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Clapton does the blues

From the Cradle
From the Cradle
By Eric Clapton

Reprise: 1994

This review first appeared in the September 30, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Never a pure bluesman, rock star Eric Clapton has nevertheless laways brought a strong dose of blues to his rock. "From the Cradle" is the closest Clapton has gotten to the blues since his days with the Yardbirds and Mayall's Bluesbreakers some three decades ago. The songs here include covers of tunes by blues artists such as Leroy Carr, Lowell Fulson, Willie Dixon, Charles Brown, Elmore James and Eddie Boyd.

Clapton's renditions of classics such as "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Reconsider Baby," "Motherless Child," "Driftin' Blues" and "Five Long Years" are performed with fire-breathing intensity. He has, almost unbelievably, continued to grow as a guitarist throughout his career, and both his leads and his solos here are as imaginative as they are passionate.

As vocalist, Clapton is even more improved from previous efforts. Not possessed of a naturally attractive voice, Clapton still manages to pack a heavily weighted emotional punch into his singing. With this album, Clapton now poses the question of whether he is more evocative as a singer or guitarist.

The backing band is strong, but not necessarily steeped in the blues. Longtime Clapton drummer Jim Keltner can lay down any beat (having worked with everyone from jazz heavyweight Gabor Szabo to John Lennon), Andy Fairweather Low is as good a backing guitarist as you'll find and Jerry Portnoy plays some first-rank harmonica.

Blues fans will find this album more than enjoyable, hearing stellar covers of blues classics. Clapton fans will swoon from the beauty of his clean guitar lines and laser-intense solos.