Clapton CD Review - by J. Blake

Posted on 10/05/2010 by J. Blake

(New York, NY)

Over that last decade Eric Clapton wrote an autobiography, recorded albums with musical mentors B.B. King and J.J. Cale, recorded two tributes to blues inspiration Robert Johnson, reunited with Cream, Bobby Whitlock and Steve Winwood, played several concert dates with longtime friend and “guitar rival” Jeff Beck, sat in with the Allman Brothers at the Beacon and revisited almost the entire Derek and the Dominos catalogue while on tour with Derek Trucks. To say that he has been feeling a bit nostalgic about his life and career is probably an understatement.

With his latest studio effort, titled CLAPTON, the man formerly known as God delivers a beautifully intimate musical self-portrait that reflects largely on the music of his childhood and provides a fascinating glimpse into where he is artistically today, at age 65. Spanning genres from blues and Dixieland jazz to pop standards and soulful soft-rock, the album CLAPTON boasts compositions by Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Waller, Lil’ Son Jackson, Little Walter and J.J. Cale (among others) and features guest performances from Steve Winwood, Allen Toussaint, Walter Richmond, Wynton Marsalis, J.J. Cale, Kim Wilson, Derek Trucks, Sheryl Crow, Doyle Bramhall II (who also acted as producer) and selected members from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

The tone of the album as a whole is mature and relaxed; feeling more akin to Clapton’s 2001 effort REPTILE and 1992’s UNPLUGGED than anything else in his catalogue. His guitar playing is tastefully subdued and his vocals seem uncharacteristically casual and confident. Lyrically, he delivers “How Deep The Ocean” and “Autumn Leaves” with an emotive calmness that gives these standards an emotional weight and poignancy that is sorely absent from similar attempts made by Clapton contemporaries like Rod Stewart. Conversely, Dixieland-style tracks like “My Very Good Friend The Milkman” and “When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful” are sung with a spryness and a self-assuredness that seems entirely new to Clapton’s repertoire.

Despite the fact that many of the songs were written pre-WWII, CLAPTON (the album) unabashedly represents where the man’s musical sensibilities are as he seemingly embraces his role as an elder statesmen of popular music and given the artistic trajectory of his of studio career over the last decade, the release of such an album is not entirely surprising. This may seem like disappointing news to the small, but vocal, section of his fan base that has been unhappy (and at times even disgusted) with his studio work in recent years, but for the rest of us, it is an interesting and exciting installment into the ever evolving body of work of a man that has somehow managed to explore every musical avenue while never straying too far away from home.

This latest studio release may explore a lot of uncharted territory, but Clapton fans looking for a bit of the familiar may find solace in some of the “bluesier” material, like Snooky Pryor’s “Judgment Day”, Lane Hardin’s “Hard Times Blues” and the wonderfully gritty rendition of Little Walters’ “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer” and early-Clapton enthusiasts longing for the fire of pre-1980s Slowhand may enjoy “Run Back To Your Side” and Robert Wilkins’ “That’s No Way To Get Along”, which chug along with a vibe that is very reminiscent of the mid-70s/George Terry era of his career.

CLAPTON (the album) is not for the closed-minded. It is an eclectic and at times emotionally complex collection of songs that speaks volumes about its creator. It opens a lot of potentially exciting artistic doors for a musician that changes genres almost as often as he changes his hair-style and it proves that a rock-god can age as gracefully as a jazz crooner. Though this album may not cater to everyone, I think that many of its skeptics will be pleasantly surprised by what is, in actuality, a beautifully executed piece of work.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy: Clapton & Winwood, A Touch of Faith.

Thanks and keep reading American Blues News and also check out Media Wah Wah for more of this writer’s thoughts and opinions about Movies, Music, TV & More.

Copyright © 2010 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved

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