461 Ocean Boulevard

Eric Clapton

Polydor Records, 1974


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


What is this - comeback album week at The Daily Vault? Yesterday, we looked at Aerosmith's return from the dead ( Done With Mirrors).Today's subject is Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard -- his first studio album after kicking a nasty heroin habit.

It wasn't that Clapton's career was dead; he had scored major hits with his 1970 solo debut and as a part of Derek And The Dominoes. But his battle with drugs caused him to shut himself out from the rest of the world. He was dragged back into reality by Pete Townshend -- who would fight his own battle with drug addiction and win -- in January 1973; the Rainbow Concert was Clapton's first step in his "comeback."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So, 461 Ocean Boulevard symbolized Clapton's victory over drugs, as well as his return to the music scene. And from the opening notes of "Motherless Children," you can hear that Clapton is back with a vengeance -- if just a tad unsteady. "Motherless Children" features a slide solo that flashes back to Clapton's work with Derek And The Dominoes and the slide work of the late Duane Allman, and has a vocal performance that makes one wonder how Clapton ever questioned his ability as a singer.

The standout here is Clapton's cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff," a cover that not only scored Clapton a number one hit, but also opened the eyes of many people to Marley's music. While it does not hide Clapton's rock roots, it also does not betray the reggae flavor of the tune's original genre.

But Clapton's choices of cover songs is a bit spotty, as heard on his version of "Willie And The Hand Jive," a song that I admit to never liking in the first place. This version features Clapton in the laid-back troubador style that would become his persona for much of his career -- a persona which just does not fit this track. Maybe it would have been better had he cut loose a bit with this one and let it be more ragged.

Most of 461 Ocean Boulevard is delivered in the same laid-back style. Sometimes it works ("Better Make It Through The Night," "Let It Grow"), other times it doesn't ("Mainline Florida"). In a way, this album was an experiment for Clapton - a chance to rediscover his place in the musical scene he had withdrawn from. As a result, there are times that this album is very much hit-or-miss,but it still, for the most part, succeeds.

Clapton had many more demons he would face in his life -- a battle with alcoholism, the tragic death of his son -- and each time, he would rebound that much higher. 461 Ocean Boulevard is a hesitant effort, but one that does not shadow the genius that Clapton is, and is worth listening to, flaws and all.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor Records, and is used for informational purposes only.