Eric Clapton – Slowhand (35th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

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Review by Paul Broome

Clapton’s 1970s studios albums can be a fairly divisive subject. As is well-known, they were recorded at the peak of his substance and alcohol abuse, and saw him by-and-large tone down the fret-board fireworks in favour of considered covers, self-penned ballads and countrified shenanigans. The Glyn Johns’ produced Slowhand, first released in November 1977, contains some of his most successful tracks – yet probably ranks as one of his least ambitious projects.

The highlights are the classic cover of JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ which opens the album (and which, arguably, Clapton made his own), and the lengthy driving groove-based jam of ‘The Core’ (written by Clapton and Marcella ‘Detroit’ Levy). Other than those the tracks mostly dwell in the arena of languid country AOR, typified by ‘Lay Down Sally’ (another track co-written with Levy) – which may be one of his most successful singles, but is the kind of track that just raises my hackles. Every time I hear it I get a vision of Burt Reynolds line-dancing in his full Bandit get-up. It’s not pretty, but it’s also not-gritty. The best country music is covered in blood and shit, has holes in its boots and broken knuckles. This kind of country is all shopping mall rhinestone and perfect teeth. An abomination.

This is also the album that brought us ‘Wonderful Tonight’ – which, despite that simple joyous repeated riff, undoubtedly served as a template when Chris De Burgh was writing ‘Lady in Red’ and therefore can never be forgiven.

We also get a version of John Martyn’s simple and elegant classic ‘May You Never’ that is devoid of any emotion what-so-ever, and while the cover of Arthur Crudup’s ‘Mean Old Crisco’ at least gives Clapton an excuse for some nice slide it’s all a bit ‘blues by numbers’. Closing track ‘Peaches and Diesel’ is just really an instrumental version of ‘Wonderful Tonight’ with a few trimmings – which seems like a bit of a cop-out.

With this Super Deluxe version, released to celebrate the album’s 35th anniversary, we get an extra four studio tracks – which didn’t quite blatantly didn’t appear on the original album for a reason.  They weren’t good enough, and they still aren’t. ‘Stars, Strays and Ashtrays’ is probably the strongest of the four – but even that sounds like a Stereophonics B-side.

Thankfully, the extra two discs of live material do a lot to rescue this package – recorded live at the Hammersmith Odeon in April 1977, they contain more life and emotion in the first four minutes than is contained in the whole of the studio album. While it’s true that Clapton was by and large leaving most of the lead duties to the superb George Terry, this is still a classic performance.

The version of ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ may outstay its welcome by about ten minutes (I’m sorry, but drum solos of this length had no place in the London of 1977), but other than that it all pretty much hits the mark (the version of ‘Stormy Monday’, in particular, is totally captivating). About a half hour of the live material has been released on previous compilations, but that still leaves plenty of fresh stuff for the fans. And ‘the fans’ is really who this anniversary release is for. If you’re looking for an introduction to classic Clapton then you’d still be better off picking up The Cream of Clapton, but for die-hard fans this is pretty much the definitive collection covering Clapton in ’77.

Eric Clapton - Slowhand6 out of 10

Track listing:

CD1

  1. Cocaine
  2. Wonderful Tonight
  3. Lay Down Sally
  4. Next Time You See Her
  5. We’re All The Way
  6. The Core
  7. May You Never
  8. Mean Old Frisco
  9. Peaches and Diesel
  10. Looking At The Rain
  11. Alberta
  12. Greyhound Bus
  13. Stars, Strays and Ashtrays

Eric Clapton - Slowhand packageCD2

  1. Hello Old Friend
  2. Sign Language
  3. Alberta
  4. Tell The Truth
  5. Knocking on Heaven’s Door
  6. Steady Rollin’ Man
  7. Can’t Find My Way Home
  8. Further On Up The Road
  9. Stormy Monday

CD3

  1. Badge
  2. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
  3. I Shot The Sheriff
  4. Layla
  5. Key To The Highway

 

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m going back to bed, I’ve become illiterate. What I should have written was:

    I had an argument last night (or was it the early hours of this morning?) where I said Wonderful Tonight was off Slowhand. Thanks for setting the record straight on that score, and by your review confirming that I was right to stop buying Clapton albums just prior to this one. Yeah, I’ve heard Clapton’s take on May You Never, I cringe at it. Clapton and Phil Collins also ganged up to help Martyn crucify his own Couldn’t Love You More when it was reworked for the Glorious Fool album.

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