I recently was given an early DTS surround sound disc of a pretty much overlooked Eric Clapton album – There’s One In Every Crowd from 1975 — which turned out to be shockingly good. The album, Clapton’s third official solo effort, was not a smash hit, and following so closely on the heels of Clapton’s previous hit 461 Ocean Blvd, it’s easy to see why. But it did reach #21 on the Billboard charts, and even though you’ve probably never heard a single cut from the album unless you’re a hardcore Clapton fan, it’s still very much worth a listen.
The thing is, the album is one of those that you hear and then forget for the most part. I don’t think that’s the fault of the music, though. I think it has to do with the stereo mix, which just kinda sat there and, as I remembered, was kinda mushy sounding on vinyl.
Of course, the stereo mix probably isn’t as bad as I remember — the album was produced by Tom Dowd, for goodness’ sake! — and the songs really are pretty solid, even if there’s not a “Motherless Children” or “Willie and the Hand Jive” in the lineup.
But when I put on the DTS disc, I was pretty much floored by the way the music just opened up in the room, with loads of breathing space for the sweet slide guitar and reggae rhythms to pulsate and percolate around the room. Suddenly, this album that I’d tried to like for so many years — I’d gotten rid of at least three copies over the years — connected with my heart and soul as if I was hearing it for the first time.
In fact, I went out and found a good used copy of the album on vinyl this past weekend to hear if my memory had failed me. It hadn’t: the bass on the LP is really muted and overall the record sounds kinda murky. The snare drum sounds like there is a big wad of gauze on it. The mix is pretty inconsistent from track to track. The back up vocals on some tracks are louder than Clapton’s lead vocal.
In its defense, bluesy tracks like “Better Make it Through Now” sound really quite good on the vinyl. My favorite track on the album, “High” (buried almost at the end), is a great tune with a groovy-funk-lite reggae lilt that sounds like it was co-written with George Harrison (it wasn’t, but it has that signature slide guitar sound Harrison was perfecting around this period). The final track, “Opposites,” is downright majestic, a mini epic sailing into the sunset à la Layla (but lets be real, no one can expect Clapton to scale that peak again).
Getting back to the 20-bit DTS 5.1 mix of those tracks, the music really stretches its legs and escapes from the confines of the murky stereo. The drums are actually really nicely recorded and you can feel the smack of the sticks on the tom toms as they launch into bluesy reggae grooves. Percussion percolates in the rear surrounds, as do acoustic guitars and other rhythm elements. Each track on the surround mix seems to have its own vibe, making for an overall engaging listen. The vinyl, on the other hand, sounds pretty much the same all the way through, lending to a sort of blah feeling that really drags the music down.
The rather drab album artwork probably didn’t help matters much in terms of making this album a hit back in the day. But that was then and this is now, so if you like Clapton and have a surround sound system, you should pick up There’s One In Every Crowd. It’s going for less than $16 on Amazon, and at that price, you can’t lose on this one. Even if you’ve never loved the album — heck, even if you outright disliked it — the surround sound experience breathes new life into this forgotten gem.