The house featured on the album cover was originally 461 Ocean Boulevard in the town of Golden Beach, Florida near Miami where Clapton lived while making the album. The number in the address of the house has since changed due to fans flocking to the property after the album's release.
In 2004, a remastered two-disc "deluxe edition" of 461 Ocean Boulevard was released. The second disc included in the packaging featured a live concert recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon. Disc One also has additional studio jam sessions.
When Clapton started recording at Criteria, he hired guest vocalist Yvonne Elliman and guitarist George Terry as full-time members of his group. During this time, Terry played the album Burnin' by Bob Marley and the Wailers, inspiring the band to record a cover version of the song "I Shot the Sheriff". Initially, Clapton did not want to release the song on 461 Ocean Boulevard; however, the other band members persuaded him to include it. The song was released as a single and became Clapton's only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls the studio album a "tighter, more focused outing that enables Clapton to stretch out instrumentally" and adds that the "pop concessions on the album [as well as] the sleek production [and] the concise running times don't detract from the rootsy origins of the material". Finishing his review, Erlewine notes, the 461 Ocean Boulevard "set the template for Clapton's 1970s albums". The critic awarded the release four and a half out of five possible stars. For the Blender magazine review of the album's 2004 deluxe edition, Jon Pareles called the Eric Clapton of the Cream-era superior to the Clapton of the 461 Ocean Boulevard-era, because of what Pareles describes as strained singing on 461 Ocean Boulevard. Pareles also described Clapton's remake of "I Shot the Sheriff" as a copy with no original arrangement; he also praised the song "Let It Grow", but criticized it for sounding too much like "Stairway to Heaven". Music critic Robert Christgau reviewed: "By opening the first side with 'Motherless Children' and closing it with 'I Shot the Sheriff', Clapton puts the rural repose of his laid-back-with-Leon music into a context of deprivation and conflict, adding bite to soft-spoken professions of need and faith that might otherwise smell faintly of the most rural of laid-back commodities, bullshit. And his honesty has its reward: better sex. The casual assurance you can hear now in his singing goes with the hip-twitching syncopation he brings to Robert Johnson's 'Steady Rolling Man' and Elmore James's 'I Can't Hold Out', and though the covers are what make this record memorable it's on 'Get Ready', written and sung with Yvonne Elliman, that his voice takes on a mellow, seductive intimacy he's never come close to before". The critics at Sputnikmusic notes, that after listening to the album, it seems to be "very easy to tell why Clapton is the God of the guitar", however thinks the "only weak part on this album is that Clapton tends to hide behind other musicians and writers. Of course it has the Clapton sound and is an excellent album, it just could’ve used more of his raw talent and writing. At the end of the day, this is still one of his best solo efforts". The music website awarded the album four out of five possible points, rating it "excellent".
Uncut magazine's journalist Nigel Williamson finds, that with 461 Ocean Boulevard, Clapton "rediscovered the primacy of music in his life". Critic Ryan Book from The Music Times likes the tracklisting very much and thinks that out of this studio album "climate comes out in Clapton's work ten tracks ranging from bright". Eduardo Rivadavia at Ultimate Classic Rock calls the release a "watershed solo LP" and notes the popularity of the album, stating it is a "wanted man". The journalist finished his review, calling the 461 Ocean Boulevard the album, in which Clapton's "incomparable talents and this inspired song set were finally captured". In 1974, journalist Ken Emerson at Rolling Stone called Clapton's guitar work unnotable and criticized Clapton for hiding behind his other musicians, whom Emerson deemed less than capable. Emerson also questioned Clapton's decision to play a dobro on the album, but called "Let It Grow" a highlight. Emerson also considered Clapton's re-arrangement of "Motherless Children" to be too upbeat for a somber song. Despite Emerson's unfavorable 1974 review, Rolling Stone placed the album at #409 on its 2012 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, showing its change of heart when it lauded Clapton's return from heroin addiction "with [this] disc of mellow, springy grooves minus guitar histrionics" as well as Clapton's paying tribute to Robert Johnson and Elmore James.