Hello Vinyl lovers!
I've been meaning to write this post for some time. It is very personal to me. Some my even say sacred. I mean religious conversions are a big deal right? But, first I should clarify a vinyl obsessive "religious conversion". Yes. It is deep, it is all consuming, it is life changing, and it is spiritual. It makes you want to tell everyone of the glorious news you have heard, knock on doors and grab strangers by the collar so that they too can revel in the nourishing glow of knowledge. For you see, I have come to god, and by god, I mean Eric Clapton.
My current rotation vinyl storage box is a bustling turnstile of activity, stuffed to the brim with new records, old favorites, and "must listen to". However, I have noticed a few records that have weathered the changing winds for months on end. Albums I keep returning to. Rich, rewarding music that I throw on with great frequency, and this got me thinking. "Why didn't I hear this before?"
Blues Breakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton, 461 Ocean Boulevard, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, and Slowhand.
Yes, I hear the rumblings of disappointment, confusion, outrage, and indifference.
Sure, I am familiar with Eric Clapton, he is god after all. "Heart Full of Soul" was one of the first 7 inch records I ever purchased as a kid. And, as a devout fan of the Beatles , I was well aware of his stellar guitar work on "My Guitar Gently Weeps", and like any other sentient being, I was intimately familiar with Layla ( although I was most curious about Jim Gordon’s coda). Yes, I knew about Cream, but I never really cared enough to buy an album. Compared to Hendrix it seemed lack luster. Clapton just seemed like one of the musicians who I had to know about, but I didn't have to buy his records. The singles were always played on the radio, or beer commercials. (Remember Michelob?) To me he seemed like a well educated college professor offering disscertations on blues guitar, while simultaneously churning out light pop singles. "Its In the Way That You Use It", did not sound like gritty blue to me. Possibly it was the production? And that beer commercial stank like something designed by a PR firm to make Clapton seem cool and dangerous.
Perhaps it was age, or perhaps it was my discovery of JJ Cale (more than likely) that made me pick up 461 Ocean Blvd. Whatever the reason, I got really into it. The sound? The Songs? It was mellow, more laid back and playful than I thought it would be. I was drawn in, and decided to go for broke and dive into the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab version of Derek and the Dominoes, and the British Blues classic with John Mayall's Blues Breakers. Both stellar albums on the opposite side of Mr. Clapton's career. The former, a Bonnie and Delaney influenced rock fest, with an all star team of musicians laying down the groove. The latter, a seminal piece of British homage to the American masters of electric blues.
"But where do go I next?" Journeyman? Behind the Sun? There's One in Every Crowd? No. I went back to my love of JJ Cale and let his stellar songwriting guide me.
Side one of "Slowhand" is one of those rare albums that plays like a greatest hits. As a musician I always get a kick out of putting myself in the studio while an album like this is being recorded and wondering what that must have been like.
"So fellas, we'll do 'Cocaine' into 'Wonderful Tonight' into 'Lay Down Sally' then 'Next Time You See Her' and finish it up with probably one of the best songs that no one will talk about, 'We're All The Way' (wriitten by the late great Don Williams)"
In addition to his playing and own songwriting, one of Clapton's greatest assets seems to be his ability to pick and interpret other peoples songs, completely making them his own. It is no easy feat. His execution and understanding of songwriting is on par with a short list of other great interpreters of music. Dare I say he may be touched by the hand of...himself, that sounds weird, but again, he is god.
So Mr. Clapton I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart for not embracing your omnipotence before this past year. I have repented and I am now saved. So if you too are in the dark, searching for salvation give Eric Clapton a go, it is well worth the effort.
Until Next time keep spinning that wax