Eric Clapton, ‘Give Me Strength: The 1974 / 1975 Recordings’ – Album Review
The first part of the '70s was tough for Eric Clapton. In addition to becoming so infatuated with his friend George Harrison's wife that he recorded an entire album about it (Derek and the Dominos' classic 'Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs'), he was deep into a heroin addiction that would temporarily sideline him.
But by the middle of the decade, thanks to help from some persistent pals, he cleaned up from the hard stuff, hooked up with the woman of his dreams and was ready to start making music again. He was extremely prolific between April 1975 and June 1975, recording two studio albums, a live LP and a handful of other stray tracks. All of these songs make up the six-disc 'Give Me Strength: The 1974 / 1975 Recordings.'
The centerpiece of the period is '461 Ocean Boulevard,' the 1974 album that became Clapton's first No. 1 and includes his only chart-topping single, a cover of Bob Marley's 'I Shot the Sheriff.' The record marked a turning point for Clapton, who set aside his guitar-god status in favor of tighter, more focused songs. The result remains one of his finest solo records, a sharp collection of cuts that reflected his growing interests in other cultures and music.
The following year's 'There's One in Every Crowd' is more of the same, but with a little more emphasis on the solos that made him a star. By the time the live LP 'E.C. Was Here' was released later in 1975, Clapton was near the top again.
Taken together on 'Give Me Strength,' the three albums reflect an artist in transition who still relied on his greatest skills to pull him through the roughest patches -- especially on the live tracks, like the previously unreleased cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing' and the 23-minute medley of 'Eyesight to the Blind / Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad.'
The 88 remastered songs collected here paint an adventurous year for Clapton. In addition to exploring reggae and more pop-driven rhythms, he paired up with bluesman Freddie King for a session that yielded four back-to-basic cuts. They cap a set that's occasionally repetitious (the three albums are also included on a Blu-ray disc), ponderous (many of the live cuts go on a little too long) and reflective of its era (the production on the studio tracks is a bit softened at times). But as far as career resurrections go, it's a major one.