For a generation of baby boomers, that infamous graffiti painted on the decaying walls of a London building was the astute capitulation of the musical aspirations of radical youth in a radical time. “Clapton is god”, it said, and rightly so. The sixties was a revolutionary period of ambitious, idealistic change, and Clapton’s wailing guitar emanated such power that led on the pack. With a long and rich career spanning over four decades, he’s produced a prolific catalogue of material that deftly showcases his finesse and flawless execution. Slowhand still has a mighty following today, especially now that he’s gone back to his roots in the blues. Here are some gift ideas that will surely add a sparkle to the holidays for any Clapton fan:
The DVD Cream 2005: Live at the Royal Albert Hall is a gem. It’s a mix of performances from their Cream reunion concerts in London on May 2, 3, 5, and 6, 2005 and it’s a touching tribute to the world’s first ‘supergroup’. Cream was a trailblazer in their time, experimenting with unique jazz rock progressions and exploiting the power trio format with their infamous bouts of extensive soloing like no other group has done before them. Eric’s years with Cream were some of his best and most creative. And while Cream today has noticeably mellowed from the Cream of forty years ago, the band still shows why they’re the stuff of legends.
Of course, nothing beats seeing the legend live, in the flesh. Eric is in the middle of his World Tour after the release of his album Back Home in 2005 and the U.S. leg of his tour is over. He will be touring Asia till next year, but has added a final U.S. show slated for April 5, 2007 in Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI. If you haven’t caught his excellent touring band (featuring Doyle Bramhall II and the littlest Allman Brother on slide guitar, Derek Trucks) yet, then tickets to this concert finale will surely rock your holidays!
Eric’s years with Derek and the Dominos in the late 60’s combined his musical artistry with the unparalled playing of Duane Allman (of the Allman Brothers Band). They only produced one album together as a group, but its impact has been long and lasting. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos is an essential record for any Clapton fan. Lesser known is the release of Derek and the Dominos: Live At the Fillmore East. It’s a 2-CD audio release that captures some of the most enrapturing soloing and guitar playing between Clapton and Allman on October of 1970 in the now infamous Fillmore East concert hall of San Francisco. It’s a rare gem that certainly ranks as one of the best jam albums of all time, including previously unreleased tracks like Got To Get Better In A Little While and Let It Rain.
The Crossroads Box Set is a comprehensive compilation that spans selections of works from the different periods in Clapton’s long career. This box set is flawless in that it definitely showcases Clapton at his best, including the most memorable, impacting works from his time as a budding guitarist with the Yardbirds, his rock god status with 60’s supergroup Cream, his reclusive and poignant years with Derek and the Dominos, and some ravishing works from his solo career. It beautifully reveals Clapton’s growth and development as a guitar player through the years-a definitive collection that will only leave fans wanting for more.
The Crossroads Guitar Festival is a 2-DVD release that documents the guitar festival of the same name that Clapton organized in 2004 to benefit his Crossroads rehabilitation center in Antigua. It’s a huge and lengthy outdoor show reminiscent of Woodstock, but this time featuring some of the best guitarists of our time. Eric’s personal favorite would be his blues roots, and we are treated to the presence and playing of some of the blues legends of our time, including BB King and Buddy Guy. Hubert Sumlin is also featured, together with some of the younger generation of blues players like Robert Cray, Rupert Randolph and Jimmie Vaughan. Nothing beats watching some of the greatest artists of our time together onstage, trading licks and just having a good time. Other guitarists also figure, with a star-studded slate of JJ Cale, Steve Vai, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, and James Taylor, among others.
If money is no object, then no doubt the best gift for any Clapton fan-especially for guitarists-is an axe. A Fender Custom-Built Eric Clapton Stratocaster is part of Fender’s Artist Collection guitars, and this one features noiseless pickups and mid-boosted circuitry like Eric prefers in his personal guitar. It has a V-shaped neck and extended fretboard made to Eric’s specifications-very helpful if you want to capture Slowhand’s classic sound. It’s an exact replica by the folks who built Eric’s own personal guitar, so expect it to be nice for quite a price. It’s available from Fender Custom shops, Guitar Center or Musician’s Friend (online) and should set you back at least US $2000-a stunner of a present.
But that isn’t the coup yet. What should take it all is one of the 275 custom built replicas of Eric’s favorite axe Blackie made by the Fender Custom Shop for their Tribute series, to be sold starting November 24, 2006. Fender claims that each piece-down to the smallest details-is an exact replica of Blackie. Blackie is actually custom made by Eric from three different Fender strats-he took the parts he liked best from each and put them together. In 2004, the original was auctioned off for nearly $1M, part of Eric’s fundraising campaign for his Crossroads rehabilitation center in Antigua.
Any guitarist and fan will also surely delight in the DigiTech Eric Clapton Crossroads Pedal. It’s a fraction of a price (roughly US$200) compared to Eric’s signature guitars, and it contains seven of Eric’s trademark sounds as used in his classic tracks, including “Badge”, “Crossroads”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Layla”, “Lay Down Sally”, “Layla”-unplugged, and “Reptile”.
For those on a budget, you can get Eric Clapton shirts and gear from the online store on his official website. They even have a special edition Zippo lighter for sale! They have other neat items, including baseball caps, thermal mugs and different kinds of shirts that make for great presents without hurting your wallet.
The most important thing to remember is to get creative with your presents. Of course, you’d like to check out your loved one’s Clapton collection to see what they already have. Happy shopping!