Sound — 10
On this album Eric Clapton returns once again to his musical roots, even going a bit further than on any record he has done before. Clapton said he didn't plan the album this way, and that it is even a surprise for himself, as he recorded several songs he remembered from his childhood. The sound is (since it's a Clapton album) very bluesy, but this time he pays also tribute to the jazz side of his roots. Songs: [H] stands for Horn Section and [S] for strings used in the song. 01. "Travelin' Alone": this song is written and originally performed by Melvin "Lil Son" Jackson and is a real nice blues song, although there is only one bass note in the whole song. Clapton doubles his singing with his guitar playing. (The Song is basically performed like the original, with fuller sound and guitar solo) 02. "Rocking Chair": this song was written by Hoagy Carmicheal (also the composer of "Georgia on my Mind") and first recorded by louis Armstrong. It's a slow ballad and it's name tells you basically how it sounds: very relaxed. Claptons Version is performed in JJ Cale Country-Blues style, whereas Armstrongs of Course is a Jazz Song. There is also a nice slide guitar played by the great Derek Trucks. 03. "River Runs Deep" [H] & [S]: this song is written by JJ Cale, who also plays on Claptons recording. It's the usual Cale style song, a laid back blues. This song easily surpasses some of the songs Clapton and Cale recorded for their album "The Road to Escondido". The outro is very interesting, since it uses one technique that is not very often used in todays blues, which is repeating a guitar lick or lyric very often, so it gets a kind of hypnotic effect. 04. "Judgement Day": this song is written by blues harmonica player Snooky Pryor. It's a midtempo blues with great rhythym. Clapton is supported here by the "Faboulous Thunderbird" vocalist and harp player Kim Wilson on Harp, and he does a great job. There are also some backing singers, that fit perfectly in this song. 05 "How Deep is the Ocean" [S]: this is an Irving Berlin Classic, that has been most famously recorded I think by Frank Sinatra. Claptons version is more relaxed and more fluent, what I personally like better than this dramatic style Sinatra sings it. There is a short and nice guitar solo in it, but the real climax is when Wynton Marsalis plays an amazing trumpet solo, that makes you realize, that this is in contrast to the previous songs jazz and not blues. 06. "My very Good Friend The Milkman" [H]: this song is written by Johnny Burke (lyrics) and Harlod Spina (music) and is most popular recorded by Fats Waller (who in fact inspired Clapton to record this song and "How Deep is the Ocean"). It is one of my personal favourites on this album, since this is the first time Eric Clapton does a real and pure jazz tune. The piano work by Walt Richmond and especially Allen Toussaint is outstanding. 07. "Can't Hold Out Much Longer": this is a song written by Little Walter, and sounds like it could have been on Claptons "From the Cradle". Clapton is again supported by Kim Wilson on harp,. Clapton plays a great guitar solo here. 08. "That's No Way To Get Along" [H]: this is a song written by blues musician Robert Wilkins. Eric Clapton and JJ Cale share the vocals on this song (again strong enough to beat some songs from "The Road to Escondido"). Doyle Bramhall II provides some nice guitar solos. 09. "Everything will Be Alright" [H] & [S]: again a JJ Cale song and again he is singing it with Clapton. It's quite obvious that this album is partly inspired by their earlier collaboration. But now I'm really wondering why they didn't record these songs before. 10. "Diamonds Made From Rain" [H] & [S]: this is the first of the two original Songs on this album and is written by Doyle Bramhall II, Justin Stanley & Nikki Costa. It's one of the most beautiful ballads Clapton has ever sung, almost as good as "Wonderful Tonight". There are also some great guitar solos played by Clapton here and most surprisingly I think this song is the one with with his longest solo part. Sheryl Crow supports Clapton as a backing singer. 11. "When Somebody Thinks you're Wonderful" [H] :the next secret tip is this jazz song written by Harry Woods. It's amazing how well Clapton fits into jazz. Again the two piano players are great, but the Horn section is even more impressive on this song and it's probably its best job of the whole album. 12. "Hard Time Blues": this Song is written by Lane hardin. This is I think the first time Eric Clapton ever played mandolin on a record, although it's not very prominent in the mix. Nice Blues song, with great rhythym. 13. "Run Back to Your Side": this song is the second original song and written by Eric Clapton & Doyle Bramhall II. This is probably the best song Clapton has written since "Tears in Heaven". This is the only song on the Album you could really call a rock (or in this case blues rock) song. It heavily resembles Creams version of "Crossroads" in it's basic structure. It's a 12-bar blues with a catchy riff, in the instrumental passages. The biggest difference to Crossroads is probably, that there is also a refrain (still in the 12-bar form ). Clapton is playing some great guitar solos here, though Derek Trucks is even more impressive. (Of course Doyle plays good too, but not on the level of those too) 14. "Autumn Leaves" [S]: this is the last song of the album and a classic composed by Joseph Kosma, John Mercer & Andre Prevert. It's probably best known by edith piaf or Nat King Cole. But in contrast totheir versions the strings here are very discreet and again clapton plays it in a more relaxed way, which after the blues rocker "Run Back To Your Side" closes the album perfectly. Claptons guitr solo here is probably the most beautiful on the whole album.
Lyrics — 9
I'll be very brief here, since there are mostly cover songs here, the lyrics are mostly unimportant for the rating. "Run Back to Your Side" are quite normal blues lyrics basically average, and there's not much that the title doesn't tell you about the content. "Diamonds made from Rain" is more complex. He sings about his memorys, and that he has learned from his girl, that "No Love is Lost". In the Refrain he goes on saying, that he wouldn't change a thing of the past, since that gave him the wisdom, that you can make diamonds from the rain (Something good out of something bad or as he sang it "You can find Joy inside the pain"). He then goes on telling his girl that she's "the melody, that will soothe me till I'm old", and afterwards, that because of her "his heart is open". He then goes back to the refrain two times (With a variation the first time). Considering his singing skills Eric Clapto is of Course neither Nat King Cole, nor Ray Charles, but he has heavily improved, compared to his earlier albums and is probably one of the best white Blues Singers.
Overall Impression — 10
You can't compare this to any of his previous solo albums. Partly (as I said before) it is obviously influenced by JJ Cale. But the overall sound is too much influenced by New Orleans Jazz to be compared to anything he has done before. The most impressive songs are "My Very Good Friend The Milkman", "Diamonds made from Rain", "When Somebody thinks you're Wonderful" and "Run Back to Your Side". In the end I also want to add, that this album won't be interesting fro you if look for a classical Clapton album, since this is (at least for Clapton) a big evolution, away from the pop-rock music of the last years more in the jazz direction. But still I think it's his best studio album since Slowhand and definately worth the money.