|Eric Clapton - Reptile|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 13 March 2001|
It has been a long time since "Clapton Was God," but since then, Slowhand has been playing and living the blues in ways that even his strongest critics can’t deny. Reptile is the first EC record since his 2000 effort Riding With the King featuring B.B King. The new album is, surprisingly to none, a very bluesy and introspective collection of tunes that show the maturity of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest guitarists and songwriters.
Reptile starts out with a little self-titled jazzy shuffle that sounds much like the intro tune "Singe" from Clapton’s wildly successful Unplugged collection. EC’s tone is aging like a fine Bordeaux, smooth with a pleasant finish. "Got You On My Mind" is a traditional blues song that is so amazingly well-layered that you are forced to turn it up and get drawn in. Each chord is as predictable as the next but that makes no difference. The back-up vocals keep adding up, along with organs, slide guitars and a full complement of musicians who are just downright feeling it. Reptile is a mellow record and "Believe in Life" is a good example of a tune that shows that EC can back off and feel the groove like few other white boys from England. If you want to test the imaging of your speakers, look no farther than the groveling blues jam "Come Back Baby." EC’s voice is dead on it, hammering out the melody emotionally, but the recording is polished in a manner that lets him just dance way in front of the musical background without ever sounding fatiguing or pushing the limits, even when the volume is cranked. The guitar tone, you ask? You want to know why I own a Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster – dial in this track. "Don’t Be Lonely Tonight" is about the funkiest I have heard old Slowhand since his cover of Bob Marley’s "I Shot the Sheriff." Don’t get me wrong – this tune is still a blues track, but the vocal melodies take on a slight hint of Earth Wind and Fire. It also has a Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff Philly Sound production feel, complete with sweeping strings, funked out wha guitar and a badass group of backup singers.
It is rare when I put such a strong buy recommendation on a record, but trust me on this one – you need it if you dig Eric Clapton, the blues or even if you just want to hear what your music playback system is really capable of. The performance on Reptile isn’t a 10, but it is very good and far more to my liking than that of Riding With the King. True Clapton fans will rejoice that our hero has beaten heroin addition and the loss of his son, and continues to defy sounding old with a record that is this polished and fresh. As for the sound quality, it is one of the best CDs I have ever heard. If you have invested more than $300 on a pair of speakers, you need to click over and order this record as soon as you are done reading this review. It is that good.