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The Boxing Lesson

Box sets grow up and out

By Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Dec. 20, 2013

The Boxing Lesson

Eric Clapton

Give Me Strength: The '74/'75 Recordings (Polydor/UMe)

Beyond the Singer sewing machine needle stitching together this 5-CD/1-Blu-ray family-album-sized keepsake – Eric Clapton's piercing guitar – Give Me Strength: The '74/'75 Recordings ultimately underscores the singular genius of its archival overseer Bill Levenson. Compiler of Clapton's Crossroads, Crossroads 2, both Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs multi-disc sets, plus a Bible-sized listing of boxes, reissues, and greatest hits – Velvet Underground to Lucinda Williams – Levenson quilts together Slowhand's rebirth after the three-year heroin ordeal that followed the latter LP. 461 Ocean Boulevard, home to massive FM hits "I Shot the Sheriff," "Let It Grow," and "Mainline Florida," successor There's One in Every Crowd, and their live summation E.C. Was Here transform Clapton's early-Seventies surf-and-sandal epoch into a dizzying creative summit on the strength of two dozen outtakes and attendant sessions. "Eric After Hour Blues," Peter Tosh covers, and the doubling of the live LP – a previously unreleased midsection of "Crossroads," "I Shot the Sheriff," "Layla," and "Little Wing" now at the heart of it – heap atop a massive trove of Stratocaster spell-casting. Carlos Santana on a 23-minute lake-of-fire jam and a blustery Freddie King session in Florida reveal that even other guitar deities paid their six-string respects to God.

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