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The Freedom of Music: Clapton’s God Period

September 28th, 2008

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.

Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Now that it’s available at a more reasonable paperback price, I picked up the Eric Clapton autobiography Clapton. I have never not liked Clapton, but I have never loved him either. I have a friend who thinks he’s the greatest guitar player ever, a position I think is absurd. However, he’s done some good things through the years.

Interesting reading is his early career, back in the Clapton is God days. The Yardbirds, John Mayall, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes. All bands that have good reputations, all bands that I am less familiar with than I should. Thing is, I own a number of the records: Cream Disraeli Gears, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominoes Layla and Other Love Songs. Seems like a good excuse to spend a few hours with some Clapton records.

The problem is none of this is all that good. Well, that’s not right, Derek and the Dominoes Layla and other Assorted Love Songs is strong. But even then, it’s not double album strong. Put side one on (I looked Away; Bell Bottom Blues; Keep On Growing; Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out) and your doing OK. Or even side four, with Hendrix’s Little Wing and Layla isn’t bad. So that’s OK. As for the rest…

Frankly everything else here sounds like what it really is, the out of tune musical meanderings of a perpetually stoned guy, and his buddies. In modern day term, these albums are jam sessions at the crack house. Long, meandering songs with no real direction, no real tuning. But perhaps I’m being unfair. Cream is an alright band and Disraeli Gears is a well reputed album. Granted Disraeli Gears has Strange Brew, Sunshine of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses on it, good songs all. The problem is the rest of the album, it’s just weak.

Then there’s the Blind Faith album. It’s virtually unlistenable outside of Can’t Find My Way Home. Long, poorly tuned, clearly drug infused jam ups with no coherent structure. If Clapton is God then frankly after listening to Blind Faith, intelligent design makes less and less sense. There’s simply no room for design in something this chaotic. And that’s the Clapton experience as I’ve always found it, either it’s really not very good and makes little sense, or it makes sense, is musically sound, and is really quite boring. Either way, I didn’t buy into the Clapton mystique before this little exercise, and I don’t buy into it now.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

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