I just finished archiving my music collection—to be clear, this means cataloging. I did not download anything. I just typed away into a program called Music Label 2011, entering everything I own on LP, CD, SACD, DVD-Audio and DVD. Through this process, I carefully examined each of my 1250 LP’s and discarded and replaced worn copies. I also bought some new things that caught my eye. Now having the database, I feel confident in my ability to manage this BLOG effectively, refer to my collection without forgetting what I own, and not go out and buy things that are already sitting on the shelf. I can sort by track, year, label, artist—and I can look at what I have on Mobile Fidelity or any other custom pressings. I also can sort by import, promo copy, etc. It’s a brave new world!!
Now that the insanity of cataloging my software is behind me, back to the music: Someone recently suggested that I check out the new Eric Clapton record. Admittedly out of the gate—I have never been a Clapton/Cream guy—blues-based songs typically put me to sleep nearly as fast as an after dinner documentary on rain forest wildlife—but always curious about the evolution of an artist, especially a legend who has a distinctive playing style, I bought the double LP from Elusive Disc, where I acquire most of my new vinyl. This listening session would have to be from the comfort of my den and my THIEL CS6’s since the Caprice is still in winter storage.
There are 15 tracks on the double LP entitled Clapton and released in 2010 on Reprise. If you like blues-based rock with a nice mix of New Orleans flavor, you will likely enjoy this record. The musicianship is stellar, the rhythm section has just the right feel, the clean guitar work is tasty and Clapton’s vocals are none the worse as he ages. I had the impression that Clapton approached the melodies cautiously, careful not to extend his range, but I’d say his forethought paid dividends as his singing was lush and interesting from start to finish.
My two favorite tracks were “Rockin’ Chair” (song 2, side A) and “Autumn Leaves” (final track on side D). Rockin’ Chair has a real chorus and great harmonies—and the lyrics are witty and made me smile. The use of strings (performed by the London Session Orchestra and arranged by Nick Ingman) throughout the record wore on me—they really seemed to detract from the intimacy that the listener develops with the other players. They mask the decay of the guitars, the flutter of the Hammond and other really special details that are so clear when the strings are absent. They sort of bring an “elevator” sensibility to the arrangements that I could have done without.
There is also a great moment toward the end of “That’s No Way to Get Along” (on side B) where everything drops out; leaving the rhythm section (bass, drums, piano) shuffling along before the guitars come roaring back in. The groove that these players lay down is just special—it’s what draws you into this record and I LOVE when you get just a taste of it with no external distractions. Yum!! And that track gives you a sexy Preservation Hall fade at the very end that just oozes New Orleans. Great stuff!
The sound of the LP is excellent—the mastering is seamless, the mixes are precise (minus the strings that are like too much gravy on a fine cut of meat at times), but my bitch with this record is the same as it has been with Clapton releases for decades—the musical content (for the most part) just isn’t stimulating to me. Yes, the musicians are magical—but within the framework of such basic chord changes and simple structures—overall, these songs just don’t touch me. It’s like a beautifully garnished ham and cheese sandwich—just way too predictable to be interesting for 15 tracks.