Eric Clapton – Hard Rock Calling (no label)

Hard Rock Calling (no label)

Hyde Park, London, EnglandJune 28, 2008

Disc 1: Tell The Truth, Key To The Highway, Hoochie Coochie Man, Outside Woman Blues, Here But I’m Gone, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad, Driftin’, Rockin’ Chair, Motherless Child  

Disc 2: Travelin’ Riverside Blues, Running On Faith, Motherless Children, Little Queen Of Spades, Before You Accuse Me, Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Cocaine, Crossroads

Hard Rock Calling was the name of the two day festival in Hyde Park that began on June 28, 2008. In addition to Clapton’s set, day one’s performers also included Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, and the Steve Boyce Band. Hard Rock Calling, this new no label release, is an excellent audience recording with minimal crowd disturbance and very clear sound that was listed as being recorded from the front row. Crowd noise and light conversations are more evident in the softer passages but are still secondary to the music.

After a short stint with Ian Thomas on drums and Pino Palladino on bass, Willie Weeks returns on bass and the drum slot is filled by Abe Laboriel Jr. Abe adds a new energy to this lineup and is a very solid addition. Clapton’s ability to constantly change thing up by plugging in different players for different tours adds a freshness to his music especially during the show ending staple songs. Now back to just two guitar players Doyle Bramhall II gets a lot more of the spotlight and Chris Stainton is alone on keys. Sharon White and Michelle John also remain as Eric’s backing vocalists.

A couple of Dominos tunes, “Tell The Truth” and “Key To The Highway”, open the set as they had throughout 2007. “Outside Woman Blues” is the full band version and sounds a bit funkier than usual. “Here But I’m Gone” is a track from Curtis Mayfield’s final album that is new to the set and Eric and Doyle switch off on the lead vocal. The track has a mysterious feel to it and both Eric and Doyle play some really good stuff here as well. This is one of a few new additions to the set that also includes “Rockin’ Chair” and “Motherless Child”, the latter which hadn’t been featured since the all blues shows from 1995. “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” is one of the best versions I’ve heard in recent times thanks to Abe and Doyle gets to stretch out at the end. “Driftin” is the first of three acoustic songs in the set before the electrics return for Robert Johnson’s “Travelin’ Riverside Blues”. “Motherless Children” brings the show to new heights and quickly segues into thirteen minutes of “Little Queen Of Spades”, the blues centerpiece of the night.

For the first time in years, “Wonderful Tonight” sounds more like the original LP version retaining the original drum feel. “Cocaine” doesn’t sound as aggressive as it has on previous tours but is still a solid version with an awesome guitar solo followed by some outstanding piano work by Chris Stainton. Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Robert Randolph join Eric for the encore performance of “Crossroads”. This has yet another unique musical arrangement while vocally Sheryl Crow and John Mayer take the first and second verses respectively. Finally Clapton comes back for the final verse and his solo follows. This recording is very complete right down to the crowd shouting for more as “Happy Trails” starts to play over the PA.

Hard Rock Calling has a good level and the mastering sounds very natural and is an enjoyable listen. If you are looking for Clapton 2008 you can’t go wrong with this title. This is an all around great performance and this line up really seems to click. This no label release is a very nice looking production packaged in a double slimline jewel case with many photos of the band making this a solid presentation of the event.

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