Record of the Day: Eric Clapton, "461 Ocean Boulevard"

Record of the Day: Eric Clapton, “461 Ocean Boulevard”

Eric Clapton
“461 Ocean Boulevard” (Cd Polydor 531821-2)

In 1974 Eric Clapton was not doing very well: he was stuck in a very tough heroin detox treatment, the poison of which had been a slave to him for four years, completely ruining himself physically and mentally; after which he had fallen in love with the wife of George Harrison, his best friend, and had taken her away from him; he was also still in shock over the sudden death of guitarist Duane Allman, another close friend of his: the group he had shared with him, Derek and the Dominoes, had fallen apart after the worldwide success of the album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” and Clapton was not sure what to do, not even from a musical point of view.

On the advice of his manager Robert Stigwood (yes, the one from “Saturday Night Fever”) Eric moved to Miami, where the address that gives the album its title was the Criteria Sound Studios. The sunny and friendly climate of the place helped to restore much of the serenity he had previously lost. With the help of the expert producer Tom Dowd the sessions
They went off without a hitch; Dowd encouraged him to just do what he liked without worrying about critics or audiences, and little by little Clapton regained his desire to have fun.

The album’s optimistic and sunny tone shows us a man finally free from the oppressive weight of his past (Yardbirds,
Cream, Blind Faith, etc.). Clapton sings and plays with relaxation and feeling, drawing from his perennial musical loves such as Robert Johnson (“Steady Rollin’ Man”) Elmore James (“I Can’t Hold Out”) and Johnny Otis (“Willie and the Hand Jive”), recovering the traditional “Motherless Children” and giving it a surprising rock rhythmic charge, writing some of his most beautiful songs.
(“Let It Grow”, “Get Ready”, “Give Me Strength”) and performing a piece composed by a then completely unknown Jamaican author, a certain Bob Marley, that someone had made him listen to in Miami.

His version of “I Shot the Sheriff” was a worldwide hit, sending the album to the top of the charts, restoring Clapton’s confidence and ushering in a new phase of his career. Other excellent albums followed, but “461 Ocean Boulevard” radiates an amount of enthusiasm that is still infectious today, perhaps the likes of which Clapton has never achieved again.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical subjects.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: Un disco per ogni giorno dell’anno” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.