Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett assembled an all-star group of "friends" in 1969 for a weeklong tour of England, a legendary excursion that would produce On Tour With Eric Clapton, one of rock's most powerful and enduring live albums. Clocking in at a mere 40 minutes, the original left fans wanting more for decades. THE WAIT IS OVER - Rhino Handmade delivers with a four-disc deluxe reissue expanded with more than three hours of unreleased roof-raising, hickory-smoked rock 'n' soul. The set, which comes packaged in a mock road case, contains Delaney & Bonnie & Friends' complete performance at London's Royal Albert Hall, plus a composite of the next night's performances at Colston Hall in Bristol, and both the early and late shows from the tour's final stop at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. Along with the Bramletts, the touring band showcased on these discs includes guitarists Eric Clapton and Dave Mason, bassist Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon, organist Bobby Whitlock, Jim Price and Bobby Keys on horns, percussionist Tex Johnson, and singer Rita Coolidge.
This 42-minute, eight-song live album, cut at Croydon late in 1969, is not only the peak of Delaney & Bonnie's output, but also the nexus in the recording and performing careers of Eric Clapton and George Harrison. On Tour features Clapton performing the same blend of country, blues, and gospel that would characterize his own early solo ventures in 1970. He rises to the occasion with dazzling displays of virtuosity throughout, highlighted by a dizzying solo on "I Don't Want to Discuss," a long, languid part on "Only You Know and I Know," and searing, soulful lead on the beautifully harmonized "Coming Home." Vocally, Delaney & Bonnie were never better than they come off on this live set, and the 11-piece band sounds tighter musically than a lot of quartets that were working at the time, whether they're playing extended blues or ripping through a medley of Little Richard songs.
Although Bonnie Bramlett is a good blue-eyed soul singer, and gets backing by top Muscle Shoals session musicians on this 1976 album, you need more than a good singer and a good band to make a good record. You also need interesting material, and while most of the songs presented here are good, they're mostly well-traveled soul and R&B covers. It seemed to be a holding pattern album of sorts, Bramlett opting to record half of the album with guest vocalists, including Gregg Allman, Dobie Gray, Bobby Whitlock, and Mickey Thomas (the last of whom sang lead on Elvin Bishop's huge hit "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" around this time). Any one or two of these songs would have been okay as album filler, but they in fact fill up almost the entire album, and they don't match the originals or come at them from noteworthy angles. An exception, perhaps, is Bob Dylan's "Forever Young," given a full mid-'70s rock-with-horns arrangement; at least it wasn't a composition that was overly familiar or often interpreted.