Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Album of the Day #125: ERIC CLAPTON

Title: Eric Clapton
Artist: Eric Clapton
Label: Atco (US)/Polydor (UK) [Now distributed by Universal]
Year: 1970
Songs: Slunky/Bad Boy/Lonesome And A Long Way From Home*/After Midnight**/Easy Now***/Blues Power^/Bottle Of Red Wine/Lovin' You Lovin' Me/I've Told You For The Last Time^^/Don't Know Why/Let It Rain
Written by: Eric Clapton & Delaney Bramlett, except: *Delaney Bramlett & Leon Russell, **J.J. Cale, ***Eric Clapton, ^Eric Clapton & Leon Russell and ^^Delaney Bramlett & Steve Cropper
Produced & Arranged by: Delaney Bramlett
Thoughts: One of the great things about this album is that it proved to the world that Clapton could work in a confined environment, that is, making full, pop-oriented songs, rather than aimless ten-minute jams. What makes it even better is that it doesn't feel like Clapton is being chocked or forced into making four minute songs. He takes these songs and runs with them and just when you think he's about to go off on a tear, he brings himself back to reality. It's obvious that Clapton wanted to change his sound, rather than being forced to do so by a record company or someone else.
Even the opening jam "Slunky" is confined, a true signal right at the start that this is a different Clapton. There really isn't one moment of this album that I didn't like. The hits, "After Midnight" and "Let It Rain" fit perfectly with the overall sound and "Let It Rain" is expertly placed at the end, as the ultimate climax. Nothing could possibly come after that. It's such a great song.
The Deluxe Edition is a pretty interesing package (considering that it is the only version of the LP in print) that includes Delaney Bramlett's original mix, a Delaney & Bonnie 45, a King Curtis 45 and four extra outtakes. The Bramlett mix is a little more 'punchy', in that where Tom Dowd's released mix is a little toned down to be more pop-oriented, Bramlett's is much more intense and less commercial. For example, all the things that make Dowd's "After Midnight" the hit single that it turned into, Bramlett practically mixed out. The backing vocalists are inaudible and the saxophones almost overtake Clapton's vocals. Some tracks also go on for someties up to a minute longer, so Clapton's guitar parts at the end of songs are more clearly heard and go on for a bit longer.
The extra tracks Polydor so kindly gave us don't really add too much to a listener's overall sense of the sessions, but "She Moves" is definitely the highlight of them all. It's great to hear "Let It Rain" in it's early form, although it is obvious that the pedestrian lyrics of "She Moves" didn't fit the great melody that Bramlett and Clapton came up with.
"Blues In 'A'" is a ten minute jam that is, unfortunately, pretty boring. It melts into "Teasin'", a King Curtis 45 that Clapton, Bramlett and the other musicians from the Eric Clapton sessions guest on. It's a quick instrumental track. After the Bramlett mix, we have two extended takes from the album, proving that the songs didn't require extended guitar solos and breaks to get across their messages. The "Comin' Home" b/w "Groupie (Superstar)" Delaney & Bonnie 45 close the set. Both feature Clapton's distinctive guitar and close the set on a nice note, but I'm not really sure how essential they are here. I know they were recorded during these sessions, but they aren't Eric Clapton songs.
Overall, the album itself is really good and the extras on the deluxe set are nice, but don't really add much to it. It's like DVD extras...they're certainly nice to have, but not overall necessary to experience and enjoy the film, or in this case, an album.

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