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What is it with Clapton ?
on 7 December 2013
Something has been bothering me of late, concerning EC's studio albums. From Back Home to Old Sock has revealed that EC's studio recordings currently have serious feet of clay. There's something missing, that you cannot really put your finger on: it's as if a yearning is there, but the execution is pointless, or wrong-headed.
That's not to say, however, that his collaborations, and other live albums, lack something: far from it. EC has worked wonders with Wynton Marsalis, reunited with Cream for some excellent concerts in 2005, and given us an amazing live album with Steve Winwood. He's also cut the mustard with the late JJ Cale on The Road to Escondido, and this various artists, EC curated, album shows that the live and collaborative material is what EC currently does best.
It opens with a great Tears In Heaven, and follows that with a nod to the Tulsa sound, with Vince Gill, on Lay Down Sally. Then the guests take over, with an amazing Green Onions by Booker T, Steve Cropper, Albert Lee etc. I have an obscure ferocious take on Green Onions on a Stax 4cd set, and this version summons up that ghost. John Mayer also channels an inner Brothers & Sisters / Harvest mellow rock feel on Queen of California, and what he does with Keith Urban on Don't Let Me Down is amazing. Urban is excellent in recent collaborations with Jimmy Webb and John Fogerty, and this only highlights his brilliance.
I am also fond of Gary Clark Jnr, who also appears on the recent Buddy Guy album, and was a guest on some of the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary gigs. He's a revelation on this album, whether it be with Doyle Bramhall, electric blues, or acoustic blues. Additionally, he's the younger blues in contrast to the fiery older blues of Buddy Guy, represented here on Damn Right I Got The Blues, and shows the blues to be in safe hands.
I would add too that EC's revisitation of Derek-era material with Derek Trucks and the rest of the curremt Allman Brothers Band is brilliant, and maybe that could be, or should be, the roots of a great live collaboration. Bobby Whitlock is still alive, and it could be worthwhile.
Furthermore, Jeff Beck on Women Of Ireland is far better than he was with the Corrs doing the same track. It's not a patch on The Chieftains original version, but it's still good.
I would add, finally, that EC really knows what to do with his back catalogue: his live archives are coming to light with a recent 2 disc Unplugged reissue, a 1977 concert as a bonus on Slowhand, and highlights from the Johnny Cash show on a deluxe Layla. Unlike the Stones, he's really giving the fans what they want, in the last year, be it a new studio album, Old Sock, the live concert with Wynton Marsalis, and the deluxe Slowhand, in addition to the deluxe Unplugges. We, in the forthcoming week, will also be expecting Give Me Strength; the 1974-75 Sessions, and , hopefully, there'll be more in 2014.