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A mixture of old blues and standards with a few modern songs...
on 27 September 2010
Eric's new album "Clapton" is a rather unlikely mix of old blues songs, original modern songs and standards from the 30s/40s. The record features old pals like J.J. Cale, drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Willie Weeks, guitarists Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall (who also produces), with keyboard player Walter Richmond being outstanding throughout. Don't expect any guitar pyrotechnics from Clapton, as with most of his recent records this is very much a band record, where he often leaves solos to Trucks, Bramhall or others but the solos he does play are typically tasteful and succinct. As someone who first came to Clapton with the Yardbirds I love to hear him playing with harp players, and there are few better than Kim Wilson, I liked all the blues tracks here but then again we know Eric can do blues. However, I was worried when I heard the album also featured standards but by-and-large I thought the standards worked OK, with a couple being really nice - although I did think that Eric's voice struggled on a few of them. I was less keen on the modern songs, which in the main seemed fairly ordinary to me.
Overall the album is quite a pleasing mixture - rather than going down the route of a whole album of standards (a la Rod Stewart) Eric leavens the mix by including the blues and modern tracks. In particular I thought that the more jazzy tracks worked very well and that is an area I'd like to see him pursuing more in future, with his guitar working along with the horns.
Blues - The album opens with Lil' Son Jackson's `Travelin' Alone' a typical laid-back Clapton blues, we also get the old Snooky Prior song `Judgement Day' featuring doo-wop backing vocals and rather restrained blues harp from Kim Wilson. Kim makes up for this with dirty electric harp on a very authentic sounding version of Little Walter's `Can't Hold Out Much Longer', which even features a brief blues guitar solo from Eric. `That's No Way to Get Along' by Robert Wilkins sounds like the Stones `Prodigal son', with Clapton and Cale swapping vocals but leaving the guitar solos to Doyle Bramhall. The final blues Lane Hardin's `Hard Time Blues' is like an outtake from `Eric Clapton Unplugged', a great semi-acoustic loping blues with mandolin and a lovely slide guitar solo.
Standards - The standards start with a nice relaxed reading of Hoagy Carmichael's `Rocking chair', with a great, lyrical Derek Trucks slide guitar solo and the whole thing sounding positively modern. `How Deep Is The Ocean' by Irving Berlin and `My Very Good Friend The Milkman' are done very sensitively but for me don't really go anywhere, apart from Wynton Marsalis's beautiful trumpet and (Sir?) Alan Toussaint's piano. I did particularly like Fats Waller's `When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful' with its Dixieland jazz sound, again featuring Wynton Marsalis on trumpet. Finally Johnny Mercer's `Autumn Leaves' is done very traditionally with an orchestra and surprisingly a subtle restrained blues guitar solo that fits in very well.
Modern songs - I wasn't so keen on the J.J. Cale songs `River Runs Deep' and `Everything Will Be Alright' which were very tasteful and typically laid-back but which we seem to have heard many times before. Doyle Bramhall's ballad `Diamonds Made From Rain' where Clapton is joined by Sheryl Crow on backup vocals, is the most modern sounding song and will apparently be the single. The rocking `Run Back To Your Side' by Clapton and Bramhall is like something from one of Clapton's Tulsa-inspired 70's releases, complete with backing singers and all three guitarists adding licks.