Eric Clapton
" Clapton "
Reprise Records

Blueswax 7

A Studio Message From God

This is Eric Clapton's first solo studio recording in nearly five years. EC has been busy though; there was one studio CD collaboration with J.J. Cale, plus several live discs, his autobiographical book, and the 2010 Crossroads event which will probably result in yet another DVD or CD recording. This recording is a departure from anything Clapton has waxed previously. At times it offers deep personal statements where there are several references made about mortality. All in all there are fourteen tunes, thirteen are covers, and only "Run Back to Your Side" was coauthored by Clapton and Doyle Bramhall II.

Notable inclusions are many. One is Melvin Jackson's haunting "Travelin' Alone" with Bramhall's dark and eerie yet sophisticated guitar chords. Hoagy Carmichael's "Rocking Chair" is a laid back rendering wherein Clapton remarks "Judgment day is almost near." Derek Trucks' slide work is also very sparse and tasty here. "River Runs Deep" is not only authored by J.J. Cale, he also sings and plays guitar on it, and it's one my favorite tunes here. There's also a very appetizing horn section with strings by the London Session Orchestra that add a lot of drama to this tantalizing tune.

There are more death-related overtones on the doo-wop interpretation of Snooky Pryor's "Judgment Day," which features the harp of Kim Wilson. Wilson returns on Walter Jacobs' "Can't Hold Out Much Longer" with Willie Weeks on upright bass and where Bramhall delivers the mysterious guitar structures. Even though this representation is at slow tempo, it's here where Clapton digs down and exhibits his strongest blues statement.

"Everything Will Be Alright" (also authored by Cale) is ultra cool and once again the seductive horn charts are much welcomed, plus Weeks' solid bass groove and Paul Carrack's B3. Clapton's and Bramhall's "Run Back To Your Side" is the most driving track. It also showcases Trucks', Bramhall's, and Clapton's solid guitar work. The album closes with "Autumn Leaves," yet again leaving the impression that EC is reflecting about his imminent passing, which hopefully won't be anytime soon!

The musicianship as you might expect is very high throughout. Previously unmentioned are Allen Toussaint, Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty, and Dr. Michael White who all add Crescent City flavorings on tracks that I unfortunately did not care for.

Clapton is co-produced by Clapton and Bramhall, who obviously set out to make an album that they wanted to release, not one that most of us expected. Is that a good thing? I think so. All of the tracks are not memorable, but more than enough hit the mark. Kudos to the Clapton team for continuing to shine a "blues" light on this recording, for not caving into commercial appeal, and/or what (probably) Reprise Records might have preferred from him.


Bob Putignano: