Receiving a copy of this newly remastered version of what is arguably Clapton’s most highly regarded solo offering was a bit of a shock: Not at the quality of the songs and the performances within, both of which has long since dissected, but that three and a half decades had passed since its initial release. Good heavens, I remember buying a vinyl copy the day it came out! Following on the heels of The Band lovefest No Reason to Cry this album has always occupied a curious place in the Clapton canon. While utilizing a decidedly American band, specifically the Tulsa trio of Carl Radle, Dick Sims, and Jamie Oldaker, the production by Glyn Johns is decidedly British. The resultant effort, organic country on one extreme and antiseptic pop on the other, has not aged well. Its three best known songs, J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine,” Clapton’s own sappy “Wonderful Tonight” and the striving for a radio hit “Lay Down Sally” suffer from both overexposure and dated production. On the other hand the deliriously mad “Next Time You See Her” and tasty “Peaches and Diesel” sound fresher than they did at the time.
The remastering doesn’t seem substantially different from the original mix, which leaves the added tracks as the primary reason for this edition. Four unreleased recordings, including a flaccid rendering Gordon Lightfoot’s “Looking at the Rain” are interesting but by no means essential while the live tracks aptly demonstrate the spark that Clapton and crew could bring to the stage but rarely the studio. Best of the lot are the rarely played “Steady Rolling Man” and a torrid “Tell the Truth.” The remaining numbers are fine but if one owns the second Crossroads boxed set that’s really all you need. Meaning if you lack either the original release of Slowhand or Crossroads Volume Two then snagging this is a must. But it’s hard to imagine any serious EC collector not owning those, making the anniversary release a curious thing indeed.