Sound: If you're a fan of Eric Clapton, there's little doubt that you'll relish the latest compilation that covers pretty much every high point you could think of in the Slowhand's extensive career post-1968. This is not an album of rarities or exclusive live performances, but it is for the person who would love to have a concise collection of Clapton's biggest hits - and he's got a lot of them. Although the exclusion of his Yardbirds' years might peeve some out there, Complete Clapton is truly extensive and does include highlights from his Cream days on forward. With 36 songs on 2 disks, it makes for an easy, enjoyable listen.
Complete Clapton is a chronological journey that begins with I Feel Free, Sunshine Of Your Love, and an unexpected live version of Crossroads performed at Winterland in San Francisco. The guitar solo on Crossroads is not surprisingly even more impressive than the studio version, and all the instruments come across beautifully. Considering how powerful that live track is, it would have been nice to get a few more of those concert hall performances. But unless you're a diehard Clapton fan who seeks out every rarity, you should find the latest compilation pretty thorough. The most famous tracks from the Blind Faith and Derek & The Dominos eras are covered on the 1st disk, with the crowd-pleasing Layla and the powerful Bell Bottom Blues among the bunch.
About halfway through disk one, you already get a taste of Clapton's solo work, with I Shot The Sheriff, Cocaine, and Wonderful Tonight among the highlights. This is essentially a greatest hits CD, so expect to hear a lot of radio hit singles. Clapton has had a pretty amazing go as a solo artist, and that becomes extremely evident when you see how many Billboard hits show up on Complete Clapton. Between the 2 disks, you'll hear songs that you might have even forgotten over the years (if you were alive in the '80s, that is), with I Can't Stand It, Forever Man, Pretending, and The Color Of Money's unofficial theme It's In The Way That You Use It among them.
The 2nd disk features some of Clapton's work from the '80s, but the last half represents the Clapton we're probably more familiar with today. It's the older, low-key Clapton that is the showcase for much of it, and it's a completely new side of the guitarist that might not mesh with fans of the Cream days. With Tears In Heaven and Change The World as prime examples, some listeners might find themselves returning to the 1st disk to hear a grittier, rock-oriented Clapton. // 9
Lyrics: There are more than a few decades covered on Complete Clapton, and you'll get an in-depth look at where Clapton was at certain points via the lyrics. While not every song is autobiographical, there are more than a couple that hit very close to home. Layla and Wonderful Tonight were supposedly written about his unrequited love for Patti Boyd, who just happened to be George Harrison's wife at the time. Fast forward to his more recent material, and it even gets more heartbreaking. Clapton wrote Tears In Heaven after his 4-year-old son Conor fell 53 stories to his death. You don't get much more genuine than a lot of the material on Complete Clapton, and it does feel almost like a diary of Clapton's life. // 10
Overall Impression: There have been several greatest hits albums for Clapton that have been released over the years, but none of them have put the complete focus on every hit the guitarist has had since the 1960's. Back in 1988 there was an extremely in-depth box set called Crossroads that went way beyond singles material, including works from The Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Complete Clapton doesn't go that far back, but it does feature plenty of songs after Crossroads was released, namely his unplugged version of Layla, the duet with B.B. King Riding With The King, and Change The World. It's true that about half of the 2nd disk represents a mellower, laid-back Clapton, but in general Complete Clapton will be no disappointment to Clapton fans from any era. // 9