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Record Rating: *****

Eric Clapton - Back Home - Warner Music Eric Clapton is the man. Anyone who has even the vaguest notion of rock and roll knows that this man helped usher in the revolution. Had Eric Clapton even retired in the beginning of the seventies in his early twenties, he would have still been a lock for the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. For by that time, he was already a veteran of the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes, and penned classics such as Sunshine Of Your Love and Layla.
The only triple inductee into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, 30 years later, old ‘Slowhand’ proves that at 60 years old that he can still make you want to roll down the windows, crank up the stereo, and roll.

His new album Back Home is a departure from 2001’s Reptile, which saw Clapton toying with contemporary pop and jazz and returns to his older tradition, providing a helping of excellently produced songs, some tasteful guitar solos and even a myriad of guest appearances to boot. Having scored a hit in the spring of 2004 with his compilation of Robert Johnson covers, Eric Clapton turned to another one of America's great songwriters for his newest release: himself. Through the emotional truth of his music, he has sought refuge and release from the suffering of drug and alcohol addiction, personal relationships gone awry, and the deaths of several loved ones. Now residing in England with his second wife and their two young daughters – he seems to have found peace at last and he’s singing to the world about it. The warmth and positive vibe of this album is about his being in love and a family man. Impressive his craftsmanship and performances may be, it's Clapton's versatility that really stands out on the twelve tracks on this new record. So Tired, the track that opens the album is a catchy number about a fatigued father who has been plagued by his wailing newborns. Revolution, the lead single, employs a steady Bob Marley feel, going into that sound with which he flirted in the 1970’s with I Shot The Sheriff. Reggae rhythms also drive songs such as Say What You Will, while classic Clapton blues hounds will love sniffing out Piece Of My Heart, Run Home To Me and Back Home.

And even though he's known as a blues-influenced rock artist, R&B remains a vital part of his musical makeup: covers of the Spinners' Love Don't Love Nobody and the Stevie Wonder’s I’m Going Left are down in the traditional Clapton way. As pop, blues and even soft rock all weave their way into the track listing, at its core, however, the album remains vintage Clapton. The highlight of the album, a cover of Beatle George Harrison's Love Comes To Everyone, offers up one of Clapton's most romantic moments in years. Guest appearances by 80’s rocker Steve Winwood, country singer Vince Gill and John Mayer among others, mix things up further on down the track listing. Fans of Clapton’s songwriting will appreciate what he has to offer here. The guitar playing is as smart as ever, although the speed and tenacity of his the early years playing has yet to resurface.

Still, this is Clapton's most radio-friendly album in years, and it’s sounding exceptionally good. I am not a casual fan. I have every Clapton release (mostly on old vinyl), and tracked every vintage of his career. I can throw an old disc on that I have heard a thousand times, and experience it like new every time. My verdict – this is a much appreciated return to form: stirring up the loose, laid-back form that classic albums Money & Cigarettes, Behind the Sun and August had to offer. In the late 1960’s, one of the most prominent pieces of graffiti seen in London and New York was ‘Clapton is God’. Forty years later, the stalwart guitarist and singer continues to hold the initiated enthralled, and a fair share of his present-day fans weren't even born when those words of worship were emblazoned on public edifices. Well recommended – Back Home is truly one of the finest releases of 2005.

Read our other reviews:

Best of 2005 - Various Artists       Missy Elliot - The Cookbook       Jay-Z/Linkin Park - Collision Course       Susheela Raman - Music For Crocodiles      


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