August saw Eric Clapton taking something of a leap of faith, abandoning his usual approach of including two or three traditional blues covers - the closest he came here was "Bad Influence", a contemporary number, courtesy of Robert Cray. The result was Eric's most modern sounding and commercially successful (UK) solo album to date. The extensive use of synthesisers hasn't dated the album unduly, due at least partly to Phil Collins' skilful production and it still sounds vibrant today. But it's not an uncompromisingly modern album; the use of horns evokes Clapton's solo debut and a storming duet with Tina Turner on "Tearing Us Apart" is a reminder of his duets with Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy. Eric's in good voice and from the purposeful opening bars of "It's In The Way That You Use It" to the last fading notes of the moody epic "Grand Illusion" there isn't a weak track here. Although "Grand Illusion" isn't described as a bonus, it didn't feature on the lp and had appeared as a B-side to the 12inch single version of "Behind The Mask", along with "Wanna Make Love To You" which appeared later on the Crossroads box set.
There are few spectacular guitar solos, but there are some guitarists who only need to play a single note and you know it's them - E.C. is one, and his ability to show how much can be said with just one (in this case, bent) note is ably demonstrated on "Holy Mother". Written by Eric and Stephen Bishop and dedicated to The Band's Richard Manuel, it's an emotional mini-masterpiece. Blues fans weren't so taken with August's contemporary approach but Collins proved his point that Clapton could move with the times: he certainly emerged with musical credibility intact and, arguably, this release paved the way for the classic follow-up, Journeyman. 5*.