Eric Clapton

Give Me Strength: The '74/'75 Studio Recordings

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461 Ocean Boulevard was Eric Clapton's comeback, the record that saw him returning from a struggle with heroin addiction to reclaim his position as one of the world's biggest rock stars. The 1974 album forms the core of Give Me Strength: The 1974/1975 Recordings, a massive five-CD/one-BluRay box set documenting Clapton's mid-'70s recordings. The first CD is dedicated to an expanded version of 461 Ocean Boulevard -- an expansion that is different than the 2004 double-disc Deluxe Edition -- while the second CD is an expanded version of 1975's There's One in Every Crowd. Discs three and four are handed over to an expanded version of the 1975 live album E.C. Was Here, turning the single-LP into a double, while the fifth disc is devoted to a jam session at Criteria Studios with Freddie King. Finally, the BluRay contains a previously unreleased 5.1 mix of 461 Ocean Boulevard, along with its original quadraphonic mix, plus the quad mix of There's One in Every Crowd. It's a rather exhaustive overhaul of an era of E.C.'s career that isn't particularly storied, and all the extra material doesn't add mystique but it does re-create context, capturing how the mid-'70s could often feel like a long series of languid, meandering blues and reggae jams. Neither There's One in Every Crowd nor E.C. Was Here were particularly focused, and the additional material accentuates their laziness while having the side effect of having 461 Ocean Boulevard sound bolder (even though it already was a decidedly relaxed affair). All this drifting blues doesn't mean Give Me Strength isn't worthwhile. Quite the contrary: this is precisely the kind of archival release that does deepen the historical record, revealing the extent of the guitarist's reggae fixation while emphasizing how quickly Clapton settled into a relaxed groove after his comeback. Sometimes the jams do wind up cooking -- this is particularly true of the jam with King -- but usually they're improvisation as mood music, smoke-filled superstar sessions where the intention is to play on and on until the night is gone.

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