Produced by: Prism Films
Narrated by: Thomas Arnold
As far back as I can remember I’ve been a Clapton fan. I Shot the Sheriff, Lay Down Sally, Tulsa Time, Wonderful Tonight, were part of the soundtrack of my youth. As I got older that appreciation just got deeper. He was an artist who was still putting out amazing material and had a killer back catalog to explore. It didn’t hurt that any style of music I was into at the time Clapton had something to offer. Heavy metal, blues, soul, rhythm and blues, pop Clapton covered all the bases.
While I was a fan of Clapton’s I was never really a student. I knew he got burned out on extended psychedelic jams with Cream and after an obsession with The Band started longing for a more organic, rootsy sound that paid more attention to the song than personalities. I knew that he had tried to hide himself as just a rhythm guitar player in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends but that must not have worked out that well because then there was Derek and the Dominoes. Then came the unrequited love of his close friend George Harrison’s wife which was largely responsible for the sublime Layla. I recollected vague notions of drug and alcohol abuse and totaled Ferraris. There was I Shot The Sheriff and his flirtation with reggae. But it was all just bullet points and I wasn’t that sure of any of it. So Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review was a perfect opportunity for me to graduate from just being a fan to actually being a student of Eric Clapton.
Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review picks up Clapton’s career in 1968 as Cream is winding down and it turns out I had a lot of the major facts right. It covers his flirtation with The Band and his joining up with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. There are interviews with Bonnie Bramlett, the Bonnie from Delaney and Bonnie and Friends and Bobby Whitlock who played with him in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends and later with Derek and The Dominos. Through interviews with Whitlock and producers and rock critics it covers the formation and dissolution of Derek and the Dominos and the recording of one of the greatest rock albums and tribute to unrequited love of all time, Layla.
Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review then moves us through how Clapton lost the next couple of years in an addiction to heroin. And how in 1973 Pete Townshend organized a comeback concert for Clapton that brought him out of the isolation of his Surrey mansion and begins his comeback. There are interviews with George Terry who played with Clapton when he emerged again as just Eric Clapton and released 461 Ocean Boulevard and how he moved on through the rest of the decade struggling with an alcohol problem but still managing to tour and release the amazing Slowhand and the critically disappointing Backless.
Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review doesn’t break any ground as far as documentary goes. It follows the standard formula of talking head interview, followed up by narrated stock footage. It makes up for the lack of originality though with quality. The interviews are with former band mates, producers and rock critics and they tell it as they see it. When Clapton was acting like a drunken fool they call him on it. When he makes some outrageous and probably racist comments at a concert they give him no slack. But it’s not a hit piece; it’s just not a puff piece either. One of the strengths of Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review is that it has the clips to back up the facts presented. In one interview a producer is complaining about a bass riff that Steven Stills badgered Clapton into tagging onto a song and then they cut to a clip with the bass riff playing and how for two measures you can hear the two separate bass lines. So many musical docs either don’t have the budget or access to play so much of the music that’s being covered Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review is a refreshing break from the norm in this respect. It’s a long doc, 151 minutes, but it is good coverage, none of it is filler.
The video is presented in widescreen format and the new interview footage is professional. I never noticed any digital artifacts such as moiré or blooming or other problems. The archival footage of course varies from excellent to poor, this is a documentary of course and sometimes you have to take whatever you can get, but it is what it is.
The audio is presented in stereo and the audio during the interview sections is perfectly fine. The audio of the archival footage like the video depends on the source and is mostly good. The narration is always clear and understandable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in a standard Amaray DVD case. The artwork and DVD menu are a little on the uninspired side, but serviceable. The only bonus features are biographies of the interviewees and some extended interview segments on the recording of Layla.
Overall (Not and Average) 7/10
Eric Clapton – The 1970s Review is journeyman (pun completely intended) effort. It doesn’t break any ground as a documentary but it’s a great way to learn about Eric Clapton’s career during the seventies.