California Wind (Mid Valley MVR 249/250)
Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA – February 11, 1978
Disc 1. Peaches and Diesel – Wonderful Tonight – Lay Down Sally – Next Time You See Her – The Core – We’re All the Way – Rodeo Man -Fool’s Paradise – Cocaine – Badge – Double Trouble
Disc 2. Nobody Knows You – Let It Rain – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Last Night – Goin’ Down Slow – Layla – Red Wine – You’ll Never Walk Alone
This show is one of EC’s most bootlegged shows of all time. Originally recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour Radio Show, names under which this gig can be found are Slowhand Backless On The Road (EC IS HERE label), Bottom Dollar (Bell Bottom label), Layla (On Stage label), Gentleman’s Appearance (American Concert Series label) and Snowhead (Musichien label) just to name a few. The Swinging Pig label issued a 6CD box called Wonderful Tonight (SP-CD-196) featuring three shows in excellent soundboard sound, one of them being this Santa Monica show. That release is the only one able to challenge California Wind for sound quality. Disc times are different but both releases sound similar to me. In fact, when playing the discs on my computer the label for the discs reads “Wonderful Tonight On Stage 1978”, so MVR may have just bootlegged TSP’s release… I would like to hear the opinion of any expert on this…. Now it is fair to also say that California Wind beats “Wonderful Tonight” on the packaging since it comes with a mini replica of the 1978 Tour Programme, which is a very nice addition to the set.
California Wind is a stunning soundboard recording which captures the seventh show of a total of 18!! shows EC played in the States in February only. Twelve more shows would follow in March and by the end of the Tour – which would finish on April 9 – EC would have played 6 gigs more… this really was one hell of a Tour to promote the Slowhand album… because EC was really promoting it. Just take a look at the setlist and you will find out that the first six!! songs of the show are taken from Slowhand.
“Peaches And Diesel” is one of EC’s most underrated instrumental compositions….. and for me it’s a joy to listen to it live. I believe it’s George Terry the one who brilliantly plays the first solo there… It is followed by “Wonderful Tonight”. I love the way this song was played on this tour, because I find it to be the most faithful to the original. “Lay Down Sally” seems to be easily recognized by the audience: they just get mad to its first chords!! But for me nothing can compare to “Next Time You See Her”, a personal favourite since I listened to it for the first time when I was 16. It may be because the lyrics meant something special to me at that time, it may be because the melody is just so nice, or it may be because EC plays it so amazingly well on the album….. The live version on California Wind features George Terry on lead guitar.. but he just gets to leave me speechless too!
EC takes things off on “The Core” with some of his trademark solos and after that he changes to acoustic mode to play a couple of Don Williams tunes: the mellow “We’re All The Way” – sixth song of the night from the “Slowhand” album – and “Rodeo Man”, a nice song in which EC sends up some country music. “Fools’ Paradise” is an old Buddy Holly song that EC started covering around the time of the Slowhand album. To my knowledge, none of these two songs were officially released and/or recorded.
The show continues with a rushing version of “Cocaine”. What a start for a show: nine new songs out of nine, including two unreleased numbers… This feels like a sci-fi movie these days… “Badge” comes next.. to absolutely steal the show featuring one of my all time favourite solos on that song both by EC and George Terry too! Then it’s blues time with the always welcome “Double Trouble”, which in this occasion is again simply splendid.
Disc 2 opens with “Nobody Knows You” featuring Marcy Levy on vocals, and solos from Dick Simms on keyboards and George Terry on guitar. “Let It Rain” is great at 7+ minutes to feature extended solos by EC & George Terry as well as Dick Simms. A nice “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” slow things a bit before we are treated to a couple of blues numbers. “Last Night” sounds much like “Further On Up The Road” but is far much shorter. According to the back cover, the next song is “Going Down Slow” but is really is a “Going Down Slow / Ramblin’ On My Mind” medley, which is something you have to listen to. In fact, this is the only song of this show that saw his way onto the Crossroads 2 official 4CD box set released by Polydor back in 1996 – how time flies, by the way!!
“Layla” is a standout with both EC’s solo and George Terry’s guitar work on the coda being notable. “Bottle Of Red Wine” and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – which EC says “I play more for my benefit than it is for yours” – featuring Marcy Levy on vocals close the show very nicely.
“California Wind” is available with two different covers. The artwork on the left is for the limited edition of 500 numbered copies and the artwork on the right is for the promotional copies that exist.
It was indeed a huge tour but not many tapes of this quality have surfaced so far. If you have the “Wonderful Tonight” box set you might want to pass on this release. If you don’t have it, it is imperative for you to get hold of California Wind…. I only hope MVR put their hands on the recording from the following night, which was recorded officially as well…
California Wind is the first of Mid Valley’s so-called “Wonderful Tonight” trilogy. The other two are Dress Code and After Hours. All three are substantial upgrades over the famous box set on The Swingin’ Pig and are worth having. California Wind is perhaps the hardest of the three to track down, but definitely worth it.