Slowhand was embraced by old and new fans alike; it reached the number two position on the United States album charts and sold over three million copies in the US alone. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it among the 500 Best Albums Of All Time.
Clapton’s guitar playing virtuosity is very evident here; it dominates the fabric of the sound. The choice of master producer Glyn Johns was a wise one, since the album boasts production values and a balance that were missing on his past solo efforts.
He used only his basic backing band with no long list of guest appearances, which gave the affair a tight and cohesive sound. Bassist Carl Radle, sax player Mel Collins, guitarist George Terry, drummer James Oldaker, and keyboardist Dick Sims were all Clapton veterans who meshed together to form an excellent backing band. Marcy Levy and Yvonne Elliman toured with Clapton for a number of years and were probably the strongest back-up singers of his career.
The J.J. Cale song, “Cocaine,” begins the album on a ringing note. Great chords and riffs propel this anti-drug song. Rock ‘n’ roll does not get much better than this and it would become a famous and eternal part of his live shows.
“Wonderful Tonight” takes the listener in a different direction. This gentle ballad, written for Patti Boyd (Harrison), features one of his better vocals and the lyrics demonstrate how he had evolved as a songwriter. “Lay Down Sally” was a huge top three hit single in the United States. Its shuffle or staccato guitar sound was unique and Clapton’s vocal fits in well. Marcy Levy, who co-wrote the track with Clapton, provides some memorable vocals.
Another outstanding track was also co-written by Levy. “The Core,” at close to nine minutes, gives Clapton some room to stretch, plus it contains a nice Clapton/Levy duet. The old Arthur Crudup tune, “Mean Old Frisco,” returns him to his blues roots with Clapton demonstrating some tasty slide guitar technique. “We’re All The Way,” written by Don Williams, is an early Clapton foray into a country sound.
Slowhand was a masterpiece then and remains one now. For anyone interested in the solo career of Eric Clapton, it all flows through this album.
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