ERIC CLAPTON – ” 461 Ocean Boulevard “

Posted: July 31, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC

After making a triumphant return courtesy of his concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre, an event organized by Pete Townshend and featuring any number of famous friends, Clapton’s confidence was restored and he returned to Miami’s Criteria Studios to begin work on a record that would stand as another milestone in Clapton’s career. “461 Ocean Boulevard” is the second studio solo album by the English musician. The album was released in late July 1974 for RSO Records, shortly after the record company released the hit single “I Shot The Sheriff” in early July the same year. The album topped various international charts and sold more than two million copies.

Eric Clapton was getting his life back together after a crippling heroin addiction, and his second solo album throws in a bunch of different styles to keep him occupied. It’s not all about guitar fireworks, either. There were blues covers, some heartfelt originals and a version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” that went to No. 1. Eric Clapton had already undergone several transitions in his ever-evolving career by the time his album “461 Ocean Boulevard” was released in late July 1974. Having gained fame as a member of the Yardbirds and, later, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

Perhaps the best way to describe guitar legend Eric Clapton’s in July 1974, as he prepared to unveil his watershed solo LP, “461 Ocean Boulevard”, was as a “wanted man.”

After laying low for the better part of three years while struggling with substance abuse, Clapton was sought after by his fellow musicians, by the countless fans of his prior exploits (the Yardbirds, Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Blind Faith and Cream plus the short lived period Derek and the Dominoes and by the savvy music industry suits, who knew they were dealing with a golden goose – sure to fill their coffers regardless of what music he put his name to. The impetus for the album was born from the guitarist’s fascination with the blues recordings that had inspired him early on. During his recovery, he found himself renewing his familiarity with those older records and listening to more recent offerings as well. So too, a demo tape given him by Dominos bassist Carl Radle shared songs Radle had written with drummer Jamie Oldaker. As a result, the two musicians became the core of Clapton’s new outfit, which also came to include guitarist George Terry and singer Yvonne Elliman. The album took its title from the house where Clapton and company ensconced, located at “461 Ocean Boulevard” in Golden Beach, Florida,

461 Ocean Boulevard was bookended by an urgently paced re-working of the traditional “Motherless Children” and the renewed vigour of “Mainline Florida.” In between, however, the ensuing laid-back fare ranged from the hymn-like “Give Me Strength” to the easy-grooving “Willie and the Hand Jive” to a slippery slide across Elmore James’ “I Can’t Hold Out” and an acoustic “Please Be with Me.”

Sprinkled among these were three key tracks in “Get Ready” (a cowrite and duet with Yvonne Elliman); Clapton’s own, earnestly hopeful “Let it Grow” (an emotional reflection of his recent rebirth from the shadows of heroin addiction); and, most striking of all, a relatively straight cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” that went to No. 1, pulling the rest of the album right along with it.

Other covers are of similar significance. “Willie and the Hand Jive” tapped into the familiarity factor, a slow-rolling mesh of blues and funk written by singer and composer Johnny Otis. Elmore James’ “I Can’t Hold Out” and Robert Johnson’s “Steady Rollin’ Man” found Clapton going back to the basics of blues.

Throughout the sessions, Clapton was aided and abetted by bassist Carl Radle (late of the Dominos), drummer Jamie Oldaker, keyboardist Dick Sims, guitarist George Terry – and, perhaps most crucial of all, Tom Dowd. Most importantly, 461 Ocean Boulevardis the album that found Clapton renewing his confidence and shoring up his strengths as a bandleader who was no longer in need of simply sharing his efforts with others. In that regard, “461 Ocean Boulevard” can be considered a destination that seemed to serve him best. The album finishes with George Terry’s “Mainline Florida”, which “breaks away from the established tone of the record” and features Clapton’s using talk box during his outgoing solo.

The dean of record producers, he’d worked with Clapton since his Dominos and Cream days, and contributed much to shoring up his shaky confidence.

Together, these players helped Eric Clapton fulfill most of the tall expectations harboured by his previous groups alluded to earlier, once his incomparable talents and this inspired song set were finally captured in the grooves of 461 Ocean Boulevard.

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