Eric Clapton – The Lady In the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions
I’m thrilled when a veteran cosmic rocker issues a new album. They should be spending time with their grandchildren, but while some are clearly out of gas musically some seem to never be without creative potency. They consistently deliver exceptional music.
OK, it’s not new material on every CD but surprisingly the songs possess vitality & quality. It doesn’t sound like an oldies show. In recent memory, exciting new music came from the Rolling Stones, Procol Harum, The Who, Dion DiMucci, Bob Dylan, David Crosby & soon Jethro Tull. Some will give us new treats while others will toast some chestnuts.
Eric today may not be the Eric of Cream, Blind Faith & Derek & the Dominoes — but he certainly has aged quite well musically. He is not a parody & he definitely is not going through the motions. Never short of ideas Clapton still sculpts wonderful solos, sings with heartfelt vocals & packages it with taste.
Many guitar-slingers are equally good but over the years EC developed a signature sound few lead guitarists conceived unmistakably for themselves. The late Leslie West, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Roy Buchanan – they had it.
This effort is an intimate live performance in the studio. 17 songs with Nathan East (bass/vocals), Steve Gadd (drums), & Chris Stainton (keyboards). Many acoustic renditions of EC standards, some blues, country & originals with 3 plugged-in tunes.
The Lady In the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions (Available Nov 12–Mercury/Universal/Bushbranch) — released in multiple formats. Produced by Russ Titelman comes with a beautiful full-color stitched insert.
Covid canceled concerts at the Royal Albert Hall — as a result, Clapton went into the studio with cameras rolling & revisited his classics. There are surprises like Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac songs “Black Magic Woman.” Stripped of the Santana dramatics the song is fleshed out remarkably well. Eric’s vocal never sounded better.
The production value is stellar throughout. It has atmosphere & presence. An intimate feel that is solidly on the opener — the saloon piano-driven “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out.”
The J.J. Cale classic “After Midnight,” never gets old. Genuinely given new life. This isn’t a rehash, there’s a newly realized originality in each. While many are played proficiently the 1 hour & 13-minute set is adequate. No showboating, no flash. It’s not intended to blow your socks off. It’s done with more finesse than foot-stomping. Each song retains its original charm, especially “Layla.”
“Long Distance Call,” & “Bad Boy,” are slinky well-recorded blues. “Rock Me Baby,” comes off sounding like Eric may have listened to some recent Dion DiMucci blues CDs. His vocal intonation, phrasing, tone is closer to Dion than B.B. King. To my ears, the best blistering version is by organist-rocker Lee Michaels.
These 17 cuts are filet mignon. Some of the best by Eric. In some respects, a gift. All color photography by Dave Tree. Available @ Target & Amazon + https://www.ericclapton.com/