Clapton is Eric Clapton’s first solo album in five years, but he hardly spent the back half of the 2000s in seclusion. After 2005’s Back Home, he went on a journey through the past, writing a 2007 autobiography -- also titled Clapton, although that’s the only connection they shared -- mending fences with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker for a brief Cream reunion, establishing a lasting connection with his old Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood, and recording a duet album with his ‘70s inspiration JJ Cale. This embrace of history isn’t directly heard on Clapton but it’s certainly felt, extending to how EC relies on old tunes -- blues and country, but also pop and R&B -- for the bulk of this 14-track album. EC is no stranger to covers and the sound of the album is familiar, but there’s no record quite like Clapton in his catalog. The closest may be Unplugged, which also ambles along with an unhurried shuffle, but this boasts a greater musical range, mixing up Fats Waller and Robert Wilkins with Hoagy Carmichael and Irving Berlin, finding room for guests appearances by Winwood, Allen Toussaint, Wynton Marsalis, Sheryl Crow, Derek Trucks and selected members from Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Yes, it is eclectic, even dipping into a bit of a soulful soft-rock groove on “Everything Will Be Alright,” but not self-consciously so. Clapton flows easily, the blues never hitting too hard, the New Orleans jazz never getting too woozy, the standards never too sleepy, the sounds subtly shifting but changing all the same. It’s leisurely in its performance and its length, perhaps running just a little too long, but it’s hard to complain because the slow ramble is so enjoyable. Eric Clapton has never sounded so relaxed on record, either as a singer -- he is supple and casually authoritative, a far cry from the tentative lead vocalist of his earliest solo records -- or a bandleader, sounding at peace with his past yet harboring no desire to recycle it, even if he’s reaching back far beyond the blues that initially sparked his interest in music. He’s simply laying back and enjoying what he’s playing, winding up with one of his simplest and best records.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine