|A timely reminder of why Eric Clapton is so revered, this latest compilation is released to coincide with the American PBS network's massive documentary series on the blues.
Unfortunately there's nothing from Clapton's Yardbirds days, denying us the chance to see his talent in embryonic form.Instead, it kicks off with a brace of tracks from what may well be the best British blues album of all, John Mayall's 1966 Bluesbreakers. ''All Your Love'' features a truly stinging solo, perfectly showcasing Clapton's new found enthusiasm for the Gibson Les Paul and Marshall stack combo, while ''Steppin' Out'' is an instrumental tour de force. Clapton's deification started here.
A trio of tracks by Cream finds Clapton moving into heavy rock territory. Skip James' ''I'm So Glad'' is transformed into a proto-psychedelic classic, but do we really need the live version of ''Spoonful''? Clocking in at nearly 17 minutes of ponderous riffage, its easy to see why Clapton soon felt the need to bail out and simplify his sound.
Blind Faith's take on Sam Myers' ''Sleeping In The Ground'' is as much a showcase for Steve Winwood's soulful vocals as Clapton's snaking guitar. However, Blind Faith was short lived, leaving Clapton free to pursue his sideman fantasy.As such, we find him backing a subdued sounding Howlin' Wolf on the latter's London Sessions album, from which ''Rockin' Daddy'' is taken. A not entirely successful meeting between Wolf and various English acolytes (including the Rolling Stones rhythm section and Winwood again), it promised much but failed to deliver.
Derek and the Dominos only managed one album, but it ranks amongst Clapton's finest work. Spurred on by the presence of the equally talented Duane Allman, Clapton produced some of the most heartfelt and expressive guitar work of his career.Although the resulting album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, features its fair share of radio friendly rock, its roots where firmly in the blues, as demonstrated by the storming version of Freddie King's ''Have You Ever Loved A Woman'' included here.There's also a fine acoustic performance of Walter Jacobs' ''Mean Old World'' and a live rendition of ''Crossroads'', finding the Dominos in more relaxed mood than the better known Cream take on Robert Johnson's classic.
For fans of Clapton there's nothing new here. But as a short history of Clapton's evolution as a player within the blues tradition, this hits the spot nicely and underlines just why Clapton is so revered amongst guitarists even if his latter day material is more supper club than juke-joint.The fact that there's nothing here made after 1970 only serves to reinforce that.