Eric Clapton’s ‘24 Nights’ Dramatically Expanded Edition: Review

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Clapton at Royal Albert Hall, 1991 (Photo: Carl Studna; used with permission)

Eric Clapton’s 24 Nights, which appeared in 1991, culled 15 superlative performances from a series of concerts that year and in 1990 at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall, where he has appeared more than 200 times. The set clocked in at well over an hour and a half and filled two CDs, but that’s nothing compared with the new limited-edition The Definitive 24 Nights. This six-CD (or eight-LP), three Blu-ray box set, released June 23, 2023, adds nearly three dozen previously unreleased numbers for a total of 48 remastered audio tracks, plus video of all the material. It comes with a numbered lithograph and a 48-page, LP-sized hardcover book with abundant photos and extensive liner notes by journalist David Fricke.

The CDs—two each for rock, blues and orchestral material—have a total playing time of almost six hours. And the recordings are as star-studded as they are lengthy: band members and guest artists include Jimmie Vaughan, Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Leavell, Robert Cray, Phil Collins, Buddy Guy and Albert Collins.

The 18-track rock set culls material from throughout Clapton’s career, including his solo work (“Wonderful Tonight,” Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”) as well as his days with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (“All Your Love”), Cream (“White Room,” “Sunshine of Your Love”), Blind Faith (Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”) and Derek and the Dominos (“Layla”).

The 14-track blues set also draws on the Derek and the Dominos repertoire for Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway” and Billy Myles’ “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and additionally offers such classics as Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby,” Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago,” Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Black Cat Bone,” Big Maceo Merriweather’s “Worried Life Blues” and “You Better Watch Yourself” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” both by Walter Jacobs (aka Little Walter).

Related: Our Album Rewind ofJohn Mayall’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton

The 15-song third program finds Clapton’s band backed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the famed late composer Michael Kamen. It includes different versions of some of the songs on the first two sets and a few other numbers. Among them: the spectacular, previously unreleased half-hour “Concerto for Guitar,” which Kamen wrote for Clapton.

That concerto is just one of many tracks in this collection where Clapton’s guitar work is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The sounds he draws from his instrument are on par with what Jimi Hendrix produced—in other words, incredible enough to make you understand what prompted graffiti purveyors to spray-paint “Clapton is God” on walls around London and New York in the sixties.

Also, while attention frequently focuses almost exclusively on his guitar work, this set offers plenty of reminders of what a fine vocalist Clapton can be. Just listen, for example, to his phrasing on “Wonderful Tonight,” one of two songs here that were inspired by his tumultuous marriage to Pattie Boyd, from whom he was divorced a couple of years before these shows. The other, of course, is “Layla,” which immediately follows “Wonderful Tonight” in the rock set.

The material on each pair of CDs is duplicated in concert videos on the three Blu-rays. It is worth noting that the three-decades-old films are not widescreen, though the producers compensate somewhat for that by frequently showing a pair of images side by side. Also, there’s no 5.1 surround-sound mix (except, apparently, in a version shown in theaters)—just a choice of stereo or Dolby Atmos, and you can’t fully benefit from the latter without compatible equipment.

No matter. The audio quality is excellent throughout and so are the performances.

Jeff Burger

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  1. Mark
    #1 Mark 3 August, 2023, 08:54

    I’ve always said that Eric is just as great a singer as he is a guitarist.

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