Category Archives: Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton Discography

This misguided miscreants who graffitoed “Clapton Is God” had got it wrong; God was God because he had created Clapton. Clapton, for his own part, had to be content with merely being the greatest living guitarist of his time. Yes, you could argue for Jimi Hendrix (although his time was too brief) or Frank Zappa (if you just like annoying people with your contrarian opinions), but artistically and commercially, collectively, Clapton is the man.

His early work with the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers earned him a reputation as a gifted young blues guitarist, but both of those jobs paled in comparison to what he achieved with Cream. With Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, Clapton was arguably half of the world’s greatest trio as its guitar-playing demigod. He breathed life into the blues for a generation of rock fans and proved to be both an interesting songwriter (“Tales of Brave Ulysses”) and a decent singer (“Strange Brew,” “Badge”). After a few years as perhaps the greatest rock band of its time, Cream curdled and Clapton bounced between Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett (with whom he recorded his first solo album) and Derek & The Dominoes.

The Seventies were an up-and-down decade for Clapton. A heroin addiction in the early going was the bottom, while commercially successful albums like 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), Slowhand (1977) and Backless (1978) were the tops. In the Eighties, Clapton established his own Duck Records subsidiary with Warner Bros./Reprise and continued to release gold-selling albums that mixed modernized blues with Top 40 pop songs. By the Nineties, Clapton was both an international star and a spokesperson for the blues. Since then, he has continued to release new solo albums and share the limelight with B.B. King, J.J. Cale and the late Robert Johnson.

Now in its sixth decade, the career of Eric Clapton has been the epitome of steady and classy. When he does finally retire, he will leave behind the greatest recorded legacy of popular guitar music in history. No one has done more to preserve the legacy of the blues, or likely has inspired more young boys and girls to pick up a guitar, than Clapton. Not everything he has done is brilliant, but it has been a career brilliantly done from the very beginning until now.

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Blind Faith (1969)

Kronomyth 1.0: TREAM TEAM. For years, I saw this album as something of a disappointment. It sounded like Led Zeppelin with a timid folk singer. In truth, Blind Faith sounds a lot like Cream and Traffic, with one caveat: if these songs had been recorded by Cream or Traffic (in its Barleycorn incarnation), they would have sounded better. I like this album but have always felt it was an overrated asterisk. The opening “Had To Cry Today” lays it on the line; Winwood wrote it, but Jack Bruce should be singing it. Conversely, “Can’t Find My Way Home” would have worked better on Barleycorn with Chris Wood (though Baker does an admirable job of playing the drums on a song that doesn’t require them). The main pleasure I get from this record is hearing Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood play on music that matters. “Presence of the Lord,” “Sea of Joy,” “Had To Cry Today” and “Can’t Find My Way Home” belong with the best songs of Winwood and Clapton. Of course, Clapton fans will find as much (or more) to get excited about in Derek & The Dominoes. Blind Faith has been reissued about a billion times, usually with the controversial model cover, honored with a Mobile Fidelity remaster, expanded with a couple of post-session recordings (“Exchange and Mart,” “Spending All My Days”) and given a double-disc Deluxe Edition treatment that includes an electric version of “Can’t Find My Way Home,” two versions of Sam Myers’ “Sleeping In The Ground” and a bunch of instrumental jams (most of them recorded before Grech joined) that aren’t likely to increase your faith one iota. Given the dearth of classic Cream and Traffic recordings, you can’t turn a blind eye to Blind Faith, but I’d leave the Deluxe Edition to the deluded and settle on one of the single-disc remasters.

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Derek and The Dominos: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)

Kronomyth 1.0: CREAMELOT. And so it came to pass, so soon after the passing of Jimi Hendrix, that two of the greatest living guitarists, Eric Clapton and George Harrison, would release their greatest works, All Things Must Pass and Layla. In a strange coincidence, both albums featured the same core players—Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon. In an even stranger coincidence, Clapton’s album was (secretly) dedicated to Harrison’s wife, the former (and future) Pattie Boyd. With romance, intrigue and a beknighted Beatle in the mix, Layla had all the making of Arthurian legend; and if neither All Things or Layla turned out to be the holy grail, they are nonetheless among the sacred relics of rock and roll. Layla, written with Bobby Whitlock, is a loose concept album that, at first indirectly via the Derek moniker, deals directly with Clapton’s infatuation with his famous friend’s wife. For the only time in his career, Clapton actually surpasses his work with Cream. “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues” are brilliant from beginning to end. “I Looked Away,” “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad,” “Anyday” and “Tell The Truth” belong with his better ideas over a long career. Sharing vocals with Bobby Whitlock and trading licks with Duane Allman, Clapton still manages to step forward more on this effort than his debut record with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett (which also featured Radle, Whitlock and Gordon). The similarities to George are sometimes uncanny (e.g., “I Am Yours”), although the tribute to Hendrix (“Little Wing”) simply seems canned next to the original. In between are a few blues covers that feel more like outtakes, some of them (e.g., “Have You Ever Loved A Woman”) selected as coded messages for Clapton’s feelings. Audiences initially didn’t know who Derek and The Dominos were, but they soon connected the dots, and Clapton’s “secret” love song may be the one most readily identified with him when all is said and done. Layla has since been issued in an expanded 20th anniversary edition featuring the original jams between Clapton and Allman, and an even more widely expanded 40th anniversary edition that includes alternate takes, released as The Layla Sessions.

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At His Best (1972)

Kronomyth 1.5: BLINDEREKLAPTON

It wasn’t long before Polydor’s efforts to skim every inch of profit off Cream reached ridiculous proportions: a series of four double elpees, one dedicated to the music of Cream and three to the solo efforts of its three members. In an admirable move of economy, Polydor used the artwork for the Cream compilation (Heavy Cream) as the template for the other three sets, so that if you laid the albums of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker atop one another, the Heavy Cream cover was reproduced. Of course, these optical tricks may have been designed to take attention away from the fact that neither Baker, Bruce nor Clapton had released enough solo music since Cream to justify the double elpeeing. In Clapton’s case, At His Best covers the first Blind Faith album, the first Derek and the Dominos album and his first solo album. That’s a four-elpee body of work divided in half, which still leaves you with about an album of non-hits that could have missed the cut without anyone griping (okay, so I might have griped a little if “Easy Now” were missing). Nothing essential is absent from At His Best except maybe for Blind Faith’s “Had To Cry Today,” nothing undeserving of its place here except the instrumental “Slunky” and the unremarkable “Lonesome And A Long Way From Home.” In retrospect, Polydor would have served listeners better by combining the three solo double elpees into a single triple elpee with one album each from Baker, Bruce and Clapton, but I’m pretty sure you’d need to calculate the cosine of something to figure it all out.

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Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert (1973)

Kronomyth 2.0: THE RAINBOW CONNECTION. You know the story, so I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say that Clapton finally came out to play, and Townshend comes out smelling like a rose. The original Rainbow concerts consisted of two shows (both on January 13, 1973), billed as Eric Clapton and The Palpitations, and you could rightfully expect some with the likes of Clapton, Townshend, Steve Winwood, Ron Wood and supporting members of Blind Faith and Traffic sharing the same stage. Despite conditions that were ripe for failure (Clapton’s heroin habit, a scant ten days of rehearsal), the concerts were an unqualified success and showed that Clapton had lost little of his edge and ability. The resulting elpee, unfortunately, was a heavily abridged version of the concerts reduced to six tracks including one by Traffic (“Pearly Queen”) and a little-known Derek & the Dominos b-side, “Roll It Over.” If you bought that elpee, you got rolled indeed. The 14-track remaster is an act of atonement that draws from both shows to present something much closer to the actual concert experience, in chronological order with only two tracks missing (“Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”). If you see the original elpee in a used record store somewhere, punch it for me. Then go buy this expanded remaster, because there’s a shortage of miracles in the world and this is surely 1 of them; 2 bad it took 22 years to roll around. I’d rank this as the most essential of Clapton’s live records, and then I’d tell you confidentially that live records aren’t really made to be listened to over and over; they’re reference documents, like a thesaurus. As you slough through some of Clapton’s mediocre studio albums and wonder why people bothered showing up at all, return to the Rainbow and your faith in the man’s star presence will be renewed.

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Eric Clapton: “I Shot The Sheriff” (1974)

Kronomyth 3.1: MARLEY’S GHOST. Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” shot to number one with a bullet. It wasn’t even Clapton’s idea to cover the song originally, but he does a remarkable job with it. Recorded with his mostly Tulsan backing band (George Terry was originally from Florida, Yvonne Elliman from Hawaii), the song has a distinctively compressed sound that almost defies categorization, since it’s neither reggae nor rock and almost anticipates disco. The single version is about a minute shorter than the original elpee version (the ending, for instance, simply fades out on the single). The B side, “Give Me Strength,” is identical to the original album version though, it would seem, a little too identical to a song written some thirty-odd years earlier (see DYK below). Featuring Clapton on dobro, the song sounds more like Bob Dylan and the Band than anything from No Reason To Cry. Possibly because of potential copyright issues, “Give Me Strength” was replaced on later issues of 461 Ocean Boulevard and eventually appended at the end of the CD versions as the last track.

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There’s One In Every Crowd (1975)

Kronomyth 4.0: IT’S WHAT JAMAICA LIFE

The followup to 461 Ocean Boulevard was recorded in Miami and Jamaica with the same lineup and had a minor hit with the slightly reggaefied version of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” The album is pretty much a split between cover versions (a mix of reggae and blues) and originals, featuring the Tulsa sound on the blues selections and favoring George Harrison on the pop selections. As many have mused, it’s an underrated album, lacking a standout single but containing much good music, from a fiery version of “Singin’ The Blues” to the (all things must) Pass-able pop of “Pretty Blue Eyes” and “High.” It’s not a perfect record, of course; Clapton albums rarely are. “The Sky Is Crying” could have been given a more passionate reading, for example, and the sequel to “I Shot The Sheriff” (“Don’t Blame Me”) seems unnecessary. Generally, though, it’s a solid album, not so far removed from the mix of originals and covers that made Layla such a success, albeit on a less grand scale. Clapton had assembled a fine backing band behind him, and the vocal support of Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy helps immensely in making the man’s voice palatable to the ears over an entire album. If you enjoyed the last few Clapton studio records (and most people did), There’s One In Every Crowd is one to add to your collection. The reggae numbers are really a red herring; what’s here is more rooted in the Tulsa blues and The Beatles’ solo music than Bob Marley or Byron Lee.

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No Reason To Cry (1976)

Kronomyth 6.0: ERIC AND BOB IN THE BAND’S BASEMENT

On the eve of the American bicentennial, Eric Clapton found himself in The Band’s Shangri-La studio as their American dream was unraveling and Bob Dylan was living in a tent in their garden. While the original intent may have been to tap into The Band’s Americana mystique, what ended up on No Reason To Cry is more of a mistake: tracks written with The Band that lack their folk-wise energy (“Beautiful Thing,” “All Our Past Times”), an ill-conceived duet with the mysterious bard (“Sign Language”) and a trio of tracks at the end that look to launch Marcy Levy’s solo career at Clapton’s expense. His previous two studio efforts, recorded with the same core Tulsa group, had succeeded by focusing on Clapton’s strengths (the blues, Beatlesque pop) and casting his otherwise weak voice in the favorable light of reggae. No Reason To Cry finds Clapton out of his element too often, especially on the sprawling “Carnival.” The album contains a few good songs, none better than “Hello Old Friend,” which taps into the same George Harrison-styled pop music that had given Clapton come of his greatest success, yet overall it remains his weakest entry from the 70s. Although he had kicked his heroin habit, Clapton was still drinking and looking too thin. At around the same time as the album’s release, the guitar god found himself in hot water when he criticized “wogs” (you’ll just have to look it up) during a concert in Birmingham, England and lent his support to the nationalist Enoch Powell, who was then running for prime minister. Old story, that, which only proves that music, alcohol and politics are poor bedfellows. The presence of The Band, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood and Billy Preston is bound to intrigue, but recalling the star-studded casts on some of those George Harrison and Ringo Starr stinkfests should temper that interest some.

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“Carnival” (1976)

Kronomyth 6.2: NAO CHORE PARA MORE-A

When Clapton entered the studio to record No Reason To Cry, he only had a few songs in hand including “Carnival,” which he had already performed a couple of times during his 1975 summer tour. In its original version, “Carnival” was a chugging number with a generous wah-wah solo in the middle; nothing great, mind you, but more respectable than the compressed and cartoonish version that ended up on his next album. In the studio, the organ was pumped up, the guitar was downplayed and the whole thing sounded like a multicultural mishmash. From the opening “oi,” which is more British than Brazilian, the song just gets it wrong. I don’t know why the label felt it was a good choice for a second single, but it didn’t go anywhere on the charts and I don’t recall hearing it played on the radio. Clapton didn’t even play it live after the album was released, so far as I can tell. The single had a limited international release, and it appears some countries (Australia, the Netherlands) replaced “Hungry” with “County Jail Blues” as the B side (although I’m still looking to confirm that). The single version of “Carnival” is about a half-minute shorter than the elpee version; not sure if they cut anything out other than an early fade on the ending, but I’m happy to have the 30 seconds of my life back.

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Pete Townshend/Ronnie Lane: Rough Mix (1977)

Kronomyth 4.0: A PAIR GIFTED. I would tell you that this collaboration between Ronnie Lane and Pete Townshend is a happy accident except, of course, there are no accidents. What we see as chance and happenstance is the will of God moving (or choosing not to move) invisibly in our lives. Thus, you could see Rough Mix as a gift from God. I don’t say that lightly. Music is an articulation of spirit. It plays a vital role in our communication with and worship of God. And because God has foreknowledge of everything, he knew the words and lyrics to “Annie” and “Heart To Hang Onto” from the beginning of time. Our familiarity with these songs is considerably shorter but, once heard, the music of Rough Mix isn’t quickly forgotten. What began as a Ronnie Lane solo album became a half album each from Lane and Pete Townshend, who was originally tapped by Lane to produce the album. The material from Lane is some of the best of his career, likeable rockers and acoustic numbers reminiscent of The Faces that include “Annie” (one of the sweetest songs you’ll ever hear), “Nowhere To Run” and “April Fool.” Lane has a gruff voice, but its working-class sensibilities can be disarming in the best way. The material from Townshend is also some of the best of his solo career, which came as a surprise to me. “Heart To Hang Onto,” “My Baby Gives It Away,” “Street In The City” and “Misunderstood” should be considered essential additions to any proper Who collection. Maybe the labels didn’t know what they had with Rough Mix, but the whole thing was packaged and marketed like some incidental side project. Had it been given the herald of Empty Glass, “Annie,” “Heart To Hang Onto” and “My Baby Gives It Away” might have become classics. The radio running in our heads is the only important one, though. If you haven’t tuned into this music yet, now is your (not) chance. In 2006, Hip-O added a few bonus tracks to the mix, including Lane’s old-tymey “Only You,” which is a treat to hear.

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