November 15, 2002

Test Spin: Eric Clapton

Print More

The cover of Eric Clapton’s new recording of his 2001 tour, a tour that the guitarist has claimed will be his last major tour, shows him departing for the crossroads (of Cream fame), relinquishing himself to his own tireless legacy. It’s a poignant picture and many of the renditions take on a similarly heartfelt sincerity in the context of Clapton’s last world tour.

Unfortunately, the first disc mostly consists of songs off of Reptile and Pilgrim, two of his most pathetic albums. Even with a band containing Andy Fairweather Low and Billy Preston, “Reptile,” “My Father’s Eyes,” and “River of Tears” teem with such tedium, such maudlin mayhem, that even a legitimate guitar god isn’t able to invigorate them. Clapton’s first mistake was listening to James Taylor and Sting in the early 1990s and producing preternaturally lame music. Reproduced live, it maintains a little bit of an edge, but simply cannot make up for the incompetent songwriting. It is just not worth it to sit through five minutes of “River of Tears” waiting for one of his patented solos.

The second disc, however, starts with a slew of Cream and Derek and the Dominoes hits, allowing Clapton to reembrace the electric blues that made him an idol. It’s almost as if the producers felt that the track listing of the first disc was so unbearable, a second disc with “Badge,” “Cocaine,” and “Layla” was needed. Those songs are executed so well that it almost compensates for the easy listening of the first. Still, as technically phenomenal and eccentrically admirable as his rendition of “Over the Rainbow” is, this is not what a master guitarist should be doing with the final days of his career.

Archived article by Alex Linhardt