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Derek & The Dominos – Guitar Man (Tarantura TCD-DD-12,13,14)

Guitar Man (Tarantura TCD-DD-12,13,14)

Guitar Man is a box set release by the Tarantura label featuring Eric Clapton’s Derek And The Dominos year long project in 1970. The box features recordings from three different cities over six discs and features mastering by Enigma, this fact alone made this set a no brainer. Typical for Tarantura they have released the box with two different covers, the “On Stage” box features a live shots of Eric while the TMOQ box features the William Stout artwork from the Stormy Monday bootleg LP from the mid 70’s. There are three inter sleeve covers, which are identical in both sets, and both of the boxes are limited to 70 copies each plus a dozen or so extra “promotional copies”.

Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA, United States – Friday, October 16, 1970 (Tarantura TCD-DD-12)

(73:53) Introduction, Ramblin’ On My Mind, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad, Blues Power, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Mean Old World, Motherless Children, Tune Ups, Let It Rain

The Electric Factory recording has circulated for a few decades now, it is a unique performance as the band play a few rarities in the concert and the sound is one of the better audience recordings of the band. The earliest known release was Electric Factory (Deep Six DEEPSIX006), this was soon upgraded on The Majestic Stand (Mid Valley 068/069/070/071), The Majestic Stand (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 013-016) and Feast Away (Zig Zag Records). A better generation of the tape would surface and be pressed as Live At The Electric Factory (Albatross AR-002) and would have been an excellent title if not for the disc having digital errors.

The times of The Majestic Stand, Albatross, and this new Tarantura are the same, off by just a few seconds. The Majestic Stand version uses a higher generation tape and while clear and listenable, has a bit lower volume and less dynamics. The Albatross was a substantial upgrade to The Majestic Stand release being much more dynamic and clean with virtually no tape hiss to speak of. This new Tarantura is the best of the lot, it is as loud as the Albatross title but the mastering is better. It has a wider frequency range and the instruments and vocals are better defined in the mix, the Albatross sounds cold and lifeless compared to this. There is a bit of tape hiss on this version that comes from the original source, to remove it would have meant sounding closer to the Albatross, one should expect tape hiss on an analog source of this age, this version honors the original source.

I was reading on the SH forum about this show and a post gave some interesting info about this recording, thought it would be appropriate here:

“The main issues with the recording are phase related. The original from the bootleg would sound better if the waveform in one channel was just flipped/inverted. I’ve been more surgical about it because the out of phase-ish-ness varies throughout the audio spectrum. The highs are out, and the upper mids and the mids aren’t too bad and then the low end is pretty much 180 degrees out of phase. The channels are also backwards, the left should be the right the right should be the left. When all of this is corrected you then can hear the soundstage proper. When you see photos of Derek and The Dominos you see that the drums are slightly to the right and the piano and B3 are to the left. That’s what you hear now. The guitar slightly to the left and the bass is centered. Like I say the drums, the snare and kick drum mostly are to the right. But at times especially during the drum solo you can hear the low tom and the crash cymbal on the drummers right coming through the left channel. You can actually hear the drums panning right to left as Jim goes around the kit. Pretty cool.

One problem is that the vocals don’t come through as well as we would want. They lean in the recording to the right. The right side microphone is picking them up better than the left. Must be closer to a monitor.”

The band begin with a cover of Robert Johnson’s Ramblin’ On My Mind, the review of the Albatross title states that Eric plays some of his best slide guitar on the song obviously influenced by Duane Allman and they are certainly right about his playing, it’s very focused yet a little loose. If anything the band’s playing on the next song, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad falls much more inline with what Allman was doing with the Brothers at this time. The clarity on this recording is great, you can hear all the instruments clearly which makes this so enjoyable, the interplay between the drums and bass is solid and Whitlock’s organ playing and vocals compliment Eric perfectly, this is the sound of a band. Blues Power from his debut comes next and fits in well to the set as one would expect, the Dominos is an extension of the first Clapton solo album.

The first three songs are uptempo blues songs that have that swampy almost boogie feel to them, Have You Ever Loved A Woman is the first slow blues of the evening and gives a chance for Eric to stretch out and play some really nice leads, his vocals sound morose. Mean Old World is a song the Dominos recorded for the Layla record that did not make the cut although it would be released on the Duane Allman Anthology in 1972, this song features Clapton playing some nice slide guitar. In what is probably the only known performance of Motherless Children by the Dominos, this version does bare some resemblance to the version Clapton would release some four years later. Let It Rain from his first solo album is the big jam of the night and really shows how great this band was, they follow and push Eric who lets loose on his wah pedal for maximum effect, just a smoking version of the song.

The sleeve contains a minor error of the track listing, track 5 is listed as “introduction”, that is actually track 1. The sleeve is a single disc version with Clapton on the cover and a full band shot on the rear.

Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA, United States – Friday, November 20, 1970 (Tarantura TCD-DD-13-1,2,3)

Early Show

Disc 1 (71:57) Got To Get Better In A Little While, Key To The Highway, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad, Blues Power, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Tell The Truth, All Night Long – Derek’s Boogie, Let It Rain

The early show from the Santa Monica Civic has circulated for years dating back to the glory daze of vinyl, Stormy Monday (Trade Mark Of Quality TMOQ 71082) had several pressings in the mid 70’s, early press had the Stout cover while other had plain sleeves with the artist and title on it. Early forays into compacts disc included Cash Perkins (World Production of Compact Music WPOCM 1190d061-2) and Live In Santa Monica (Watch Tower WT 2004117). EV would combine both early and late shows as The Majestic Stand (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 013-016) and its clone The Majestic Stand (Mid Valley 068/069/070/071), as did Paddington on Stormy Monday (Paddington Records PADD 040/041/042). The most recent release being Let’s Play Domino (The Godfatherecords G.R. 528).

For comparisons I am using the Mid Valley title and this new version by Tarantura is the clear winner. The volume is similar but the clarity and frequency range is much better, the old Mid Valley sounds flat and cold compared to this new version, the improvements are certainly a lower generation tape and the Enigma mastering. Without having the Paddington or Godfather versions of this recording to compare, it’s difficult to properly say which is better, all I can say about this Tarantura version is it has a nice warm sound with excellent acoustics, when you hear the bass frequencies in the sound, you hear it emanating from the bass notes as they are being played. The drums have clarity as do the cymbals. There is a bit of distortion that is more in the upper range of the vocals but this is from the recording, the organ has that warm Hammond B3 sound. Clapton’s guitar is front and center and although Delaney Bramlett is sitting in for this performance, his playing is thankfully a bit lower, one could assume the taper was in relatively close proximity, probably closer to Derek’s guitar amp. Enigma’s mastering of the first set is excellent.

Late Show

Disc 2 (66:04) Introduction, Got To Get Better In A Little While, Key To The Highway, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad, Blues Power, Stormy Monday, Tell The Truth

Disc 3 (54:21) Let It Rain, Everyday I Have The Blues. Bonus Tracks (taken from original non-remastered mint condition copy of 1974 TMOQ TMOQ LP “Stormy Monday” that contains portions of early and late show): All Night Long – Derek’s Boogie (early show), Blues Power (late show), Stormy Monday (late show), Tell The Truth (late show)

The evening show was taped by the same person or persons and features the same excellent sound as the early show. This recording, or portions of it also share the common bootleg titles as the early set, Stormy Monday (Trade Mark Of Quality TMOQ 71082) on vinyl, Cash Perkins (World Production of Compact Music WPOCM 1190d061-2), The Majestic Stand (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 013-016), The Majestic Stand (Mid Valley 068/069/070/071), and Stormy Monday (Paddington Records PADD 040/041/042).

While the tapers remain the same, they seem to have moved a bit more to the center. The sound characteristics are the same as the early set but the mix sounds more balanced and centered. Enigma has applied the same mastering technique as the early set so this has clear and warm sound with a better range of frequencies than the early set but this is due to the actual recording being slightly better. Delaney’s guitar is clearer in the mix, thankfully he knows when to take the lead, surely a nod from Derek. When I compare this new version to the Mid Valley Majestic Stand title the improvement in sound of the Tarantura is even more pronounced than the early show, I am guessing a combination of better generation tape as well as the mastering. The intro to the second set is longer than the EV/ MV title as well, you get nearly a minute of tuning before the band begins Got To Get Better and the official introduction. Like the first set, Enigma has smoothed out the dropouts and cleaned up the few cuts. The original sets had a pressing issue on this disc, Stormy Monday was out of sequence and switched with Tell The Truth, Tarantura quickly realized this and issued a corrected disc. The corrected disc has the same picture on it and is labeled TCD-DD-13-2(Re), the disc lettering in not white but a light blue and the corrected disc comes in its own white sleeve with a box set artwork sticker to match it up with your set.

Both performances at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium are excellent, the band is focused and the playing is tight but loose. The musical interplay and improvisation flow, the Dominos were a very focused band and much is due to the rhythm section of Radle and Gordon, the latter’s style of keeping in the pocket, keeping the pace focused and allowing Clapton to freely solo all over it. The band play a basic setlist for both performances, just a swap of All Night Long and Stormy Monday and both maintain a high level of energy and playing from the band. Derek and The Dominos were playing some of their best material by the end of the tour, the band fully gelled and from all accounts, fueled by a tremendous amount of drugs, so much that following the aborted attempts at a second album, the band broke up and Clapton went into seclusion.

The third disc features four tracks from what is listed as a non remastered original mint copy of the original TMOQ Stormy Monday bootleg. The sound quality is excellent and it’s interesting that the label says not remastered as I did not hear any signs of surface noise, pop, or anything. Nonetheless, the sound is clearer and also has less distortion than the tapes used for the early and late shows. One can assume that the original boot was taken from a transfer of the original tapes, but it goes to show you how the early TMOQ bootlegs were far from being shabby affairs.

The three CDs are housed in a gatefold sleeve with the William Stout Stormy Monday bootleg artwork on the front and the rear while the center spread is a collage of the different covers and pressings of the original vinyl bootleg, again paying homage to the excellent TMOQ label.

Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH, United States – Thursday, November 26, 1970 (Tarantura TCD-DD-14-1,2)

Disc 1 (41:13) Introduction, Got To Get Better In A Little While, Roll It Over, Blues Power, Stormy Monday

Disc 2 (50:28) Tune Ups, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad, Little Queenie / Sweet Little Rock And Roller, Tell The Truth, Let It Rain, Everyday I Have The Blues

The last two discs in this set is the Cincinnati Music Hall gig, a gig that many consider to be one of the best performances the band would play, thankfully the recording is very good and we can confirm this boast as fact. The audience source was taped by Dave Boswell who captured a complete, very good audience recording that is clear and detailed with a perfect balance and is virtually distortion free. The clarity of the mix allows the listener to hear all the instruments and vocals and there is a small amount of tape hiss as one would expect from a source of this age that is non obtrusive. This concert has been released under such titles as Everyday We Play The Blues (HiWatt), Garage (Asteroid AR-07), G (Mid Valley Records MVR-113/114) and its remaster Reverse G (Mid Valley Records MVR 192/193).

When I compare this new Tarantura version to the Reverse G (Mid Valley Records MVR 192/193) I find that the volume of both is near identical and that Mid Valley has mastered their title to remove the small amount of tape hiss and add more to the upper frequencies, while this does make it a bit more clear, they have limited the frequency range. The Tarantura thus has a wider frequency range and a wider soundstage with more of an analog sound, more natural sounding and to my ears is the preferred way to listen. I would guess that both versions share a common source, but with different mastering ideals.

As stated, this is one of the best concerts of Derek and the Dominos in existence, and we are thankfully that it is available for us to listen. The band was hittin’ the note on this evening, many attribute this to the Music Hall’s excellent acoustics, whether this is the reason or not, we do not know, but the hall acoustics certainly lent to the recording quality. Here is a bit of background information from kboomatt on this recording I find relevant:

“A few years back I drove up to Dave’s house up in Spokane. His reels were all buried in his garage so we dug them all out and I started to sift through them. Dave is responsible for all the Ludlow Garage stuff that he dubbed from Danny Britt’s masters so long ago which was the main reason why I drove up there from Portland. Anyhow the first thing he tells me is, “you gotta find my Dominos reel” so once I found it he started raving about this show esp. the opening tune and how much raw energy and how stoked the band was playing in a hall with such fine acoustics. I brought a reel machine up there so later that night we threw this on and discovered how right he was about this so I will forever think of Dave screaming at the top of his lungs in pure bliss as he was hearing this again after so many years. This reel was a 7.5 ips. dub of his cassette (which is sadly missing) so nothing is lost sonically. It’s rough but still the tone of Eric’s guitar is stunning to listen to if one really sits back and listens so cheers Dave!”

The introduction is interesting with the announcer telling the audience to keep the hall clean and smoke outside followed by a proper introduction to a nice ovation leading into Got To Get Better In A Little While. This finds the band firing on all cylinders to open the show and clocking in at over 13 minutes, the band hit an early stride. What also makes this concert a fine listen is the audience is clearly into the music and are vocal in their support between numbers and at certain times where the music peaks. The nine minute Stormy Monday is certainly the best version that band would ever play, Whitlock’s vocals are perfectly sorrowful and Clapton perfectly attacks the lead breaks with passion, while the Dominos version of this song differs from the Allman Brothers, I find that this version rivals the At Fillmore East version, it’s just so powerful.

This concert is also notable for a few rarities, first of them being the Chuck Berry medley of Little Queenie and Sweet Little Rock And Roller both featuring vocals by Derek who also plays some tasty Chuck influenced leads as well. The second is the encore with a guest appearance by BB King who joins the Dominos for an incredible version of Everyday I Have The Blues featuring Derek and BB trading vocals and leads. This version blows away the version of the same song from the second show in Santa Monica, two master Bluesmen meeting to “discuss” their passion.

The packaging for the Cincinnati concert is a single sleeve that houses the two discs, the cover is taken from the Japanese version of the Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad single from 1971. The rear features a live shot of Derek as do the pictures on the CDs themselves.

All of these concerts have seen their share of releases and for good reason, they are unique in their own way and among the best of the audience recordings taken from this short tour. After listening to each of these several times I find this box set to be money well spent as I only had the Philadelphia concert in my collection, thankfully WGPSEC was able to assist in getting copies of Santa Monica and Cinci to aid my review. So for me this box set was a much needed addition to my collection. To my ears the sound is an upgrade to the titles I used in the review but it’s a case of mastering, especially since the Albatross version of Phily had digital issues so it’s nice to have a clean version. The packaging is excellent and I absolutely love the William Stout artwork, using it adds to the retro feel and pays homage to one of the original vinyl bootlegs and the sound quality pays homage to the original tapes, tasteful mastering and tasteful packaging. 

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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