You almost have to see Eric Clapton’s solo career as a prolonged exercise in self-sabotage – he had it there, on a plate and slowly, surely, he drifted toward the middle of the road and though there have been some peaks – particularly live and, interestingly at the start and end of each decade – it’s for the most part of the middle of the decades that he’s most happy in the very boring middle of the road – it really is remarkable that he’s as popular as he is now; he’s the very epitome of a has-been; he has been talented, he has been put to (far) better use, he has been worth listening to…
Old Sock is old hat and it chases Paul McCartney’s recent Kisses On The Bottom in not just the awful album-title stakes but in its very make-up, mostly covers concealing two new originals. Clapton guested on Macca’s album – and that was actually a nice surprise and some vital playing and that favour is repaid here. There are other guests, heroes for Clapton that he is paying back (after always paying it forward): Taj Mahal and J.J. Cale. And he teams back up with Steve Winwood – which worked well live but is forgettable on record.
And this is the thing – there are glimpses, just, of how he could still make a good new album. But it all falls over. Track four on Old Sock, Gotta Get Over, is in no way awful – in fact it’s arguably the best thing on the album, hints of that first Clapton solo album and – from right around the same time – his Derek & The Dominos cover-up/facade-band. But it’s timid and not at all exciting and most people will have completely tuned out by the time it gets to Gotta Get Over because the cod-reggae grooves and lazy summer-strum approach to standards is almost infuriating – at best it’s (mercifully) forgettable.
I want to like each new Eric Clapton album that arrives; a childish notion – I know. But this guy meant a lot to me in my childhood and the best work from his first decade in action is still a revelation to my ears – and a gateway-drug for a lot of great music.
But now he’s beyond coasting. To the point where it’s embarrassing. At its absolute best Old Sock feels like a belated, dated sequel to 461 Ocean Blvd. But it doesn’t sound that good (and I never thought that album was anything special anyway). At worst it’s an album called Old Sock!
Here the old sock has been scraped for a few fusty leftovers – all those tossed off onanistic shrieks. And it stinks.