Classic: Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974)

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This is my all time favourite album.  I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.  The songs.  The musicians.  The album layout.  All perfect.  It’s the only album that I have on cassette, vinyl and CD.  If I cared about digital formats, I’d have it on that too.

This is Eric Clapton’s rehab album.  He kicked his habits and went into Criteria Studios, 461 Ocean Blvd, Miami Florida, to record this album with a few guys he used to work with in Derek & The Dominoes, such as Carl Radle, but also bought in a few others.  This group formed the nucleus of his band for the rest of the 70s both live and in the studio.

My Mum introduced me to the album just after it was released.  We had bugger all money but she saved up and bought it for herself.  It starts off with the old slave song Motherless Children. Eric gives it a very dirty blues treatment and lets it rip for a tad under five minutes, but as that 7 year old in 1974, it made me want to hear more.  It drew me in, and still does.

It has 10 songs on it after the blues stomp of Motherless Children.  Blues, rock and blues rock with a bit of country in it, and the almost note for note reggae cover of Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sherriff.  It is an album of what Clapton has always done best.  A mixture of covers and originals, a style that George Thorogood has copied over the years.

The best original on the album is Mainline Florida.  It’s a song that makes you want to hop into a Mustang convertible and drive off into the sunset with this as your soundtrack.

When the wonderful guys from Noise Pollution asked me to do reviews for them, I knew this album had to be the first.  It puts me in the most wonderful of places.  I like the treatment that the song Willie And The Hand Jive gets. The sheer lushness of Let It Grow and that it’s on the same album as the dirt of Get Ready and Motherless Children.

And I haven’t even touched on Eric’s guitar playing. It has a world weariness, but clarity that only being clean after years of drug abuse could bring.  It’s some of his best guitar work, ever.

I defy any music lover not to admire this album. Is it influential?  Don’t know and don’t care, frankly.  This is my 45 year old dedication to what is, in my mind, one of the ultimate pieces of art.

Review by Gregg Heldon.

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