Eric Clapton – Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert (Mid Valley 393/394)

Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert (Mid Valley 393/394)

Rainbow Theater, London, England – January 13th, 1973
DVDA 1, First Stage:  Introduction, Layla, Badge, Blues Power, Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out, Roll It Over, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?, Little Wing, Bottle Of Red Wine, After Midnight, Bell Bottom Blues, Presence Of The Lord, Tell The Truth, Perry Queen, Let It Rain, Crossroads

DVDA 2, Second Stage:  Introduction, Layla, Badge, Blues Power, Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out, Roll It Over, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?, Little Wing, Bottle Of Red Wine, Presence Of The Lord, Tell The Truth, Perry Queen, Key To The Highway, Let It Rain, Crossroads, Layla, radio spot “Rainbow Concert”

The famous Eric Clapton “Rainbow Concert” was one of the more significant events in rock history.  It was part of England’s “Fanfare For Europe,” a weeklong celebration of England’s entry into the European Common Market beginning on January 8th of that year. 

Organized by Pete Townshend to help Clapton kick his habit to heroin and boost his career, he organized a backing group consisting of Ronnie Wood (guitar), Steve Winwood (keyboards), Rebop Kwaku Baah (percussion), Jim Capaldi (drums), Rich Grech (bass), and Jimmy Karstein (drums).  On January 13th there were two concerts, the early at 6:30 pm and the late at 8:30 pm.  Both were recorded on Ronnie Lane’s mobile studio and an official live album, Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert (Polydor 831320-2), was released the following September. 

There were complains that this album was poorly mixed and all of the songs derived from the early show.  Also, it contained only six songs:  “Badge”, “Roll It Over”, “Presence Of The Lord”, “Pearly Queen”, “After Midnight”, and “Little Wing.” 

Twenty-two years to the day of the show later an expanded version was released Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert featuring more music from the early show, adding “Layla”, “Blues Power”, “Bottle Of Red Wine”, “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Tell The Truth”, “Key To The Highway”, “Let It Rain”, and “Crossroads.”  Although there are more tracks on the expanded version, some complained because the songs were still edited and some even complained that it is too clean sounding!  Nevertheless it was great to hear more material from these historic concerts.

On unofficial releases, the Rainbow concerts have been covered by Rainbow Concert (ARMS 16/17R), a soundboard of the first show with “Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out” taken from the late show.  Capricorn released Eric Clapton’s The Rainbow Outtakes (CR-2035) which contains twelve tracks again from the early show. 

A soundboard from the late show was issued on The Slowhand Masterfile Part 3B: Rainbow Theatre 13.1.73 Late (Antrobus RAINBOWLATE ½).  The ultimate release of these shows belongs to Empress Valley.  Their very first release in September 1998 was the eight disc set Rainbow Concert Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition (Empress Valley EVSD-001/002/003/004/005/006/007/008).  This collected the complete early and late shows in both soundboard and audience recordings packaged in gatefold sleeves in a deluxe box set.  The label also released a four-disc version, featuring only the soundboards, at that same time in a fatboy jewel case.  In late 2004 EV released this set again on Mid Valley on Rainbow Concert (Mid Valley 234/5/6/7/8/9/40/41). 

This was a nine disc set with both audience and soundboard recordings initially limited to two hundred copies.  An additional one hundred copies were subsequently printed and all sold out.  The sound quality of the soundboard recordings were far superior to anything else that was released, even surpassing the sound quality of the official release in the opinion of many collectors.  This remains the most rare and desirable Empress Valley title in existence. 

Rainbow Concert on Mid Valley, the latest release, is thus the third time Empress Valley visits these shows.  The DVDA is a two-disc release with the complete early show on disc one and the complete late show on disc two, utilizing only the soundboard recordings.  There is a choice of audio format between PPCM DVD-AUDIO 5.1 Channel Surround 96khz/24 bit and Dolby Digital 5.1 Channel Surround 48khz/24 bit.  Both formats sound phenomenal.  The former has much louder guitars and doesn’t crumble when the volume is increased.

It is easy to conclude that this release, Empress Valley’s third time with these shows, is the best sounding version in existence.  For the video, each individual song has one black and white photo from the event lasting for the duration.  The first disc covers the entire early show called “1st Stage.”  During this set Clapton uses the “Blackie” Fender Stratocaster.  The set list is drawn from across Clapton’s solo career with no hint towards the Yardbirds at all. 

“Layla” is played in its complete version and is followed by a sloppy version of “Badge.”  Only the first half of the song is played before it segues with “Blues Power.”  “Little Wing” is introduced as a “Jimi Hendrix number” and there is a long delay as the band tunes and get ready. During the interruption Townshend speaks about his shirt.  Ron Wood calls it a bidet, but Townshend corrects him by saying that, “A bidet is one of those things you sit on in France…it squirts up your bottom…I like ‘em, but this is not one of them.” 

It’s a rather strange conversation but The Who’s guitarist can get away with stuff like that.  One of the virtues of the early show is the inclusion of the rarely played “Bell Bottom Blues.”  Both that, and “After Midnight,” would be dropped for the evening show to be replaced by “Key To The Highway.”  The second show on disc two, called “2nd Stage,” features Clapton playing on his Gibson Les Paul.  The first half of “Layla” is still missing, and overall this is a much more confident and fun show.  “Crossroads” features a fantastic jam session, and the show ends with a reprise of “Layla.” 

Mid Valley include a radio advertisement for the original LP as a bonus track.  This comes package in a normal double slimline jewel case and not the big DVDA plastic case thy use for their other releases in this format.  Mid Valley advise on the artwork to play this at maximum volume and that is most definitely true.  The sound quality is simply phenomenal and this can be counted as a definitive release of these famous concerts. 

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