Thursday, 24 May 2012

Delaney and Bonnie- On Tour With Eric Clapton

Delaney and Bonnie were a duo who captured the vibrant mix of rock and soul music, blaring horns, sanctified vocals and a crisp musical setting. This hybrid is considered an anachronism these days, to some the music hasn't dated well but it feels like rock n soul is making a comeback especially with artists like Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi performing this style of music live. Delaney Bramlett hailed from Mississippi and began playing guitar in his youth, he headed to L.A in 1959 and began working as a session musician as well as releasing some unsuccessful solo singles. In 1964 he became part of the group the Shindogs which was the house band on the TV show Shindig, if you watch youtube you can see Delaney doing a version of Chuck Berry;s You Never Can Tell live on the show. Bonnie O'Farrell  had started singing at an early age becoming an enthusiastic devotee of gospel and rhythm and blues, she also gained fame as being the first white member of the Ikettes although I think her tenure was short lived. She relocated to L.A in 1967 and met Delaney at a gig in a bowling alley, they were married shortly thereafter. Their first album Home was released in 1969 on the Stax label but it gained little traction, having been released simultaneously with 27 other album as part of a Stax publicity stunt.

During the year the band toured the U.S as support act for Blind Faith and found an ardent supporter in Eric Clapton who regularly joined them on stage, through Clapton the duo were signed to Atco records and towards the end of 1969 they headed to Europe with a stellar line up of musicians. The line up included Jim Gordon on drums, Carl Radle on bass, Leon Russell and Bobby Whitlock on keyboards, Dave Mason on guitar, Jim Price and Bobby Keys as the horn section and Rita Coolidge on backing vocals. Eric Clapton joined them on the tour as did George Harrison for most of the U.K dates as well as the Scandinavian leg of the tour. A number of the shows were recorded for the album Delaney and Bonnie & Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton which features their performance at the Fairfield Hall in London. The funky stuttering Things Get Better features the classic syncopated drumming sound of Jim Gordon, truly an mazing drummer his sense of time and rhythmic accentuation was unparallelled amongst rock drummers. Having Eric Clapton, Dave Mason and Delaney on guitar contributes to that full body sound, everything meshes perfectly there aren't any meandering solos it's tight disciplined performances all round. Bonnie Bramlett has an amazing voice and in some ways this isn't allowed to shine on the album but her wailing and screaming vocals are simply amazing. Poor Elijah/Tribute to Johnson focuses more on the acoustic country blues style that Delaney was particularly partial to, even though there are drums present on this recording it still retains a stripped back feel. Delaney and Bonnie blend their voices together to convey the sense of injustice that faces the protagonist at every turn. A studio take of Dave Mason's Only you and I Know is also included on the album, not sure if a live version was performed during the tour and why it doesn't appear on the album. Delaney delivers a thumping version of Little Richards northern soul stomper I Don't Want To Discuss It. Bonnie is giving the chance to shine on the slow and sultry That's What My Man is For, the song has a familiar shuffle beat similar to Muddy Water's Hoochie Coochie Man. It's a surprise that Bonnie was never able to gain wider commercial success on her own as she possessed one of the more remarkable voices, she can belt out an R&B tune as good as any.

The highlight of the album is I'm Comin Home which became U.K Top 20 hit for the band, a story of tough times on the road and the singers desire to return home to his loved one. Delaney kicks it off with a bluesy groove that lays the foundation for Carl Radle to provide a funky repetitive bass line in the opening chorus, Radle was an underrated bass player his role in Eric Claptons early solo career is often overlooked. Bobby Keys is a master at those propulsive horn riffs just floating beautifully atop the musical landscape below. Anyone buying this album to hear Clapton histrionics will be disappointed, he was keen to stay in the background and merely add small tasteful runs where required. It's also hard to detect a dominating influence from Leon Russell on the keyboards but having a more integrated sound is what makes this album so good Definitely a must have classic album.

No comments:

Post a Comment