Nothing But Benefit (Tarantura TCDED-14-1,2)
T.J. Martell Foundation Benefit, Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY – May 2nd, 1994
Disc 1: Introduction, Terraplane Blues, Malted Milk, How Long Blues, Kidman Blues, County Jail Blues, Forty-Four Blues, Blues All Day Long, Going Away, Standing Around Crying, Hoochie Coochie Man, It Hurts Me Too, Blues Before Sunrise
Disc 2: Third Degree, Reconsider Baby, Someday After A While, I’m Tore Down, Five Long Years, Born Under A Bad Sign, Groanin’ The Blues, Crossroads, Ain’t Nobody’s Business
Nothing But Benefit contains Eric Clapton’s set at the 1994 Award Concert for the T.J. Martell Foundation. The T.J. Martell Foundation is committed to fighting leukemia, cancer and AIDS by raising money to fund innovative research, and have been funded by relying upon the drawing power of entertainment industry talent.
A fundraiser was scheduled in early 1994 honoring Tom Freston, chief executive for MTV, and featuring Rosie O’Donnell and Eric Clapton performing (although not together). Clapton had recently finished playing twelve shows during the eighth consecutive season at the Royal Albert Hall in London. At this time Clapton returned to the roots by playing the blues that inspired him to play in the first place and would result in the recording and releasing of From The Cradle, up to that point Clapton’s only all-blues album.
The set lists for the Royal Albert Hall shows featured blues covers in the first half of the show and a more basic, Cream-Derek-Clapton set list in the second. When it came time for the T.J. Martell benefit, he abandoned his own material and focused only upon the blues covers. Even “Crossroads,” a big hit for Cream back in the sixties, is played closer to the original arrangement unrecognizable to many.
There is one previous release of this show on Influential Blues (Lords Of Archive Records LAR 5). This is a one-disc set missing the introduction, “Terraplane Blues,” “Reconsider Baby,” “Born Under A Bad Sign,” and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.” Tarantura use a new and far superior audience DAT stereo recording that is complete with all the songs and introduction. Avery Fisher Hall is part of Lincoln Center in the heart of Manhattan and is a relatively small venue, seating 2,738.
Clapton is joined onstage by his touring band at the time including, Andy Fairweather Low on rhythm guitar, Jerry Portnoy on harmonica, Chris Stainton on keyboards, Dave Bronze on bass, Andy Newmark on drums, and the Kick Horns consisting of Roddy Lorimer on trumpet, Tim Sanders on tenor sax, and Simon Clarke on baritone sax.
Clapton enters the stage at the beginning of the show alone and says, “It’s nice to be here. I’m not gonna talk much at all just play…it’s great to be invited to play here. I want to honor the people who brought me here, the musicians that inspired me to play in the first place starting with a man called Robert Johnson.”
The first two songs, “Terraplane Blues” and “Malted Milk,” are performed only with acoustic guitar replicating the original recordings. The third song of the set is “How Long Blues.” This is a traditional blues made famous by Leroy Carr’s interpretation of the song in 1928, and it is this version which Clapton plays.
At this point the entire band joins him onstage. “Kidman Blues” is a fast paced blues written by Big Maceo Merriweather, a bluesman who recorded in the thirties and forties. “County Jail Blues” follows and is a blues written by Little Alfred Fields. This song is a rewrite of the song “Worried Life Blues,” a song recorded also by Merriweather and has been covered many times throughout Clapton’s career.
“We’re gonna get a bit louder now…gradually, anyway” is Clapton’s statement before playing “Fourty-Four Blues” by Howlin’ Wolf and this begins the Chicago blues section of the set. Two songs by Jimmy Rogers, “Blues All Day Long” and “Going Away,” follow. Best known as Muddy Waters’ guitarist in the fifties, he recorded several album and is one of three bluesman who were still living at the time of this performance, (Eddie Boyd and Lowell Fulson being the others).
Clapton then plays “Standing Around Crying” by Muddy Waters. The original Chess recording dates from 1952 and features Rogers on guitar and Little Alfred on harp. “Hootchie Cootchie Man,” written by Willie Dixon, is perhaps the most recognizable song he plays in the first half and the audience cheer with recognition.
“We’re gonna do some songs by Elmore James” Clapton says before “It Hurts Me Too,” recorded by James in 1957 and is followed by his 1955 hit “Blues Before Sunrise.” Curiously the latter is written by the same Leroy Carr mentioned above. “Third Degree” is a song co-written by Willie Dixon and pianist Eddie Boyd. This song was a hit in 1953 and he passed away several months before Clapton released From The Cradle that includes “Third Degree” and “Five Long Years,” also played in this show.
“Reconsider Baby” is the hit written and recorded by Lowell Fulson. This song was also covered by Elvis in the 60’s and was named by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.” It is an excellent example of West Coast blues, which is characterized by strong piano and jazzy guitar licks.
During the Royal Albert Hall shows Clapton includes many of his how songs, but this show is unique since it is only blues standards. This would be the final show before his appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in September and the beginning of the “Nothing But The Blues” tour beginning on October 3rd in Montreal, which would continue in the vein set by this show with almost all blues standards.
Nothing But Benefit is a great title to listen to, and the excellent sound quality makes it even more so, for a comprehensive, two hour clinic of various blues styles. This is limited to one hundred copies in a glossy cardboard gatefold sleeve.