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Friday, 30 November 2018
Although there is some excellent quality late sixties/early seventies material on this main 2CD box set, it is the "2000 Live At The BBC Radio Theatre" CD that I bought this for. Recorded a short time after Bowie's historic Glastonbury appearance (now thankfully available, at last) the sound quality is truly excellent and although the set list is shorter at fifteen songs, it contains not just '"greatest hits" but includes contemporary album cuts like "Seven" and "Survive", plus a stunning, almost jazzy version of "Always Crashing In The Same Car" and the wonderful "This Is Not America". "Absolute Beginners" is here too, in its barnstorming full version. Well worth getting your hands on this 3CD edition if you still can.
TRACK LISTING (CD 3)
1. Wild Is The Wind
2. Ashes To Ashes
4. This Is Not America
5. Absolute Beginners
6. Always Crashing In The Same Car
8. Little Wonder
9. The Man Who Sold The World
12. Hallo Spaceboy
13. Cracked Actor
14. I'm Afraid Of Americans
15. Let's Dance
What a truly wonderful year 2018 has been for David Bowie live releases - "Welcome To The Blackout", the two concerts on the "Loving The Alien" box set and now this, his long-awaited Glastonbury headline appearance from 2000. This is manna from Heaven to Bowie enthusiasts. Admittedly it is a bit of a "greatest hits" exercise as opposed to, say, 2003's "Reality Tour" set list, but you have to expect that from the Glastonbury set up. You don't want people moaning "he didn't play "Let's Dance"...." after all.
1. Wild Is The Wind
2. China Girl
5. Life On Mars?
6. Absolute Beginners
7. Ashes To Ashes
8. Rebel Rebel
9 . Little Wonder
10. Golden Years
12. All The Young Dudes
13. The Man Who Sold The World
14. Station To Station
16. Hallo Spaceboy
17. Under Pressure
18. Ziggy Stardust
20. Let's Dance
21. I'm Afraid Of Americans
The first thing that hits you when the absolutely tip-notch band kicks into a haunting but powerful "Wild Is The Wind" is just how damn superb the sound is. Well, it is for me, at least. Nothing "bootleg" about it. Audiophiles may disagree but it suits me perfectly - full, muscular and bassy, as it should be. Bowie's voice is outstanding on this opener too, doing justice to a great song and the guitar at the end is sublime. One song in and I am completely immersed in this. Looks like another "Bowie day" coming up. "China Girl" is thumpingly more attacking than the original, which I like. More excellent guitar on here too. It's old 1974 mate Earl Slick, so what did one expect? Mike Garson is on piano too and you can hear his trademark sound all over the album (check out the bit at the end of "Fame"). I really like this interpretation of "China Girl". One of the best ones around. The piano is almost E. St Band at the end. The guitar/piano/vocal interplay is stunning.
"Changes" is given a huge, pounding sound in between Bowie's iconic verses. It is played in a "David Live" style, in terms of its full-on assault, well that's what it reminds me of anyway, although there is no saxophone. Look, I could carry on saying how wonderful every track is. I am sure you don't want to plough through all that but needless to say I just have to reiterate just what a pleasure it is listening to this. Just check out the verve and funky vigour of "Stay" - it's guitar its delicious bass, its funky drums. Just great stuff. Good Lord above I miss Bowie. Thankfully releases like this keep coming along with regularity to sate my appetite for more. I couldn't recommend this highly enough. There will be some who will no doubt disagree, as that seems to be the way with Bowie releases these days, but i am sure 90% will just sit back and enjoy this. Lovely to hear "Absolute Beginners" given an outing, in its full version too, (it makes my soul soar at the "it's absolutely true" bit), and "The Man Who Sold The World". Great to hear that. "Ashes To Ashes" is just barnstormingly atmospheric. "Golden Years" too. Wow. Wonderful. "Starman" is as good as have ever heard it, too. It doesn't often get an airing, either.
I'm sure you can tell by now that the set list is great, Bowie is on fire, the band is marvellous, the sound similarly so. Bowie says at the beginning of "Life On Mars?" that he had been suffering from laryngitis earlier in the week. You would never had known. His voice is sublime. It is one of the finest live versions of "Mars?" I have heard, if not the best. Listening to it sound so good just makes me feel sad. He wouldn't want that, though, he would want his remarkable work to be enjoyed to the full. So I will.
While my heart is still beating....
Released November 2018
After the slightly ill-conceived project of 2012's "The Jazz Age", which saw The Bryan Ferry Orchestra (sans Ferry) playing several Roxy Music/Ferry solo numbers in a muffled, mock-1920s mono way. For me, the deliberately lo-fi sound did not work, and furthermore, many of the songs were unrecognisable from their originals (to me anyway).
Here, however, although The Bryan Ferry Orchestra are back, there are considerable improvements on this one. Ferry makes an appearance on several songs and the sound is notably improved. Having said that, several of the numbers sound decidedly mono. Either way, there is much more clarity of sound on these recordings. Indeed, I am pretty sure they are mono. Good mono, however. There is still a bit of "muffling" here and there. I guess that is just the "smoky" sound they are trying to achieve.
2. Reason Or Rhyme
3. Sign Of The Time
4. New Town
6. Bitter Sweet
7. Dance Away
9. Sea Breezes
10. While My Heart Is Still Beating
11. Bitter's End
12. Chance Meeting
13. Boys And Girls
"Alphaville" from "Olympia" kicks off the album in a staccato, almost 1930s Berlin jazz style. Ferry's ageing voice suits the interpretation perfectly. The sound is still slightly lo-fi, but it is miles better than the previous offering. "Reason Or Rhyme" from "Olympia" also has a vocal and is pretty appealing, offering a different feel to the original. Somewhat brooding and laconically melancholy in its jazzy backing. "Sign Of The Times" from "The Bride Stripped Bare" is a jaunty instrumental and pretty much unrecognisable from the rocking original. It is pleasant enough in its own right, though. "New Town" from "Bête Noire" is given a most agreeable jazz makeover and although it is enjoyable, I have to say, as with most of the recordings, that I prefer the originals. That is not really the point, however, is it?
"Limbo", also from "Bête Noire" is a lively instrumental and the original is discernible. Again, this is quite evocative and atmospheric. "Bitter-Sweet", the teutonic Roxy Music number from "Country Life" has a vocal and the song hasn't lost any of its sturm und drang. Ferry's vocal is even better than the original and the song sounds similarly mysterious and at times bombastic. Once more, it is full of atmosphere.
"Dance Away" from Roxy Music's "Manifesto" is give the instrumental treatment and its melody is there in a quirkily, "flapper"-ish fashion. I must say I quite like this one despite my misgivings over much of the instrumental interpretations. "Zamba" from "Bête Noire" has a haunting Ferry vocal. It is one of the album's best cuts. "Sea Breezes" from the first Roxy Music album has a most fetching jazz new incarnation despite its lack of vocals. This one works pretty well. Roxy's "While My Heart Is Still Beating", from "Avalon", has another excellent laid-back Ferry vocal and sumptuous backing. The song suits the new coat it has been given.
"Bitter's End" from the first Roxy Music album is performed without vocals but is melodically recognisable. "Chance Meeting" from the same album, like "Sea Breezes" is a track that Ferry has re-worked before, on his "Let's Stay Together" album. Here, he does so with vocals and it is another success, for me, anyway. Lovely oboe work (or at least I think it is an oboe!). The album ends with the title track from the "Boys And Girls" album. It is an intoxicating, ghostly track that has a dignified beauty to it.
Look, this is an enjoyable listen and I know that every year or two I will give it a whirl. Will it replace the originals? No. Does it better the originals? No. Does it really matter whether it does or not? No. Take it for what it is.
Oh very young....
Released March 1974
After the experimental five track only album in “Foreigner” that perplexed critics and fans alike, Cat Stevens returned with an album that was far closer to his previous ones. It proved to be one of his most successful and fondly-remembered offerings.
This is slightly less of a folky album than its predecessors, though, carrying more of a rock thump to it in places. The old Stevens subtlety and unassuming beauty is omnipresent, however.
2. Oh Very Young
4. Ghost Town
7. King Of Trees
8. A Bad Penny
9. Home In The Sky
The opener, “Music” is a vibrant, drum, guitar and piano driven number. Very “rock”. Even “Oh Very Young”, the melodic hit single, has a catchy, mellow rockiness to it when it kicks in. The tune is just so typical Cat, though. So mellifluous. The piano is sumptuous. The song is simply beautiful. “Sun/C79” has an intoxicating rhythm and pulsating attack from Stevens vocally and with his firmly strummed trusty acoustic guitar. “Ghost Town” is almost bluesy in places, with a harmonica backing and resounding drum sound.
“Jesus” is a short rumination upon the character of Christ and Buddha that unfortunately ends before it has truly got going. Many of the songs on the album were full of religious imagery, however.
“Ready” is another short but catchy number. “King Of Trees” is longer - a lovely piano-led melody, full of cadence and harmonious backing vocals, a full minute or so before Stevens arrives. It seems allegorial about the environment. These songs are so sincere, so intense, so serious, but so appealing too.
That familiar medieval-style keyboard is used on “A Bad Penny” to great effect, as it always is. Cat’s vocal is excellent on this one, as is the backing. “Home In The Sky” starts with sme a capella vocals before a churchy piano and organ lead us into an infectious slow and beautiful closer. “Beautiful” is a word I have used a lot. “Music is a lady that I still love” sings Cat. Yes, and she is beautiful.
Thursday, 29 November 2018
Golden Heart (1996)
Sailing To Philadelphia (2000)
The Ragpicker's Dream (2002)
Kill To Get Crimson (2004)
All The Roadrunning (2006)*
Get Lucky (2009)
Down The Road Wherever (2018)
* with Emmylou Harris
Released November 2018
1. True Love Ways
2. It Doesn't Matter Anymore
5. Raining In My Heart
6. Oh Boy
7. Rave On
8. Words Of Love
9. That'll Be The Day
10. Peggy Sue
12. Maybe Baby
Now, I am not opposed to a bit of innovation and certainly do not see any recordings as sacred cows not to be touched by any type of experimentation. However, that said, I do always have an opinion on whether the experiments work or not. For me, and I stress, for me only, I find this is a half and half venture.
I find the sweeping orchestration and twiddling around with pizzicato string pluckings work far better on those tracks on which Holly already had used considerable orchestration - "True Love Ways", "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" and, notably, "Raining In My Heart". Where it falls down is on the rock and roll numbers, like "Rave On", "Oh Boy", "That'll Be The Day" and "Peggy Sue". Basically, the ones with The Crickets. These songs do not, in my opinion, need any strings. Putting them on there blights the songs, robbing them of their essential rock and roll vitality and raw edginess. The string plucking in "Peggy Sue" is just annoyingly superfluous.
The "solo" Holly songs were beautiful anyway and are rendered more so by these new orchestrations. Although, as I said earlier, these songs were pretty well orchestrated anyway. "Raining In My Heart" possibly now has too much added to it, however. I have to say that I find "Everyday" interesting and quite quirkily appealing, though. Furthermore, the sound quality is outstanding throughout. "True Love Ways" provides an excellent example.
Many people will enjoy this album and it will allow them to re-visit Holly's wonderful musical legacy. If so, fair enough. I am not going to criticise them, or the album. It is just that, personally, I will stick with the originals.
This is a most enjoyable but ever so slightly flawed box set. A "post punk" compilation should surely include material by Magazine, Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Gang Of Four, Doll By Doll, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Public Image, New Order and early Simple Minds amongst others? (More on that later...). Furthermore, wonderful as though the Roxy Music, Nico, John Cale and Brian Eno tracks are and how they definitely fit the musical tone, they date from several years before punk, let alone post punk. The reggae tracks do not really fit, either, let's be honest. Or the funk ones. For me, "post punk" was largely about moody keyboards, "industrial" somnolent ambience, evocative, dark guitar riffs, reflective, doom-laden lyrics. We don't get much of that here, it has to be said. Here, we get all sorts in the box - reggae, punk, funk, hip hop, rap, dance....
All that said, yes, I know that obviously there are restrictions in that they can only use what was recorded on the Virgin label or its subsidiaries. So this is not a criticism, really, the box set is truly outstanding in both content and sound quality. It throws up lots of interesting material that I may not have even come across, otherwise. I really enjoy listening to it, but when I do, I don't feel I am having a "post punk" session. Anyway, here are my personal highlights (with their genres in some cases) :-
"Re-Make Re-Model" - Roxy Music (glam)
"Baby's On Fire" - Brian Eno (glam-ish)
"Teenage Depression" - Eddie & The Hot Rods (more punk but there you go)
"Do Anything You Wanna Do - Eddie & The Hot Rods (ditto)
"Typical Girls"- The Slits (punky reggae)
"Ku Klux Klan" - Steel Pulse (reggae)
"Hiroshima Mon Amour" - Ultravox!
"Rock Lobster" - B-52s
"Broken English" - Marianne Faithfull (post punk? hmmm)
"11 O'Clock Tick Tock " - U2
"Warrior Charge" - Aswad (reggae)
"Television, The Drug Of The Nation" - The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy (hip hop)
"Busting Out" - Material & Nona Hendryx (more dance/funk?)
"Nasty Girl" - Betty Davis (funky but not really post punk)
"World Shut Your Mouth" - Julian Cope
"How Much Are They?" - Holger Czukay & Jah Wobble (dance)
"Dr. Mabuse (First Life)" - Propaganda (dance/synth pop)
"I'm A Wonderful Thing, Baby" - Kid Creole & The Coconuts (dance/pop)
"Wild Thing" - Tone Loc (dance/hip hop)
"No Sell Out" - Malcolm X (hip hop)
"Big Powder Dust" - Bomb The Bass (rap)
Time to come away, darling pretty....
Released March 1996
This was Mark Knopfler's first solo album after disbanding Dire Straits, and while here are some Straits-isms present here, there are also several nods towards the Celtic folk influences and historical storytelling that would be present on many of Knopfler's subsequent solo offerings. In that respect it is very much a "bridging" album between the two periods of his career.
1. Darling Pretty
3. Golden Heart
4. No Can Do
5. Vic And Ray
6. Don't You Get It
7. A Night In Summer Long Ago
9. I'm The Fool
10. Je Suis Desole
12. Nobody's Got The Gun
13. Done With Bonaparte
14. Are We In Trouble Now
It is a warm and personable album, kicking off with the Northumbrian pipes intro and then the grandoise majesty of the wonderful "Darling Pretty" ( a song I have always related to my wife, so personally it means a lot to me). It has a huge riffy opening and a dramatic, anthemic quality with Knopfler sounding as emotionally committed as he has done in all his career thus far. Some great guitar on it too. "Imelda" sort of recycles the "Money For Nothing" riff in a muscular, blues rock tale of the Filipina Imelda Marcos. This would have sat easily on the last Dire Straits album, to be honest. Some more guitar of the sort that many keep bemoaning he doesn't come up with anymore is on this one. The title track is sumptuously beautiful. The folky, Celtic airs are arriving now. I love Knopfler's solo work for things like this, more than I do Dire Straits, if I'm honest. It is such an evocative, atmospheric number. Love it. There is something vaguely Springsteen-esque (post 1990) about it too, for me.
"No Can Do" is a "Heavy Fuel"-style bluesy rocker with a solid riff and drums over Knopfler's now trademark laconic vocal. It has an almost funky beat at times. "Vic And Ray" is one of those folky, West End type tales of characters possibly from Knopfler's past. Although, as they are rent boys, let's hope he just observed them from afar! It is similar to some of the material on Dire Straits' debut album. More solid guitar parts near the end. "Don't You Get It" is an upbeat, lively Dire Straits-ish rocker. "A Night In Summer Long Ago" has the Northumbrian (or maybe Uillean?) pipes back for a song of true, romantic beauty. Forget "Money For Nothing". This is the soul of Mark Knopfler for me.
"Cannibals" is a Cajun-style rocker in a vaguely "Walk Of Life" style. It is ok, but not my favourite on the album. "I'm The Fool" is a laid-back, country-ish acoustic ballad with some lovely steel guitar in the background. Again, it sounds like Springsteen's slower 1992 era material in places. "Je Suis Desole" is a folky, lively number, another of my favourites. "Rudiger" is an interesting song about an obsessed autograph hunter. Once again, is is low-key, quiet and folk-influenced. It has a sort of Parisian feel to it.
"Done With Bonaparte" is a fascinating "history" song about the Napoleonic Wars. "Nobody's Got The Gun" is very reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's "Man At The Top" in parts. "Are We In Trouble Now" is a somnolent, country ballad to end this most pleasurable album on. It is always enjoyable to dig this album out.
Alabama woman blues....
Released May 2016
You know, it is getting a bit tiresome hearing all the "Clapton used to be "God", where are all the guitar solos? etc etc etc...". After many albums like this one over recent years, you would think by now that people would have got the picture by now that low-key, comfortable, laid-back blues-influenced material is what Eric Clapton wants to do these days. If you like it, as I do, you will enjoy albums like this. If you don't then carry on listening to Cream, Derek & The Dominoes, The Yardbirds and John Mayall's Blues Breakers. Personally, I enjoy listening to both.
As with albums from Van Morrison, Elton John, Bryan Ferry, Mark Knopfler and the like, you know what you're going to get from an Eric Clapton album now. The musicianship is excellent, as is the sound quality. The delivery is affectionate to the material and you feel Clapton is enjoying himself. These are honest albums. I they don't pull up too many trees I am actually not too bothered. I don't expect a man in his seventies to suddenly find a new muse.
1. Alabama Woman Blues
2. Can't Let You Do It
3. I Will Be There
5. Catch The Blues
6. Cypress Grove
7. Little Man, You've Had A Busy Day
8. Stones In My Passway
9. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
10. I'll Be Alright
11. Somebody's Knockin'
12. I'll Be Seein' You
The album is the usual mix of covers of blues standards, some originals and JJ Cale songs that sound like blues standards, a Dylan cover ("I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine") and one slightly cringeworthy song performed with his young son in mind. There are enough crawling blues numbers on here to satisfy me, as these are my preference, "Alabama Woman Blues" confidently winds its way along, just as it should do. This is no different to the blues stuff The Yardbirds did in their early days, so nobody should have a problem with this. Yes, of course, Clapton and his band can trot this out in their sleep, but why not, it is instinctively brilliant. More power to them. JJ Cale's "Can't Let You Do It" ups the pace with a bit of Cajun-style accordion in the background. Again, it is all about the effortless interplay between Clapton and his band.
"I Will Be There" apparently features Ed Sheeran, credited as "Angelo Mysterioso" but it sounds more like Tracy Chapman to me! Either way, it is a fetching, melodic number. "Spiral" sees the blues return with a slow burning, muscular blues. If you like Clapton playing the blues, you can't go far wrong with this. The same applies to another Clapton-penned blues, the excellent, Chris Rea-esque "Catch The Blues". "Cypress Grove" has a flame that burns pretty convincingly, for me, anyway. If you find this stuff sleep-inducing, as many seem to do, then just stick with Clapton sixties/early seventies material. It's easy to do, people do it all the time with Rod Stewart.
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Everybody Needs Love (1967)
Feelin' Bluesy (1968)
Silk 'n' Soul (1968)
Nitty Gritty (1969)
If I Were Your Woman (1971)
Standing Ovation (1971)
Neither One Of Us (1973)
All I Need Is Time (1973)
I Feel A Song (1974)
The Best Of The Buddah Years
How can you say that ain't love....
Released in 1971
Gladys Knight's time at Motown still had a few years left and she was going to carry on putting out solid, quality soulful albums.
1. If I Was Your Woman
2. Feelin' Alright
3. One Less Bell To Answer
4. Let It Be
5. I Don't Want To Do Wrong
6. One Step Away
7. Here I Am Again
8. How Can You Say That Ain't Love
9. Is There A Place (In This Heart For Me)
10. Everybody Is A Star
11. Signed Gladys
12. Your Love's Been Good For Me
The title track is an excellent, bassy piece of slow-burning soul. Some great stereo sound and percussion ushers in a muscular cover of Traffic's "Feelin' Alright". Great piano break near the end too. "One Less Bell To Answer" is another cover, from The Fifth Dimension, but it is done so soulfully, with Gladys's vocal on top form, that you feel it is her own song. Covers of The Beatles "Let It Be" are not always what one needs, but in the hands (and voice) of Gladys you simply can't go wrong. It is superb. "I Don't Want To Do Wrong" is one of those typical Gladys soulful ballads. The bass is outstanding on it as well. That and the title track were the two big soul singles that made this a popular album.
"One Step Away" is horn-driven, Gladys soul-by-numbers. She can handle songs like this in her sleep. You can pretty much say the same for the rest of the numbers on the album. They don't really need analysis, other than that the class of Gladys, her Pips and her quality Motown backing band raises standard soul songs to a higher grade than maybe they are. "How Can You Say That Ain't Love" shows that Gladys can handle faster material as well. It is one of the better of the second side of songs. Check out her voice on "Everybody Is A Star" too. It is a nice album, I have to say, and the sound quality is excellent.
Anything for your love....
Released November 1989
After spending most of the eighties courting the AOR market, albeit successfully, Eric Clapton tried, with this album, to launch himself as a credible, hard-hitting mainstream rocker. It was not a bad effort either, despite the eighties synthesisers still floating around in the background. A lot of the blues had gone, however. It is far more "AOR rock" than "blues rock" and Clapton gained a new audience of late thirties/forty somethings who regularly sold out his Royal Albert Hall concerts.
2. Anything For Your Love
3. Bad Love
4. Running On Faith
5. Hard Times
6. Hound Dog
7. No Alibis
8. Run So Far
9. Old Love
10. Breaking Point
11. Lead Me On
12. Before You Accuse Me
"Pretending" is a muscular, guitar and organ-driven opener, full of backing vocals and a strong vocal from Clapton himself. His vocals are more attacking and forceful than they have been in the past. "Anything For Your Love" is a melodic, standard piece of rock of its time. "Bad Love" is probably the most well-known track on the album. It has a synth beginning worthy of eighties-era Fleetwood Mac, but then Clapton's guitar kicks in but then it is back to that easy, driving feeling. Just before the chorus it has shades of "Layla". Clapton contributes a searing solo in the middle too. "Running On Faith" is a sort of "Wonderful Tonight" remake, that ends with lots of gospel backing vocals.
"Hard Times" is one of the album's concessions to the blues. It is a laid-back, sleepy blues with some sumptuous saxophone in the middle. Elvis's "Hound Dog" is covered convincingly, with a committed, rasping Clapton vocal. "No Alibis", it has to be said, is a classic slice of late eighties stadium-style, big production rock. It is the most representative of its time, but I still like it. "Run So Far" is a Paul McCartney-ish tuneful number, all very harmless, though.
"Old Love" is a slick piece of adult rock. Clapton's voice is particularly soulful on here. "Breaking Point" is in the same vein, but more pulsating and solid. "Lead Me On" is a tender love song, with female backing vocals to the fore and Clapton giving us his "Wonderful Tonight" voice once more. "Before You Accuse Me" is a fine, rocking blues cover to finish on. The only real piece of rousing blues rock on the album.
This was a better album than much of his eighties offerings, but I still prefer his bluesier material.
Hard times blues....
Released September 2010
Eric Clapton attracted a reasonable amount of flak for this album, as indeed he does whenever he releases one in recent years. It was said to be too sleepy, too slow, too "old" , too unadventurous. Maybe, but there is an honest appeal to it. He doesn't need to court the charts, or popular opinion. If he wants to do a relaxed, nostalgic album suitable for a man approaching his seventies, then he will. Good luck to him. It is a simple but mightily impressive record of largely covers, but nobody knows how to cover this material better than Clapton. He is laying back and enjoying what he is playing, just like Van Morrison also does. Fair play to both of them. Sure, you know what you're going to get, but if you like it, where is the problem?
1. Travelin' Alone
2. Rockin' Chair
3. River Runs Deep
4. Judgement Day
5. How Deep Is The Ocean
6. My Very Good Friend The Milkman
7. Can't Hold Out Much Longer
8. That's No Way To Get Along
9. Everything Will Be Alright
10. Diamonds Made From Rain
11. When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful
12. Hard Times Blues
13. Run Back To Your Side
14. Autumn Leaves
"Travelin' Alone" is an excellent, slow-burning bluesy opener, with some great guitar and overall bluesy feel. "Rockin' Chair" is a laid-back, jazzy blues. It is full of authentic atmosphere. "River Runs Deep" is a top notch piece of Clapton laid-back blues. It sounds a lot like Mark Knopfler's post-2000 output. The relaxing, traditional, jazzy blues feel continues on the enjoyable "Judgement Day". "How Deep Is The Ocean" is beautiful - melodic, well-sung and infectiously sleepy. The musicianship, it must also be said, is superb throughout this album, as is the sound quality.
"My Very Good Friend The Milkman" sees Clapton going all 1930's with some jazzy backing. Paul McCartney has also covered this and the music sounds like the stuff The Bryan Ferry Orchestra is offering up these days. I can't help but like it. It has a great piano/brass interplay part where Clapton introduces the musicians. "Can't Hold Out Much Longer" is a proper blues. Quite what anyone would want to complain about here is beyond me. This is a lot more of a bluesy album than was popularly thought upon release. The shuffling, New Orleans-style blues of "That's No Way To Get Along" harks back to those mid-seventies Clapton albums like "461 Ocean Boulevard". It has some sumptuous, infectious guitar bits underpinning it. Good stuff. Check out that piano/bass/guitar bit at the end. Gorgeous.
"Everything Will Be Alright" has a real bassy thump to it and a bit of a pop/rock feel too. It cooks at a level heat very successfully. I suppose many will find this sort of material boring, but if they do, what are they doing listening to it in the first place? Clapton has been like this for decades. "Diamonds Made From Rain" is a pretty "easy listening" it has to be said, but none the less attractive for it. "When Somebody Think You're Wonderful" is back to the 1930s again for some more singalong, crooning jazz. It still manages to get some excellent guitar into it though.
"Hard Times Blues" is an acoustic and mandolin-driven blues, with that 1920s/30s depression era feel to it. "Run Back To Your Side" is a stonking, slide-guitar blues. "Autumn Leaves" is so Chris Rea it almost is him. For me, this has been an excellent album , with a mix of several styles and not deserving of criticism from people who liked what Clapton did with Cream. I liked that era too, but I also like this.
I looked over Jordan and what did I see....
Released March 1975
Hastily recorded and released after the success of "461 Ocean Boulevard", which was his first album for four years, this one did not quite hit the spot in the way its predecessor had done. It is similarly laid-back in its sleepy tones, not many searing blues cuts to be found. There is gospel, folk, low-key reggae and the occasional blues, but overall it is a pretty understated album.
1. We've Been Told (Jesus Is Coming Soon)
2. Swing Low Sweet Chariot
3. Little Rachel
4. Don't Blame Me
5. The Sky Is Crying
6. Singin' The Blues
7. Better Make It Through Today
8. Pretty Blue Eyes
"We've Been Told (Jesus Is Coming Soon)" is a somnolent, relaxing gospel song, with Clapton's gentle vocal recalling quite a bit of the previous album. It has an infectious, shuffling beat to it though. "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" is also a spiritual, given an appealing reggae makeover. It was a hit single, and deservedly so as it is lively and enjoyable. "Little Rachel" has a bluesy backing to it and another decidedly drowsy vocal. When the drums kick in it develops a bit of a bluesy thump, it has to be said, however. "Don't Blame Me" was written as an "answer" song to Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff", which Clapton covered on the previous album. It has a convincing slow skank and Clapton's Marley impersonation is actually not as embarrassing as one might expect it to be.
Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying" is the album's most authentic blues, with some copper-bottomed slide guitar. "Singin' The Blues" has that upbeat, "Mainline Florida"-style groove that Clapton would utilise a lot in the mid-late seventies, particularly on "Slowhand". Lots of backing vocals and funky-ish guitar. "Better Make It Through Today" is a slow-tempo, almost comatose number enhanced by some excellent mid-song guitar. "Pretty Blue Eyes" is an acoustic-driven country blues that ends up with a choral mid-song bit, somewhat incongruously.
"High" is another shuffling typical mid-seventies Clapton track. Again, I have to say it does have some killer guitar near the end. "Opposites" ends this perfectly pleasant, but remarkable album with a perfectly pleasant, unremarkable track.
Sound-wise, the best version is to be found on the "Give Me Strength: 74-75" box set recordings.