Friday, March 14, 2008

No. 409: 461 Ocean Boulevard

Band: Eric Clapton
Album: 461 Ocean Boulevard
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Despite immense label pressure, Eric Clapton's second solo album turned out well and sold even better. Including three Clapton classic reimaginings, "461 Ocean Boulevard" remains a popular record.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's Eric Clapton, so I'm not the world's biggest Clapton fan.
Best song: "Motherless Children" is the classic example of Clapton's strength: Blues arrangement and nimble fingerwork.
Worst song: It's not the worst song -- actually, the song holds up anywhere because it's one of the best written-songs around -- but Clapton's arrangement of "I Shot the Sheriff" isn't nearly as good as Marley's.
Is it awesome?: Not really.

Much of the recording of "461 Ocean Boulevard" was done after Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes broke up and Clapton has just gotten clean after years of heroin use.

The album isn't particularly strong. The first track, "Motherless Children" is a great arrangement of a classic delta blues song. Clapton's hard-charging guitar fits into the song as well as anything he's done.

The rest of the album is uneven. Clapton works Robert Johnson's "Steady Rollin' Man" a fine, fine song, but Clapton's take on Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive" -- despite being a minor hit -- isn't great. Somewhere in the middle is "I Shot the Sheriff," a far inferior version of Marley's original.

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