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Eric Clapton: Journeyman

Guitarist at the crossroads to redemption.

1989’s Journeyman set up Eric Clapton’s renaissance in the 90s. It was a song-based album that offered a somewhat restless Clapton the chance to expand beyond his blues-based guitar-hero status. It clearly reinvigorated him – over half of the dozen tracks turned up in his live set and he still regularly dips into it.

In Jerry Williams, Clapton had already found a writer whose radio-friendly songs he could identify with, and keep his hit-hungry record label happy. The opening Pretending sweeps to a majestic chorus but Clapton’s solo brings a darker edge. The sumptuous No Alibis may be awash with keyboard and drum programmers (that’s the 80s for you) but Clapton is succinct enough to keep it rolling.

Human drummer Jim Keltner adds a strident swing to Anything For Your Love and Breaking Point, while the reflective Running On Faith takes its own sweet time. Elsewhere, Clapton cajoles songs from George Harrison (Run So Far) and Womack & Womack (the plaintive Lead Me On), and indulges himself on the Ray Charles ballad Hard Times and Bo Diddley’s Before You Accuse Me.

He has just two co-writing credits: with Foreigner’s Mick Jones on the Layla-meets-Badge designer hit Bad Love, and the meandering Old Love with Robert Cray, who is a surprisingly effective foil for Clapton’s languid playing.

The SACD remastering on this hybrid CD does a good job of bringing out the subtleties buried in Russ Titelman’s lush production. It would have benefited even more from a surround-sound remix.

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.