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Eric Clapton - Old Sock

Clapton ditches studio glitz and embraces a more naturalistic approach on his 20th solo LP.

Thursday, 6. June 2013  -  by  David Hayter
Eric Clapton - Photo credits Andrea Young

Old Sock. Rarely has an album been so succinctly summed up by its own title. In case you’re of a horticultural persuasion and the phrase “old sock” conjures the image of gleaming white tendrils bursting out from an arid landscape, the accompanying artwork should extinguish any remaining hope. A scraggily faced Clapton fills the frame with half his face cast in shadow thanks to a fedora and the bright blue sky. The image, which looks like it was captured on the star’s smart phone, is almost certainly designed to convey a sense of realness and spontaneity - a clear contrast to 2010’s airbrushed and studio polished effort: Clapton. If authenticity is the aim, then Old Sock might well succeed but, rather than portraying a worldly and weathered bluesman, we’re presented with an image more akin to that of a nonchalant retiree kicking back and relaxing in the tropical sun.

Old Sock certainly has the feel of the easy life and it’s easy to imagine Clapton picking up his guitar and playing a selection of his favourite songs. In that sense the album works: it might feel tossed off, but it doesn’t appear remotely forced or contrived. Sadly, this relaxed aesthetic doesn’t deliver exciting results and Clapton rarely uncovers a new side to these song-writing staples. On occasion he’s wholly perfunctory (“Further On Down The Road” saunters albeit a little too slowly and “Our Love Is Here To Stay” is a charmingly sly endnote), but more often then not Old Sock feels arduous.

The album meanders endlessly as Clapton finds the insipid core of seemingly every track. “Till Your Well Runs Dry” lacks any bite and pulls back to a soft jaunt whenever Clapton approaches anything that might actually equate to edge. “All Of Me” is disheartening. Clapton and McCartney can still summon enough melodic magic to offer a slither of hope, but it’s instantly dashed as the track goes beyond dad-rock and Tesco-pop to discover a previously unknown genre: nursing home-waltz.

New effort “Every Little Thing” is a tease; Clapton hints that he might be ready to impart five decades worth of wisdom in the form of a grandiose folk-blues ballad, but it quickly drops the serious façade for another ragga-lite hop along - and then it gets so much worse. Clapton shouts “I want to hear my children sing” and they actually do. It should be an endearing moment, but it proves far too saccharine.

Stop the presses! It’s not all bad news! There is one moment when Old Sock transcends all the dithering, all the sauntering sloppiness, and all the crushing tedium. With Steve Winwood at his side Clapton tackles Gary Moore’s “Still Got The Blues” with a deft understated touch. What Moore intended to be a show-stopping lament, Clapton delivers as a lowly confession. The solo doesn’t soar out of the darkness; it glides and flickers on the surface of the gutter and whispers “that’s life”.

“Still Got The Blues” is a stand out moment that this lethargic collection hardly deserves. It’s a glimpse of what could have been, but it remains sadly singular. Old Sock is less a considered record and more a tedious jam session running through old ideas without spark or even a hint of ingenuity. There is no hidden richness to be uncovered, this Old Sock doesn’t even smell: its colours have faded and the fabric is wearing thin – it should simply be left to rest at the back of the draw

Buy If: You think a good song is a good song however it’s performed.

Skip If: You value vibrancy, dynamism, excitement, modernity, depth of emotion and seemingly anything else.

Best Track: “Still Got The Blues”

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