I'm not too sure if there's a topic already devoted to him, but there definately is one now!
I've been thinking about his whole career lately, and I'm just now really beginning to fully appreciate his most recent work.
Everybody goes on and on about how incredible Cream was. (and rightfully so) I'm just now beginning to realize how under appreciated his more recent work is.
I've had the fortunate pleasure of seeing him 3 times in 3 different settings: The all blues tour he did in 1994, his Pilgrim tour in 1998, and the recent Cream reunion in 2005. I've got to say I really enjoyed all three settings in their own unique way. I think those three shows demonstrate just how versatile he is. His blues tour showed how great his voice has become through the years - one of the few artists that keeps getting better and better in that area. The Pilgrim tour demonstrated what a great songwriter he's become, and the Cream reunion shows demonstrated that he can still jam when he wants to - but in a much more tasteful way. I have no problem with that. It makes the songs stand out more, and that's why I listen to music. If the song isn't there, then I get really, really bored.
Everybody wants Clapton to spaz out on guitar like Hendrix or like he did during his original Cream years. I can understand how boring that can get for him and even his audience after a while. I saw Jeff Beck back in 1995 and as good as that show was, my biggest memory of the show is him playing "People Get Ready." The reason I liked it so much is because it's such a great song - not because of his amazing guitar playing. A great guitar solo should accentuate the song, not over-power it.
So all of these things being said, I really love the Pilgrim
album. The songs are so personal and heartfelt. Plus his songwriting has grown so much through the years. I know I'm going to be slammed for saying this, but I don't think "Wonderful Tonight" is a very good song. The lyrics are very trite. I think he's grown by leaps and bounds in department - whether it's "Tears in Heaven," "Cirus," "My Father's Eyes," or a host of many other recent songs.
As for his guitar playing at the shows I've seen - I remember pyrotechnics from a few numbers - most notably on "Stormy Monday" at the Cream show at Madison Square Garden. The rest of the solos I've seen him do are very tasteful and concise. I think getting that part right takes a heck of lot more discipline than just jamming away every night. As Miles Davis once said it's what you don't play that matters.
Keith Richards once said Steve Cropper was the perfect guitar player. He never over-played, and he always added the perfect accents whether it was on Booker T and the MG's records or Otis Redding's records. I think Clapton's been working really heard at getting that part right.
Back to the Cream gig - I remember afterwards everybody was blown away by Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, and most people were very complementary of Clapton. There were a few, of course, that couldn't help but insult Clapton and complain that he didn't spaz out on guitar or whatever. Right now I'm listening to the live album recorded at the Royal Albert Hall last year and I don't know what the hell people are complaining about. As a band, they sounded great. They were much tighter than in the old days, and Clapton's solos were very tastefully done. His vocals were supurb, and for the first time in Cream's career the songs were given the spotlight as opposed to the solos. Great stuff IMHO.
And in the end...