Eric Clapton – God Is A Guitar Player (The Godfather Records G.R. 855)
Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, Davenport, IA – Jul 27, 1974
(73:45) Badge – Presence of the Lord – Tell the Truth – Hideaway – Steady Rollin’ Man – Blues Power – Layla (bonus) – Little Wing (bonus) – I Shot The Sheriff (bonus)
An audience recording of the Clapton show in Davenport, IA in 1974 has never surfaced and the soundboard recording that exists is just a 50 minute segment. That is not too much, I know, but it’s enough to conclude that this might easily have been one of the better performances of a tour that is well known to have seen Clapton massively drunk in numerous occasions.
Previously available on the exclusive “Hideaway” on Akashic Records, which was released back in 1999 and limited to 200 numbered copies only, The Godfather Records gives us collectors a new chance to add this great performance in silver format to our collections. Also, as a very nice bonus, we get three extra tracks that would become Clapton’s trademark songs but none of them are present on the Davenport recording.
The liner notes read the following:
1974 marked Eric Clapton’s first tour as a solo artist. After a couple of warm-up shows in Stockholm and Copenhagen, the six-week first leg of his North American tour began on June 28th in New Haven, CT and ended on August 4th in Palm Beach, FL. The second leg was much shorter and took place in September and October.
The tour was filled with highs and lows, ups and downs. Performances were erratic, never letting you know what to expect. It could be something great or it could be a colossal failure!!
Clapton started out the shows on acoustic guitar leaving George Terry play lead and also frequently through the rest of the set. Radle had remained Clapton’s soulmate and lots of vocals would be left to Yvonne Elliman. The ending of songs would be delayed by a series of false finishes much for the amusement of the band members themselves rather than the audience… all confirming Clapton’s band was a tight one and their members were not just the star’s sidemen.
Clapton’s behaviour used to be eccentric and he would often look like he was either drunk, or stoned and laid back, not at his best in many ocassions. Thank Heavens it was not Davenport’s case. In your hands is an extremely solid performance which even sees a portion of the “Peter Gunn” theme played into the performance of “Ramblin’ On My Mind”!
Bonus tracks include the inescapable Layla, Clapton’s tribute to Jimi Hendrix and also Clapton’s only #1 US hit, a great live rendition of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” which features the extended guitar solo that should have never been left off on the official album. Enjoy!
The show starts with a fantastic version of Badge, the song that Cream never played live until they reunited in 2005. It is hard to believe but apparently Clapton is in top form not seeming to be intoxicated at all. After the guitar pyrotechnics on the inspired Badge, Presence Of The Lord calms things down a bit. It is an extended rendition that clocks at 9 minutes, starting with Clapton on vocals then Yvone Elliman and then both together before Clapton throws in a great solo.
At nearly 10 minutes, Tell The Truth is a piece de resistance which evolves into a true jam session with all band members joining in for what has to be a splendid rendition. A great albeit short blues medley follows now: Hideaway is segued into “Ramblin’ On My Mind” with the former including a fragment of the “Peter Gunn” theme!
Steady Rollin’ Man is the Robert Johnson tune that Clapton rearranged for his 461 Ocean Boulevard album. I always loved the album version so it’s easy to presume a live rendition can’t be nothing but a favourite! On top of this, the performance in Davenport is particularly excellent!! Clapton says “Lovely!” as the band members tune up instruments for Blues Power which sees the chords to Badge being played for a few seconds during its intro!
Layla is the first of the three bonus tracks that have been added to the Davenport recording. Taken from the third show of the tour in Uniondale, NY, Clapton sounds a bit drunk but his playing remains unaffected. With no coda, Clapton and Terry heavily duel on leads on a song that clocking at 5 minutes is short but solid and easy to deal with. Next bonus track is a respectfully soulful cover of Little Wing which was performed in Providence, RI on the tenth gig of the tour. This is a magnificent example on how a slow number can also burn! The last bonus track is a superb rendition of “I Shot The Sheriff”. It’s 8+ minutes of pure joy. This is taken from the second leg of the US tour and shows how tight the band is by that time. I find it extremely easy to get lost in the groove with a fantastic extended guitar solo that arouses my interest until the very last musical note is played! There is no better way to close the disc, period!
Since Akashic’s “Hideaway” is so limited and hard to find these days, “God Is A Guitar Player” is a much easier and cheaper way to obtain the Davenport 1974 recording in silver format. It comes in Godfather’s usual trifold cardboard sleeve featuring a superbly nice artwork with lots of pictures from the tour, including the one featured on the back cover which is from the actual Davenport gig and shows a nice view from the rear part of the stage. A nice performance in excellent soundboard quality makes “God Is A Guitar Player” a welcome (and needed) repressing of a recording that is very much worth having.