Eric Clapton – Old Sock (2013)
I can understand why many Clapton fans feel disappointed by this album, certainly those who are more fans of his rock and blues material and those who prefer harder-edged music in general. When I first played “Old Sock”, I was quite surprised at how gentle and sleepy this album is at times and wasn’t sure about it at all. However, after I’d given it a few more plays, I realised that there is plenty here to like, but only if you also enjoy your music at a more relaxed pace and aren’t expecting Clapton to be playing electrifying blues with any kind of fire in his belly. There are a few tracks which sound a little dated and have been given the gentle reggae treatment that Clapton favoured in the 1970’s, such as “Further On Down The Road” which kicks of the album with a whimper rather than a bang, and the distinctly average “Your One And Only Man”. Despite lacking any kind of edge, they’re pleasant enough songs, although I’m well aware I’m damning them with faint praise. Sadly, that is the story of most of this album as there is far too much pedestrian content on “Old Sock” for it be regarded as one of Eric’s better albums and there is nothing that really moves out of first gear.
The worst offenders on this disappointingly underwhelming album are the supposedly upbeat numbers, such as “Gotta Get Over”, which lack the punch they should deliver, whereas the slower, more purposely relaxed songs actually sound rather lovely. “The Folks Who Live On The Hill”, for example, is dreamy and romantic, “All Of Me” with Paul McCartney, is a charming rendition of the old standard, “Goodnight Irene” is genuinely likeable and “Our Love Is Here To Stay” is affably delivered. It is on the more crafted, subtle songs that Eric really excels and he manages to handle much covered material with taste and restraint. His tribute to Gary Moore, “Still Got The Blues” is superb. Eric could have gone for a straight forward cover, but his low-key, smoky rendition highlights the class and beauty of the composition. Sadly, “Every Little Thing” is, by far, the worst thing I have ever heard Eric Clapton release – an absolute abomination. I am not a great fan of artists adding a choir of children onto songs at the best of times, but rarely do they sound as cringe-worthy, twee and sickening as they do on this song. A seriously bad mistake. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I felt digusted and nauseous when I first heard it. I’ve subjected myself to it again before writing this review and I can only say that my feelings are not only upheld, but they’re possibly stronger in my hatred of this track.
So, is this a good album? No, not really. A bad album? I wouldn’t go that far either. It’s actually a rather confused mess of an album which lacks any real musical identity. Given my eclectic personal taste, I actually like what many of Clapton’s fans may hate about the album, the slow, relaxed, mellowed-out Clapton adding subtle acoustic guitar licks to old standards and covers. People who particularly enjoyed the “Unplugged” album, for example, may find plenty to enjoy here. I can’t help thinking that if the whole album would have been like that, it would have been a lot more likeable. A Clapton album of old standards would be divisive amongst his admirers, probably, but at least it would have been focused and cohesive. Anyway, it is what it is and there’s no point in ranting about what Eric “should be doing”. This is a musician approaching seventy years old who is making the music he wants to make and it’s our choice whether to buy it and listen to it or not. There’s just enough good music on this album for me to not regret buying it, but it’s a close call.
Incidentally, “Old Sock”, according to Clapton, is a term of endearment that older men address each other with – i.e. “Hello, old sock”. I will have to take his word for it, as it’s not something I have ever heard of before. Better luck next time, old sock.