[Slowhand] another review
jbroholm at sbcglobal.net
Sat Dec 18 00:54:37 EST 2004
from the Knight Ridder news service, 12/13:
Slices of Slowhand _ It's been a banner year for Eric Clapton fans. First came his "Me and Mr. Johnson" album, a studied tribute to short-lived blues giant Robert Johnson that _ color me a fogy in the making _ I consider better Album-of-the-Year Grammy material than the latest from Usher and Alicia Keys, no matter how many zillions they've sold. Though it nabbed a Best Traditional Blues Album nod, it's certainly greater than the "Unplugged" set they heaped miniature Victrolas on a decade ago.
Anyway, after that release came an excellent concert tour, followed by two deluxe-edition reissues _ one for Cream's "Disraeli Gears," the other for his '74 solo classic "461 Ocean Boulevard," the album that gave us his versions of "Motherless Children" and "I Shot the Sheriff" and which now comes with a live performance from the end of that year's tour. (Among the highlights, few of which had surfaced previously: renditions of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" and Hendrix's "Little Wing" and a blues medley built on "The Sky Is Crying" and "Have You Ever Loved a Woman.")
Now, Clapton has finished off his strong 2004 run with the insightful "Sessions for Robert J," a 97-minute documentary chronicling the recording of his Johnson homage in a variety of settings _ in studio with his backing band (Billy Preston, Steve Gadd, etc.), alone in a California hotel and, most compellingly, at 508 Park Ave. in Dallas, a seemingly abandoned building where Johnson originally cut most of his 40-some sides.
As intimate and stompingly good as the performances are, what really make this worthwhile are the DVD's many interview segments. Usually tight-lipped, Clapton here babbles enthusiastically about discovering the blues (Johnson specifically) and how it fit the pseudo-intellectual posing of his youth, how his appreciation for the sound flowered and _ in what is almost a guitar tutorial _ how strikingly unique Johnson's polyrhythmic voice-and-picking style was, so tricky even Clapton can't accurately replicate it.
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