Eric Clapton – The 1970’s Review, (2014)Featuring rare archival performance footage and interviews with Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock, The Albert Brothers, George Terry, Willie Perkins, Bill Halverson, Nigel Williamson, Anthony DeCurtis and Marc Roberty Studio: Sexy Intellectual SIDVD577 [Distr. by Chrome Dreams] [3/11/14] Video: 16×9 color Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Chapters: Intro; From Solos To Songcraft; The Song Of The South; On Tour With Delaney And Bonnie; Flying Solo; Dominoes Falling Into Place; From The Highest Mountain To The Lowest Valley; In Exile; Reinvention And Resurrection; A New Band, Jamaica Bound; In The Presence Of The Band; The Balladeer; Immigration Blues; The Curtain Falls Extras: Inside The Layla Sessions, Contributor Biogs; Beyond DVD Length: 151 minutes Rating: ***1/2
Clapton is God! This declaration spray-painted on a wall in the London Underground would prove to be a legend generator and psychic burden to the talented British guitarist. Clapton achieved national status with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in the mid-sixties. But it was the iconic power trio Cream (with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker) that made Clapton. He survived the dysfunction (mostly between Bruce and Baker) and reveled in the extended solos and blues psychedelia. Stints with Blind Faith and Delaney Bonnie and Friends led to a solo career that has lasted over forty years.
Eric Clapton – The 1970’s Review is a lengthy documentary that examines the emergence of a rock star. Although it is unauthorized (which means Clapton was not involved), there are some concert snippets of Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, The Band, The Allman Brothers and solo bands that are fun to watch. Anecdotal interviews from musicians and journalists attempt to construct a narrative of 1970’s E.C. Actually, the film begins in 1968 with Cream in the throes of disintegration. Clapton is blown away by the rootsy sound and camaraderie (at least for then) of The Band. Along with Delaney and Bonnie, the Southern musical direction would take hold. Bonnie Bramlett is her usual brash funny self, relating stories about Delaney and E.C. Of particular interest is the near-Svengali influence Delaney Bramlett had on the self-titled 1970 debut. Another great interviewee is Bobby Whitlock who offers some insight into the process of early Clapton recordings (He is featured on the bonus feature about the recording of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs) and life on the road.
Perhaps Clapton’s masterpiece is the Layla album. It featured a brilliant collaboration with Duane Allman. His opening guitar intro and slide accompaniment on the coda of “Layla” is as good as rock guitar gets. Clapton’s raw emotion on all of these songs was sprung by his unrequited love for Patti Boyd Harrison, George Harrison’s wife. Another inside story is how Stephen Stills laid down a second bass line on “Let It Rain”. Interestingly, Clapton refused to use his own name, calling the group Derek and the Dominoes. The move confused the public and sabotaged the success of a great band. This 1968-1971 section is the most compelling. The remainder of the documentary concentrates on later solo albums. The reggae hit “I Shot The Sheriff” and relaxed ballad “Wonderful Tonight” brought commercial success and pop stardom. His emergence as a tunesmith and band leader is chronicled. The customary drug and alcohol themes are present. A disturbing comment (and subsequent backlash) by Clapton endorsing a notorious racist figure in England receives significant attention.
Eric Clapton – The 1970’s Review is appealing as a nostalgic peak at rock superstar. However, the lack of direct involvement by Clapton (there are only a few short interview segments) leaves a gap in understanding his mental and artistic perspectives. Also the droning narrator makes the 151-minute feature tedious. The PCM stereo is proficient for dialogue and adequate for the few musical performances. The video interview segments are sharply focused, and the archival footage varies in quality.