I haven’t listened to anything new by Eric Clapton since Unplugged, which has been a while. So, when I was given this new release (his 19th solo album), I was a bit afraid I wouldn’t know what to compare it to. Lucky for me, it is a stand-alone project.
Clapton has collaborated with some legendary and diverse artists to create a completely different album. You don’t have to be a
long-time Clapton fan to find something to like.
“Travlin’ Alone” begins the album with some of the best elements Clapton has to offer. Clapton transforms himself with a little bit of southern blues guitar and an extra dose of soul, and seamlessly crosses musical genres with the ease of a musical master. Teaming up with singer-songwriter J.J. Cale, for an infusion of swamp rock in “River Runs Deep”, the duo create a
song as slow, meandering and powerful as the title suggests.
“Judgement Day” was little bit too “country” for my taste and “How Deep is the Ocean” doesn’t have any depth at all.
Things pick back up on “My Very Good Friend the Milkman”, a charming New Orleans jazz style track, complete with tuba, clarinet, trombone by “Trombone Shorty” and the incredibly talented (and a personal favorite) Wynton Marsalis on trumpet. Clapton and Marsalis pair up again on “When Someone Thinks You’re Wonderful” with equally wonderful results. I could listen to a whole album of their collaborative works, it is so much fun.
Mid –album I started to lose interest. “That’s No Way to Get Along” and “Everything Will be Alright” are decent tunes, and technically complicated, but lacked the pizzazz I was expecting. As I listened to this CD, I found myself unconsciously skipping past the weak and whiney “Diamonds Made From Rain”, forcing myself to go back to it trying to be objective, but still cringing. Sheryl Crow does backup vocals on the song, but even for her fans the song may not have enough innate appeal to be found worth the purchase.
Clapton picks up the mandolin for “Hard Times Blues”, which is a much simpler composition but with better results. “Run Back to Your Side” would be a perfect addition to a road-trip soundtrack through wide open spaces, while the final track “Autumn Leaves” is moody and mournful, more appropriate for a gloomy rainy day.
There are some good, great and not too bad songs on the album. It is not very cohesive, and covers so many genres and sub-genres that it makes it hard to recommend the entire album as a whole, although I am sure just about everyone will find a few songs to enjoy. I generally encourage purchasing a full album, but this may be a case where buying just a few tracks may be the better way to go.