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ERIC CLAPTON Me And Mr Johnson
(Duck/Reprise Records)(2004)

Eric Clapton

A Clapton tribute to Johnson? Before hearing this, I wondered whether to laugh or cry. After all, why do this? The place of Johnson and his music in the blues tradition is rightly secure, in its own right, as a bridgehead between the Delta and Chicago. It certainly needs no endorsement from Clapton or anyone else. So the only possible benefit it seems, other than for Clapton's bank balance, is that some people previously unfamiliar with Johnson, might be introduced to his music.

After hearing this, both laughter and tears seem appropriate. Laughter: at this totally unacceptable treatment of the music. The band sounds both turgid and perfunctory, as though this was just a labour, and a commercial one, certainly not one of love. Clapton's vocals, never his main strength anyway, do nothing to illuminate the music and are largely swallowed in the overall swamp of the band sound, and within that sound his guitar is largely left at home.

Eric Clapton

Tears: for what might have been ! The music deserves so much more than this. Whatever happened to authenticity and sympathy? I doubt that this treatment will encourage many to seek out Johnson himself or recommend him to a wider audience.

Eric: If you really felt you had to do this, and if you think so much of Johnson's music, why not a more "unplugged" approach? Surely, less would be more in approaching music so stark, rich and vibrant in its own right as that of Johnson. Who's next Eric? Maybe get Joe Callicott or Robert Nighthawk lined up? Karaoke plays Bukka White?

Finally: if you're really interested in the music, forget this and just go direct to Johnson himself His music is widely available, easily and cheaply accessible. But if you do feel the need for testing the water first, try Fleetwood Mac or Peter Green, himself.


Review by David Foster

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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