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Music Review: Eric Clapton – From The Cradle

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Eric Clapton returned to his roots in 1994 with the release of From The Cradle. It was the first total blues album of his career containing only cover material. He also made the decision to record the 16 tracks live in the studio, and except for two short dubs it was released as it was recorded.

It proved to be a good idea that worked both artistically and commercially, as it returned him to his love of the blues and reached number one on The American album charts.

Very few musicians would have the confidence or the chops to tackle classic blues pieces by such legends as Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Lowell Fulson, and the like. Clapton was more than up to the task as his gritty vocals and always superb guitar playing modernize many of these classic blues tunes while paying homage to their origins.

Clapton always had the ability to surround himself with outstanding musicians and continues that trend here. Andy Fairweather-Low is on board as the second guitarist, and studio musician deluxe Jim Keltner is the drummer. Keyboardist Chris Stainton and harmonica player Jerry Portnoy make creative contributions to the live sound. He also has a three piece brass section to fill in the holes.

There is a lot of outstanding material from which to choose. The Old Willie Dixon/Eddie Boyd composition, “Third Degree,” is the type of slow blues tune that fits Clapton's style so well. “Blues Before Sunrise” is a vehicle for his slide technique. My favorite tune is the Muddy Waters classic, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” which features an emotional vocal. “Groaning The Blues” is the longest track at over six minutes and gives him room to improvise.

From The Cradle is ambitious and above all authentic. Clapton let it be known that he was still a musician of note and power all within the context of the blues. It remains one of his essential modern releases.

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