Eric Clapton: in the company of J.J. Cale, Derek Trucks, Robert Cray and more

26th January 2017

Title: Live in San Diego

Label: Reprise

A 2CD live album that was recorded on 15 March 2007 in the Ipayone Center, San Diego as part of the Doyle & Derek World Tour.

The subheading for this CD says ‘With Special Guest JJ Cale’ and the great man does indeed appear on five of the tracks here. Apart from Cale, you should look out for Robert Cray, Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks. There’s plenty of familiar songs on this one including the blues-inspired Crossroads, Layla, Cocaine and Wonderful Tonight while Clapton is on fine form. Layla, for example, might feature a slightly soft edged guitar lead (instead the familiar crisp playing style of yore) but Clapton puts in lots of vocal effort to convey those famous lyrics while his female backing singers help him to reach the high notes.

I’m very happy with the mastering quality of this CD. Live performances are a real hit and miss affair at the best of times. Taken away from the careful control that can be administered within a studio environment, live concerts are sonic traps that foster unruly sound frequencies. You’ve got the often wide open space, all of the people, the raised stage doesn’t help (believe it or not), the sound system on stage…you name it. If a sound engineer is canny and skilled, as this one was, then you can trap the essence of a good concert: the energy, the passion, the feeling of running with the flow of the music. Hence, the dynamic reach of the upper mids gives a good account of itself here while bass is driving and hefty in terms of mass. Clapton’s vocals are clear and well delivered while the audience (always a dodgy element in live recordings) is noticeable, yes, but never swamps the music or intrudes upon the performance.