Eric Clapton’s new album, Back Home, has an interesting story behind it. It seems that Eric knew it was time to make an album and was excited about it but didn’t quite know what he wanted to do so he called his producer and collaborator Simon Climie and said that he wanted to get started. They had a plan, though, that whenever they got stuck they’d record a Robert Johnson song. It seems that the Johnson songs were so easy for the band that they finished a whole album of his music before they finished Eric’s new “regular” album. So, about a year ago, Me and Mr Johnson was released.
Clapton then turned his attention back to the new album and finished it up. With that sort of backstory, one would expect the album to sound a little unfocused, perhaps like there is no real central theme or concept that the artists were going for. It turns out that that’s only partly true because Clapton did, indeed, have a theme in mind. It seems that Eric is a happy guy these days with a wife and three small children and he wanted to write and sing about that. Now in the early 70’s he was completely broken-hearted, using drugs and his life was a mess. He made what is, perhaps the album of his career – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Can a happy Clapton make a great album?
Well, I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to, but he didn’t this time. However, this is a nice album and before I’m accused of damning with faint praise I don’t mean that in a negative way. There are some really nice songs in here and some fine vocal and guitar performances. “Revolution,” the first single is incredibly catchy. I dare you not to sing along the second time you hear it. The guitar solo on the Vince Gill penned “One Day” is amazing and quintessential Clapton. His cover of George Harrison’s “Love Comes To Everyone” is very nicely done, although perhaps too respectful of the original to be necessary. There really isn’t a blues tune in sight although “Lost and Found” comes close.
So this is hardly a barnburner but I keep putting the album on my stereo and I really can’t get some of the songs out of my head. It doesn’t have the passion of Pilgrim or the earthiness of Reptile. In some ways this album is similar to Slowhand which is hardly a great Clapton album but was one of his most commercial successes. If you’re a Clapton fan you might be disappointed with this album but if you’re not, this is one that really might get your attention.