[Review] Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert (1973)

Some people would have staged an intervention for Clapton. His friends staged a concert instead.

Kronomyth 2.0: The rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

You know the story, so I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that Eric Clapton finally came out to play, and Pete Townshend comes out smelling like a rose. The original Rainbow concerts consisted of two shows (both on January 13, 1973), billed as Eric Clapton and The Palpitations, and you could rightfully expect some with the likes of Clapton, Townshend, Steve Winwood, Ron Wood and supporting members of Blind Faith and Traffic sharing the same stage.

Despite conditions that were ripe for failure (Clapton’s heroin habit, a scant ten days of rehearsal), the concerts were an unqualified success and showed that Clapton had lost little of his edge and ability. The resulting elpee, unfortunately, was a heavily abridged version of the concerts reduced to six tracks including one by Traffic (“Pearly Queen”) and a little-known Derek & the Dominos b-side, “Roll It Over.” If you bought that elpee, you got rolled indeed. The 14-track remaster is an act of atonement that draws from both shows to present something much closer to the actual concert experience, in chronological order with only two tracks missing (“Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”).

If you see the original elpee in a used record store somewhere, punch it for me. Then go buy this expanded remaster, because there’s a shortage of miracles in the world and this is surely 1 of them; 2 bad it took 22 years to roll around. I’d rank this as the most essential of Clapton’s live records, and then I’d tell you confidentially that live records aren’t really made to be listened to over and over; they’re reference documents, like a thesaurus. As you slough through some of Clapton’s mediocre studio albums and wonder why people bothered showing up at all, return to the Rainbow and your faith in the man’s star presence will be renewed.

Original LP Version

A1. Badge (Eric Clapton/George Harrison) (3:29)
A2. Roll It Over (Eric Clapton/Bobby Whitlock) (6:53)
A3. Presence of The Lord (Eric Clapton)(5:37)
B1. Pearly Queen (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) (6:58)
B2. After Midnight (John J. Cale) (5:11)
B3. Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix) (6:32)

Expanded CD track listing
1. Layla (Eric Clapton/Jim Gordon) 6:24
2. Badge (Eric Clapton/George Harrison) 3:18
3. Blues Power (Eric Clapton/Bobby Whitlock) 5:20
4. Roll It Over (Eric Clapton/Bobby Whitlock) 4:11
5. Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix) 4:36
6. Bottle of Red Wine (Eric Clapton/Bonnie Bramlett) 3:51
7. After Midnight (J.J. Cale) 4:25
8. Bell Bottom Blues (Eric Clapton) 5:26
9. Presence of The Lord (Eric Clapton) 5:18
10. Tell The Truth (Eric Clapton/Bobby Whitlock) 5:52
11. Pearly Queen (Steve Winwood/Jim Capaldi) 4:55
12. Key To The Highway (Charles Segar/Willie Broonzy) 5:46
13. Let It Rain (Eric Clapton/Bonnie Bramlett) 7:11
14. Crossroads (Robert Johnson) 4:18

The Players

Eric Clapton (lead guitar & vocals), Jim Capaldi (drums), Rick Grech (bass), Jimmy Karstein (drums), Rebop (percussion), Pete Townshend (guitar & vocals), Steve Winwood (keyboards & vocals), Ron Wood (guitar & vocals). Produced and remixing by Jon Astley and Andy Macpherson; engineering by Glyn Johns; original album production and mixing by Bob Pridden.

Did You Know?

  • “I had to prop him up and teach him how to play again. The guy had shut himself away for the better part of 21 years. Me and the father of the girl Eric was living with at the time organised this concert and bullied him into doing it. He didn’t want to do it.” – Pete Townshend as quoted in a 1980 interview (http://www.thewho.org/pete.htm).
  • Steve Winwood and Rick Grech also appeared as members of Ginger Baker’s Air Force.
  • Jimmy Karstein was a member of the Tulsa, OK contingent who had played with Carl Radle (in Gary Lewis and The Playboys) and J.J. Cale in the 1960s.

The Pictures

Reissue package design by Wherefore Art?; photography by Barrie Wentzell and Robert Ellis; liner notes by Ray Coleman.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on September 10, 1973 in the UK, Australia, Italy and New Zealand (RSO, 2394 116/3216 016, cassette features unique cover), the US (RSO, SO/TP-877), France (RSO, 2479 116), Germany and the Netherlands (RSO, 2479 274) and Japan (RSO, MW-2080) with gatefold cover; reached #19 on the UK charts and #18 on the US charts. Cassette and 8-tracks feature different track order than elpee.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (RSO, MWX-4032).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette on November 2, 1987 in the US (Polydor, 831 320-2/4).
  3. Re-released on expanded remastered compact and cassette on July 25, 1995 in the US (Polydor, 7472-2/4) and Bulgaria (Polydor, 527 472-4) with 8 bonus live tracks. Bulgarian release features unique cover.

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