After two mellow, laid back, and in some ways lackluster efforts, Eric Clapton returned in May of 1977 with one of the strongest releases of his solo career. If I had to pick the ten best solo songs of his career the first three tracks of this album would all make the list. Slowhand was embraced by old and new fans alike and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it among the 500 best albums of all time.
Clapton’s guitar playing virtuosity is very evident here as it dominates the sound. The choice of master producer Glyn Johns was a wise one as the album has production values and a balance that were missing on his past solo efforts.
The J.J. Cale song, “Cocaine,” begins the album on a ringing note. Great chords and riffs propel this anti-drug song. Rock ‘n’ roll does not get much better than this and it would become an eternal part of his live shows.
“Wonderful Tonight” takes the listener in a different direction. This gentle ballad, written for Patti Boyd (Harrison), features one of his better vocals and the lyrics demonstrate how he had evolved as a songwriter. “Lay Down Sally” was a huge top three hit single in the United States. Its shuffle or staccato guitar sound was unique and Clapton’s vocal fits in well. Marcy Levy, who co-wrote the track with Clapton, provides some memorable vocals.
Another outstanding track was also co-written by Levy. “The Core,” at close to nine minutes, gives Clapton some room to stretch plus contains a nice Clapton/Levy duet. The old Arthur Crudup tune, “Mean Old Frisco,” returns him to his blues roots as he demonstrates some tasty slide guitar technique. “We’re All The Way,” written by Don Williams, is an early Clapton foray into a country sound.
Slowhand was a masterpiece then, and remains one now. For anyone interested in the solo career of Eric Clapton, it all flows through this album.