Eric Clapton and B.B. King meet again

By Seth Mnookin


Salon Staff
July 13, 2000 11:40PM (UTC)

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Although I agree this is not the greatest blues album ever recorded -- or the best effort by either Clapton or King -- I think the critique is a bit harsh.

Both artists have reached points in their careers where they don't need to impress like they used to, and I don't see that they planned this to be the seminal blues album. They wanted to record something together and didn't want to rehash all the blues standards. The fact that it is selling well doesn't make it any better or worse of an album -- and it is also a lot less poppy and cheesy than much of "Pilgrim," Clapton's last big release.

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And when it comes to voice, B.B. is older and more grizzled, but one thing to remember is that unlike Clapton, B.B. King doesn't sing and play lead guitar at the same time. He can't, and has admitted that on numerous occasions. The guitar itself is a voice, and anyone who's ever tried singing and playing a lead guitar part simultaneously knows how difficult it is to sing with two voices at the same time.

And lyrically, blues doesn't HAVE to be misogynistic at every turn, although Seth Mnookin jokingly implies just that.

My point is this piece is like much on Salon -- interesting and entertaining, yet a little too opinionated and short-sighted.

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-- Jonathan Seff

Seth Mnookin's review of the Clapton/King collaboration is not only rather daft, it is irresponsible. It is ridiculous to suggest, firstly, that one cannot broach certain topics in the blues idiom. God forbid the man talks about hesitation in the blues. Should we quarter off certain vocabulary words as well? Anything over a few syllables, perhaps? And furthermore, what, pray tell, does a person's name have to do with the quality of his performance? It's a good thing Mnookin didn't see the video, otherwise he may have written up about how B.B. King didn't seem at any point sorrowful or expressively "bluesy" and maybe there weren't enough watermelon seeds to fully complete the image. At no point did Mnookin impress upon me any grasp of the idiom or a functional history of the genre. Instead, he seems preoccupied with the perceived stereotype and accouterments of the genre.

For the record, Doyle Bramhall II is a very accomplished bluesman who learned from Stevie Ray Vaughn, among others, and whose father is a Texas legend. Andy Fairweather-Low has been Clapton's rhythm guitarist for several albums now. And neither could be considered "adult contemporary" -- neophyte or otherwise.

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-- John Chao

Why is it that Clapton, THE best guitar player of my generation, can't put out a blues album? "Out of the Closet" was also bloodless. I guess I will just go back to "Layla" and be satisfied.

-- Paul Gaddis


Salon Staff

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