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Give Me Strength: The 1974 / 1975 Recordings
Polydor / Pgd
The ’70s were a tough—but transitional—decade for Eric Clapton. Between the somewhat failed supergroup experiment of Blind Faith to his successful dodging of the spotlight with the Layla album, Clapton started the decade off as an artist in conflict. He became a recluse for much of ’72 and ’73 because of drug abuse but in the spring of ’74 he felt good enough to head to Miami’s Criteria Studios to try and revitalize his solo career.
This "comeback" period that stretched through three albums over two years is the focus of the six-disc Give Me Strength, which includes expanded versions of 461 Ocean Boulevard, There's One In Every Crowd, a remixed and expanded version of the E.C. Was Here, the famous Freddie King Criteria sessions, and a Blu-Ray that includes a few different surround-sound mixes of 461 and There's One In Every Crowd.
The real guitar fireworks appear on the live album and the sessions with King. Most of E.C. Was Here comes from an oft-bootlegged ’74 show in Long Beach, but for the first time we get to hear Clapton's classic trio of "Crossroads," "Layla," and "Little Wing," which is taken at a considerably slower tempo than the studio version. With King providing his signature gruff vocals and thick Gibson tone, the previously unreleased 20-minute version of "Gambling Woman Blues" is a masterful demonstration between the mentor (King) and the student (Clapton).
Taken as a whole, you can hear Clapton settling back into the spotlight. This two-year period was make-or-break for Clapton and although his substance issues weren't entirely behind him, it could be argued that this was his most creative and exploratory phase, with musical detours into country, reggae, spiritual, blues, and Americana—before that was even a thing.
Give Me Strength is aimed directly at Clapton fans that collect every note Slowhand has ever played. Put it this way: If you've ever actually looked up 461 Ocean Boulevard on a map and wondered what it would be like to hear Clapton try and deal with his musical demons inside the walls of Criteria Studios, then this collection is likely for you.
Must-hear tracks: "Give Me Strength (Dobro 1)," "Sugar Sweet," "Badge"