Eric Clapton – Slowhand (1977)
This week on YDCS we’re covering an album by Slowhand himself, Mr. Eric Clapton and his eponymous album Slowhand. I was initially hesitant to cover an album by the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (He must have done something right to land there three times right?!), but this album is a case study in how to make a rock album with a little bit of country flair. Did you ever wonder why Clapton is called Slowhand? As he tells the story, when he was playing with his band Cream, he would often break his lightest guitar string while playing because he bent it so much to distort the sound. This required him to change the string on stage, and as he did, the audience would frequently clap slowly (colloquially give him the slowhand) until the string was changed.
Slowhand is chock full of classic rock staples including the aptly titled anti-drug song Cocaine, Wonderful Tonight, which is one of Clapton’s biggest hits, and the sleeper Lay Down Sally. The album takes some elements from country rock that Clapton was particularly fond of (See Eagles- One Of These Nights for more examples) and interspaces them with slow ballads with very little in-between. This is often regarded as one of Clapton’s best albums along 461 Ocean Boulevard. I think the album actually starts off too strong, and by the end, the album feels like it’s missing the same punch that front half has. We’re…all the way done talking about the album in general, so let’s get to listening. Enjoy the album!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Cocaine: Slowhand starts off with a rocking track and one of Clapton’s best-known singles. The guitar riff is deep and infectious, driving home the dangers of cocaine. When he launches into the solo in the middle you can’t help but to play along on the air guitar and it gets even better when there’s the additional harmony from the backing guitar. One thing’s for sure, this song “don’t lie,” that it’s a rocker! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Wonderful Tonight: When you hear the haunting guitar that opens this song, there’s no doubt what it is because there’s no other song that sounds like it. Clapton is so smooth and easy to listen to on this track. This soft ballad has been played at virtually every wedding since the album came out for a good reason, it’s just a beautiful song with an on-point message. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Lay Down Sally: The third track, Lay Down Sally gets a little folksy, and we can see Clapton returning to the country rock roots that he loves to play so much. This infectious song will be stuck in your head and despite being released as one of the singles off the album, never really got the attention it deserved. It’s got great vocal harmony and a great picking technique that Clapton doesn’t show off too much on this album. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Next Time You See Her: I was surprised with how much I liked this song. It started off and I thought it would be a snoozer and that wasn’t the case. It’s certainly slower than Cocaine or Lay Down Sally, two of my favorite tracks on the album, but Clapton’s vocals really shine through best on this song. His rough voice is a nice juxtaposition to the well-polished instrumentation in the background and makes the lyrics shine through more. Dad’s Rating 7/10
We’re All The Way: This is another classic Clapton ballad but never got the attention that Wonderful Tonight received. It’s a weaker track than the former and doesn’t feature the same haunting guitar hook at the beginning that Wonderful Tonight does. I think that because this track doesn’t feature Slowhand’s ability behind the guitar as prominently it gets left behind. Dad’s Rating 6/10
The Core: I had never heard this song before starting this album review, and it had me from the first hook. This is the only song on this album where Clapton made heavy use of distortion techniques (listen to the opening guitar riff then listen to the rhythm guitar in the bridges). The Core is also the only song on the album to feature a saxophone solo and it doesn’t feel out of place because Clapton uses it to launch into a blistering guitar solo that really isn’t heard anywhere else other than on Cocaine! I take the rating down 1 point for Marcy Levy’s accompanying vocals on this song. I would have preferred if this was exclusively a Clapton track and I think it would have made it stronger overall. Dad’s Rating 7/10
May You Never: This is just an average song. The lyrics were actually what first caught my attention and it’s more of a wish than anything, praying “may you never” have any number of dreadful things happen to you like “losing your woman” or “get hit in a barroom fight.” If you’ve never heard this song before it’s worth a listen at barely over three minutes long. I think this song is where the album starts to lose its steam because up to this point, Clapton has displayed great guitar playing ability and a wide range of vocal skills that we don’t see from this song onwards. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Mean Old Frisco: Maybe I’m a “Mean Old Reviewer,” but this song is a few notches above May You Never in my eyes but not spectacular. The song has a distinct, bluesy drive to it that is evident in the other songs on the album, but the song doesn’t really start to pick up steam until the solo before the final verse when Clapton can show off. His voice is well-suited for the song and reminds you of listening to classic delta blues music. I only give this a 7 because the song took longer to get going than a fanboat on the bayou that’s missing half of its propeller. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Peaches and Diesel: The lead guitar on this song is a great listen. It’s not overly complex and showcases Clapton’s softer side. The song is very repetitive though and doesn’t swell like I would hope it does. It’s a lackluster way to finish the album in my opinion. Dad’s Rating 6/10
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