Music Mondays: Five Clapton collaborations

I'm a huge Eric Clapton fan, particularly of his blues output, always have been, always will be. There's only one artist I've seen in concert more time that EC, but more on that later.

One of the things I've always found interesting and admirable about him is his desire to collaborate with other artists, to try and stretch himself a little bit farther. It's also evident in the vast array of wonderful blues guitarists he's recorded with or gone on tour with over the years, either as sidemen or as opening acts. Mark Knopfler, Derek Trucks, Jimmy Vaughn, Bonnie Raitt, Doyle Bramhall II, Robert Cray, Jeff Beck, Albert Lee, George Harrison and others. The Collaborations and Guest Appearances part of his discography speaks for itself.

He's also recorded a bunch of collaborative albums in the latter stages of his career, say the last 10 years or so, and I thought I'd highlight five of them here.

So, here's a sampling of some of Clapton's recently recorded collaborative outings.

  • Riding with the King by BB King and Eric Clapton. Remember I mentioned that there was only one artist I've seen in concert more often than Eric Clapton. Yes, that would be BB King, who I've adored since watching him on the Johnny Carson Show with my father when I was a kid. Riding With the King is a terrific blues rock CD.
  • Danger by JJ Cale and Eric Clapton. I guess you could say that JJ Cale was always Clapton's muse for the laid back side of his work. A few years ago they collaborated on a, yes, very laid back CD called The Road to Escondido. Laid back or not, it's well worth a listen. It'll grow on you.
  • Outside Woman Blues by Cream. I guess it's a bit of a stretch to call the 2005 Cream reunion a collaboration rather than just a reunion, but since it had been so long since Clapton had worked with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce and they did a bunch of non-Cream blues tunes, I'll just go for it. They released a CD of their Royal Albert Hall concert, Royal Albert Hall: London May 2-3-5-6 2005.
  • Forever Man by Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton. Clapton and Steve Winwood were in Blind Faith together back in the 60s, but had never toured together as a duo. They remedied that a few years ago and released a CD with highlights of the tour:Live from Madison Square Garden. Their set list was a nice amalgamation of rock standards as well as Clapton and Winwood solo tunes.
  • Layla by Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton. The whole impetus for doing this Clapton list this week is the immanent release of his latest collaborative project, this one with jazzman Wynton Marsalis: Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play The Blues. The version of Layla that is featured here is a pretty radical reworking of the song, something that Clapton has done a few times before but never quite this way. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest!

If you like these, I'd recommend you troll around on YouTube where you'll find a wide array of performances with Clapton in various collaborative settings. I like this one of Tell the Truth.

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Let me begin my saying I would gladly give my left testicle to have half the talent of EC. Talent alone does not account for a body of work that spawns decades and includes dozens of songs that are considered classics by a huge following of blues and rock fans. It takes a huge amount of work, effort and dedication to keep succeeding in a musical world that is so far removed from the british blues scene of the early sixties that first brought him fame and acclaim.

Intellectually, I know all that. Despite that, I have never really been a fan. I have tried to like his music. I can play a few of his songs on guitar (rather badly, I must confess). I am in my 50's so I grew up with Eric Clapton on the radio, played at parties and friends houses, and with 99% of the guitar players (good and bad) I ever met trying to copy his licks.

I really wish I could hear him the way other people do. He just never really did it for me, and I cannot say why

Kevin, That's definitely my experience with this sort of thing. There can be some artist that everyone else seems to love but just doesn't do it for you.

And Clapton can definitely be polarizing in some ways.