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Clapton - Back Home
Review No: 254
John Mayer: Guitars
Billy Preston: Keyboards
Andy Fairweather Lowe: Guitars, Vocals
Steve Winwood: Synthesizer
Chris Stainton: Fender Rhodes
Pino Paladino: Bass
Abraham Laboriel jnr: Drums
Plus Eric Clapton’s regular backing band whom I
am sure would rather not be
Eric Clapton is, no doubt about it, one of the finest musicians of his lifetime. Having been a founder member of The Yardbirds (when he left the Yardbirds in March 1965, due to the band swerving off towards pop music leaving little room for Clapton’s love of the blues, the only person able to fill his boots was Jeff Beck, and then Jimmy Page). Eric Clapton then moved onto John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, recording the seminal ‘Bluesbreakers’ album (1966) before again moving on. John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers are still going strong today with their leader as youthful as ever in his seventies. But they have never been as successful as when Clapton was in the ranks, even though Clapton himself was followed by such luminary guitarist’s as Peter Green, Mick Taylor, and Robin Trower.
Cream was Clapton’s next project - a power trio formed with bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. Cream lasted two and a half years, during which time they recorded three timeless classic albums including the double album Wheels Of Fire (1968), which was a worldwide number one, and forced their record label Atlantic to invent the Platinum album for delivering a million dollars in sales for one album.
Record executives cried the day the Cream money making machine broke up, but alas they did, mainly due to the personnel feelings between the rhythm sections. Eric Clapton simply moved on to Blind Faith, comprising Steve Winwood (ex Spencer Davis Group and Traffic), Ric Grech (ex Family) and Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Blind Faith only maintained Eric Clapton’s interest for one album, the self titled Blind Faith (1969), and one year, before splitting the band to join friends Delaney and Bonnie on the road as a session player.
Sick of the spotlight, Eric Clapton then hid himself
in Derek and the Dominos, taking the musicians from the Delaney and Bonnie
Band. Derek and the Dominos released the wonderful double album, Layla
and Other Assorted Love Songs. By this time Eric Clapton was well down
the road of rock ‘n’ roll excess, and the band folded in disarray.
Eric Clapton then lived the life of a virtual recluse for the next three years, only being lured out twice to perform at the Concert for Refugee Children from Bangladesh, organized by his friend George Harrison in 1971, and by Peter Townshend of The Who fame who was attempting to get his old friend out of the house. It worked because in 1974 Eric Clapton re-introduced himself to the public with a fine solo album, 461 Ocean Boulevard, and a new band, actually Bob Seger’s old band, plus former sidekick Carl Radle from the Domino days. The motto of the story would obviously seem, if you have a good band to support you, do not show it to Eric!
Eric Clapton remained a solo artist for the next thirty years before getting Cream back together for some more concerts in 2005. During this time Clapton has remained at the top of the rock ‘n’ roll tree, proving himself to be a fine all round bloke making many charity appearances for the like of Live Aid, The Princes Trust Concerts, etc.
Producing many fine albums with an always changing line up of suitable musicians, along with legendary concert appearances, many of which have been recorded and released, EC Was Here (1975), Just One Night (1980), 24 Nights (1991) and the acoustic smash hit Unplugged (1992).
But his studio work became tamer and tamer as time went by, as Eric Clapton himself began to look more like a bank manager than the bank robber of yore. I personally lost interest in his studio output after the rather lack lustre Slowhand (1977) with the inclusion of such songs as Wonderful Tonight and May You Never. A little too much middle of the road for imagined true rock ‘n’ rollers.
Of course Eric Clapton did completely redeem himself in the Nineties and Noughties with some splendid blues studio albums, such as From The Cradle (1994), Riding with the King (2000), a collaboration with B.B. King, and Me and Mr Johnson (2004), an album of covers from the songbook of Robert Johnson. But the studio albums that have appeared in the last decade of Clapton’s own compositions, and selected covers, have been a little weak, Pilgrim (1998) and Reptile (2001) being the culprits.
In 2005 Eric Clapton recreated a lot of interest in rock ‘n’ roll circles by getting Cream back together, and performing some of the best concerts by a power trio in many an age. The CD and DVD releases of these concerts provide the proof of that pudding.
Mott the Dog thought it would be worth seeing what Eric Clapton was up to these days in the studio, as Clapton goes into his seventh decade, on the back of those rockin’ Cream concerts. On first listening to Back Home released at the end of August 2005, I thought I was listening to a very poor Michael Bolton album, except that Michael Bolton has a lot better voice, selects better songs, is better produced, to be honest is far more rock ‘n’ roll, and to my dismay uses the electric guitar a lot more.
I am more than happy for musical artists to diversify, as long as what they do is at least worthwhile. Back Home isn’t. I am sorry Mr. Clapton but what happened to your guitar? Only once or twice in the conclusion to a couple of numbers can a lead guitar be heard and then well down in the mix, usually submerged beneath flimsy backing vocals and sweeping string sections.
The album limps in with the first of songs co-written between Eric Clapton and Simon Climie, aptly titled So Tired, it barely limps out of your speakers. The best thing that can be said about So Tired is that it delays second song Say What You Will from starting for more than four and a half minutes. Stevie Wonder’s I’m Going Left simply just lies down without making the slightest effort.
Unbelievably the next cover version is an old Platter’s song, Love Don’t Love Nobody. This is where the strings and lush backing vocals start in earnest. It is hard to believe that this song was recorded by Eric Clapton - the man who’s guitar powered along songs such as I’m So Glad and Badge.
First single off the album is the Clapton/Climie Revolution, which is a foolish attempt at re-doing the Bob Marley song I Shot The Sheriff, which Eric Clapton had a number one hit with in The United States in 1974. Singing revolution time and time again over a reggae beat does not make a protest song.
The George Harrison song Love Comes To Everybody is so laid back as to be vertical. The only attempt at blues/rock is a song called Lost and Found, which collapses around its own riff, and when it does struggle to get going is abruptly cut off. Unfortunately from here the album goes dramatically downhill, which is quite an achievement in itself.
Reprise / Duck Records should know better than releasing
this rubbish, even if it does have a big name to promote it with. This
only dupes the unsuspecting paying public. Eric Clapton has also surrounded
himself with gifted musicians who also should have known better than lending
their names to this. If you want something from Eric Clapton to take back
home, stick to the Cream Reunion shows.