Saturday, May 09, 2009

Album of the Day #148: SLOWHAND - Eric Clapton

Artist: Eric Clapton

Title: Slowhand
Label: RSO/Polydor
Year: 1977
Songs: Cocaine [J.J. Cale]/Wonderful Tonight [Eric Clapton & Michael Kamen]/Lay Down Sally [Eric Clapton, George Terry & Marcy Levy]/Next Time You See Her [Eric Clapton]/We're All The Way [Don Williams]/The Core [Eric Clapton & Marcy Levy]/May You Never [John Martyn]/Mean Old Frisco [Arthur Cudrup]/Peaches & Diesel [Albhy Galuten & Eric Clapton]
Produced by: Glyn Johns
Thoughts: Slowhand is an interesting record, with Clapton veering in so many musical directions, that it could make one sick if you're not prepared for the ride. Right from the start, the three singles veer in varying directions. J.J. Cale's "Cocaine" follows a standard blues pattern, while "Wonderful Tonight" is pure pop schmaltz. "Lay Down Sally" is a pretty fun attempt at country. Still, starting your album with all three singles could be problematic, but right from the start of "Next Time You See Her", Clapton lets you know that the rest of this album isn't a throwaway. The track is his only solo composition on the record and harkens back to the sound on Eric Clapton, with its' emphasis on keyboards and percussion. I also love Clapton's singing on this track. He's rough and it fits the song perfectly. "We're All The Way" is by Don Williams and is a nice closing to the fantastic first side.
The last half of the record opens with the album's free-form "The Core". It was written with back-up singer Marcy Levy, who actually sings the first verse before Clapton comes in for the second. The two duet on the choruses and during the remanins verses. It's just an amazing song, with fantastic soloing and lead playing throughout by Clapton and George Terry. You almost forget that the song is nearly nine minutes, although maybe the never-ending sax solos are a little much. "May You Never" (by John Martyn) and the obligatory blues cover "Mean Old Frisco" (by Arthur Cudrup) are the album's weak points, making side two a bit of a disapointment after "The Core". The album finishes with "Peaches & Diesel", a smooth instrumental by Clapton and producer/arranger Albhy Galuten. It's a good ending, but it makes you feel like Clapton is trying to make the album more important than it really is. He probably should have just thrown another blues cover on, than some "end credits" instrumental.
I think the overall problem with the album is that it feels a little sterilized. Clapton never seemed to have the ability to make an album without getting "clean". I mean, Layla was perfect because it displayed his use of free-form guitar work, balanced with incredibly strong material. Slowhand is like Eric Clapton 2, but with Glyn Johns replacing Delaney Bramlett. For both albums, I think he had pretty strong material, it's just he always seems out of his element when he has to keep it to four minutes. That's why "The Core" is so good, becuase, it's a great song within itself and that Clapton (along with Terry, who probably plays more of the solos than Clapton) is able to flex his muscles. I'd get this album for that song, plus the singles. I mean, "Next Time You See Her" is pretty good, but the covers are short and confined. I can honestly say, though...what was Rolling Stone doing when they decided that this should be on the top 500 albums of all time?

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