Procol Harum

the Pale

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From the Clapton book by Ray Coleman

Brooker : part four

Pages 299-300

The 1970s had provided a turbulent but rich harvest for Clapton the musician. But at the end of the decade, his survival instinct told him there was a need for change. He said goodbye to the American musicians and replaced them with some of Britain's most respected players: session men Henry Spinetti (drums) and Dave Markee (bass), Gary Brooker on keyboards, and Chris Stainton (keyboards).

The new band's formation coincided with Eric's hard-drinking period but even through his bleariest alcoholic haze, Clapton knew that while he liked all the men individually, and they deserved no individual criticism. They rarely united with him to form a 'happening' band. And as a complement for his own work, they were bereft of blues feeling.

The first 'British' album was the live Just One Night, recorded at the famous Budokan in Tokyo. The sound of thousands of young Japanese chanting Eric's name made for a great atmosphere, and the sort of welcome Eric has grown to love from that country. ‘Lay Down Sally' was as contagious as ever, with Eric's playing carrying stacks of gusto, and Albert Lee broke out on 'If I Don't Be There By Morning', along with some great keyboard work from Stainton on 'Worried Life Blues'. A devastating solo by Eric on 'Blues Power’, one of his most descriptive songs, was followed by ‘Ramblin' on My Mind', a tremendous version of ‘Cocaine', with the crowd chanting the chorus and ‘Further Up the Road’. By now, Eric's voice had matured into a rich, bluesy and natural instrument; his rendition of Sleepy John Estes's ‘Floating Bridge' on the follow-up album, Another Ticket, was exceptional, as was most of his vocal work from then on. This was the first and, as it turned out, the only studio album from the all-British band. It was competent but disappointing: ‘I Can't Stand It’ and the meaningful title track were strong enough and Eric excelled on a Muddy Waters song, ‘Blow Wind Blow’. It was a craftsmanlike album but lacked personality. Deep personal change was imminent for Eric: Another Ticket as a title was a tongue-in-cheek jibe at a friend who was constantly asking for ‘another ticket’ for his concerts. As a pointer to Eric’s future, the phrase was just as ominous.

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