Happy Birthday (Mid Valley Special Sampler)
HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA. – July 30 & 31, 2004
Disc1. Audience – Let it Rain – Hoochie Coochie Man – Walk Out in the Rain – I Want a Little Girl – I Shot the Sheriff – Me and the Devil Blues – They’re Red Hot – Milkcow Blues – If I Posession Over Judgment Day – Kindhearted Woman
Disc2&4. Got to Get Better in a Little While – Have You Ever Loved a Woman – Badge – Wonderful Tonight – Layla – Cocaine – Sunshine of Your Love – Got My Mojo Working
Disc3. Let it Rain – Hoochie Coochie Man – Walk Out in the Rain – I Want a Little Girl – I Shot the Sheriff – Me and the Devil Blues – They’re Red Hot – Milkcow Blues – If I Posession Over Judgment Day – Kindhearted Woman
“Happy Birthday” covers EC’s last two shows of his 2004 US Tour which took place in San Jose before he would wrap up the tour in Los Angeles on August 2 – a recording I would love to see surface soon, by the way!
Mid Valley opted to release this in two double jewel cases rather than a single four disc box, with identical artworks for both shows, the only difference being a sticker on the outside of each jewel case. A green sticker is used for the first show and a blue one is used for the second gig.
The first show is sourced from an excellent audience tape and this is its debut in silver discs. The second one comes from an ALD source which Mid Valley already released as “Delta Blues” (MV 280/281).
EC toured behind “Me and Mr. Johnson,” with the Delta Blues Great’s material being treated to a five-tune segment right in the middle of the set. These Robert Johnson’s songs wouldn’t be the only blues numbers of the night, as EC also played Hoochie Coochie Man (with a strange backing vocal arrangement), “I Want A Litle Girl” – great barrelhouse piano work by Billy Preston – and “Have You Ever Loved A Woman”.
Setlists remain unchanged on both nights, but the performance on the first night is far much better. On the first night EC didn’t play an intro solo for “Walk Out in the Rain” but in return he threw in stunning renditions of “Sheriff”, “Got To Get Better”, “Badge”, “Layla” and “Cocaine”, with the backup singers even singing the chorus from the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” during the outro!!
The band EC used on this tour is one of my all time favourite bands, with Steve Gadd on drums, Nathan East on bass, Doyle Bramhall II on guitar – got to love his work! – and Chris Stainton and Billy Preston on keyboards. Amazing personnel indeed.
It is hard for me to think of any other release featuring outstanding solos on each and every EC classic like this show does. We are treated to an excellent recording of an excellent performance: no doubt this first night deserves to be pressed in gold discs!!
The second night comes from an ALD source, with a limited dynamic range which may make it inferior to excellent audience recordings. Anyway, Mid Valley applied their magic and the result is more than worth having! If you missed “Delta Blues” this is another chance for you to have this show in silver discs.
No solo intro on “Walk Out In The Rain” on this night either and “Sheriff” is again a highlight. Billy Preston again shines on “I Want A Little Girl”. “Got To Get Better” could be playing in my stereo for years… how EC rescued this song after 34 years is still a mistery to me, but how glad I am he did, only God knows. “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” is a joy to listen to.
EC flubs a line at the end of the last riffs on “Layla” and before the coda starts, the source shows some diginoise. “Cocaine” again sees the backup singers singing the chorus to “Satisfaction” during its outro.
Encores consist of “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Got My Mojo Working” and feature Robert Randolph. The latter features solos from all band members including Billy Preston who does “When The Saints Go Marching In” during his solo break much to the crowd’s delight.
“Happy Birthday” features the same Manga style card inlays as “Happy Valentine” (another Mid Valley Special Sampler) with no information regarding setlist or band members identities given. However, the performance on the first night is so well captured that it makes this release another “must” for the serious collector.