By LANDON JAMES
Eric Clapton’s new solo album, “Clapton,” shows a somber and mature Clapton continuing to venture into new directions with his playing and style.
The self-titled album is Clapton’s 19th solo venture and was released September 28.
From the beginning of the album, Clapton sets the tone with “Rocking Chair.” In his old age, Clapton seems to have found a new level of comfort and ease with his playing and voice as he effortlessly infuses his subtle blues mastery with jazzy, lounge-playing undertones. Clapton’s slide guitar cuts through the song like a hot knife through warm butter, yet ultimately restrained. It’s easy to imagine Clapton sitting on his porch, swinging to and fro in his rocking chair, singing his life story through mellow blues and simple, telling lyrics.
The album starts slow, but picks up speed with “Judgment Day,” a slow-steppin’, foot-tappin’ blues number pulsing with Motown and bebop that shows an easier different side of Clapton. Although he is getting up in his years, Clapton’s voice shows no sign of deterioration from its former potency. The blistering harmonica barrels through the song like a steam locomotive holding the whole piece together.
Sliding into “How Deep Is The Ocean,” Clapton fully gives himself up to the jazz lounge singer persona as he somberly croons through the number. Clapton’s voice never fails to relax you, make you sink deep into that comfy chair, and take another sip of your jazzy cocktail as you let his voice slowly sooth you to contentment.
For the majority of the album, Clapton succeeds in restraining himself and his playing by giving listeners only a small taste of his blistering blues that secretly, deep down, everybody wants to hear him play.
Often called “Slowhand,” due to his effortless style of playing and movement on the fret board, Clapton truly comes into his alter ego as he provides bluesy fills and short solos, but never turns himself loose. His playing indicates a refined, yet maturing Clapton whose not afraid to venture into new fields and tones of playing after all these years.
Although Clapton’s dip into the jazzy and lounge singer pool is a refreshing redirection from his stereotypical blistering blues that fans have come to expect, on the whole, the album lacks momentum and direction. For over half of the album, Clapton revisits virtually the same blues song formats wrapped in different packaging.
The album finally begins to pick up steam with “That’s No Way To Get Along,” a call-and-response, rabble-rouser, vibrant honky-tonk shuffler that’ll make you want to kick out your chair and cut a rug. The churning blues and rhythm train through the song like the locomotive Clapton keeps longing to catch and have take him away. With less than a minute left in the song, Clapton gives listeners a taste of the blistering blues, but, just as Clapton is gaining momentum, the song ends. Above all else, Clapton restrains himself throughout the entire album
“Diamond” is a classic Clapton love song with sensual, yet thoughtful lyrics that seem to melt the heart of almost any mortal, but feels almost out of place with the elevated force fo the second half of the album.
The closest Eric Clapton comes to letting loose is his bluesy, Cream-sounding throwback, “Rolling and Tumbling.” The main riff is eerily similar to that of Clapton’s reinterpretation of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues” done during his short stint with Cream.
Indeed, Clapton’s 2005 reunion with Cream is most likely the primary factor in Clapton’s choice to compose a more relaxed, somber album divergent from his prominent and former work. If anything, the album is a mix of old, Delta Blues and big band influences making “Clapton” a cornucopia of Slowhand’s taste and expertise in all musical genres and fields.
Clapton explains to Musicradar.com the reasons behind his approach to the album and the directions he took.
“I never liked young kids’ music,” Clapton has said, explaining the origins for this album. “I like old people’s music. When I look for what I’m going to listen to, I go backwards. Most people are trying to figure out, ‘How do I get in the fast lane, going that way?’ I’m going in the other direction – I want to find the oldest thing to do.”
Indeed, although the album appears to lack momentum and force, it is simply indicative of a somber and maturing Clapton who, at 65 years old, deserves a welcome change of pace. Clapton’s playing has been restrained for the
All in all, I give “Clapton” three aging Fender Stratocasters out of five, only because I yearned to hear Clapton just tear the blues apart for at least one song, but he never fully delivers.
3 aging Fender Stratocasters out of 5