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Eric Clapton From The Cradle (1994)

EricClapton-FromTheCradle1994From sfloman.com

After the commercial success of Unplugged, Clapton found the confidence to finally deliver the straight up blues album that die-hard fans had waited 30 years for.

As Clapton himself told writer Marc Roberty: “I was actually trying as hard as I could to try and replicate the original recordings. But it still came out as me which is the beauty of the whole exercise…It’s almost like I’m just leaving John Mayall now and I’m producing my own blues band. And it’s taken me 30 years of meandering the back streets to get there.”

The fact that Clapton himself calls this an “exercise” speaks volumes, but the fact that these performances are so accomplished makes it an exercise that’s well worth hearing.

Clapton’s song selection certainly can’t be faulted, as he gives straight up renderings of many not so obvious choices from admired bluesmen such as Willie Dixon, Elmore James, and Leroy Carr, among others. The man obviously knows his blues.

Clapton also picked excellent sidemen (and long time associates) such as drummer Jim Keltner, keyboardist Chris Stainton (who shines throughout the album), guitarist Andy Fairweather Low, and harp player Jerry Portnoy (the album’s most prominent sideman along with Stainton), thereby ensuring that all of the performances are typically classy and tasteful.

Of course, this is a minor problem as well, as some of these performances are too restrained, and the focus is occasionally on Clapton’s gruff singing rather than his great guitar playing, always a dubious strategy where Clapton is concerned. Also, do we really need yet another version of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man?” Fortunately, when Clapton lets loose on stellar renditions of songs such as “Blues Before Sunrise,” “Five Long Years,” “It Hurts Me Too,” “Someday After A While,” and “Groaning The Blues,” his absolute mastery of the electric guitar simply cannot be doubted.

Man, his guitar playing on these tracks is simply phenomenal, probably his best guitar playing in years maybe going as far back as when he was with the Dominos. On the less rocking front, “Third Degree” and “Sinner’s Prayer” are slow, smouldering blues numbers that would be a perfect fit for a small nightclub, while “How Long Blues” and “Motherless Child” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Unplugged. Like that album, this one is often-terrific but gets somewhat monotonous over its 16 songs that cover 60 minutes.

Still, though From The Cradle sometimes comes across as an “exercise” rather than a truly inspired recreation, the majority of this album is indeed a terrific tribute to some unjustly forgotten bluesman, many of whom were likely rediscovered as a result.

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June 21, 2013 Posted by | Eric Clapton From The Cradle | | Leave a comment