Wednesday, March 16, 2011

325. Slowhand. Whatever the opposite of Cream is.

Album: Slowhand
Artist: Eric Clapton
Year: 1977
Genre: Rock


  1. Cocaine
  2. Wonderful Tonight
  3. Lay Down Sally
  4. Next Time You See Her
  5. We're All The Way
  6. The Core
  7. May You Never
  8. Mean Old Frisco
  9. Peaches and Diesel

Eric Clapton was given the nickname Slowhand because of the speed his hands reached when they he played guitar. That’s not to suggest he was exceptionally sluggish, quite the opposite, the fingers streaked across the fretboard. It’s one of those ironic nicknames, like calling a massive biker "Tiny", or Yul Brynner "Curly" or Richard Dawkins "Deacon". (actually Dicky "Deacon" Dawkins has a real ring to it). Slowhand is an ironic name, consequently the same logic could be applied to call Clapton “Greatvoice”.

Slowhand is Clapton’s most popular solo album and his highest ranking solo effort on this countdown. That’s not to say it’s the last time we’ll see him. Clapton appears on the top 500 in his own right and as a member of The Yardbirds, Cream, Derek and the Dominos and as a guest on a Beatles album. Fair credit to the guy. But there’s no doubt he earned all these places as a guitar player and not as a vocalist and rarely as a songwriter.

The best known song on Slowhand is Cocaine, a track originally written by JJ Cale. Some people are big fans of Wonderful Tonight a slow ballad that Clapton sings about the woman in his life. I’ve never liked Wonderful Tonight, partly because it’s schmaltzy, partly because Clapton sings it in his creepy-uncle voice and partly because the woman in question was Patty Boyd, who Clapton stole from George Harrison. It takes some of the romance off the track when you know a bit of the sordid history behind it.

The standout track on the album is a song called The Core which allows Clapton an opportunity to show you why the world held him in such reverence. Clapton’s guitar licks are fantastic and proof that the guy didn't get his nickname for nothing. And Eric isn’t the only one who is allowed a chance to shine. Clapton shares the vocals with Marcy Levy and frankly the track would have been a lot better if she’d been allowed to handle the entire thing. In fact she should have been allowed to handle lead vocal duties for the entire album. She’s got a great voice and could have turned Wonderful Tonight into something a lot less cringeworthy.

Slowhand is further proof that Clapton was at his best as part of a band and not as a solo artist. If you've ever wondered why Cream songs get the best response from the audience at a Clapton concert, this album will give you the answer.

Highlight: The Core
Lowlight: Lay Down Sally

Influenced by: Blues artists and a desire to have more money than they did.
Influenced: Young Blues Players in danger of selling out.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "The album is simply superb to listen, highly, I mean HIGHLY pleasant."

-It's not just pleasant, it's not even highly pleasant. This album is HIGHLY pleasant.

So is Clapton God or just a guy with a guitar? Let me know below.

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