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Eric Clapton

Aficionados of Eric Clapton’s guitar work may have found some consolation this year when he reformed Cream with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker for four London concerts in May (they’ll play a three-day run at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in October). However, Clapton’s Back Home, his first new album of original material in nearly five years, delicately divulges that the guitarist isn’t about to forgo his solo career, which has comprised most of his professional life. After four decades in the limelight, Eric Clapton is probably more revered as an easy listening singer-songwriter than a blues-based, improvisational guitar hero.

Back Home is hard evidence of Clapton’s comfortable slip into domesticality. Anyone with a slight acquaintance of artistic durability knows personal blissfulness often translates into sentimental blandness. And so it goes. “So Tired,” the CD’s opener, is catchy enough with its sparse, arbitrary leads shuffling for space amongst, other things, crying babies. From there, things more or less descend into a monotonous exercise of futility. Tempered over reggae-laced rhythms, “Revolution,” overloaded with cliché lyrics, offers a lilting, unsustainable groove, while “Say What You Will” is heavy on the schmaltz. Others like “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” Vince Gill’s “One Day” and “Run Home To Me” are a virtual snorefests. Even Stevie Wonder’s “I’m Going Left” and George Harrison’s “Love Comes To Everyone” go under the smooth sailing knife with unflappable results.

Only “Lost And Found,” a sturdy blues number, manages to redeem Clapton’s credibility to expected standards. But it’s far too little much too late. As soothing as the title track is, it fails to lift the CD from its doldrums. Surely, after living through phenomenal success and personal tragedy, Eric Clapton certainly has every right in the world to be a content, satisfied family man. But Back Home would be a far more intriguing outing if the guitarist would at least kick in and burn once in a great while. Unfortunately, spending a thousand bucks to see him tear it up with Cream may be the only way to make sure his legacy remains intact.

~ Shawn Perry

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