Eric Clapton: Complete Clapton

The problem isn't with Eric Clapton's musical ability, it's with the sham of a title of this current collection.

Eric Clapton

Complete Clapton

Label: Reprise
US Release Date: 2007-10-09
UK Release Date: 2007-10-09

Let's start off by saying the "7" ranking you will see at the bottom of this review is based on Clapton's abilities as a guitarist and to put together memorable music. If I was allowed to assign a ranking based on the package itself, this would be about a "2" or "3" at best. Why? (Glad you asked.)

The irksome point in all this is the word Complete in the title. This is about as complete as Beethoven's Unfinished Symphony. If memory serves, didn't Clapton play in a little-known band called the Yardbirds? Wasn't he also a one-time member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers? And perchance, didn't he do some work with Delaney & Bonnie? I know, minor details. Why let facts get in the way of a good compilation?

The reason for said hits package to make its appearance is that it bookends (no pun intended) with Clapton's autobiography. Really, only the curious need apply to purchase the CD with the book. Those who have either of the previous Clapton retrospectives (the single disc The Cream of Clapton, or the absolutely awesome four-disc set Crossroads) have no need for this new grouping, Complete Clapton, unless you need to add some of his middle of the road hits to your collection.

Clapton still earns high marks as a guitarist of legend. And the best way to hear this collection to hear just how great an axe man he is, is simple, listen to each song twice. The first time, you hear how the song comes together, the melody, the obligatory solo, etc. But the second time around, just try to focus on the guitar(s). This is where you hear Clapton's genius. He is so nuanced a guitarist, he can use one note, one short run, or one off-the-cuff riff to change a song's dynamic.

Take for an example, "I Can't Stand It". Listen to the song, and you think it seems so simple, yet as the song moves on, Clapton does more tweaks and mini-runs with his guitar to give the song a bit more body and fullness. But on this example, and several other of his solo works, the frustration is that, except for his solos, his guitar seems to be buried low in the mix.

The collection, song wise, is basically a "Clapton For Dummies" collection. It runs chronologically, and starts with five Cream songs. You can probably guess at four of them and be correct; the two mega-hits ("Sunshine of Your Love", "White Room"), the "recognized" guitar masterpiece ("Crossroads"), and the best non-hit album cut they ever did ("Badge"). The fifth chosen one is the first song off their very first album, Fresh Cream ("I Feel Free"). And then name any other Clapton song that was a staple on FM-radio, and it's likely to be on here, from rockers like "Layla" (both electric AND acoustic) to "Cocaine" to "After Midnight" (sadly, only the fast version; the slow one is on Crossroads) to the ballads, such as "Wonderful Tonight", "Tears In Heaven", and "My Father's Eyes".

This grouping touches on some of the later stuff too. Some of the welcome inclusions are "Motherless Child" (from the underrated all-blues album From the Cradle), "She's Waiting" (still love the fife and drum ending, though it runs a tad too long), "Sweet Home Chicago" and "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day" (both from the Robert Johnson cover album), and one each with duets with B.B. King and J.J. Cale ("Riding with the King" and "Ride the River", respectively).

For all of the above, plus the songs that are on here that weren't mentioned, if you do the "twice-listen" test, you will certainly hear why Eric Clapton has been labeled as "God" (the fans), or as "Slowhand" (Clapton's preferred nickname). His passion about his work is unquestioned; his talent on a six-string is in rarified air, and people of all musical tastes, from rock to mellow, love something of his.

So in essence, if you want a batch of hits in a nice, neat, tidy two-disc package, then again, you certainly can't go wrong with Complete Clapton. That's why musically, this ranks a solid "7". Otherwise, there's no new ground here. It’s certainly not even in the same ballpark as "complete". This is strictly a marketing ploy to go hand-in-hand with his biography, and it will sell to a new generation of baby boomers who didn't want to invest in a four-disc box set, and who would rather hear "Tears In Heaven" than "For Your Love" or "Strange Brew". In fact, dare I suggest you purchase Crossroads instead, then just download the few songs from Complete Clapton that don't appear on there? I do.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.