No. 5: Who’s The Leader Of The Band? (Mid Valley MVR 501/502)
Music Park, Columbus, OH – July 4, 1974
Disc1 (57:06). San Francisco Bay Blues – Easy Now – Smile – Let It Grow – Can’t Find My Way Home – Key To The Highway – Willie And The Hand Jive – Get Ready – Little Wing.
Disc2 (46:51). Mainline Florida – Layla – Presence Of The Lord – Badge – Little Queenie – Crossroads.
Here we get a very well known show that sees its way onto silver media for the third time after ZigZag’s “Smile 1974” and Tarantura’s “My Name Is Robert Johnson“. “Bottle Rockin” is a 3BR release that covers this show too but as far as I know that is a 2CD-R set.
Like ZigZag did, MVR kept the one-minute blues tune at the beginning of the tape: San Francisco Bay Blues is used by the band to tune up their instruments. After that EC decides to get serious, says “Good evening” to the audience and kicks things off with four acoustic numbers. EC flubs the first chords to Easy Now and sings the verse “When I’m without you I fall down and graze my knees” in a different way from what he did on his solo album, getting a very effective result.
EC is very talkative tonight. He introduces Charles Chaplin’s Smile to the audience not caring about they like it or not. “If that ain’t good enough for you, well, it’s good enough for me” – he says. With quips, EC tells the audience the next song is from his new album, which is not expensive! Let It Grow is a favourite due to George Terry’s beautiful electric solo. Can’t Find My Way Home features both Yvonne Elliman on lead vocals and just an average solo on acoustic guitar by EC but I still manage to find some interesting licks on it.
You can tell how boozed EC is just from the way he introduces the band. When introducing drummer Jamie Oldaker he says: “Sometimes he resembles monkeys, other times he resembles drummers… and all times…. his name is Jamie”. Still the weirdest thing of all is to hear EC introduce himself as Robert Johnson!
In electric mode by now, Key To The Highway features some fiery guitar playing and some of its verses are sung very vaguely and very strangely (EC sings the verse “I’m gonna roam this old highway” up to four times!). Willie & The Hand Jive segues into Get Ready and both share the same tonic. EC changes the lyrics once and again – just listen to it and you’ll find out that life is not misery any longer – and Blackie sounds mistreated every now and then. A nice performance of Little Wing is dedicated to Jimi Hendrix whom is referred as a good friend of the audience and his. After this, the tape fades out and the Disc1 is over.
George Terry’s Mainline Florida is the longest track of the show clocking at 11 minutes. EC keeps all lead vocals for himself but shares the guitar spot with George, both delivering a great guitar interplay. At the end of the song EC goes saying “Oh have mercy, Oh have mercy… into D Minor, D Minor!” and the song stops to give way to the chords of one of the most intoxicated renditions of Layla that I remember. EC makes an absolute mess with the lyrics at the beginning of the last verse, but surprisingly I somewhat like the guitar soloing.
Presence Of The Lord is quite interesting as it begins with the ascending riff that is not heard until the last part of the song on the official album, right before the guitar solo. Badge is short at less than 5 minutes and sees EC play out of tune the last notes of his solo. Being July 4th, EC sings the Star-Spangled Banner during Little Queenie but he sings it in such an unmelodious way that it is much more than I can stand! EC introduces Crossroads by saying “I’d like to do one of my hits now”.
“No. 5” is a 2CD set that proves a very drunk, tuneless EC. Not my favourite show of the tour but still a very good document in soundboard quality. Limited to 100 unnumbered copies, the artwork has been carefully designed. The fatboy jewel case comes with an outer slip cover that reproduces the cover art for the world’s most legendary fragrance – aka Chanel No. 5 – hence the name of this release. There is also one insert where you can see a polaroid picture that shows EC holding a Poker of Aces in his hand and a question – “Who’s the leader of the band?” – written below.
Since “My Name Is Robert Johnson” is not complete, and “Smile 1974” uses an inferior tape, “No.5” has got to be the definitive, though pricey silver edition of this show.