[Review] Eric Clapton: Slowhand (1977)

This may be the cream of the crop among Clapton’s 70s albums… slow, back-handed compliment that it is.

Kronomyth 7.0: The sound of four million hands clapping.

Eric Clapton’s solo recording career has been spotty, with the occasional, redeeming bright spot (Eric Clapton, 461 Ocean Boulevard) to recommend it. Slowhand may be his brightest showing yet. The opening trio of “Cocaine,” “Wonderful Tonight” and “Lay Down Sally” is a veritable cavalcade of classic hits, Clapton’s Sticky Fingers if you will. The rest of the record doesn’t rise to that level again, although it does deliver enough good performances (“Peaches And Diesel,” Don Williams’ “We’re All The Way”) to sustain the impression that what you’re listening to may be the man’s best album yet.

A year earlier, in the October revolution ushered in by The Sex Pistols, it seemed that all ears were turned to punk. Yet here was Eric Clapton making waves with the blues and his Tulsa shuffle, a relic of the psychedelic rock era re-energizing the music scene with his wizard fingers and wizened voice. That seems to be the story with Clapton: he slips under the radar with a sleepy album or two, then re-emerges with a great album to reclaim his superstar status. Slowhand bought the man enough cachet to earn him a string of mediocre gold-selling records through the rest of the decade.

Of course, this isn’t just Clapton’s show. His backing band was one of the best in the business, and Glyn Johns didn’t produce some of the greatest rock music of the 70s by accident. Scratch the surface of Slowhand, however, and you’ll soon find the cracks, from obvious filler (“The Core”) to four cover tunes that don’t stray very far from their original artists. In fact, subtract those first three songs, and you’re looking at another lackluster Eric Clapton album.

The subsequent Backless was more or less a sequel to Slowhand; both stand as two of his better albums from the decade. That said, Slowhand is probably an overrated record. Clapton’s voice is terrible most of the time (which works in his favor on “Cocaine” and “Wonderful Tonight”), and it’s unlikely he was in a healthy state of mind or body. That he was capable of writing a song like “Wonderful Tonight” is a testimony to his genius, but Slowhand needs a few more witnesses like it to make a compelling case for including this as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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Original elpee version

A1. Cocaine (J.J. Cale) (3:38)
A2. Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton) (3:41)
A3. Lay Down Sally (Eric Clapton/Marcy Levy/George Terry) (3:52)
A4. Next Time You See Her (Eric Clapton) (3:58)
A5. We’re All The Way (Don Williams) (2:30)
B1. The Core (Eric Clapton/Marcy Levy) (8:42)
B2. May You Never (John Martyn) (2:57)
B3. Mean Old Frisco (Arthur Crudup) (4:38)*
B4. Peaches And Diesel (Eric Clapton/Albhy Galuten) (4:48)

* Original versions showed the songwriting credit as “pending.”

The Players

Eric Clapton (guitar & vocals), Yvonne Elliman (vocals), Marcy Levy (vocals), Jamie Oldaker (drums & percussion), Carl Radle (bass guitar), Dick Sims (keyboards), George Terry (guitar) with Mel Collins (saxophone). Produced by Glyn Johns.

The Pictures

Art direction & design by David Stewart and Nello for El and Nell Ink. Outer sleeve photography by Watal Asanuma. Inner sleeve photography by Andy Seymour. Artwork by Jonathan Dent.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on November 25, 1977 in the US and Canada (RSO, RS/CT/8T-1-3030) and the UK and Germany (RSO, 2479 201) and in 1978 in Argentina (RSO, 8119) with gatefold cover; reached #2 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 2x platinum record) and #23 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-released on remastered elpee in 1980 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, MFSL-1-030) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in August 1983 in the UK (RSO, SPELP 25).
  3. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and compact disc in the US (Polydor, 823 276-1/4/2).
  4. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1996 in the US (Polydor, 1662-2).
  5. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2004 in Japan (Polydor, UICY-9736).
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2005 in Japan (Polydor, UICY-95009).
  7. Re-released on remastered 24k gold compact disc in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 553).
  8. Re-released as 35th anniversary edition on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2012 in the US (Back to Black) and half-speed mastered 200g vinyl elpee and compact disc in the US (Polydor, B0017702-01/02) with gatefold cover.
  9. Re-released on remastered 180g grey vinyl elpee in 2018 in the Czech Republic (Polydor, 600753407233).

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