Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton – Atco Records SD 33-326 (1970)/Speakers Corner Records (2020) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 42:35 *****:
(Delaney Bramlett – rhythm guitar, vocals; Bonnie Bramlett – vocals; Eric Clapton – lead guitar; Dave Mason – guitar; Carl Radle – bass; Jim Gordon – drums; Bobby Whitlock – organ, vocals; Jim Price – trumpet, trombone; Bobby Keys – saxophone; Tex Johnson – conga, bongos; Rita Coolidge – vocals)
Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett made a huge contribution to the rock movement. During their relatively brief career as a duo, their influence and respect from their peers was immense. They were originally signed to Stax Records, releasing a somewhat underwhelming studio album debut, Home in 1969. However, when they opened for British supergroup Blind Faith in 1969, their incendiary roots-bases Southern rock established a significant legacy. The fluid band lineup (which at times featured George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Dave Mason) distilled the essence of blues rock, especially in the soulful, vocals of the Bramletts. Clapton helped the duo procure a recording contract with Atco (Atlantic) Records. In late 1969, a live album, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton captured the magic of the group. Featuring a veritable “Who’s Who” of players, the genre of Southern Rock was ushered into the mainstream along with The Allman Brothers. This represented a commercial apex for Delaney & Bonnie, with chart success. After their inevitable breakup, these session musicians would comprise highly regarded ensembles like Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen and Clapton’s Derek And The Dominos. Delaney was instrumental in popularizing slide guitar and Bonnie’s soulful vocal style (she was a backup singer for the Ike And Tina Turner Revue) influenced a generation of singers.
Speakers Corner Records has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton. Fifty years later, it is a testament to the power of rock and roll. The powerhouse band includes Clapton (lead guitar), Dave Mason (guitar), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), Bobby Whitlock (organ, piano), Jim Price (trumpet, trombone), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Tex Johnson (conga) and Rita Coolidge (backup vocals). Side 1 opens with hard charging ‘rock ’n’ soul” on Eddie Floyd’s “Things Get Better”. Behind the layered horn/sax/organ, Delaney delivers a Memphis-inspired vocal. Bonnie joins in harmony before taking over lead vocals in commanding fashion. The duo’s vocal chemistry is magnetic as Clapton’s guitar licks ring with clarity. Bonnie’s spine-tingling yells close out the song. Clapton is featured on the “Poor Elijah/Tribute To Robert Johnson Medley” (co-written by another Bramlett collaborator, Leon Russell). The band simply cooks like a vintage soul revue as Delaney offers falsetto and Bonnie is relentless. The crowd gets an early introduction to Dave Mason’s “Only You Know And I Know”. His version would be on the seminal 1970 “solo” album, Alone Together. This version revels in the raw aesthetics of live rock and roll. There is a barrage of guitar riffs. Delaney takes the first verse, and Bonnie, the second. Each delivers in their inimitable style. Bobby Whitlock’s organ is compelling and the dual third verse explodes with unabated energy. Delaney & Bonnie & Friends never let up. “I Don’t Want To Discuss It” is a festive romp that showcases Delaney’s vocal largesse. Another incendiary Clapton solo propels a gospel-driven chant as the band sustains its fury.
Side 2 is a mixed bag. Bonnie Bramlett is electrifying as she belts out ‘down ’n’ dirty” blues on “That’s What My Man Is For”. In a tour-de-force performance, she brings an earthy urgency and emotional depth. The band lays back, letting the singer do her thing. Her gut-wrenching wailing is transcendental. On a Bonnie Bramlett/Bobby Whitlock rocker, “Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way”, the vocals are ferocious. Jim Gordon executes a gritty drum-fill solo and the horn/saxophone arrangement is testament to the cohesive band dynamics. With a definitive rock groove fest (“Coming Home”), multiple guitars demonstrate the visceral appeal of the era. Delaney is at his best. In the tradition of rock and roll, a suitable finale of vintage 50’s music is executed to perfection. The subject of this medley (”Long Tall Sally/Jenny Jenny/The Girl Can’t Help It/Tutti Frutti”) is Little Richard. If there is a Mt. Rushmore of rock and roll, Richard Penniman would be up there. The band channels the freneticism of this charismatic performer as Clapton and Bobby Keys let it rip.
Speakers Corner has done an excellent job in this 180-gram vinyl upgrade. The mix is robust and the vocals are centered. This vinyl pressing is flawless with minimal surface noise and no hisses or pops. This live recording established a high standard for future rock and roll albums. This is a great record and should be part of any vinyl collection.
Side 1: Things Get Better; Poor Elijah/Tribute To Johnson Medley; Only You Know And I Know; I Don’t Want To Discuss It
Side 2: That’s What My Man Is For; Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way; Coming Home; Little Richard Medley (Long Tall Sally/ Jenny, Jenny/The Girl Can’t Help It/Tutti-Frutti
More information at Acoustic Sounds website, vendor of Speakers Corner releases: