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Eric Clapton – Wonderful Return To Hammersmith Odeon (Beano-031)

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Wonderful Return To Hammersmith Odeon (Beano-031)

In 1983 with the new LP  Money And Cigarettes Eric Clapton had the most live performances in many years.  He played four shows at the Hammersmith Odeon in London from May 16th to May 18th.  These marked the first time he played in London since The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball in September 1981 and first paid solo performance since playing the Hammersmith Odeon in May 1980 (almost three years to the day).

Poor to fair audience tapes have been in circulation for these tour concerts and were released on cdr as Phantom Of Hammersmith I – IV.  But they were never pressed on silver.  Beano, on Wonderful Return To Hammersmith Odeon and its sequel Next Stop Royal Albert Hall present the four from a new tape source.  Since all four shows are the product of one taper, there is a uniformity to the sound and establishes a unity for these.   

The sound is generally very good to borderline excellent and are mostly complete.  Despite any limitatins they are  much better sounding that was his in circulation and overall both are excellent titles produced by Beano, a label who still manage to find uncirculated Eric Clapton tapes. 

The band for these shows are Albert Lee (guitar), Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass, Jamie Oldaker on drums and Chris Stainton on keyboards.  All but Oldaker also helped record Money And Cigarettes.  Oldaker replaced Roger Hawkins on drums who started off touring with the band but quit two weeks into the tour in February.  Still absent are female vocalists, something which hadn’t been part of  Clapton’s show since the Slowhand tour in 1977. 

Hammersmith Odeon, London, England – May 16th, 1983

Disc 1 (50:52):  Tulsa Time, I Shot The Sheriff, Worried Life Blues, Lay Down Sally, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Sweet Little Lisa, Key To The Highway, After Midnight

Disc 2 (50:31):  The Shape You’re In, Wonderful Tonight, Blues Power, Honey Bee / Have You Ever Loved A Woman / Rambling On My Mind, Cocaine, Layla, Further On Up The Road

The recording for the first Hammersmith Odeon show is slightly distant but clear and enjoyable.  There are a few small cuts after “Sweet Little Lisa” and “Blues Power” but nothing destructive.  

By the time the tour hit London almost all of the new songs were jettisoned, turning the act into a nostaligic hit parade and blues revue.  Only Clapton’s original “The Shape You’re In,” which was added during their tour of Europe in April, remains from the new album compared to the opening nights in Seattle several months before.  The sets are identical in the four shows with the only variations being in the long blues medley in the latter part of the show. 

Nervousness is evident at the very beginning with rather still versions of “Tulsa Time” and “I Shot The Sheriff.”  Things to begin to warm up quite a bit once they get into “Worried Life Blues” which features melodramaic piano and organ solos by Chris Stainton.     

Albert Lee takes a solo in “Lay Down Sally” with his unique finger picking style.  The long blues medley in the latter half of the show begins with the Muddy Water’s “Honey Bee” instead of “That’s Alright” as in the earlier shows.  It continues with “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” and “Rambling On My Mind” with Clapton calling out the keys.  It is a good opening night in London with a touch of nerves but great enthusiasm overall. 

Hammersmith Odeon, London, England – May 17th, 1983

Disc 3 (53:15):  Tulsa Time, I Shot The Sheriff, Worried Life Blues, Lay Down Sally, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Sweet Little Lisa, Key To The Highway, After Midnight

Disc 4 (54:09):  The Shape You’re In, Wonderful Tonight, Blues Power, Honey Bee / Have You Ever Loved A Woman / Rambling On My Mind, Cocaine, Layla, Further On Up The Road

The second Hammersmith Odeon show is a marked improvement over the first.  The nerves have disappeared and Clapton delivers one of his most passionate vocal performance of the year.  Since it comes from the same taper, the sound quality is similar to the May 16th tape.  It is slightly distorted and deteriorates during the course of the performance.  “I Shot The Sheriff” is cut at five minutes in the middle of the guitar solo.  The tape returns with “Worried Life Blues” in progress.  There is also a cut at 11:30 in the blues medley, right at the transition from “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” and “Rambling On My Mind.”

Although it is cut, “Worried Life Blues” still has the middle solos intact.  Stainton’s organ solo in the latter half of the improvisation sounds strange, out-of-place yet completely subline given the constraints of the piece. 

“Double Trouble” is the first epic playground for Clapton and the band and it hits a heavy groove in the instrumentals.  But Clapton’s vocals are extremely passionate, singing the words from the depths of what sound like are his personal experience in the blues.

“After Midnight” is played at double time and is a fun mid-set interlude before the other classics to follow.  The long blues medley again begins with “Honey Bee” before segueing into “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” and “Rambling On My Mind.”  Clapton’s enthusiasm hits a peak with “Cocaine.”  He closes the set with the expected “Layla,” but it sounds as if his heart isn’t in this, or the previous night’s, performance.  The second half coda especially limps to the end.

He introduces the band when they come out of the encores and the evening is redeemed with “Further On Up The Road,” one of his favorite blues.  With Lee and Stainton taking solos in the middle it is a fitting climax to what is on the whole a great night.  Wonderful Return To Hammersmith Odeon sounds like a celebration and is worth having for the two excellent shows.  Beano package this in a fatboy jewel case with common photographs from the Money And Cigarettes era. 

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Eric Clapton - Wonderful Return To Hammersmith Odeon (Beano-031), 2.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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