Top critical review
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Innovative and influential, but a flawed masterpiece
on 31 May 2011
It's hard to remember just how brave Clapton was to leave the Yardbirds just when they had become successful and go on to throw in his lot with John Mayall's rag tag and bobtail touring band. However, courage paid off, and this album with Mayall proved to be the foundation of his (financially) incredibly successful career.
On this album Clapton contributes 5 glorious solos and 2 equally good instrumentals. They are a quantum leap above his previous work with the Yardbirds, and would have made him a legend even if he had never recorded another note. They aren't quite perfect - there's no light and shade, as Eric only does "intense" on this album. But you can't expect total maturity from a 21 year old guitarist, and there's just so much promise here.
Why then only 3 stars? Well, because these bits make up less than half the album. There is also Ramblin' on My Mind, which is at best charmingly diffident, and the rest is John Mayall. Mayall deserves recognition for many things - great band leader, coach for young musicians, expert on the blues, real professional in a job that encourages self-indulgence - but as a musician he isn't very special (top marks for the way he supports an obviously nervous Clapton on Ramblin', though). As a singer he is, well....dreadful is the word that comes to mind. So there is a lot of forgettable music here as well as the good stuff.
Many of the other reviewers have explained how revolutionary this album was, and how it opened their ears to new musical ideas. Well, me too. It changed my life. But in the nearly 50 years since I first heard it I've heard a great deal of other music of many different kinds, and a fair bit is much better than this. I still play it - but normally when a couple of beers has made me cosily nostalgic. And the promise in those solos? -who'd have thought that 12 years later he'd have been playing sentimental tosh like Wonderful Tonight, or that his personal problems would have put an end to courageous experiments and lead him to make idiotic political statements?