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Eric Clapton

God Damn!

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert
461 Ocean Boulevard
There's One in Every Crowd
E.C. Was Here
No Reason to Cry
Just One Night
Another Ticket
Timepieces: The Best of Eric Clapton
Money and Cigarettes
Behind the Sun
Soundtrack From the Film "Homeboy"
24 Nights
Soundtrack From the Film "Rush"
From the Cradle
Cream of Clapton
Riding with the King (with B.B. King)
One More Car, One More Rider
Me and Mr. Johnson

The Facts: Original British guitar legend Eric Clapton began his solo career in 1970, over a year since the breakup of psychedelic blooze boogie bonanza band Cream in 1968 and the sorta lame supergroup Blind Faith the year before. He recorded one album that year with the Delaney and Bonnie (And Friends) Band, the totally non-originally titled Eric Clapton, then proceeded to steal the rhythm section for his Derek and the Dominoes project later that year (Reviewed Really Well Elsewhere On Prindle’s Site!) Then he got good and hooked on jungle jizz and took a couple of years to get his ass outta his bathroom. In 1973, he was forcibly extracted from the house and put on stage for a few concerts to remind people he hadn’t yet left this mortal coil, and returned the next year to begin his solo career in earnest (though not with Ernest. Uber-comic and acting extraordinaire Jim Varney was not a member of the band no matter how successfully his down-home demeanor would have meshed with the Okie country music Eric was playing at that point.)

The Opinion: It’s hard to say exactly why Eric Clapton’s reputation has managed to raise so darn high. Yeah, he’s a fine guitar player of blues and such, but so are Buddy Guy and Albert King and no one gives a half a wop bedfart about them. Post-Dominoes, Eric rarely achieved the instrumental chocolatey goodness that would earn him a place next to a Stevie Ray Vaughn or even a Jerry Garcia. He just quit playing very much, plain and simple. When I don’t play much guitar, my albums sound fine (because I suck). When Eric Flapjack decides HE’s too cool to play much, his albums suck. His voice is only passable, his song writing very inconsistent. Is he trying to be a bluesman? AOR? MOR? GWAR?  He is, though, still a Mexican of a good live performer (who hasn’t released a live album worth Jm J. Bullocks, but that’s not so important).

The Point: Eazy-E is now at the level of Classic Rock titan-hood that guarantees the repetition of his hits 50 billion times a day on radio, unending respect, and the following of hordes of rabid fans (hell, most of them are old so maybe ‘disgruntled’ would be a better word than ‘rabid’). Peruse your local record store under the ‘Clapton, E’ section and you’ll likely be quite disappointed, however. Beyond the well known slick product that sold millions (Unplugged) and the never-ending series of compilations, you’ll find, well, a load of mediocre, underwritten, underplayed crap. Seems our Mr. Clapton has a problem with figuring out just who the hell he wants to be. But, Hey! It can’t all be boring AOR nutsack or artificial attempts at ‘rootsiness’, can it? No, but damn clitioris! So let’s slog our way through and find some albums Mr. Slowhand didn’t just toss off, shall we? And let the flames begin, mouth-breathers!

Eric Clapton - Polydor 1970.

What a fine howdy do! Clapton joined funky chicken soul/blues honkies Delaney and Bonnie for a tour (hazily remembered by the live album Delaney and Bonnie and Friends On Tour [Featuring Eric Clapton]…whew!) and realized, quite rightly, what a damn fine funky chicken rhythm section they had. After the decidedly non-funky chickenness of having Ginger Baker as your drummer, (paradiddles and 15 minute drum solos not necessarily, you know, giving up the funk), this was a heck of a step up. He ran them right over to the studio, plugged in his new Stratocaster (he was using the much more hairy chested Gibson before that), and played some pretty cool boogie music. They got horns, lotsa groovy keyboards, background singers…and a hardcore drummer and bassist to play over. It sounds like he’s playing with Sly and the Family Stone. It’s quite obvious he was happy as a pig in slop to be playing with these soulful, gospel-y home boys, and it shows in a darn fun album to listen to.

‘Slunky’ the instrumental, has cool echoey Clap guitar, ‘Lonesome and a Long Way From Home’ is simply funky butt, the acoustic ‘Easy Now’ is prettier than a pretty thing, and fast. ‘Blues Power’ has more of your funky soul blues fix…

For a first solo album, this one’s real good, but I’m sure folks was a little freaked by the, well, Lack of Eric Factor. You won’t find too many Cream-style Marshall-stackified fuzzy jams on here. His playing is much, well, funkier. Lots of wah wah. He solos concisely over his groovy background, like he gives a damn about the song structure. He energetic singing, especially with the background singers, is a hell of a lot better than it would be on later records. The songs, well I can’t really find a bummer in the bunch (except ‘Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me’), and they all choogle along at a nice pace. You like ‘After Midnight’? Darn tootin you do, you little Fine Music Fan, you. Think maybe a lesser version of Layla without the heartache, Duane Allman, or the instant classics might be coo? Sho ‘nuff, soul sista! I’m a gonna give this a 9, because it’s his most enjoyable solo album.

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Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert - Polydor 1974.

This was a musical event? How starved were we for decent entertainment in the early 70's that this sludgy, snail's-paced comeback concert was considered to be something to remember, much less inscribe on vinyl for immortality? I guess when you've got Big Stars of the likes of Pete Townshend, Ron Wood, and Stevie Winwood right there on the packaging, people can be pretty forgiving.  Throw in the fact that these were culled from some of EC's first public performances since he started riding the white pony back in 1971 and people get downright mystical about the damned thing.  Well, I'm here to tell you...the Rainbow Concert's just about as interesting as any Cream live album you care to mention, and if that doesn't ignite little warning bells for ya, then get on down to the record pusher and buy this fucker'll love it.  Idiot.  But for the rest of the folks out there who don't necessarily equate 'Eric Clapton guitar solo' with 'a good way to spend 20 minutes' without additional evidence, the Rainbow Concert's a mixed bag.  As a matter of full disclosure, the version I have is the original issue 35-minute butchered version that's supposedly far inferior to the recent double-disc reissue, but I can't say I necessarily agree with this logic.  If I think that this one is long-winded and dangerously low on octane, what would I want with two discs of this shit?  Listen, I'm not knocking these songs one bit ...I've always thought 'Badge', 'Presence of the Lord', 'After Midnight', and the cover of 'Little Wing' to be some of the best things Clapton's ever been involved with in their original studio incarnations.  I also like Traffic's 'Pearly Queen' just fine, so judging by this logic I should be rolling on the floor in Clap ecstasy, but it just ain't happenin'. Now, I've heard many a decent take on 'After Midnight' and a mighty fine version of 'Badge' done on the man's 2001 concert tour, so I know this stuff can be done right with the correct levels of chemistry, energy, and rehearsal time. This band simply strikes out on all three counts.  They may have 'names', but the minute I hear Clapton's solo-happy twang butt up against an unholy stew of Pete Townshend's raucous open chording and Ron Wood's nasty whiteboy funk Richard-isms I can't help but hold my head between my knees and chirp 'yipes!' Neither Clapton or Townshend historically spent much time playing with other guitarists (Paul Samwell-Smith wasn't much of a foil for Eric in the Yardbirds, and while Entwistle may play the melody a lot of the time, Pete still has to fill in all of the 'spaces' with a lot of Big Playing.  The spaces...lo and behold...are already filled up here). Even Woody was used to playing solo six-string in the Faces before the Japanese guy joined around this time.  What does it all add up to? Much less than the sum of its parts, that's for sure. Everyone (except Clap) underplays so as not to step on anyone's toes, but since everyone is distorted from here to the Yukon Territory, much of the time the guitars are just a giant, undifferentiated slag of early 70's heaviness. It's up to Eric to keep things interesting by laying out some of his patented rippin' solo action, but the sad news is that he's really just not able to hack it consistently, not to mention failing to come close to the levels he was able to reach during his High Heroin Derek and the Dominoes shows of 1971 and 1972.

The rhythm section isn't much help, as they really aren't up to the task of keeping things on the level. Everything is always dependent on a steady beat foundation, and when you ain't got that, you may as well pack up and go home. The drumming by Trafficman Jim Capaldiis roundly weak, and because this stuff deserves the skills of a Charlie Watts or a Ginger Baker, or at the very least a Denny Jones or Ringo Starr, the tentative playing on display here sticks out like Rush Limbaugh at a Medeski, Martin, and Wood concert. Bassist Rich Grech has never proved himself to be much more than fiercely adequate on bass, and Steve Winwood's keyboards are more often than not completely inaudible.  Add in some truly wretched recording quality and you have a recipe for a bland porridge of faintly-rocking sludge. 

Okay, so sections of this concert are admittedly cool, such as Clap's solo on 'Roll it Over' or the famous wah-wah double-time section of Blind Faith's 'Presence of the Lord', or most if not all of 'Little Wing', but the moments are fleeting and few. I really feel uncomfortable knocking this album too hard, considering I truly like just about everyone involved other than the rhythm section players and generally like the songs performed, but the truth is that this was nothing more than Eric Clapton's friends helping him find his sea-legs again after a long absence spent jabbing poppy-juice into his veins. After he shook out the cobwebs musically, he found that the loud, blues and gospel-based distortorock he'd been playing for several years wasn't cutting it for him artistically anymore.  He'd soon retreat into wiry, scritchy Tulsa country-blues and watered-down reggae and essentially waste the remainder of the decade trying to run from his past before wasting the following decade forgetting who he ever was. Should Eric Clapton have ever come back from his post-Derek depression? I'll leave that up to you, loyal reader, to decide.  All I'm sayin' is that the Rainbow Concerts made Eric Clapton look back to his past and realize it was gone forever, and it's not really essential to hear the results.

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Bob English Your Rating:C-
The original single lp always sounded like it was mixed using a Close'n'Play record player and a mono tape deck with a microphone (remember doing that when you were a kid?). I bought the re-issue CD. It's been re-mastered and has additional tracks so I thought "what the hell". It ain't much better. It's an interesting historical document for the reasons aforementioned. EC used to be one of those artist that could shit in a paper bag and I'd be first in line to buy. Not anymore, he's gone soft in his old age.

Aditya Mukerji   Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I have the 14-track album. The backing band lives up to its star status.

1.Layla-Similar to the original. Clapton's in top vocal form here.
2.Badge-The definitive live "Badge". No attempts to introduce any lame twists.
3.Blues Power-Nothing great, the Fillmore version is superior.
4.Roll it over-This great song has Clapton going through the motions. Nice groovy bass though.
5.Little Wing-Vocals lack the Layla version’s edge; a more laid-back performance.
6.Bottle Of Red Wine-Pretty straightforward version; the backing vocals sound tentative and distant.
7.After Midnight-Sounds less "pop" than its studio counterpart. “Just One Night” has a truly rockin version.
8.Bell Bottom Blues-Clapton's voice is too tired to emulate his album vocals. Good backup by the band.
9.Presence Of the lord-Clapton sings soulfully here. The guitar solo is short and entertaining.
10.Tell the truth-Similar to the Fillmore version. This bouncy, album highlight is reduced to a bore.
11.Pearly Queen-True to the original Traffic hit. Sole occurence in Eric's catalogue.
12.Key To The Highway-A faster tempo helps make this more enjoyable than the original.
13.Let It Rain-One of the weaker songs; an ordinary performance to boot.
14.Crossroads-Clapton takes the middle path between the slow (Derek) and the super fast(Cream) versions.


461 Ocean Blvd. - Polydor 1974.

After Eric’s 1970-71 Derek and The Dominoes band and his 1971-3 ‘Smacked Out Tour of His House’, he came back without both the Persian Power Powder and most of his guitar fire. Our Favorite Fender is now twangy, undistorted, wiry in tone. This was a guitar revolution on par with Eddie Van Halen’s Great Tone Sellout of 1985. Remember those scorching jams on the Layla album? Well, Eric didn’t. You see, he felt like doing something laid back for a change, in keeping with his new older and less narcotic attitude. ‘Course, I can understand him dumping his old band considering they were all junkies, too. Good parts include ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ wherein his band gets laid-back funky, ‘Let It Grow’, wherein Clapton sings and plays all pretty, and, hell, ‘Mainline Florida’ is fairly cool. You also get a ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ that sounds like Eric had juuuusst one last fix for the road, a ‘Get Ready’ that’s even slower than that, and all in all the album seems to me to drag like a ’77 Nova towards the end. He then proceeded to recreate this record for the next 8-10 years of his career.

Far from being a classic, 461 Ocean Blvd is still pleasant and catchy, and if you like ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ you’ll probably dig the rest of it, too. If your pulse rate regularly rises above 50, however, you might find this as dull as watching old people file their taxes. But, at least Eric’s still trying on this one.

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Tony Souza     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: Still his best solo record, although Eric Clapton and From the Cradle come close. This is laid-back, but the songs are pleasant, not boring, even though he was still self-conscience about his singing voice. "Motherless Children" is a great opener and by far the fastest, most upbeat song (despite the lyrics) on the album. Great slide guitar playing on that one. "Let it Grow" is pretty as all get out and "Steady Rolling Man", "Mainline Florida" etc. are all also good. If there's a weak point on here, it's that the whole album does have kind of a muted feeling to it and Clapton whispers more than sings on some songs, but these are trivial complaints. At the time, this was said to be a "comeback" of some sorts and a fine comeback it is. 


Marty Holt     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Excellent stuff on this one. The only minor letdown is 'Willie and the Hand Jive', and thats actually ok, just a little boring. Really, its not a boring album, just slow a bit.


There's One in Every Crowd - Polydor 1975.

461 Ocean Boulevard II: The Crap Followup. Take 461, remove the decent covers, halfway okay songwriting, cool mood, and almost all of the guitar, and what do you have? This useless, slow, zero-calorie album. So laid back it’s a corpse. ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ as reggae? Okay, but at least try to make sure it won’t put you to sleep. Use a fucking test audience. Play it for your dog and see if he doesn’t crap on your carpet then run away. This whole thing is dull dull dull. Picks up the slightest bit towards the end, but won’t make you forget what a boring album this is. Eric’s guitar should be pictured on milk cartons, singing is lame, production is weak. Sucks the shit right outta my anus, right onto the spinning disc, thereby gumming up my laser lens with all sorts of sesame seeds, corn kernels, and various Monopoly game pieces I remember losing when I was 2 years old. Horrible.

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E.C. Was Here- Polydor 1975

His first solo live release (but golllly does he have a bunch of others before this with his various bands....ever hear Derek and the Dominoes Live? Don't bother.)  is a little blues-only album that sure isn’t up to the same snot as his 90’s blues-only nosepickers. Two Blind Faith songs (the two good ones), a hyperactive backup singer, a pretty hoarse voice, his well-known guitar sound, and completely different than anything else he released in the mid to late 70’s. He really should only ever play blues music, you know? Boogedy Woogedy. Not very exciting unless blues makes you ejaculate in your undergarments.

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No Reason to Cry - Polydor 1976.

I certainly didn’t rush to review this one. After There’s Crap in Every One I wasn’t expecting too much. Well, our boy’s cranked up the tempos, and there follows a corresponding drop in the suck quotient. He gets lots of help from some members of the Band instead of his usual group of lame-os. Just lookit that guest list! Ron Wood, Billy Preston, Georgie Fame (of ‘and the Blue Flames!’), Chris Jagger (Mick’s Bro! With Big Labia Lips! Make me wanna masturbate!). Well, so maybe that doesn’t turn you on quite so much as Duane Allman did. But Rick Danko wrote a few of the songs, and Dylan wrote and sings one, and it ain’t bad! But it sure sounds similar to something that would be on Planet Waves! ‘Double Trouble’ is damn fine electric blues!

Allright, I’ll cut out the exclamations. The record isn’t that good. That’s a raunchy bad backup singer on ‘Innocent Times’, right there. It’s Yvonne Elliman…didn’t she sing on the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack? If you see her, punch her in the gut for me. That Dylan song? That there’s Robbie Robertson’s guitar, not our hero. Also, Clapton only writes 4 out of the 11 tunes. He’s still singing like he eats a bowlful of Valium for breakfast. His biggest hits are covers, he’s not playing a lot of transcendent guitar, what exactly is this guy’s huge appeal at this point? His cool hat on the cover?

So we have ourselves a flawed piece of machinery here. It sure is better than There’s One Bunch of Crud but has too many problems to be anywhere close to being recommended as highly as 461. In my not-so-humble-or-I-wouldn’t-be-submitting-reviews opinion, it’s sort of a hoot. A low low low 7.  Fun, and a lot more energetic than anything since Clapton I. If you really dig Dylan and the Band, grab it.

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Slowhand - Polydor 1977.

I guess someone broke the news to our boy that no one liked his last two studio albums because he obviously tried extra hard on Slowhand. This here record’s extry well loved by the average Joe Spit Bucket because of its inclusion of the powerhouse hit bonanzas ‘Cocaine’, ‘Lay Down Sally’, and the proto-horrorcore white gangsta rap classic ‘Wonderful Tonight’. I’m sure you’ve heard those, but if you haven’t, well, they’re all laiiiiid back. ‘Cocaine’ is a cool, burny little J.J. Cale song about the one drug Eric didn’t get totally addicted to (as far as I know he didn’t, anyway. What do I look like? His biographer?) ‘Lay Down Sally’ is downright country music (moronically catchy!) and about as exciting as watching old people fax….then you have the cultural phenomenon known as ‘Wonderful Tonight’.

‘Wonderful Tonight’ is either one of the worst ‘classic’ songs ever put to paper (my vote), or a stroke of genius on the level of ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles. Its slow, the melody is dumb and sentimental, the little solo bit is cloying, and the words…the words. He talks about going to a party with his woman, going home, falling asleep…all the while telling how Wonderful his girl is Tonight. He even uses the awful phrase ‘The love light in your eyes’, like he’s talking about the little stars that used to blink whenever Davy Jones met some chick on the old Monkees show. But, despite all that, it’s powerful stuff. Women, almost all women, dig the shit outta this shit. Not to give away the game too much, but one time in college I learned how to play this song (badly) on my guitar and promptly got laid by some strange chick that night. Played it again some weeks later and promptly bagged the girl who later turned out to be my wifey. Be careful with this one. Handle with care. That kind of thing NEVER happened any of the fucking times I played Neil Young’s ‘Down By the River’ for a girl.

Problem is, after those three gooduns you get two pieces of shite to finish the side. The rest of the album? Welly well, ‘The Core’ that leads off side two is durn rockin’ for Eric and makes me groove around in my chair. But at nearly 9 minutes it’s a bit too much of a good thing. ‘Mean Old Frisco’ is just another blooze. ‘Peaches and Diesel’ is sorta pretty and I dig it, but it ain’t no ‘Let it Grow’.  But hey, its an Eric Clapton album, so anything catchy sticks out like a pus-filled ingrown thumb wound such as I have…look!

Verdict: It definitely has some of Eric Clapton’s best songs on it. I wouldn’t want to be without ‘Cocaine’ or ‘The Core’ or ‘Peaches and Diesel’ in my record collection, but the rest can go jump off a cliff as far as I’m concerned. So, we’re talkin’ 3 classics, 3 decent tunes, and 3 losers. That’s batting about a high B, I guess.

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Backless - Polydor 1978.

'S got ‘Tulsa Time’ on it, rockin’ town that it is. I guess I should have mentioned the Oklahoma connection before now. See, Eric’s idea on these 70’s albums was to make them sound like Okie country boogie music that had captured his imagination so strangely. That’s what all that laid back J.J. Cale business was all about. And Cale’s tunes were some of the best and most popular that Clapton performed in the 70’s (‘After Midnight’, ‘Cocaine’). This one is firmly Oklahoma from beginning to end.

Enough of the lesson. Backless is Slowhand II, or alternately 461 Ocean Boulevard 4 ½ (I can’t really count all of Cry ‘cause it was so Band-ized). Listen, this isn’t an AC/DC sort of thing where an artist releases extremely similar but remarkably high-quality records. Eric’s records were similar at this point, but consistently is very much not the name of the game. This record has the same sound as Slowhand but none of the tunes. It’s filled to brimming with the type of cruddy tracks that made Slowhand almost suck. Dude, ‘Promises’ was a hit? What a fucking dull song! Plus, Clapton’s songs are some of the worst on here. But, it does have ‘Tulsa Time’ which is just fine. Still totally laid back and totally boring. [Insert WAV file of me snoring percussively here.]

Hey, notice somethin’ else up in here! His debut and No Greasy French Fries being exceptions, Eric releases one decent studio album in a particular style, then a complete load of excrement for a followup in the exact same style. Guy never could put two decent studio albums out in a row! Still can’t!

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Just One Night - Polydor 1980

Concert album that carries the dubious honor of being the best representation yet of an everyday electric Eric Clapton live show. Mind you…this is far from being barn-burning stuff. It’s got such hellraisers and toe-tappers as ‘All Our Past Times’ from the timeless classic No Reason to Cry and ‘Lay Down Sally’. Hey, no Cream, no Derek and the Dominoes, just all the fave raves canned since 1974. He's got himself a fresh group of Brit musicians and finally fired all those stiffs in his old band. But, with all that, it’s really fine. Some of the blues stuff is great, and generally it sounds like Clap and the Gang are having a good time. And at this point in his career, this is about as high-energy as the well-sloshed Clapton got.

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David S     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: "Worried Life Blues" is the best thing on this record. Not only for EC's very soulful playing & singing, it's a real showcase for his band & how they play off each other. The rest of it is pretty good too. "Blues Power" has a great wah-wah solo that seems to last forever. It's far better than the studio version or from the Rainbow set. All in all, this is good, sometimes great, Clapton. If only "Layla" or "White Room" was included... but I recommend it highly anyway.


Another Ticket - Polydor 1981.

Release an album titled like that that ain’t live and yer askin’ fer a butt whuppin, shmart guy! This was done at a particularly harrowing time of life for our boy, what with alcoholic collapse and being told to rerecord the finished album with a new producer by a record company that isn’t going to promote you worth a damn because it’s your last album with them. Bum deal. Like being told to mop the toilet at McDonald’s a second time because you just didn’t get all the pubes up the first time. E’s got himself a new band of 100% limeys, including the guy from Procul Harum on keys. Dude, and it’s got the fanny-tastic laid back boogie classic ‘I Can’t Stand It’, my Dad’s favorite song in the world, on it, so it can’t be bad!

And it ain’t, brothers and sisters! E’s new band seems to inject some life into the whole deal. Even the slow songs go somewhere (e.g. ‘Another Ticket’). The rockers rock much better (‘Catch Me If You Can, ‘Ain’t Going Down’), the country songs move (‘Hold Me Lord’ is generic, but I like it!), and Eric’s voice even sounds cooler. It’s no Anna Kournikova's butt, but it’s solidly good. I say its light years better than Backless or No Reason to Cry, and even better overall than Slowhand.

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Timepieces: The Best of Eric Clapton - Polydor 1982.

This here's a collection of his 70’s hits, of which there were a few. Compilations really make a lot of sense for this guy. "I Shot the Sheriff," "After Midnight," "Wonderful Tonight,” Derek and the Dominoes’ "Layla," and "Cocaine". Good stuff, huh? But you also get ‘Let it Grow’, which rules. But you also get a load of doggie doo on side 2 like ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ and ‘Promises’…what the fuck is up with that? Still, it allows you to forget most of his 70’s albums altogether, so it’s an excellent value in that way. Fuck value and buy Crossroads instead. Or at least Cream of Clapton. It’s got ‘I Can’t Stand It’ AND ‘Let it Rain’ too.

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Money and Cigarettes - Duck 1983.

Name me a real good album by a classic rocker that came out in 1983. U2 and REM don’t count. Look…I was gonna cut Clapton a little slack here, but this pisses me off too much. So ‘I’ve Got a Rock n Roll Heart’ sucks nads. So does his remake of Jimi Hendrix’s cover of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ called, well, something lame. So does the opener. So does ‘Man Overboard’ Sucks nads. Hairy, sweaty, stinking, plumber nuts. Should I go on? The album and band sound like Another Ticket, but the songs, ooh. Really bad. Lyrics are horrible. Melodies are just preschool. Man, this sounds like the Saturday Night Live Band with G.E. Smith or something. How much more do you want me to go on? It makes me wish I hadn’t listened to it, and I recommend you don’t. It gets slightly better at the end, but not even to the level of Another Ticket’s cruddier songs. Get the point? The pattern continues.

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Behind the Sun - Reprise 1985.

Eric starts selling out seriously on this one. Phil Collins, of all people, is the producer. It shows. In come the pop songs, syn drums, synths, hordes of background singers, and Miami Vice-esque ‘dramatic’ guitar solos with shitloads of echo up in that bitch. Out goes the laid back shit he’d been doing since 461. His record company made him put on some ‘sure fire hits’ by outside writers, and generally, you know, told Eric his songs sucked. Guess what? It’s a whole lot better of a listen than Money and Sigourney Weavers was. Songs you may have heard are ‘She’s Waiting’ and ‘Forever Man’, both of which will make you think of pink t-shirts under white linen sport coats, no socks and coke vials on neck chains. You may have also heard ‘Knock On Wood’. Dude! I know that! That song was on my sisters K-Tel High Energy Disco LP, Copyright 1979! By some chick with a name like Aimii or something. Well, Eric’s version totally blows. Got a couple of dull 6 minute tracks at the end, too.

Listen, if you like Phil Collins or similar-era Pink Floyd, you might dig this, Big 80’s-style. It’s not boring, but it’s corny as Nebraska.

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August - Reprise 1986

Eric reaches new depths of bad with August. Really really awful. Behind the Sun lowered in quality about 50%. ‘Its In the Way That You Use It’ was the single, and it’s no great shakes, but Jesus does the album fall off from there. Even the cool cheesy Miami Vice groove and the over the top guitar solos are missing on this one. Its just all synths all the time, and bad ones. Let’s take a look at my notes, shall we?

‘Bad influence’: Huey Lewis & News

#3 With Tina Turner…Tina does this shit OK, E cant

#5 Unconscionably Bad. Obvious Phil Collins was on his way down at this time.

#6 sounds like ‘Breakin II Electric Boogaloo’…horrible synth dance bullshit

Hold on – cool drums, then shitsville

#9 Miss You – Not Stones. More guitar, but too little too late.

So bad I felt physically ill during a large portion of this record. It’s not that its dated, or 80’s, or whatever, it’s simply terrible.

I feel like Eric Clapton has stolen a part of my life that I’ll never get back again with this record, so I’m going to take this opportunity to rip him some more. Listen, this guy is so respected for his guitar playing, but Jesus…he didn’t release a decent guitar album from 1974 until 1989!  And that’s if you count Journeyman, which I’m charitable enough to fucking do. I mean…he didn’t even really make too many rock n roll albums during that time. He made fucking boring Tulsa records, then this 80’s dreck. What a fool. What an overrated fool. I mean, even Jeff frigging Beck wouldn’t lower himself to something like this. Even at Jimmy Page’s worst, the Firm was 10 times better than most of E.C.’s records.

Sorry, but August is so bad I got truly pissed off for a second. Better now…ready to review….

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Crossroads - Polygram 1988.

Now we’re talkin’. Almost forgot why the hell I spent the time to review the guy. Listen, I was able to buy all of Eric Clapton’s music on 3 MP3-loaded CD-ROMs for less than $6 total, but I live in Russia so I’m lucky. What I would recommend to you is to find this box set used unless you feel like buying a bunch of CD’s you probably won’t be too happy with. Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Delaney and Bonnie, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes. Sound good to you? Yeah. And a bunch of 70’s solo stuff, much less from the 80’s, as if he realized most of that was shit. And a load of unreleased tracks that make it worthwhile. Some live, some second versions, even some of the smacked out Layla followup album. This is really perfect and you should buy it. There’s really not too much else you need to buy other than this.

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Soundtrack From the Film "Homeboy" - Virgin 1989.

Soundtrack noodlings from Mr. Guitar, and Mr. Cheesy Bass Nathan East, and Mr. ‘I Wanna Be a Classical Music Heavy Metal Deviant Sex Slave’ Michael Kamen. Only for those who totally missed Eric’s guitar for the last, oh, 10 years or so. ‘Country Bikin’ sounds just like Rush. Some cool noises come on for about a minute, maybe something rocks for a few seconds, then it stops cold. Soundtrack music! Who loves ya? Not me! My friend Jeb does, though. You should see all the fucking soundtracks he’s got. Of course, he buys albums just because they have an attractive chick in the video (remember Poe? know he bought that one.) There aren’t any songs other than a couple of other artist’s songs (Magic Sam who's coo, The Brakes...who SUCK!), but who cares? For fans of heavily reverbed guitar licks without, you know…all that rhythm and melody and harmony and lyrics and structure that usually just fuck everything up. Damn that western musical structure!

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Journeyman - Reprise 1989.

'What was he going to call it? Hack?’ – Robert Christgau

Love that quote. Sums up the disappointment most people have for this guy’s career. Whew…I was afraid this would be as bad as August but it’s not at all. Production is still slicker than snot, but what can you say? Bad Phil and the synths are gone, more or less. I sure heard a shitload of these songs on the radio. ‘Pretending’, ‘Bad Love’, and ‘No Alibis’ are his usual 80’s hits, up the alley of ‘She’s Waiting’ or something. Maybe better written and with more guitar.

Dude, our boy plays some blues! ‘Running on Faith’ is really good! Or maybe it’s just that I’m listening to these albums in order, one after another, and I’m so happy to return to something that resembles old school Clapton. But ‘Hard Times’ is actually soulful, like a B.B. King song. If he’d only have done more of this, ferchrissakes! Hey, hold on for a decade and he will! Even ‘Old Love’ is pretty cool.

The slick production does begin to wear down the enjoyment factor over the course of the record, though. Seems like E.C. falls victim to all of the trendy gimmicks in music and sound. (Besides disco. Thankfully he saved us from that one.) All albums from rock dinosaurs sounded like this in 1989-1992…a little too smooth, a little too artificial. It’s also about 3 songs too long. This album sounds very much like Robert Cray. This is his last studio album of (mostly) original material for some time and his last good one ever.

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24 Nights - Reprise 1991.

Hey! Another double CD concert album! Only got 13 songs total, so maybe it’s a ripoff. If you liked Journeyman, buy this. If you didn’t, well the lame Cream covers won’t make you feel like this is money well spent. Still slicker than an Italian's pocket comb, but in general not so bad. But, really, it’s a run-of-the-mill Eric Clapton live album featuring his 80’s work. What do you expect? Live at Leeds? It’s Alive? Crapton Comes Alive?

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Soundtrack From the Film "Rush" - Reprise 1992.

It’s got the original ‘Tears and Heaving’ on it so you know it sold lick hot cookies. And a long one sung by Mr. Buddy Guy that’s worth a listen. The rest of it is, y’know…Original Soundtrack Music so it’s a bunch of ‘edgy’ instrumental sounds or ‘suspenseful’ guitar noodles. Rent the movie and you get a free listen (and the flick ain’t too bad). Do you think this would be good to purchase? Maybe for a dollar. At least it’s not laid back or slick at all. Fuckin’ hate that noise.

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Unplugged - Reprise 1993.

Score a few points for Mr. Clapton. He managed to reestablish his stardom with a new generation, get a bunch of awards, sell a heap of records, and even gain back a bit of his reputation as an instrumentalist with this l’il ol live acoustic disc. He also succeeded in ushering in the trend of all those Unplugged albums that came out about 1994. Remember Nirvana’s? Paul McCartney’s? Arrested Development’s? Kiss’s? OK, so it’s safe to forget most of those.  It’s still pretty difficult though, considering his career inertia, to imagine Eric was able to do this at this point. He’s still ridin’ on the momentum of this one. And, honestly, the album itself is a hootenanny of a stinkin’ let it be, lemme tell ya.

Sho nuff, it has the live version of ‘Tears in Heaven’ that grabbed all those sympathy awards, and the totally raunchy remake of ‘Layla’ that I disapprove of highly, but jeez…the rest of it is killer! I never thought I’d want to hear ‘Old Love’ again, but here it is, and it’s only half boring. ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’? Yeah! Now yer talkin’! Eric is totally in his element playing these songs acoustically, and he actually is unplugged unlike most of the people on that damn show were. Listen, our guy is nothing but professional playing live (I actually wrote ‘lice’ and decided it would be funny to tell you about it).

Damn, cheeseslice! Buy it already, unless you’re totally against MOR blues played by an old guy. Or look in your old box of cassettes…there it is, next to the Extreme tape! I knew you had it! Everyone else does!

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From the Cradle - Reprise 1994.

So I’m sitting here trying to figure out what should get the high score. I’d feel real lame if I gave it to 461 or Unplugged…those don’t deserve it. And Eric Clapton…sheeeeit it’s fine crack cocaine, man, but it’s like he wasn’t even trying on that one. He was just simply better then. Then I realized…why not this one? Sure he didn’t write a damn thing on it, it’s all old blues covers, and he’s been playing blues like this since he told the Yardbirds to lick his lightsocket back in ’64. But have you heard it? It’s enough to make you love the blues…even if you aren’t a toothless ol’ southern colored man. Eric’s got TONE man! He’s playing himself a bigger, ‘semiacoustic’ guitar, one just like Messrs. BB King and Chuck Berry, and it sounds sooooo goooood. And his solos are really classic and concise and dramatic. The acoustic numbers are like really even better than that! And his singing is the best in his entire career. He loves playing and singing this stuff! It sounds like Brit Invasion stuff sometimes, 50’s blues albums others, and sorta modern in other places. It’s got harmonica like buttah, and I’m a big lover of harmonikers. Much more fun than that processed bullshit he’d been piling up on the kitchen table since round about 1983. It’s not even processed like most modern blues albums are. It’s well produced, but there ain’t much that ain’t authentic sounding on this. And aw man….I’m not a great big blues guy, but this stuff is killer. If I were a great big blues guy, I’d still love it, but I’d also want a big fatty in my fudgetunnel. Right now, I want a taco. It's been 15 months since I had one. No Taco Bells in Russia, y’all.

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The Cream of Clapton - Reprise 1995.

I guess they could never call it Clapton's Cream without risking Wal Mart.

Another compilation (this one’s ’66-’81), with some Cream and more Derek and the Dominoes, as well as finally ‘I Can’t Stand It’…can’t anyone hear the brilliance of that song? Fucking hell. ‘S got ‘Presence of the Lord’, too, so we can count Blind Faith in there, too. Dude, ‘Let it Rain’ and ‘Let it Grow’. Plus your ‘I Shit the Shirelles’ by Phil Spector, your ‘Cocaines’ and your ‘After Midnight’s by J.J. Walker (‘Dy-no-miiiiite!!!’) and all those other songs Eric had little part in writing. And it stops right before the really wretched 80’s shit begins. Sure beats the shit outta Timepieces. And it almost totally makes all of his 70’s solo albums obsolete unless you’re a fucking idiot. (‘Wow, dude, that ‘Promises’ roooolz! I’m gonna pick up ‘Backless’ right now and see what else kicks my ass on that one!’) . No it doesn’t have any rarities, but other than what’s on Crossroads, can you imagine how cruddy Eric Clapton’s outtakes are?

But, still, don’t be a fool. Buy the Crossroads box instead. I bet you can find it for about $35 used, instead of paying $17 for this one. And 3 more discs. Take my advice.

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Pilgrim - Reprise 1997.

'My Father’s Eyes’ was the pizza hut on this album, so the alarms should be going off at this point. Fooo. I thought he’d flushed trying to be laid back and/or ‘modern’ back in 1989, but this cheese manages to commit both of those deadly sins at the same time. You’d think after waiting around for 9 years for a new solo studio album he’d have come up with a better concept than

                            slow ‘serious’ AOR + shit techno beats = More Bucks For Me!

Now, I like a good techno album as much as the next tweaker and this is godawful on that front. Bad production. Lifeless sounds. I also like my albums fast or at least varied in tempo but this one just keeps plugging along at that molasses-dripping There’s One In My Butthole speed from 20 odd years back. And Eric trying to be all soulful with his singing, and using his guitar like a buoy whenever the album gets too bogged down in its lame repetitive beats and total lack of melody. Sad sad sad. Not a memorable track on here.

I just don’t have time for this and apparently not too many other people did either. It’s got some other radio hits on it (‘Pilgrim’ fer example), but damn. Stay away.

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Blues - Polygram 1999.

Responding to the runaway successes of E.C. Was Here and Homeboy, Eric’s ex-record company Polydor decided to release a 2 CD compilation set of his blooze from the bad ol’ 1970’s. This reeks of the corporate milking of Eric's money teat, don't it? I only have the first disc, which is all of the old crap from his albums. He used to appease his pre-sell out fans with one good ol’ blues song from each album, and this one sort of packs all those monsters together. The second disc is live, again. But, really, it wasn’t like he was a blues monster in those days. Remember all those laid back snoring albums? IF you’re a fanatic, buy it. I’m sure it’s fine. Me? I think I’ll stick with Cradle for my Eric blues fixes.

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Riding With the King (with B.B. King) - Reprise 2000.

It's pretty classy that you take the man you’ve been idolizing (and stealing from) for the last 35 years, a guy who you regularly outsell by ohhhhh, I dunno, 5 zillion to 1, a guy who has more authenticity in his morning farts than in your entire catalogue, and let him be on one of your albums. Let the guy make some bucks for once in 75 years. Charitable. Eric could’ve just released another shit pop album and fucked us over for another few million bucks. Listen. B.B. King has been at the top of his game, touring LAMF, releasing albums, generally being a legendary musician for so long we mortals forget about how important the guy is.

This album comes so close to being really great. It’s good, natch, but its still a big languid. A tad slow around the corners. A lot like that car on the cover there. See that? Shiny and classy and you know it’s well made but it’s not gonna drive like a Ferrari, you know. E’s and BB’s voices don’t mesh at all when they sing together, either. When they trade off its OK, so let’s qualify that bitch. The guitar playing is mostly by BB, but that’s fine. Eric’s sorta stepping back most of the time. And sometimes, rarely, it sounds a tad too slick and produced (for example, ‘I Wanna Be’ is a good song, but you know it would sound so much better if it were a bit rougher around the edges like on Cradle). Some real nice acoustic blues here and there, for a change of pace (‘Worried Life’). It also has ‘Key to the Highway’ in a version almost exactly as good as the one on Layla, but I happen to dislike the piss outta that jack stack barbecue. Maybe ‘cos the version on Layla’s so fucking long. Well, then, in that case it’s 10 times better on this one. The cover of the Four Tops’ ‘Hold On I’m Comin’ is about a million times funkier than anything on pieceashit Pilgrim was. One fine song.

I don’t wanna knock this blues stuff he’s doing too much, because Eric is good at it, and it’s really the only thing he’s still killer at. It’s light years more enjoyable than his (yech) pop albums. But the limitations of the blues form make listening to too many of these kinds of albums close to feeling like you’re dead. My advice? Pick up one of Eric’s blues releases (Blues, Cradle, Riding With the King) and forget the others. If you’re a blues fan, god forbid, I bet none of those will disappoint, so buy ‘em all. Forget E.C. Was Here unless you’re a big closet Blind Faith fan (yeah, you there, groping the pictures of the naked girls on your LP covers, you dirty bastard).

Hey man…it’s not transcendent, but it delivers what was advertised.

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Reptile - Warner 2001.

It may be nothing more than Hemorrhoid Rock, music for people who's age hovers just south of their golf score who can't stand the strain of accelerated tempos or abrasive guitar tones, but what's new about that?  Eric Clapton marks a sort of return to his early-90's Unplugged lounge-roots persona with Reptile, which sums up the preceding 10 years or so of his career in a scrubbed-down, buttoned-up package that soothes as it bores.  Man, with this Eric Craptown stuff, it's sure hard to nail down whether he's being intentionally laid back or simply flat-assed lazy, because he's damn near both at the same time and has been since the Nixon administration.  The least consolation is that on Reptile he's sticking with what works, more or less.  So what's the difference between what works and what doesn't? I guess we can count out some of the more desiccant possibilities - there's no reggae, no slick dance-pop, and a delightful lack of electronic dweeps and blurps.  Clapton prefers to stay in a sort of James Taylor-ish netherworld where Eric never met with amplification pioneer Jim Marshall and never cranked his double-stack to 11 and melted the faces of the first three or four rows of the Fillmore East audience back in 1968.  This album is all about the acoustic and the warm, welcoming clean guitar (which is most likely his big Gibson hollowbody, I'm willing to bet a kidney).  He's obviously attempting to recapture the considerable bit of chart attention this kind of music gained for him throughout the Nineties, which is understandable, but sometimes he skirts the edge of the abyss a bit too close.  'I Believe in Life' is a 'Change the World' soundalike, same jivey, jazzy groove, same toothless gnaw, same Hollywood-y positivity. Even when he gets dirty he sounds just as homey and brotherly as he does on the lame ballads, which is probably given to the fact that he's completely incapable raising his pulse rate anywhere north of 50 bpm for risk of massive brain hemorrhage. Even when he's in 'full burn' mode (the bizarrely unrocking 'I Ain't Gonna Stand For It'), he's leisurely at best, and the blues stuff is so slight you might as well call it softshoe ('Find Myself'). So, what's up? Is he simply continuing a long, sleepy tradition that started when he decided he wanted to be J.J. Cale back in the 70's? Is he actually lamer and more marginalized than usual? Or has he simply created an album with a consistent, unifying, optimistic feel and should be praised for his steady hand?

I say he's created a steady bit of hackwork that will no doubt delight his core fanbase of conservative aged Boomers who like Clapton because he's lighter and not as controversial as the Stones, not quite as much of a sellout as Phil Collins, less pussied out than Elton John or Sting, and not liable to eat a doggie bowl of his own feces onstage before picking a fight and showing everyone his vienna sausage-esque genetalia like G.G. Allin. See, Clapton's retained a level of reverence because, after all, he can still play his guitar, he sings okay, and he's got his blues tenure that no one can ever revoke.  And when you look at the big picture, he's really no more or less boring of a studio performer than he was thirty years ago...less so when you realise that his playing is completely audible all the time, and you couldn't even hear the man on There's One In Every Crowd. Now, one big difference between then and now is that while the likes of 461 Ocean Boulevard and Slowhand were veritable hit machines, there isn't a single track on Reptile that anyone's going to remember 6 months after its release.  No tour favorites, no Number Ones,  and the best track here is by good ol' J.J, Cale ('Travelin' Light'), with no input by Clapton.  Even Pilgrim had 'Father's Eyes', even as shitty as it was, get played every single night on his last tour. There's stuff I like here ('Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight' is a sweet soul ballad with some of Clapton's more affecting solos, 'Traveling Light' is sharp and efficient) but more often than not I'm bored out of my skull. The person that decided it was cool for Clapton to pull a Rod Stewart and attempt to croon on 'I Want a Little Girl' like he was Tony Bennett must have inside information I'm just not privvy to, because I'd have yanked this shit like Jason Giambi yanks his roid-shrunken wing-wang. I think that's my problem, because people still dig Clapton even though he's more or less coasted since his Derek days. There must be something I just simply don't get, just like I don't get Missy Elliott, the allure of driving tricked-out little cheapass pickups that sit 6 microns off the ground, or pecan pie.  Thing is, the snore-indicung chiming acoustics of Reptile aren't going to help me out any.  He certainly isn't trying for very much variety here, and isn't throwing any curveballs, but it still must've come as a shock to him that none of these songs were hits even though he used all the right ingredients. I say he's in the wrong kitchen.

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One More Car, One More Rider - Warner 2002.

Okay, now this is weird.  I saw this concert tour when Clap made his stop in St. Petersburg and count it as one of the more enjoyable shows I've ever seen, made all the more jizz-worthy because I got to stand about 15 feet away from the center of the stage in the general admission section, and only paid about $12 per ticket for the privilege.  I can honestly and without hesitation say that Clapton played an excellent show, and even his loungey new stuff came across as solid and well-crafted.  He soloed with fire, his guitar tone was more Cream than Tulsa, and with his craggy buzz-cut and rimmed glasses, looked like a cross between a checker at Pier 1 Imports and a POW. Hell, at the time, I never even realized he'd played any Reptile songs, because it all fit together nicely.  His band was mostly up to the challenge, especially second guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, who took Jack Bruce's vocal parts with a vengeance.  In all, I had high hopes for Car, Rider, just as long as he didn't decide to record all these songs playing ukeleles and Casiotones instead of Strats and Hammonds.

Little did I know...

Why, then, does One More Car, One More Rider sound so astoundingly weak?  Did the soundboard operator have the 'Suck' control hiked up on the output to the digital recorder or wha? I mean, it's not awful, but I barely recognize versions of songs like 'Bell Bottom Blues' or 'Sunshine of Your Love' that I dug so damn much when I heard them.  Here they sound anemic, Clapton's guitar fighting to be heard over too-loud keyboards and vocals mixed so high you get to hear each and every gasp of breath? Is it possible that I was so tinted by the possibility of hearing Clapton play live that I missed out on the wax-paper thin acoustic guitar tone, the hideous 80's synths (complete with the patented Mouth Hose that attempts to make a synthesizer sound like a wind instrument and ends up sucking and blowing simultaneously) and the unimaginitive performances of the sidemen?  If it's just a matter of thinking too deeply about bullshit digital-mastering sound gimmickry and not about creating a thick, powerful band sound that overcomes whatever lack of separation with raw brutality? I guess if you want an album to test the quality of your $2500 custom-built high-end audio system, this might fit the bill, but for ass-shaking, bowel-quaking live rock, this is a sad excuse for Alyssa Milano.

I have a big problem with the timing of Clapton's live albums.  I'm not too well-informed on after what albums his major tours took place, but when I recite There's One In Every Crowd, Backless, Journeyman, Rush, and Reptile, the words 'Great Live Tours' shouldn't necessarily coming rushing into your mindset like half-digested warm beer out of a college freshman's nose. But that's precisely when he released his live albums! Even the good ones!  The Reptile material is performed with more aplomb than it is on the studio album, but it still ain't settin' anybody's world ablaze.  The album opens with an acoustic section heavy on the new tunes that's obviously attempting to recreate his Unplugged album, from the spirited solo-plucked version of 'Key to the Highway' to the snoozy 'Reptile' to the requisite 'Tears in Heaven' and 'Change the World'.  'Bell Bottom Blues' gets the cordless treatment as well, but it's got a tenth of the energy of the original if I'm a day old, and I'm a helluva lot older than that. You might assume things would pick up by the time Clapton straps on his electric guitar, but foo to you, he spends a godawful long time making his way through unnecessarily extended versions of 'My Father's Eyes' and 'River of Tears' that make 24 Nights look like It's Alive.  Things only begin to really brighten up on the blues tunes, where Eric turns from mild-mannered librarian into WereClapton, at least for a few minutes at a time.  The oldies don't really crank up until the final third, by which time the band has so inundated themselves with lightweight, boring shit like 'I Want A Little Girl' that they're content with making 'Badge' sound like a Journeyman outtake and 'Cocaine' into an organ showpiece.  As  esteemed fellow-reviewer George Starostin has said, Clapton's never once played the melody line to 'Wonderful Tonight' correctly on any of his previous live releases, as if he's staunchly forgotten how to do it or he's too grizzled and cynical to let himself get it right.  He finally gets it on here, but it all goes to waste as Clapton sounds very much in the human-jukebox mode with his clipped delivery and complete lack of passion.  How many times do I have to say it? He took such a huge turn away from his indulgent Cream/Blind Faith solo-until-the-audience-pukes days that now his playing is almost obsessively tasteful.  Nothing sounds like it's being played with even the least lack of iron control, from each minor feedback buzz to each finger's all calculated down to a level that only David Gilmour and some autistic dude from New Zealand have been able to reach.  So it's perfect, so what? Rock isn't perfect, and it's often funnier when it's fucked up. Ah well, if only he felt about his rock material (or, rather, his 'pop material) like he does about his blues. The blues material is less studied and less rote, so ironically a 50 year old classic like 'Hootchie Cootchie Man' sounds far sharper than the brand new bullgrunt from shitty albums like Reptile. 'Layla' is spritely but the guitars are eaten by the overmixed vocals and a completely lackadaisical performance of the piano outro section (so bad it sounds like Bob Seger more than anything).  Generally, the guitars are too clean and too quiet, and the vocals far too high in the mix.  One can only wonder why that would turn out to be true on a Clapton live album, but I guess it's because Octagenarian ear drums can only handle so much loud-ass Marshall stacking, eh?

Okay, probably more words were wasted on this one stupid review than any of the ancient, stupider reviews above, so I'll let it go with the following....if you thought the concert was too loud and raucous, get the live album.

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Me and Mr. Johnson - Warner 2004.

Clapton's third album of straight blues in 10 years time, Me and Mr. Johnson seems to continue down the road of hero worship/antique preservation that paves the way for Eric to spread some of his still-considerable commercial clout around to his heroes and betters. This philanthropic spirit led Eric to record an album with B.B. King a few years back, thus giving B.B. the biggest sales of his zillion-year career and in some small way letting Clapton thank the man for all the licks he swiped over the years.  This time around it's Robert Johnson filling the role of the Old Black Master who is being paid a debt of gratitude.  By far the most 'legendary' of the blues kings, the hell-bound Johnson left behind no more than two CD's full of late-30's recordings that still managed to capture fickle Brit Invasion R&B hounds like the Stones (who covered 'Love In Vain' and 'Stop Breaking Down Blues') and Jimmy Page (who still inexplicably made 'Traveling Riverside Blues' sound about as much like the original as Donna Summer's 'Love to Love You Baby' did), and of course Cream covered 'Crossroads' in what was perhaps their highest moment outside 'White Room'.  That's not even mentioning your Canned Afters and Ten Years Butter Blues Bands and all the other trad-oriented late-60's blues outfits that took to this stuff like a starving mutt to a porterhouse steak. Johnson looms large over rock history not primarily because of his music (of which there wasn't enough) but because of his raunchy, boastful, slightly dark approach that prefigured rap's Big Dick on the Block attitude (not to mention the obsession with guns and violence...check out '32-20 Blues' for the primordial love ode dedicated to a hot, smoking firearm, not to mention one that's almost 70 years old).  Robert Johnson was a mean, cocky fucker, and in a time of scrubbed down Stepinfetchits, he was a revelation.  Nowadays his lyrics still sound great, as he injects a good dose of humor in his serious-as-a-heart-attack cries of desperation, and he never gets so dark that it doesn't sound like he's having a great time.  He's a fighter, and even if the forces of 

Of course, you wouldn't know that by the sterile, reverent way in which Eric Clapton performs these songs.  Let's forget that Clapton was once held in similar regard to Jimi Hendrix as a barn-burner master of feedback and fuzzed-out glory, transforming the blues into something massive when he laid into 'Crossroads' in 1968. Let's forget for a moment that Clapton is a white British boy who has about as much connection to the rural black Mississippi of the Depression as he does to an Eskimo family in Far East Siberia.  Let's forget the years of adult contemporary hackwork that's rightfully placed Clapton next to Phil Collins as formerly great rock instrumentalists who are now about as rebellious and subversive as a Daughters of the American Revolution banquet. Forget all that. Let's simply take this album on face values and admit that the man can play.  His tone is fantastically clear and all of the finger-twiddling sounds about as routine and effortless as picking his nose. Okay, I've reviewed a couple dozen Eric Clapton albums and just now admitted the man isn't bad at playing the blues...but on Johnson he's also not too excited about it, either.  Considering that Johnson was a rough-yet-razor-sharp acoustic slide player that made each note important, if not necessarily always in tune, Clapton's far more studied manner of playing sounds comatose.  Johnson felt each and every rusty creak of his slide, but Clapton's guitar is so overprocessed and overpracticed that he sounds like he's putting on a clinic rather than singing about Judgement Day and hellhounds on his trail. His band, as is to be expected, is Extremely Professional, but it sure ain't inspired, and it sure isn't able to generate the smoke that this material deserves and that the guitarist needs. One reason for this is that Clapton arranges all of these songs in a very stately, and very formal, modern Chicago blues style (rather than, say, the Austin style of Stevie Ray Vaughn or even the Brit style that he helped create) ala Robert Cray, and each song is read straighter than a panhandle square dance. Forget anyone yelling out drunken 'YEEEAHHH!!!'s like on some of those latter-day Muddy Waters albums, forget any groaning, soul-rending electric groans like Mick Jagger's, forget hearing even any of the raunchy guitar workouts like what we heard even as recently as Riding with the King.  On Me and Mr. Johnson, Clapton's definitely in his Mr. Rogers uniform, sensible shoes and bland cardigan and everything.  Hell, old folks who haven't had good sex since 1982 will probably dig it, but for me, I'll stay with the long dead black dude and his monstrous acoustic if I want to hear these classics.

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Alan Brooks   Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: Same old blooze. How could such be really bad anyway, it's so safe.
(BTW, I myself haven't had sex since 1994-- but don't tell anyone)


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Originally Posted 9.27.01

First posted on Prindle's Site