[Slowhand] Couple of Comments

deltanick at aol.com deltanick at aol.com
Sun Apr 1 02:41:38 EDT 2007

Just a couple of comments related to a couple of recent posts by others:

1. Melvin To Selvin: Regarding Mel’s response to a “SF Chronicle”
review by Joel Selvin, I and many others think that Selvin is spot on.
Selvin writes what I’ve been saying all along. It’s not a putdown of
Clapton, but it is a criticism, and I think Mel misses Selvin’s point
entirely. My opinion is that Clapton cooked full dinners, from scratch,
way back in his Mayall/Cream/Blind Faith days, while today he merely
pops TV dinners into the microwave, and lets others (Trucks) do the
cooking. Today he also sets the table, which he didn’t do back then,
but every once in a while, he gives us a sandwich that hasn’t been
microwaved, and it’s pretty good.

Selvin’s not putting Clapton down, but is criticizing him (Selvin’s a
critic, and writes critiques) for not doing better. As I’ve written
before, I still like Clapton, but I’ve seen him when he’s done so much
better, played so much more passionately. I believe that he’s
shortchanging us; it appears that he’s not trying very hard. Many
others have written here in the Slowhand Digest this past year that EC
seems to be merely cruising on auto-pilot, mailing in his guitar solos,
getting others (Bramhall & Trucks) to do the heavy lifting. I think
they’re both fine guitarists. But I want to see and hear Eric Clapton
play, because he’s SO much better, although he usually doesn’t show us
how good he is.

I believe that Clapton’s best days were when he concentrated on playing
guitar, and had a bluesier overall sound to his music. Too much of his
music today, in my opinion, is middle-of-the-road (MOR) “Adult
Contemporary.” Now, who else is Adult Contemporary”? How about Celine
Dion, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow ... yuccch!

Clapton still plays long fairly solos today, such as during “I Shot The
Sheriff, but he seems to be merely “noodling” 99% of the time, not
trying very hard at all ... too ”balanced,” with little passion. I
don’t want to see and hear Clapton play “balanced” music. I want him to
rock! I want him to play with passion, not balance, to show emotion,
not restraint. The “balance” is the problem, and causes Clapton to hold
back! While I still enjoy much of EC’s music, I find that he releases
his crappy stuff (“Back Home”) rather than his better music (“Nothing
But The Blues”). And he’s way too self-conscious about his singularly
unique talent: playing the guitar.

Why do I still go see Clapton? Because I like his music. I went to the
10 October 2006 performance in Washington, on this latest tour and I
enjoyed it immensely. But I enjoyed his performances 38 or 40 years ago
so much more, because I watched and listened to real artist creating
magical, musical scenes through the sound of his guitar. It has nothing
to do with nostalgia, and everything to do with his guitar playing.

On “The Road To Escondido,” there’s a wonderful guitar solo on track 1,
“Danger,” that is inventive, soaring, and passionate. If Clapton played
like that a lot more often, I probably wouldn’t be typing right now.
But no, we’ve got to settle for less than his best. In general, his
music is good, but it could be SO much better. So, I believe that Joel
Selvin and I are stating the same: Clapton fails to live up to his
potential. An incredibly amazing talent, Eric Clapton decides to share
it with us only once in a while, perhaps only by mistake, when he
forgets to remain “balanced” and allows his passion to come through.

2. Slowhand Sidekicks: Roel Hendriksen asks about John Mayall and Jack
Bruce. Yes, musicians who complement and push EC don’t have to be
guitarists. In fact, Clapton earned his initial fame as THE solo guitar
player. True, in the Yardbirds, Chris Dreja played rhythm guitar. But
Chris Dreja really DID play rhythm guitar, and didn’t share the solos
with Clapton. However, Clapton’s enduring reputation as a musician --
as THE guitarist -- was mostly earned while with John Mayall And The
Bluesbreakers and Cream. These bands had just the one guitarist: Eric
Clapton. People such as John Mayall -- a superb musician (keyboards and
harmonica) and bandleader -- and Jack Bruce provided a frame for
Clapton, showcasing his unique talent, allowing him to flower as a
musician. And let’s not forget, if he didn’t become the world class
guitarist that he is, then today Eric Clapton would be laying bricks or
installing new windows.


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