After a lacklustre start to the decade, Eric Clapton really picked up the pace on this and its follow-up, Journeyman. Both covers feature photography by the recently departed Terry O’Neill, depicting a stylish, more mature Clapton. This maturity can also be heard in the songwriting, which finds a plaintive Clapton in a new spot, looking back at his life. The instrumentation is also similar across the two records, utilising the same band of Michael Jackson sideman Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, Nathan East on bass and Phil Collins on drums.
The album kicks off with It’s In The Way That You Use It, featured in The Color Of Money, the 1986 sequel to The Hustler, starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. But as commercial as that song is, there’s far stronger material to be found throughout the album.
My favourite track though is Miss You – a slow burning electric blues, with a soaring lead guitar from Clapton. It’s a fantastic taster of the kind of material and production that makes Journeyman such a joy to listen to. August is a great start, but Journeyman is clearly the better album.
I bought this because it had Bad Love on it. I’m glad I bought it because the rest of the album is sweet – I could never understand how Unplugged was considered his comeback when he was making albums of this quality 3 years earlier.
The opening guitar riff to Bad Love has to be one of most underrated rock riffs of the 1980s. I’d put it up there with Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing as the best of that decade. In fact, does anybody even write riffs of that calibre anymore? Jack White has a few under his belt, but there’s been a shift away from putting a riff like that front and centre in the production.
I love everything about this album – the photo of Eric looking vaguely psychotic in the dark on the front cover, to the photo of him on the reverse – wearing a grey linen suit over a bright yellow turtleneck, standing on metal shavings.
I read his autobiography not too long ago, and it really got to me that so much of his life has been plagued by alcoholism, and frankly, wasted. If he had been able to knock albums like this out every couple of years, he would have a pretty impressive back catalogue rather than the sketchy affair that it is.
I remember, many years after first buying this record, I was working on a late night as a supervisor of a DIY store. I put the album on in the break room, thinking that nobody would know it, but one of my colleagues Carly got overexcited and started singing and dancing along to it whilst doing the vacuuming – a favourite album of hers too. It’s funny how things stick in your memory like that.