[Slowhand] Slowhand Digest, Vol 9, Issue 93

Apurva Parikh apuraja8 at hotmail.com
Sun Apr 1 11:44:55 EDT 2007

Great to hear from DN, after a long hiatus, it seems. I re-read some of
Mel's original comments. my thoughts below..

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.

AAP: I sometimes find that Clapton sets us up to lower our expectations in
the few interviews he has done lately, he mentions that his skills are not
what they used to but I tend to think its a matter of necessity vs. not
having to do it. Look at the Cream reunion, where it was all EC, rhythm,
lead and singing all of it. He can still deliver the goods when he needs to.
On this tour, there are all kinds of solos, Trucks, Doyle, Chris S., tim
carmon, weeks, heck everyone has a solo depending on the song.

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.

AAP: I think as fans, we have to see that these people reviewing EC in tour
may not be fans and have a right to their opinion, and we should fans should
treat it as such. One person's opinion on one night. They may not have seen
Eric or heard him as much as we, but you have to take it with a huge mound
of salt and not get up in arms. I've heard some of the other Eric Clapton
shows this tour and I think the sentiment of many comes from the fact that
each and every show seems scripted down to the setlist, to the performance,
no words, just a very businesslike performance by EC and the gang each time

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.

AAP: I can't speak to specific technique, but if you compare EC from this
era to any past era, his guitar soloing seems to drift between noodling and
between playing very emotive if not dymanic solos. Again, it's hard to
explain this but it just feels like he's holding back, but then again, all i
need to do is pop the cream reunion cd to hear some blazing soloing.

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.

AAP: Ah the potential.. I guess Eric now being 62 probably doesn't feel he
has much to say with the guitar and especially in studio, chooses to mask it
behind cheesy production and scores of guest musicians. But live, I'm
dissapointed again in just the scripted nature of the solos and the shows.

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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