Home Read Albums Of The Week: Eric Clapton | The Definitive 24 Nights

Albums Of The Week: Eric Clapton | The Definitive 24 Nights

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:The Royal Albert Hall is Eric Clapton’s home away from home in London. Since his debut at the historic venue with The Yardbirds in 1964, Clapton has performed there over 200 times (and counting), more than any other artist.

He also holds the record for the longest run of concerts at the venue. He set it in 1990 with 18 shows, then broke it the following year with 24 concerts. They were some of the most ambitious shows of Clapton’s career. Each night featured him performing a career-spanning set with one of three lineups — a rock band, a blues band, or an orchestra conducted by Michael Kamen, who previously worked with Clapton on the Lethal Weapon soundtracks.

To commemorate that record-setting run, Clapton released 24 Nights in 1991. The live album and video delivered great performances but only covered a fraction of what was filmed and recorded. That’s about to change. Warner Records is giving the concerts the release they deserve with The Definitive 24 Nights. This boxed set includes nearly six hours of music, and 35 unreleased performances. It distills Clapton’s 1990 and ’91 residencies using the best performances from the rock, blues, and orchestral nights to create full concerts for each genre. All the audio and video was painstakingly restored and upgraded by Clapton’s team of Simon Climie (audio production and mixing), producer Peter Worsley (Slowhand at 70), and director David Barnard (The Lady In The Balcony).

Photo by Carl Studna.

Clapton surrounded himself with superlative musicians for the performances on The Definitive 24 Nights. The roster includes greats like Johnnie Johnson, Jimmie Vaughan, Chuck Leavell, Phil Collins, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Nathan East, Greg Phillinganes, Steve Ferrone, Ray Cooper and Jerry Portnoy. For the rock concert, Clapton played many of his classic songs including Sunshine Of Your Love, Can’t Find My Way Home, Layla and Wonderful Tonight. A cover of Crossroads and a reggae version of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door with Phil Collins on drums are highlights. Clapton also featured several tracks from his most recent studio album (1989’s Journeyman), including the hits Pretending, Running On Faith and Bad Love.

With Clapton aided by special guests Buddy Guy, Albert Colins and Robert Cray, the blues concert delivered a master class in the genre with ripping versions of standards like Key To The Highway, Sweet Home Chicago, Black Cat Bone and Reconsider Baby. But the orchestral concert is the most unique of the collection. For those performances, Clapton’s nine-piece band was joined by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kamen. The collaboration resulted in stunning arrangements for Layla, White Room, Bell Bottom Blues, I Shot The Sheriff, Lay Down Sally and more.

The biggest highlight from the orchestral concert — and possibly the entire boxed set — is the previously unreleased 30-minute epic Concerto For Guitar. Kamen composed the piece especially for Clapton, and it made its live debut at Royal Albert Hall. In the set’s liner notes, music journalist David Fricke writes about the version included in the collection: “Near the halfway mark in this 1991 reading, (Clapton) takes off on guitar as if he has the rest of Cream at his heels — at once precisely melodic and jubilantly unhinged — as Kamen echoes that ferment in the strings and brass.”