Lord knows I’ve tried with sixeventies rock artist incarnate Eric Clapton. After his constant presence on the FM radio of my youth and the go I had back in the early 90s on Eric Clapton at His Best, this double Lp anthology, a one pound buy from Ashford, represents a latest (last?) attempt to enjoy the man’s deal. Things start off pretty well with mid-60s studio tracks by the Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, the Powerhouse and Cream. Typical of their time, these performances are certainly good-like, but not, shall we say, God-like.
It’s when we get to those live Cream songs that it proceeds downhill at a rate of 32 feet per second per second (that’s 9.8 meters per second per second for TV‘s non-American readership). This is music driven by egomania from players who seemed oblivious to one another and didn’t know when to shut up/stop showing off. Things reach an absolute nadir on a screeching, overblown, “heavy” cover of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful”. All 16:43 bullshit minutes of it. Frankly, I blame the audience for encouraging them. If the crowds had voted with their feet then maybe the band would have rethought and stuck with the decent pop-psyche stuff; but no, beaten senseless by a combination of extreme volume, hero worship and marijuana smoke, they stayed, oblivious to their emperors’ nakedness, and cheered. At least drum solo “Toad” isn’t on here.
Cream’s wretched excess does explain Clappo’s desire to return to the more earthy, less histrionic, ensemble settings of Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie and Derek & the Dominos. The rootsy vibe works well enough, especially with Steve Winwood singing, though D & B are only mediocre vocalists. This period smacks of the self-congratulation and worthy professionalism that dog Eric’s mellow boogie from then out. “Layla”, however, is good, the most focussed Clapton’s ever been as far as I know and a blues that doesn’t sound like a parody or overly reverent tribute. Though why the seriously out-of-tune slide guitar on the extended coda was allowed to stand I don’t know.
So, EC remains elusive and uninvolving to me, and likely will remain so; still, I’m tempted to check out the Blind Faith Lp if I ever see it for a pound.