This is the last Eric Clapton album that I have on vinyl so somewhere between 1989 and the early nineties I departed from the true faith and switched to CD’s.
As I have traveled through the Clapton catalogue, every once in a while an album surprises me and Journeyman falls into that category. It had not graced my turntable in years, which was a shame as it is one of his better solo efforts.
Journeyman was a moderate commercial success upon its release, but like several other of his albums it sold well for a number of years before becoming one of his most successful releases. “Pretending” and “Bad Love” would top the United States Mainstream Rock charts and two more tracks would crack the top ten. Almost continuous airplay would keep him in the public consciousness.
It contains more hard rock and blues than many of its recent predecessors. Phil Collins was not back as a producer but Clapton took his pop sensibilities, toned them down a bit, and produced modern sounding music that was true to his roots.
I can only imagine how many albums on which Clapton has been a guest. Dozens, or to be more accurate, hundreds of musicians have returned the favor; so many that at times the personnel listed in the album credits reads like a virtual musical who’s who. This is one of those releases as George Harrison, Phil Collins, Gary Burton, Hank Crawford, Jim Keltner, Daryl Hall, Richard Tee, and a score of others all lend a hand here.
The first and the last tracks are as good as any solo material he has produced. “Pretending,” one of five tracks written or co-written by Jerry Lynn Williams, is Clapton modernizing his blues sound along with a great vocal. The album concludes with the Bo Diddley penned blues classic, “Before You Accuse Me.” He remains faithful to the 1958 original, complete with a stinging guitar solo.
There are a number of other tasty tracks to be sampled. “Bad Love,” with Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones, includes one of Clapton’s best solos of the decade. I just wish they could have turned down the synthesizers a bit. His take on “Hound Dog” is interesting and different than the Elvis Presley version that is imprinted in everyone’s mind. “Breaking Point,” at over five and a half minutes, allows him to stretch out his guitar solo. “No Alibis” features fine vocal accompaniment from Daryl Hall and Chaka Khan.
Journeyman allowed him to finish the eighties in fine style and would set the tone for what was to come. It remains an excellent glimpse into musical mind of Eric Clapton and will make its way to my turntable on a more regular basis in the future.