Eric Clapton - Steve Winwood
"Live From Madison Square Garden"
WEA Reprise Records

Blueswax 9
Rating 9

Much More Than A Blind Faith Reunion, (08/12/09)

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood Live From Madison Square Garden WEA Reprise Rating: 9 Much More Than a Blind Faith Reunion Over the last several years Eric Clapton has revisited his early days of recording with the reformation of Cream, a kind of/sort of version of Derek & the Dominos with Derek Trucks playing the part of Duane Allman, and last year Clapton's reconnection with Steve Winwood with flashbacks of Blind Faith. But not so fast. This is not just a Blind Faith reunion even though they cover four of the six songs from the one recording Blind Faith gave us. This live two-disc set also covers a lot more ground.

From the Blind Faith era we get "Had to Cry Today," "Presence of the Lord," "Well Alright," and "Can't Find My Way Home," but for my ears these versions are just okay. I prefer other tunes covered on this extremely exhilarating recording. As usual, Clapton surrounds himself with an all-star cast with not only Winwood who sings, plays keyboards, and guitar, but the great Willie Weeks is on bass, Chris Stainton on keys, and Ian Thomas pounds the drums.

The Clapton Winwood band roars through Buddy Miles' "Them Changes" where the band seems to be shot out of canon! Winwood's "Glad" from the John Barleycorn Must Die, Traffic collection is a delight, and it's wild to hear EC tear it up on this early '70s classic which originally had no guitarist on board. It's Blues time on Otis Rush's "Double Trouble," and Eric once again is in outstanding form, his solo breathtaking! From the Derek & the Dominos record the band revisits the Clapton-Bobby Whitlock penned "Tell the Truth" which exudes more deep Blues.

The second disc starts with JJ Cale's "After Midnight" originally covered by Clapton on his very first solo recording. Robert Johnson's "Rambling On My Mind" is needless to say another fine Blues performance. As expected, the wildest moments occur on Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" which was also covered by Derek & the Dominos, and Winwood contributes mightily on Jimi's "Voodoo Chile" which clocks in at a chunky sixteen-plus minutes. The last two tracks showcase a mighty version of Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Winwood's cover of Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy," and a anticlimactic "Cocaine" which is the second JJ Cale-authored tune included here.

Both Winwood and Clapton are in their sixties, but you'd never know it here, as these two Rock & Roll Hall of Famers still burn brightly. Their combined magic derives from their historic recorded body of work and from Winwood's vocals, keys, and guitar work that seemingly prod Clapton to loftier heights. It would be sweet if these two giants could start writing new material together, but for now this bluesy set is more than welcomed!

Note: There is also a DVD version of Live From Madison Square Garden that should be checked-out as

Bob Putignano: