March 12, 2013
1st Listen: There's a lot of promise here, especially considering that guests musicians range from Taj Mahal to Paul McCartney to JJ Cale. As a whole, you can tell that Clapton is mainly treating himself on this album by playing with these big names as well as covering some of his favorite, most personally inspiring songs since childhood. Only two of the tracks are actually new compositions. So, knowing all that, the first pass was all in all fairly enjoyable. A second turn of the album should shed some more light on the better tracks and guest contributions.
2nd Listen: The first track "Further on Down the Road" is a fun little Taj Mahal tune, and it kicks the album off with some happy reggae beats and harmonica. The guitar is understated even in the solos, but that's sort of the beauty of Clapton - again, no wasted notes. The next tune was the one I was most excited about - a little number with vocals and guitar help from JJ Cale called "Angel." It transitions in nicely, and it screams of whatever it is that makes JJ Cale who he is. I don't love the female backing vocals for some reason, but the guitar work is cozy and warm. And that leads into the first big stylistic move of the album, "The Folks Who Live on the Hill." It's a jazzy little number that dates back to 1937 and was famously recorded by Bing Crosby. It's pretty and soft, and great for background music with the slow pace and soothing strings. However, the fourth track sort of storms out if it and, again, changes the pace and tone of the album. "Gotta Get Over" is a faster, more rocking number with backing vocals from Chaka Khan. It is also one of two new original compositions, and the first big radio release from the album. But it really does nothing for me. It's pretty generic. Sure, there's a couple interesting guitar parts, but it's otherwise run of the mill with a pace that doesn't seem to fit the album. Fortunately, the next song, Peter Tosh's "Till Your Well Runs Dry," brings back some beauty with more amazing reggae beats. It's just a really good song. Though, it's the next track that will probably have most people curious - a jazz standard called "All of Me" with guitar and vocals from Paul McCartney. It's a nice little track, and the guitar is especially enjoyable - clean and easy. The album takes another big change after "All of Me" with a country and western sounding track called "Born to Lose." It's pleasant enough - simple pacing and simple music - but it's also not overly exciting or interesting. It's kind of boring, in fact. But then we get a nice kick in the pants by Steve Winwood who rocks out some organ on the next song, the recently-late British guitarist Gary Moore's "Still Got the Blues." Unfortunately, the organ really only comes in with any promise at the top and a maybe a bit in the middle. Otherwise, this slow, jazzy number remains rather uninspiring. The main guitar solo is pretty good, though. The next song is the famous old Lead Belly tune, "Goodnight Irene." It has some nice resonator guitar, and it fits the album, but it's nothing spectacular. Which is OK. It's "Goodnight Irene." No big deal. And then we go back into reggae with a great take on the old Otis Redding tune, "Your One and Only Man." The guitar doesn't blow me away, but the song has a good beat and I like the path he decides to take it on. It's a good song. But that's all. After this we get the other new original Clapton tune, and probably the one he should have released as a single. It's another sorta-kinda reggae tune called "Every Little Thing," and it's really good. When I say sorta-kinda reggae, I mean that it goes in and out of that perfect little island sound, hitting it strong at the chorus, and then meandering into basic rock during all the other parts. But it's good throughout... even during the part with the kids singing. It works. And, finally, the album ends with another slow, jazz standard called "Our Love Is Here to Stay." It's only OK, but it ends out the album nicely.
3rd Listen: After three listens, I'm fairly confident I got it right. It's good. Not great. The selfie island photo on the album's cover pretty much says it all. Clapton is taking it easy these days, and the gentle, laid back tunes, here, reflect that. You can put it on and sort of go about your day, doing things around the house. But that's about it.
In a Sentence: The cover art of Eric Clapton's "Old Sock" has a Tiki beach vibe, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the reggae numbers truly highlight this cozy little mix of tunes from a man who's clearly taking it easy these days.
Three Songs for the Playlist: Further on Down the Road :: Till Your Well Runs Dry :: Every Little Thing
Note: Opinions are my own and do not represent my employer.
Click here to return to Three Listens home and read more about the project.