[Slowhand] Older is mostly better

John Mills turbineltd at btconnect.com
Sat May 24 06:27:17 EDT 2008

Time for a joke:
What do women and cow-pats have in common?
The older they are, the easier they are to pick up!

Sorry, I thought of it, so I had to say it.

When looking at the work of Eric Clapton, older is mostly better
Published: 2 hours ago

If you need a nudge in your deliberations over whether to see Eric Clapton
on Wednesday night, consider the following hall-of-fame performances, in
chronological order:
1. All Your Love (John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, 1966): Clapton, just turned
21, slashes out a razor-sharp solo on the album that showed the way to a new
generation of players.
2. Tales of Brave Ulysses (Cream, 1967): One of the most perfect uses of the
wah-wah pedal in rock history.
3. White Room (Cream, 1968): On this larger-than-life rocker, Clapton,
unable to restrain himself, stomps all over everything in his path.
4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles, 1968): You don't get invited
to play on a Beatles record every day, much less contribute a memorable
series of licks. George Harrison's classic benefited from the Clapton chops
in a big way.
5. Presence of the Lord (Blind Faith, 1969): This soulful ballad, written by
Clapton and sung by Steve Winwood, takes off into the stratosphere with
Clapton's unhinged solo.
6. Comin' Home (Delaney and Bonnie, 1969): The treat in this chugging little
number is listening to Clapton play off the guitars of Delaney Bramlett and
Dave Mason.
7. After Midnight (1970): One of his most joyous solos.
8. Anyday (Derek and the Dominos, 1970): This maelstrom of wonderful noise,
courtesy of old E.C.'s Sunburst Fender Stratocaster and friendly competition
from co-guitarist Duane Allman, is a heart-stopper - but, really, just about
any track from the Layla album could have qualified for this slot.
9. The Sky Is Crying (1975): This gloriously-wrecked interpretation of the
Elmore James song features a solo from Clapton that really does gently weep.
10. Dirty City (Steve Winwood, 2008): Just in case you doubted whether he
could still do it, Clapton sounds like he's playing for his life on this
tale of urban and family decay, from longtime collaborator Winwood's
otherwise undistinguished new album.
But then there's the flip side. This list of best-forgotten Clapton records
proves at least two things: he should never remake old hits and he should
steer clear of songs with "heaven" in the title. And maybe Bob Dylan isn't
his best source of material, either.
1. Knockin' on Heaven's Door (1975): A faux-reggae take on one of Dylan's
most overrated songs falls flat.
2. Sign Language (1976): This Dylan throwaway, with His Bobness singing way
up in the mix, sets a new standard in sloppiness.
3. Heaven Is One Step Away (1985): More cod-reggae, dreadful drum machines
and calypso synths. Not exactly what you look for in a Clapton track.
4. It's in the Way That You Use It (1986): Written for Martin Scorsese's The
Colour of Money, with Robbie Robertson. Clearly, neither director nor
musicians were at the top of their game.
5. Miss You (1986): Proof - as if any were needed - that no one escaped the
production values of the 1980s, which defined an era of collective musical
6. After Midnight (remake) (1988): No one quite understood why an alcoholic
would rearrange one of his biggies for a beer commercial. And that issue
overshadowed the absolute horror of this new version.
7. Tears in Heaven (1992): Is it possible to feel true compassion for the
tragedy of his son's death, which inspired the song, and still think his
biggest hit is a crummy record?
8. Layla (Unplugged remake) (1992): It took much willpower to hold on to the
magic of the original in the face if this ill-advised supper-club version.
9. Change the World (1996): This piece of easy-listening pop, a
collaboration with Babyface for the soundtrack of the John Travolta movie
Phenomenon, was a hit and a Grammy winner. But then again, Macarena spent 14
weeks at No. 1 during the same year.
10. One Track Mind (2005): Let's just hope there aren't too many more
light-as-air, mid-tempo yawners like this in Clapton's future. From the
entirely unremarkable Back Home album.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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