Eric Clapton – Blue Sky (Beano-016)


Blue Sky (Beano-016) 

Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria – October 6th, 1979

Disc 1:  Badge, If I Don’t Be There By Morning, Worried Life Blues, Tulsa Time, Early In The Morning, Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight, Country Boy, Double Trouble

Disc 2:  Blues Power, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, After Midnight, Sign Language, Setting Me Up, La La La, Motherless Children, Cocaine, Further On Up The Road

Blue Sky is a new tape source documenting the first concert of Eric Clapton’s Backless European tour.  The older source, which was never released on a silver commercial title, is a very good audience recording but incomplete missing most of “Double Trouble” and the encore “Further On Up The Road”.  Beano issued a good to very good mono audience recording on this release.  The taper is some distance from the stage and the range of frequencies is very narrow with the lower sometimes suffering from slight distortion.  The instruments are very clear and Clapton’s guitar solos are loud enough but the vocals and between song talking are distant. 

This tape source is complete so for the first time we able to enjoy the concert in its entirety.  For such a late tour there are very few documents available.  After Vienna there is the tape from the chaotic concert from October 17th in Katowice, Poland and the final gig of the tour on October 27th in Jerusalem.

Vienna is the third concert following two low key warm up gigs in England (September 7th in Cranleigh and September 30th in Hanley) with Eric Clapton’s new all English backing band of Albert Lee (guitar), Dave Markee (bass), Henry Spinetti (drums) and Chris Stainton (keyboards).  Clapton’s decision to fire the “American” band is controversial since many played with him from his first solo tour in 1974 and with bassist Carl Radle dating way back to the Derek And The Dominoes. 

The new band is tight and professional and the concert is note-for-note perfect.  Some say they are too perfect, preventing some of the great jams from the past.  There may be some truth to that concern but Clapton’s solos are the center of interest and songs like “Double Trouble” and “Worried Life Blues” feature amazing improvs. 

What are really missing are the female singers from the past like Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy and songs that featured them like “Motherless Children” suffer as a result.  For a new band this concert is a bit tense but very effective.  “Badge” is an obvious and recognizable opener followed by “If I Don’t Be There By Morning”, introduced by Clapton as “Blue Sky”, from the latest LP Backless.  “Worried Life Blues” sounds majestic in this recording and “Lay Down Sally” lays down a great groove.  Albert Lee sings “Country Boy” which he introduces as “very silly”. 

They play the reggae version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” carried over from the previous tour.  After “Setting Me Up” they play “Tipitina,” listed on the cover art as “La La La.”  Clapton covered the Professor Longhair tune only a couple times on this tour (in Jerusalem on october 27th and in Ibaraki, Japan on November 23rd).

Beano on the whole is a great Eric Clapton label issuing quality titles but they are not prolific.  In three years this is only their sixteenth title and Blue Sky, given the rarity of documents from this era, is very much recommended.

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