[Slowhand] RE: Slowhand Digest, Vol 7, Issue 264
jalynch_80 at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 28 17:19:04 EDT 2006
Normally, I only lurk on this list, but being as there is starting to be an
actual debate on EC's best guitar playing, I feel moved to comment on
DeltaNick's recent post...
>EC's second guitar period was a good period, but it lasted too short a
Are you forgetting that the first period lasted only from 1966 to, at best,
1971. That's only six years, and it's probably really closer to five.
>Also, his style had changed so much that he depended less and less on the
>cascading lyrical style that characterized the earlier period, and his
>breathtaking and patented "stretch vibrato," that only he could play so
I agree that his vibrato has changed significantly, and there is something
about that Mayall-era vibrato that's really great. However, while I will
grant that most of it is in the fingers, I wonder how much of this might
have to do with equipment. I find the significant difference in the quality
of my vibrato when I switch from my Les Paul to my Strat. The sound changes,
but I stay the same. Mind you, I'm not comparing myself to EC, I'm just
raising a question.
There are several other techniques that he no longer employs,
>indicating to me that his technique ain't quite what it used to be. This
>limits his guitar playing options. During this second guitar period,
>depended more and more on three- and four-note repetitive patterns, which
>still plays over and over nowadays, and never did in the earlier period,
>except during a fanfare at the end of a song, as on the official live
>version of "Sitting On Top Of The World."
Not sure, I agree with this. To my ears there have been some trade-offs.
While he does definitely use the three and four note riffs more often, I
believe that maybe a function of two differences between the 60's and now.
1. Where studio records are concerned, songs today are typically longer and
have room for longer solos. 2. Clapton has stated that he feels a need to
play more notes when on a Fender because of the reduced sustain. Further,
while I really don't hear anything (other than the vibrato change) missing
from his playing today that wasn't there in the 60's, I do hear several new
things. He now occasionally uses chord patterns in solos, which he did not
do then (in my experience, I have found this rather difficult.) Also, to my
ears, he has a much better harmonic sense now than he did then, in that he
now occasionally takes solos places I do not necessarily expect, whereas I
find many of the Cream and Mayall solos spectacular, but more logical (for
lack of a better word). Finally, he has incorporated slide and finger picked
leads into his playing much more than he was capable of in the 60's.
Furthermore, Clapton was always
>noted as a very neat and tidy player: his guitar articulation was always
>near perfect. I've noticed that this isn't the case any more: he's quite a
>bit sloppier today.
Again, I find myself wondering how much of this is equipment. While I will
grant that was very sloppy in the 70's, I don't think that's really the case
today. To use myself as an example again, I find my playing comes out much
cleaner on the Les Paul than the Strat. This is probably a combination of
the difference in pickups and the slight larger distance between the strings
on a Les Paul, but I don't think anyone would argue with the notion that a
Strat is a very "noisy" guitar. When he has played Gibsons, I've found his
playing to be just as clean as it was in days of yore.
>It was also a rather spotty period. Listen to his 1995 Nothing But The
>performances, and you will see that he already began petering out, with
>and less heavy lifting, compared to 1993 and 1994. After that, he pretty
>much backed off and became the guitarist he'd been since the '70s, with
>little perceptible change and no innovation. The late '90s pretty much
>proved the same, I think. There was also some hope during the 2004 tour,
>it really went nowhere.
I think you are romanticizing a little bit here. I can't count the number of
times I've heard EC talk about how awful Cream could be on off nights, or
the times when he would completely phone in performances with John Mayall. I
think the issue might be that we have many fewer high quality recordings of
the earlier era and tend to assume that what we hear is how it was most, if
not all the time, when, in fact, those recordings were typically released
because they represented the very best.
>On a non-guitar note, ever since "Pilgrim," his studio albums have also
>largely lackluster, and each successive one sells less than the last. Last
>heard, "Back Home" hadn't even sold 250,000 copies. And yes, I bought one
>'em. I think it's in the trunk of my car. This is not meant to indicate
>I think EC's washed up as an artist. He has a habit of pulling rabbits out
>of hats, but he hasn't done it in a long while. I still like Clapton's
>music, most of it anyway, which also has had its ups and downs, but it
>to be in a fallow period as well, of late.
I mostly agree here. I do think Pilgrim is an outstanding album, but
overproduced. Reptile is okay, as are Back Home and Me & Mr. Johnson.
Sessions for Robert J, I find quite enjoyable. Some of the acoustic work he
does there is easily as impressive as anything else he's ever done, though
perhaps less flashy.
>I think he tried harder in his younger days, and that he's way too
>comfortable today, to do really creative and quality stuff consistently.
>Although he truly enjoys performing in a live atmosphere, I think he needs
>to be hungry as well. He's simply not. He used to perform like his life
>depended on it. That ain't happened, it seems to me, in a LONG time. I
>certainly like to see much more of the former qualities today. I think EC
>has so much potential, but he's too lazy to extract it. I think he takes
>easy way out today, when so much of his earlier musical life was about
>exactly the opposite; he did the RIGHT thing, the RIGHT way, the HARD way,
>but it really paid off. From the heights of a passionate and cutting edge
>blues guitarist to Babyface imitator is a pretty big difference.
Passionate as it is, this is all just opinion, and there aren't a lot of
facts I can raise to argue it, so I'll just give my point of view. My
favorite EC solo is the first Old Love solo on 24 Nights. Nearly everything
I have heard from the period of about 1989-1995 or 96 is excellent, and I
wold put any of that up against his early period. I do believe he was as
passionate about his performance during this time as he was at any other
period except possibly the Layla sessions. Since '96, I think he has been
less consistent, but still much better, overall, than he was in the time
following his first "great" period from '66 - '71. I don't lazyness as much
of a factor in it. To hear the old stories, he's pretty much always been
"lazy" (I believe this especially irritated Keith Richards), it's just how
he is, and I doubt it was much different in the 60's than it is now, but
that's all conjecture.
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