Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No. 325: Slowhand

Band: Eric Clapton
Album: Slowhand
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Clapton's most successful 70s solo hits open "Slowhand," as the gritty J.J. Cale record "Cocaine" leads to the romantic "Wonderful Tonight."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: "Wonderful Tonight" is the first of Clapton catering to the AAA set and it reflects the rest of the album. Clapton's hard rock bent started moving on this album.
Best song: Most would say "Wonderful Tonight," but I'd suggest that's not even the best middlebrow love song on the album (that would be "Next Time You See Her"). "Cocaine" is a nice song.
Worst song: "Mean Old Frisco" stinks.
Is it awesome?: Nope.

"Slowhand" doesn't rock and that's a problem. For a guy who was in the Yardbirds, Cream and Derek and the Dominoes, I expect some rock and roll. Clapton doesn't rock often on "Slowhand."

There are three hits from the album on the first three tracks. First, Clapton's roughish treatment of J.J. Cale's (alleged) anti-drug track, "Cocaine." The soloing on the record shows what Clapton can do, but the guitar riff is easy to the point being lazy. It's a song so ingrained in our culture, it's hard not to enjoy it.

"Wonderful Tonight" is similarly tattooed on our collective consciousness. It's been played at just about every wedding ever (including my sister's) and -- I'll assume, as women find overweight hairy Sicilian-American narcissists mostly repulsive -- women continue to swoon over it. I'm not going to argue that it's not a sweet, pretty song. It is. But, Clapton's huge gifts are mostly wasted on the track; trying to be David Gilmour does not fit Slowhand.

"Lay Down Sally" is a shuffle and similarly wastes Clapton's copious gifts. It's a great version of a shuffle, as it is rhythmically interesting, but it's still a shuffle.

That's the album, though: Clapton doing things he isn't really good at.


I don't know where else to put this, but it's kind of mind-blowing that there have been thirteen (!) Clapton compilation albums. Now, I know people like Clapton and all, but, thirteen? That's a little much.


Justin said...

Not a fan of Wonderful Tonight, although it is the most deeply sarcastic thing Clapton ever did, having written it when he was annoyed by Patty (George's ex) taking forever to get ready for a show.

I find it hilarious that the song is such a wedding staple when viewed in that context. But I guess one man's sarcasm is another man's cliche ridden attempt to show his woman he loves her without listening carefully or trying to understand the lyrics.

fft said...

I like this album and its a semi-regular play for me -- I am one of the few that likes the mid-70's slower Clapton albums (includes 461 Ocean Blvd and Backless). The tone of these are just really at peace after all the shit he had been through

After a lot of plays my favorites on here are "The Core" (love the solos) and "May You Never". I never really cared for Wonderful Tonight.

Also note that these albums featured Yvonne Elliman on backing vocals, later of Saturday Night Fever "If I Can't Have You" fame.