A historic live appearance ... courtesy of Pete Townshend!
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 09/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Imagine you're Pete Townshend, circa 1972, early 1973. You have this friend who's not just a terrific guy but also happens to be one of the greatest guitar players ever (short of yourself and a select list of few others). In fact, the man is so great they started to compare him to God very shortly after he had emerged onto the scene; and he even managed to convince you that white boys CAN play the blues ... even if they are from England - something you hadn't even bought coming from the original Bluesbreaker Peter Mayall. Unfortunately, the man is sinking into the abyss called heroin addiction, and there doesn't seem to be anything anybody can do about it. His live-in girlfriend Alice (on the downward slide with him) has called you repeatedly in the middle of the night, and you have made the long trip to their house only to witness junkie scenes which you will later be quoted describing, in the man's authorized biography by Ray Coleman ("Clapton!") as "despicable." You start wrecking your brain what to do about the situation. You know, of course, that only the junkie himself will ultimately be able to pull himself out of the abyss; but encouragement from people close to him is crucial - as crucial as a deeper motivation to make the struggle worthwhile.
In your friend's case, it seems obvious that his love of music has to be the thing that should restore his will to go on living. The problem is, except for an appearance at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh, ca. 1 1/2 years earlier, the man hasn't appeared on stage, nor has he seen the inside of a recording studio. Before embarking on his slide into addiction, he has been part of a number of true supergroups; but everyone of them has disintegrated over time, many say before they had really had a chance to take off. So what are you going to do? - Eventually you convince a group of top-notch musicians to help you out once you get the guy to agree to appear on stage again, for two shows at London's Rainbow Theatre: Besides Ron Wood of the Jeff Beck Group and J.J. Cale's drummer/buddy Jimmy Karstein, Steve Winwood and Rick Grech agree to lend a hand, forgetting for a moment the short life of their own band with your friend, Blind Faith; and you also get the okay from two other guys from Winwood's and Grech's more consistent band, Traffic - Jim Capaldi and Rebop Kwaku Baah. Although you guys will be presented as the "Palpitations," nobody is going to make the mistake to bill you as yet another supergroup for more purposes than those two shows. You don't have a lot of time to rehearse, and during the show you will find yourself joking that "none of that seems worth it now" because you "keep forgetting things." But during rehearsal already, it turns out to be your friend who keeps telling people that everything is going to be just fine, and when they are concerned they might not remember the chords to any given song he responds, "Oh don't worry. It's easy, you know. They're simple songs!"
Although absence from the stage and drug abuse had taken their toll, when listening to the recording of what has come to be known as Eric Clapton's "Rainbow Concert" it becomes clear just how much these two live appearances helped to reenergize him. The album, greatly improved in its remastered CD version (both in its sound quality and by its enhancement to more than twice the original number of tracks) opens with the first recorded live version of "Layla" - not quite as painfully torn as the original studio recording, but very powerful and gaining special impact by being played by no less than three outstanding guitarists. From there, it's a tour de force through some of the best song material existing at the time, most of it concert staples of Clapton's to this day. His voice and guitar play are rough, edgy - maybe a tad restrained by his standards, but still on a level other musicians would kill for if they could achieve it. In addition to songs from Clapton's own albums (with his various bands and from his self-titled and, at the time, only solo release; covers such as J.J. Cale's "After Midnight" and songs written by Clapton himself: "Badge," "Blues Power," "Bell Bottom Blues" and more), the band also gives a very soulful rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," Steve Winwood steps back as lead vocalist in Eric Clapton's favor for Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord" and Traffic's "Pearly Queen," and "Key to the Highway" becomes almost the blues jam session it has been during the recording sessions for the "Layla" album (now available on the remastered version of that album and first released as part of the 1988 "Crossroads" box set).
Throughout the recording, the genuine camaraderie of the eight musicians is obvious; evidenced by Townshend's introduction of the band (purposely neglecting to mention Eric Clapton at first and then, having been "reminded" by Clapton's persistent fiddling about on his guitar, adding, "Oh yeah ... and Eric Clapton on third rhythm guitar!") and by a number of other jokes. At the end of the show, Clapton asked the audience in a moved voice to thank Pete Townshend "because I wouldn't have done it if it hadn't been for him." And although his struggle out of addiction had only begun and it would take him over another year to record what would become his breakthrough solo album ("461 Ocean Boulevard"), the two nights at London's Rainbow Theatre stand as the beginning of that process, and Eric Clapton's return to the stage. The rest, as they say, is history ...
Also recommended: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs Crossroads Unplugged One More Car: One More Rider (CD & DVD Set) Riding with the King"
EC Comes Back
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 07/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert was a concert organized by his good friend Pete Townshend back in 1973 as Mr. Clapton's first public appearance after a lengthy struggle with a heroin addiction. The band was full of English rock luminaries including his old Blind Faith pals, Steve Winwood & Rick Grech, Winwood's Traffic mate Jim Capaldi, Ron Wood and Mr. Townshend himself. The cd reissue is one of the better around as the original album was a truncated version of the show containing only six songs. The reissue adds eight songs from the show including the first live version of "Layla" ever released in its original form. The band is a little ragged in spots, probably due to lack of rehearsal time, but they are all pros and the overall sound is superb. Mr. Clapton plays an invigorated guitar and his voice is suitably course and bluesy. Versions of "Blues Power", "Bell Bottom Blues", "Let it Rain" and "Badge" stand out as well as an inspired "Presence Of The Lord". This cd is notable for the assemblage of musicians, but the music stands up after all these years."
J P Ryan | Waltham, Massachusetts United States | 01/29/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I always had a soft spot in my head for the original 1973 'Rainbow Concert' album - Clapton, in the midst of his heroin addiction, was helped out by a cast of famous friends who together turn in a loose, touching, and sometimes dessicated performance that captures the era as well as other druggy, haunted post 60s documents, like the Stones' "Goats Head Soup," Traffic's "Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory," and Lou Reed's "Berlin." For the so called cd 'upgrade', Jon Astley has committed - and multiplied - the same revisionist sins that marred the Who's box set, utterly transforming the original performance and the album that resulted from it. This cd has more than twice as many tracks as the murky, dark original (6, clocking in at under forty minutes), but 5 of those tracks have been severely shortened, and many of the unreleased tracks are suspiciously short, clean and neat sounding as well. Example, the deliciously sleazy sounding "Roll It Over" has been cut from 7 minutes down to four; "Little Wing" (with Ron Wood's beautiful lead soloing atop Townshend's slashing chords)has 2 minutus lopped off the original 6:32. Etc, etc. Thus, the 1995 cd remaster (and, 'remix')is utterly different in sound, mood, and spirit from the more honest original album (and cd, which went out of print in the mid '90s). It's a shame, for now we have to own both the 1973 album (issued just a few months after the Dominos' "In Concert" and providing a fascinating, stark contrast) and this silly, cleaned-up 'medley' of the Rainbow shows to hear most of the songs Eric and his friends played those dark winter nights in January 1973. Maybe we'll get a full-length "Deluxe edition" on 2 cds? It would make more sense than the recently issued, padded "Disreali Gears.""
Erics best live album!
Morton | Colorado | 10/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Rainbow concert is with out any shadow of a doubt the all time best live Eric Clapton album. Clapton has made quite a few of them and they are all for the most part good but this one is by far the best. If all the live albums and times I myself have seen the man live he never sounded more energetic or played better or sang better for that matter then on this record. This was the legendary concert Eric Clapton and Peter Townshend of The Who put on together back in 1973, this is like to Eric Clapton what At Filmour East is to The Allman Brothers Band.
Erics playing here is phenomninal. He takes what you hear on the albums and takes it to a whole nother land, or world better yet. His leads are sharp and powerfull, his guitar solos could melt amps. Well not really but that would be cool though wouldnt it? Occasionly Claptons goes off on a totaly rendom solo thats not in the song and it is absolutly amazing. It shows what a true musician he is being able to free style and improve with his guitar, for example his playing here on his version of 'Little Wing' is one of the most amazing things I have ever heard some one do with a guitar. One thing that can be bad about live albums is sometimes the artist will go off into their own world and it can get boring but not here, never with Clapton. This is the best you will ever hear Eric Clapton play on record, Im telling you. Aside from Eric Claptons amazing guitar playing his voice sounds really great here. It's nice gritty and sounds just like the records with you rarley here on live records. Besides Clapton his back up band was also chosen wisely because they sound great here.
The problem with most live albums is that you get a couple good songs and some filler or covers that arent really that good, but the artist put them on because he liked them. Which is fine but on this record all the songs are classics. This are all concederd among Claptons all time best songs. You get Cream, Derek And The Dominos, and Solo tracks here and its great. Of all the songs on the album 'Tell The Truth' is the best, it is done perfectly and the guitar on the album version is amazing but this version blows it away, you wount find a better version of 'Tell The Truth' anywhere else.
So if your out there looking for a good live Eric Clapton album that will showcase his guitar playing then this is the one for you. If your just looking for a good live album with lots of good songs played really well by Clapton then you wount find a bettter one then The Rainbow Concert!"
Docendo Discimus | Vita scholae | 07/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This, to me, is one of the most curiously overlooked and underrated live albums of the 70s. Ever, actually. I know that not everyone shares my fondness for Eric Clapton the bluesman-slash-rock singer rather than Eric Clapton the balladeer-slash-watered-down-blues-singer, but I remain convinced that this is one of the three or four greatest records Clapton has ever released.
"Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert" is not a polished, highly produced affair; it is all gritty rock n' roll and smouldering blues, and Clapton is backed by star players like Pete Townshend, Ron Wood and Steve Winwood, and guest percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah. And this all-star band, which has former Traffic-drummer Jim Capaldi on the swivel chair and the late Rick Gretch playing bass, leads Clapton through a dozen raw, ragged and superbly atmospheric renditions of his best songs of the 60s and 70s, including "Layla", "Bell Bottom Blues", "Key To The Highway" and "Blues Power". Eric Clapton and the band play with passion and urgency, and Clapton himself sounds much more alive than on most live recordings. If you like Eric Clapton at his grittiest, it doesn't get any better than this. "