it may have been a little too laid back for the mainstream market, this does not detract from the quality of the music. I think this would be the perfect album to listen to after a tough week at work with your feet kicked up while drinking your favorite cocktail(s) or for listening to on a lazy Sunday morning while reading the Sunday paper.

Godfather has another hit on their hands with this excellent sounding tape which I think would appeal to all Clapton fans from hardcore to casual. It would make a great addition to anyone’s collection and is therefore highly recommended.

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Eric Clapton - Turn Up Down: The Unreleased Album (Godfather Records GR354), 3.5 out of 5 based on 10 ratings

4 Comments

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  1. roertd7 says
    March 25, 2009, 4:32 am

    I don’t disagree with you. I think many of his official albums have been hit and miss affairs – Pilgrim anyone? Much better are his live shows though I think he did loose his way a bit for a few years after ’85. Too much crashing synthesizers for my liking.

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  2. gsparaco says
    March 24, 2009, 5:04 am

    Roerd7’s comment that Turn Up Down sounds like “any local band just trying to earn some beer money” could be used to describe a lot of Clapton’s output. Do we think There’s One In Every Crowd or Backless to be great albums? Turn Up Down isn’t a classic album, but it seems it was rejected not because of poor quality as such but because it isn’t good enough “product”: i.e. not enough Clapton and too much Gary Brooker.

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  3. pharaoh says
    March 24, 2009, 4:40 am

    Thanks for the comment roertd. It is understandable why the record company rejected them but for what they are I thought they were a nice collection of mellow songs and it was interesting to hear the other band members influences with Eric hanging back……As they say too each his own….

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  4. roertd7 says
    March 24, 2009, 4:28 am

    I’m sure Godfather have done a good job and I’m glad you enjoy it. I have to say I find it very uninspired and dull. It could have been put out by any local band just trying to earn some beer money, not an artist of EC’s calibre which is why his record label were right to reject it.

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