"Slow Hand" is back. This time around, Eric Clapton let loose a full-length album.
And since he had a major hit with the rhythm & blues groove of "If I Could Change the World" with producer Babyface a couple of years ago, it seems logical that Clapton would like to capitalize on the same toe-tapping style.Well, for an album that runs an hour and 15 minutes, the first 30 minutes are tolerable. Then things get a little monotonous. And when Babyface (also known as Kenny Edmonds) makes a background vocal appearance, there's nothing rich but a batch of ho-hums).
No, Clapton hasn't lost his guitar licks. He can still send shivers through the body with his bluesy pickings. It's just the fact that he has become so involved in production that his rawness has been polished to a chemical shine.
Production has always been part of Clapton's work, but lately, it just seems to overcome the guitar work rather than enhance it. That overbearance can be traced especially to the "Back to the Cradle" album. (Blues is usually more gritty.)
The production on "Pilgrim" winds all the way down to the use of a drum machine. Sterile, unspontaneous and, uh, boring. Even the real drums of renown drummer Steve Gadd have been encased in the drum-machine web.
Still, there are some good tracks. The single "In My Father's Eyes," if you can get past the tinny drum programs, moves with some surprising finger-picked leads, and the gospelesque "River of Tears" is a mellow rush for the lonely.
There's also the funky "One Change," which features some gritty guitar riding on a hip-hop beat and roadhouse blues of "Sick and Tired." Arguably the best cut on the album is the country-inspired "Fall Like Rain." The guitars are right where the listener wants them as Clapton's falsetto jumps and the electronica strains in the backdrop.
It's a good thing the production on "Pilgrim" does let the guitar come through. If it didn't, the album would be a total loss or waste of Clapton's time. This one is for fans who like the slowshift in "Slow Hand's" approach.