Eric Clapton released a number of strong studio albums during the seventies, but his live material was a different breed altogether. At times he would virtually disappear in the studio yet on stage he was front and center. I mentioned in a previous review that I always want to see or hear him ring his guitar’s neck and live is where that occurs most consistently.
Crossroads 2: Live In The Seventies gathers together about four hours of concert material plus four studio outtakes into a four-CD box set, providing an excellent overview of his concert style and sound from 1974 through 1978. The extended versions of many of the songs give him the room to explore, experiment, and stretch out on the guitar.
Disc one contains one of the great tour de forces of his career in the medley of “Willie & The Hand Jive/Get Ready,” which clocks in at over eleven minutes and exhibits Clapton just having fun on stage. “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” is seven-plus minutes of slow blues nirvana. And his cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing” is presented in a slow tempo while taking on on a blues flavor.
Disc two is the strongest of the set. “Layla” is Clapton at his rock ‘n’ roll best. Ten minutes of “I Shot The Sheriff” places the focus on his pickin’ style which is some of the best in the business. Likewise, ten minutes of “Badge” show why the “Clapton Is God” moniker is accurate. “Eyesight To The Blind/Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad,” recorded at The Providence Civic Center in June of 1975, finds him sharing the stage with Carlos Santana in a twenty-four-minute jam.
Disc three is a little bit blues and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Only Eric Clapton could pull off a thirteen-minute version of “Stormy Monday.” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” “Lay Down Sally,” and “Cocaine” are more restrained but still represent his live sound well. “Goin’ Down Slow/Rambling On My Mind” is more extended blues.
Disc four is the weakest of the set. “Tulsa Time” and “Wonderful Tonight” feature some nice vocals and any performance of “Crossroads” is always welcome but the three concluding studio tracks are out of place and lack the energy of what has preceded them.
As good as Clapton is in the studio, he is just as good—if not better—in the concert hall. Crossroads 2: Live In The Seventies presents the solo Clapton at a good point during his career and, as such, is an essential release for any aficionado of his music.