Fillmore West 1970 (Beano-062)
Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA – February 21st, 1970
Disc 1 (58:48): Things Get Better, They Call It Rock & Roll Music, Poor Elijah, Don’t Know Why, Only You Know And I Know, Pour Your Love Over Me/Just Plain Beautiful, Where There’s A Will There’s A Way, Coming Home, Little Richard Medley
Disc 2 (62:38): My Baby Specializes, Crossroads, Pygmy, When The Battle Is Over, They Call It Rock & Roll Music, Everybody Loves A Winner, Gimme Some Lovin’, Where There’s A Will There’s A Way, I Don’t Want To Discuss It
Delaney Bramlett’s influence in pop music in the sixties is quite substantial. With his wife Bonnie and their traveling blues & soul revue, they were one of the greatest expositors of authentic American music and, as such, grabbed the attention of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton to the extent that both played live and recorded with them in the late sixties and early seventies.
Delaney and Bonnie’s tour in Europe in 1969 and the US in early 1970 featured a big band with Eric Clapton, Carl Radle on bass, Jim Gordon on drums, Bobby Whitlock on organ, Jim Price on trumpet and trombone, Bobby Keys and Jim Horn on saxophone, Tex Johnson on congas, Rita Coolidge on backing vocals, and John Souther on piano. They played sixteen shows in a month closing with four nights at the Fillmore West in Chicago and, on March 5th, Santa Monica.
Fillmore West 1970 documents the early and late sets from February 21st. The only other release of these tapes were on Smoke Walls (Mid Valley 323/324/325), a four disc set with the soundboard recording of the February 22nd show.
Beano claim to use a lower generation than Empress Valley, devoid of significant hiss. They also slowed the tape down to the correct pitch, deleting clicks on the tape and trying to suppress the lower frequencies so the guitars sound more prominent in the mix.
The first set on disc one is good and clear but slightly distant. The end of “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way” is cut. On the second disc is the late set which is slightly better. The taper was closer to the stage and was able to capture more dynamics in the sound.
Delaney & Bonnie begin the first set with “Things Get Better” from their first LP Home. Written by mainstays of the Stax house band Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd and Wayne Jackson, it retains the aggressive R&B rhythm which brought them fame. They follow with “They Call It Rock N Roll Music,” a Delaney original which would be released in September on To Bonnie From Delaney.
“Poor Elijah” is introduced as “something we call a tribute to Robert Johnson.” Afterwards they follow with “Don’t Know Why,” a song Delaney wrote with Clapton and released on Eric Clapton that August. This and “Coming Home” played later in the set are the only two songs written by Clapton played in the set.
“Only You Know And I Know” features Clapton’s best jamming. Written by Dave Mason, it was a minor hit that year, hitting number forty-two. It’s followed by “Pour Your Love On Me” which Delaney introduces as a “little ditty” from their “Stax” album, Home.
The opening set ends with a wild Little Richard medley. The medley consists of four songs, “Tutti Frutti,” “The Girl Can’t Help It,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Jenny Jenny.” It was played to perfection in the UK that December and even included on the On Tour With Eric Clapton LP.
“My Baby Specializes” opens the evening set on a more subdued and laid back style. Delaney introduces “Crossroads,” and the audience’s response is very loud and enthusiastic. They play the Cream cover of the Robert Johnson tune but with Jim Gordon on vocals instead of Clapton.
“Pygmy” is one of the highlights of the night. An instrumental jam lasting close to ten minutes, its fast tempo rhythm underscores great solos on the sax, flute, and guitar.
After “When The Battle Is Over” they play “They Call It Rock & Roll Music” for the second time that night. This, and “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way” are the only songs to appear in both sets.
There is much enthusiasm for the Spencer Davis cover “Gimme Some Lovin’.” Bobby Whitlock sings the vocals, doing his best blue-eyed soul Steve Winwood impersonation. The show ends with “I Don’t Want To Discuss It” featuring a scorching solo by Clapton in the middle. It’s a bit longer than the version on On Tour With Eric Clapton and much more raw.
A few nights later this incarnation of Delaney & Bonnie’s friends would go their separate ways. Clapton, along with Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Price, Bobby Keys would help record All Things Must Pass for George Harrison that summer. Following that, Clapton would end the year with the Derek And The Dominoes project with Radle, Gordon and Whitlock, release Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and tour the UK and the US.
Eric Clapton’s time with Delaney & Bonnie was important in his development as a solo artist. He’s claimed Deleney gave him the confidence to sing live. Several years ago Rhino issued an expanded box set from the UK tour (the same one that produced the official album) and Mid Valley issued a forty-eight minute soundboard from the Colston show.
But the US tour is extremely obscure with so few documents in circulation. As such, Fillmore West 1970 is an important Beano release for shedding some light on an obscure period. The artwork is done in the same brown tinge as the official album and is a bit hard to read. It’s the only real negative on what is an otherwise very strong title.