Friday, November 26, 2010

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood - "Live From Madison Square Garden"

Starting in the year 2000 Eric Clapton began teaming up or reuniting with musicians left and right. He Recorded albums with B.B. King and J.J. Cale, he did live performances with Jeff Beck, John Mayer and Wyclef Jean. He even reunited with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker for a Cream reunion tour. And so here we have it a reunion of Clapton and Steve Winwood the two major players of the short lived supergroup Blind Faith. The pair reunited after nearly 40 years of separation to do a series of concerts from which this double live album was culled.

This is an interesting album because not only is this the closest anyone has come to a Blind Faith Live Album, it also largely abandons the most popular songs by either artist. Clapton's biggest hits like "Layla" and "Wonderful Tonight" are absent as are Winwood's "Higher Love" and "Back in the High Life." This is not a bad thing, it actually allows to pair to show off their musical talent much more. The album features Blind Faith's entire album (minus "Sea of Joy" for some unknown reason) then there are a bunch of Traffic songs and finally there are a lot of covers, which are given fine renditions. This is one of Clapton's better live albums and Winwood's first non-Traffic live recording. As with most Clapton live recordings there is no banter with the audience and aside from the applause you would not know there is an audience. There are no liner notes, which is disappointing, the CD booklet contains a few pictures from the concert. But this no frills approach is probably designed to make you purchase the same name DVD Documentary that explains more about the shows.

Winwood is in Strong voice and he plays the keyboards and acoustic guitar wonderfully. Clapton also sound excited about performing as he pulls out a number of strong guitar solos. Many of the songs here do not appear on Clapton's other live albums so this is the only place to find them. If you are a fan of Blind Faith, Traffic and/or the two artists this is a very good live recording.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eric Clapton & Friends - "Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert"

This live album culled from the January 1973 concert that returned Clapton to performing and the public eye. After the 1971 break up of Derek and the Dominos, his finest band, Clapton went into exile. He locked himself in his house for two years and basically went on long drug binges and recorded music. Pete Townshend organized this concert at the Rainbow Theatre in an effort to remove Clapton from the destructive cycle he had entered. Townshend organized an all star back up band which included himself, the Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood, Steve Winwood and most of the band Traffic.

Recorded live by the legendary Glyn Johns this album was originally released as a meager unimpressive six song album. Thankfully when released on CD they added eight songs from the original concert recordings which expanded the album to over an hour of music and a much better document of the concert as well as a much better listen. The band is ragged, with only ten days of rehearsal, but they are filled with energy. The performances are full blooded and Clapton proves his exile did not effect his playing as he tears through his hits and sings with passion. If you are a fan of Clapton's work this is one of his better albums with great liner notes and great sound. Clapton has released so many live recordings in his career that it is hard to choose which one to get, this is one of his better live albums but not his best.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eric Clapton - "The Cream of Clapton"

This is the first Eric Clapton CD I ever owned; my grandparents bought it for me at I think a store called something like SunCoast. As I would come to find after purchasing this compilation and then listening to other Clapton albums, he actually was best on individual songs. With the exception of the "Layla" album and arguably his first couple solo albums; Clapton has a mass of excellent songs but a large amount of just average albums. That is why this compilation is nearly perfect, not only does it focus on Clapton's most successful years it also gives the hits from the different groups Clapton performed with not only solo work.

There are five Cream tracks, basically the most famous songs the band recorded in their short career. There is "Presence of the Lord" the only Clapton composition on Blind Faith's only album. Two cuts from the "Layla" album including the classic title track. And finishing off with eleven of Clapton's biggest solo hits including, "Wonderful Tonight," "I Shot the Sheriff" and "After Midnight." Sure there are missing later hits like "Tears in Heaven" and "Change the World," but why carp? If you are a listener who wants more Clapton than is presented here but is unwilling to search through his individual albums the double disc compilation "Complete Clapton" may be more your style.

This one though is pretty hard to beat all his best songs, several pages of liner notes from Clapton biographer Ray Coleman and a number of old pictures from the years. All in all an excellent compilation for an excellent artist

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chicago - "Chicago [II]"

The group once known as Chicago Transit Authority shortened its name to Chicago, to avoid legal issues with the real Chicago Transportation department. This self titled album, often referred to as "Chicago II," improves upon the high points of the group's first album and creates their finest album. Chicago continues to create exciting pop/rock that is fused with Jazz sensibilities.

This album, originally a double LP now on one CD, contains some very ambitious music including the six song "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" and the five song "It Better End Soon movement." There is again the fine combination of Jazz like instrumentals and rocking pop songs. The album contains some of Chicago's biggest early hits including the excellent "Make Me Smile," "Colour My World," "25 or 6 to 4" and "Where do We Go From Here." Basically if you enjoyed the "Chicago Transit Authority" album you will enjoy this one. The CD reissue, while the album seems a little long since it is not broken up by the various sides of the LP, contains excellent liner notes that include archival photos and great sound quality. Overall this is really the best of Chicago's early work.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chicago Transit Authority [Chicago] - "Chicago Transit Authority"

For their first album, the group that would become known as Chicago made a very good fusion of jazz and rock. The group's name was originally Chicago Transit Authority but had to change their name to just Chicago shortly after the release of this album due to a possible lawsuit from the actual CTA office.

Though the band would eventually become very famous singing late 70s and 1980s style love/power ballads it is easy to forget that they were originally gained fame as a pretty rocking band. They were also one of, if not the only, band to successfully integrate a constant horn and woodwind section into their popular sound.

While I enjoy their second album a little more, this is a very strong debut with the excellent "Does Anybody Really Know what Time it is?" "Beginnings" and "South California Purples." The guitar playing from the late Terry Kath is excellent, though the track"Free Form Guitar" could have been far more interesting instead of just being rhythmic feedback. There are a number of strong instrumental jams particularly "Introduction," "Liberation" and "Poem 58." The CD reissue feature great sound and an excellent 14 page booklet that feature old photos as well as liner notes by Rolling Stone magazine writer David Wild. Overall the interplay between all the instruments is awesome; some of the jam sessions get a little long and the group's desire to make big statements becomes a little much, but for those who like the 1970s style jam fusion groups like Santana and Mahavishnu Orchestra you may want to check this out. And like Chicago says "this is only the beginning."