on 17 April 2013
I have many Eric Clapton albums, from his early Yardbird days, Cream, collaborations with Buddy Guy, etc. This album hasn't quite done it for me. There's nothing wrong with it, the songs are well chosen, there's variety of styles, the musicianship is beyond question. It's just...well...another album. There's nothing on it that makes you think, wow, that was a brilliant track, or another great guitar solo!
There are plenty of people who will love this album, and judging by some of the reviews it's been getting, there are. It's not going to be the first E.C. album I'll be reaching for; not when 'Riding With The King', 'Me And Mr Johnson' and the like are sitting on the shelf very near by.
For getting on for five decades now I have been firmly of the belief that Eric Clapton is a major deity, and seeing him in concert remains a highlight of my musical life, so I say this through clenched teeth and with great sadness: this album isn't very good. I thoroughly disliked it on first hearing, but I have made myself listen to it several more times to see whether I was missing something. It did get a bit better on repeated listening, being salvaged to an extent by some of Eric's guitar work (of course it is) but overall I think it's distressingly feeble.
The songs are largely covers and reworkings of standards. Now, Clapton has often been able to bring something exceptional to older, sometimes very familiar songs; the blues material goes without saying, but Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Cocaine and the stunning live version of Can't Find My Way Home on E.C Was Here, just to take three random examples, show the brilliance he is capable of in a wide variety of styles. Here, there is (to me, anyway) a slick but slightly empty, cocktail lounge feel to songs like The Folks Who Live On the Hill and Goodnight Irene and I can find very little real heart or genuine emotional content anywhere.
Every Little Thing rather typifies the album for me. It begins very well with a solid riff from the band and some really good vocals from Eric, but it stumbles between styles, doesn't really go anywhere and ends up with - get this - a choir of very young, lisping, slightly-out-of-tune children singing "Every little thing you do is beautiful..." It's twee, sickly, manipulative and musically vacuous - and it's on an Eric Clapton album, for heavens' sake! The whole album seems to me to have an insincere, corporate gloss over it which is a world away from the depth and passion of Eric's best work. Even the reggae arrangements which he has done so brilliantly in the past sound pretty middle-of-the-road and lack any real bite.
Of course there are some fine solos from Eric, including some great bottleneck work, and he still has that incomparable touch and the ability to improvise a miniature work of genius. The trouble is, it's all but swamped by its desperately disappointing context. There is a stellar cast of guests here, but even JJ Cale, another of my greatest heroes, can't really lift Angel much above the ordinary, and I leave you to make up your own mind about what the presence of Paul McCartney might imply for the style of the music.
I am genuinely very sad to have to say this about an album by a man whose work I have so admired and who has meant so much to me for so long. I have given it three stars because of the guitar work and partly, to be honest, because I couldn't bring myself to give EC any less, but I can't really recommend it.
'Old sock' (terrible title, comfortable as an old sock?!?) carries on from where his previous record 'Clapton' left off being a mixture of old standards, blues, more modern rock songs etc - only this is even more of a dog's breakfast - as though Eric has said "I'm going to record exactly what I want regardless of what it all sounds like..." To be fair much of it does sound very good and there is certainly plenty of variety here, from the lovely lilting version of Taj Mahal's "Further on down the road" which opens the album, to the mush of "The folks who live on the hill" to the great old timey version of Leadbelly's "Irene goodnight" and the reggae lite of the original song "Every little thing".
The basic line up is his road band including Steve Gadd, Willie Weeks, Doyle Bramhall II and Chris Stainton with the addition of coach loads of session men (including Greg Leisz, Walt Richmond, Jim Keltner and Gabe Witcher) as well as famous faces including Sir Paul Macca, Steve Winwood, Taj Mahal and JJ Cale. Eric is in good voice throughout and the album's other original track "Gotta get over" also features female backing singers like a throw back to his 70s albums. When I last saw him on tour he featured a version of Gary Moore's "Still got the blues for you" as a tribute to the recently deceased guitarist and that same version, mainly played on acoustic guitar, also appears here. Eric revisits his country side with a relaxed reading of Ray Charles' "Born to Lose" and also covers the jazz standard "All of me". I'm afraid that overall I found the album a bit too diverse with a bit too much 'mush', although there is also a lot here to like and my favourite track was probably "Further on down the road" which also contains the albums best guitar solo in its final coda. Three and a half stars.
on 11 July 2014
What is he doing. I have followed Eric since The Yardbirds but this is just rubbish. Since Reptile which I liked, his albums have been terrible, but I bought ,everyone and they gather dust or have gone to Magpie. I saw him in 2011 and was disappointed, he seemed too laid back and perhaps lazy. Perhaps if this album is all he can produce for his followers then hel should give up on the albums and just do concerts of his true music. This like Clapton and Going Home maybe Clapton now but none are what I want .
I can understand why many Clapton fans feel disappointed by this album, certainly those who are more fans of his rock and blues material and those who prefer harder-edged music in general. When I first played "Old Sock", I was quite surprised at how gentle and sleepy this album is at times and wasn't sure about it at all. However, after I'd given it a few more plays, I realised that there is plenty here to like, but only if you also enjoy your music at a more relaxed pace and aren't expecting Clapton to be playing electrifying blues with any kind of fire in his belly. There are a few tracks which sound a little dated and have been given the gentle reggae treatment that Clapton favoured in the 1970's, such as "Further On Down The Road" which kicks of the album with a whimper rather than a bang, and the distinctly average "Your One And Only Man". Despite lacking any kind of edge, they're pleasant enough songs, although I'm well aware I'm damning them with faint praise. Sadly, that is the story of most of this album as there is far too much pedestrian content on "Old Sock" for it be regarded as one of Eric's better albums and there is nothing that really moves out of first gear.
The worst offenders on this disappointingly underwhelming album are the supposedly upbeat numbers, such as "Gotta Get Over", which lack the punch they should deliver, whereas the slower, more purposely relaxed songs actually sound rather lovely. "The Folks Who Live On The Hill", for example, is dreamy and romantic, "All Of Me" with Paul McCartney, is a charming rendition of the old standard, "Goodnight Irene" is genuinely likeable and "Our Love Is Here To Stay" is affably delivered. It is on the more crafted, subtle songs that Eric really excels and he manages to handle much covered material with taste and restraint. His tribute to Gary Moore, "Still Got The Blues" is superb. Eric could have gone for a straight forward cover, but his low-key, smoky rendition highlights the class and beauty of the composition. Sadly, "Every Little Thing" is, by far, the worst thing I have ever heard Eric Clapton release - an absolute abomination. I am not a great fan of artists adding a choir of children onto songs at the best of times, but rarely do they sound as cringeworthy, twee and sickening as they do on this song. A seriously bad mistake. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I felt digusted and nauseous when I first heard it. I've subjected myself to it again before writing this review and I can only say that my feelings are not only upheld, but they're possibly stronger in my hatred of this track.
So, is this a good album? No, not really. A bad album? I wouldn't go that far either. It's actually a rather confused mess of an album which lacks any real musical identity. Given my eclectic personal taste, I actually like what many of Clapton's fans may hate about the album, the slow, relaxed, mellowed-out Clapton adding subtle acoustic guitar licks to old standards and covers. People who particularly enjoyed the "Unplugged" album, for example, may find plenty to enjoy here. I can't help thinking that if the whole album would have been like that, it would have been a lot more likeable. A Clapton album of old standards would be divisive amongst his admirers, probably, but at least it would have been focused and cohesive. Anyway, it is what it is and there's no point in ranting about what Eric "should be doing". This is a musician approaching seventy years old who is making the music he wants to make and it's our choice whether to buy it and listen to it or not. There's just enough good music on this album for me to not regret buying it, but it's a close call.
Incidentally, "Old Sock", according to Clapton, is a term of endearment that older men address each other with - i.e. "Hello, old sock". I will have to take his word for it, as it's not something I have ever heard of before. Better luck next time, old sock.
on 18 August 2013
Have been a fan of EC since his days with the Yardbirds. He has been through a number of incarnations over the years, some better than others. This CD is a strange and varied collection of numbers covering various styles and periods. Some work, some don't.
All done very professionally and skilfully, but I expected something better from Eric.
on 10 October 2013
As an ardent Clapton fan for decades I couldn't believe just how poor this album is. Might suit some but the only reason I purchased this was to maintain my 100% EC collection. Hope next album gets back on track
on 2 April 2013
having been a great fan of E C since my teens(i am now late 50's)i do begin to think he is losing the plot.The last album was awful,this is worse!Where has his spirit and gusto gone?The last concert i attended it seemed as if he would rather have not been there and this album seems the same.His rendition of ^still got the blues^ would have Gary Moore turning in his grave.Come on Eric,still love you but please please get back to your roots.
on 16 April 2013
Been a clapton fan since fresh cream was released. Had some difficulty making the transition to 461 Ocean Boulevard but got there in the end. Recent output harder to appreciate. Hesitate to use word " ordinary " , it is clapton after all, but..... I'll persevere but I don't think I'll automatically order his next one.
on 9 November 2014
If there's one good thing to say about this album, it's that the title is really appropriate. An old sock? Yes, that's exactly what the album smells like.
Just one or 2 OK songs, but overall, this is EC's poorest album ever.