Album Review: 'Clapton' by Eric Clapton

Album Review: 'Clapton' by Eric Clapton
September 2010

Yes, Eric Clapton still has the blues. Though the novelty of hearing a multi-millionaire play poor black music may have worn a bit thin, blues rock’s elder statesman brings plenty of vibe (if not guitar heroics) to Clapton, his first new solo album in four years. Co-produced by Doyle Bramhall II, the album boasts an impressive guest roster (Steve Winwood, JJ Cale, Wynton Marsalis, Sheryl Crow, and Derek Trucks, to name a few) yet severely lacks in the “memorable tunes” department.

Like any post-Unplugged Clapton record (apart from the shudder-inducing R&B gloss of Pilgrim), this one has its fair share of languid, mid-tempo blues stompers. Opening track “Travelin’ Alone” has some tasty fuzz box guitar tones, but not a solo in earshot. “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer” is a blues harp-heavy slow burner and the rollicking “Run Back To Your Side” finally kicks the overall languorous record into gear thirteen tracks in. Clapton gives a stylistic nod to his Unplugged sound with “How Deep Is the Ocean”, “Hard Times Blues” and an unnecessary pass at standard “Autumn Leaves”, managing to sound like the MTV produced disc without ever matching its meticulous, unhurried passion.

Where Clapton manages to shine is on its genre exercises, including the ragtime boogie of “My Very ood Friend the Milkman” and “When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful”, their piano and tuba pomp sounding straight out of an episode of Treme. Allowing the guitar to take a backseat to warm, vintage arrangements, Clapton channels the ghost of Ray Charles on the retro, seductive ballads “Everything Will Be Alright” and “Diamonds Made From Rain”, complete with horn sections and somber orchestral swells. Hardly innovative, these tunes succeed only in that they’re the least Clapton-sounding joints here.

Like 2001’s Reptile, the new Clapton record suggests the blues without ever really getting down and dirty with it. Too often the center of attention, his voice has always played second fiddle to those incendiary guitar solos, which are few and far between on Clapton, a charming and capable effort from a 65 year-old man but nevertheless a pale shade of his fiery early work.

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