CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES #15: Eric Clapton – From The Cradle

from-the-cradle-525c65f6d4662For the 15th instalment of my CLASSIC ALBUM SERIES I turn to Eric Clapton’s incredible 1994 album From The Cradle, an album which saw him return to electric blues with one hell of a bang. Two years earlier Clapton had recorded and released his Unplugged live album which contained a number of high quality acoustic blues performances and From The Cradle certainly expanded on his return to the blues.

The album opens with a fantastic version of the Leroy Carr song Blues Before Sunrise with influence taken from the Elmore James version. It’s a roaring rendition which certainly sets the tone for the rest of the album with Eric playing slide guitar, something he doesn’t usually do but has done occasionally over the years. He sounds great here and plays with authority, classic Clapton. The Willie Dixon song Third Degree comes next which sees Clapton supply some tasteful blues kicks throughout. It’s a slow blues number and Chris Stainton also plays some great piano here which compliments Eric’s playing exquisitely. But it’s perhaps the Lowell Fusion number Reconsider Baby where Eric really hits his stride. From a personal point of view it’s my favourite song on the album and it’s difficult to think of the last time Eric played the blues so perfectly before this. It’s a performance that was captured live on Later… with Jools Holland when Eric made an appearance on the show in 1995 and you can tell that Eric really gets into it, and the same can be said for the studio version here. It is absolutely stunning and reminds you that even after the multiple rock albums since 1970, he is primarily a blues guitarist. And one of the all time best.

  1. Blues Before Sunrise
  2. Third Degree
  3. Reconsider Baby
  4. Hoochie Coochie Man
  5. Five Long Years
  6. I’m Tore Down
  7. How Long Blues
  8. Goin’ Away Baby
  9. Blues Leave Me Alone
  10. Sinner’s Prayer
  11. Motherless Child
  12. It Hurts Me Too
  13. Someday After A While
  14. Standin’ Around Crying
  15. Driftin’
  16. Groaning The Blues

Hoochie Coochie Man comes next and the band as a whole really sound great here. It’s a song that has been covered by a wide range of artists over the years and it’s perhaps this version that has inspired blues bands and performers since it’s release on this album. I know it has with me. The great Five Long Years is the fifth song on the album and Eric really goes off here both vocally and on guitar. His guitar playing is explosive to say the least and on vocals he gives one of his finest performances on the whole album. It’s a great song which was originally recorded by Eddie Boyd in 1952 and hugely satisfying to listen to with Eric supplying some great guitar playing, something this album has in abundance. The Sonny Thompson penned track I’m Tore Down is a song that was originally performed by the great Freddie King, a huge influence of Clapton dating back to when he first took up the guitar. It was of course Freddie King’s album Let’s Hide Away And Dance Away that was hugely influential on Clapton upon its release in 1962.

The acoustically driven How Long Blues follows the electrifying I’m Tore Down and sees Clapton in a more laid back mood, showing that the blues isn’t always fast paced Chicago Blues numbers. It’s the second Leroy Carr song on the album after the opener and features some great harmonica playing from Jerry Portnoy who had previously toured with the legendary Muddy Waters. His harmonica paired with Eric’s slide guitar and Stainton on piano results in a beautifully delivered song. Goin’ Away Baby follows and again features Portnoy on harmonica where he mimics Clapton’s vocal lines while also performing a really good solo towards the end. Blues Leave Me Alone is a slow shuffle blues with forceful drumming and sees Eric deliver yet another fine vocal display. He’s obviously known mostly for his guitar playing but there’s no doubt that he’s become one of the finest blues singers the genre has ever seen, and this song captures him at his very best.

Sinner’s Prayer features one of my favourite Clapton guitar tones on this album. It’s thick, muddy, and overdriven. Perfect for the kind of blues the album contains. The next song, Motherless Child, is my least favourite song on this album although it’s probably the most well known. It’s an ok song but for me personally I prefer the kind of blues that features in the next song, It Hurts Me Too. Just like Blues Before Sunrise, Eric takes on slide guitar duties and blows everything away in the process. There’s footage of him and his band playing this song on tour which shows the Gibson guitar he plays slide on, but it’s perhaps this studio version here that features the better tone which is certainly more focused. His slide playing here is phenomenal and from a personal point of view it’s a song, and a performance, that inspired me to start playing slide too. Another Freddie King song comes next in the form of Someday After A While and there’s no doubt that Clapton is at his very best when playing Freddie King songs. He nails it every time. There were a number of other King songs he played while touring this album, often played consecutively, and his playing on all of them is up there with the best guitar playing he has ever done. And Someday After A While is no exception.

Standin’ Around Crying by Muddy Waters is the third to last song and it’s a great rendition of a classic song. A slow blues number, the whole band sound fantastic here with the harmonica being one of the standout parts. Things then turn acoustic for the last time on the album with Driftin’, a song and a performance that could have been taken from his Unplugged album two years earlier. In a live setting this song would turn into an electric beast with the running time extended to 8 minutes or more while also including multiple key changes. But here it’s a 3 minutes acoustic blues track and sounds great for it. Simple, basic, pure acoustic blues. To end the album Eric turns thing up to 10 with a roaring rendition of Groaning The Blues. Vocally he is a man possessed here, ending the album on a high. His guitar playing dominates the song as well. There are a number of songs that are more band songs on the album but here, to end the album, it’s all Eric. The rest of the band take a back seat and let him do his thing the way only he could.

In terms of impact it’s a fantastic blues album and in many ways, in regards to his playing, it’s a perfect successor to the Bluesbreaker album he released with John Mayall in 1966. His blues playing here is absolutely incredible and showed the world and his doubters that Eric Clapton is, was and always will be a GOD.

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