ERIC CLAPTON: Pilgrim (Reprise)

You know, I really tried to like this album. I've been a Clapton fan for years, and was excited to hear that he was finally getting around to releasing an album of new material. His last album, From the Cradle (a collection of old blues tunes), was one of his best ever. On Pilgrim, his first album of new material in 7 years, he seems to have gotten lost in the '80s. All the songs are backed by a drum machine. Several of the songs are just too long and drawn out (the CD is over 75 minutes long). He even brought in a string section. Unfortunately, the songs would be better without the overblown orchestral thing going on.

Firmly planted in the MOR genre, Clapton's definitely trying to appeal to the adult contemporary crowd who thought the Unplugged album was a revelation. Most of the songs are a disappointment, and never get off the ground. He needs to quit hanging out with Tony Rich & Babyface, and stick to what he does best--playing guitar. There are a few moments where he manages to sneak in a solo here & there, like on "One Chance;" but most of the time, the guitar is in the background. It's always good to diversify things, but…

A quick rundown of the tunes on Pilgrim reveals less than a handful of good tracks--"Broken Hearted" (a nice song that steals the riff from Go West's "King of Wishful Thinking"), "One Chance (this one gets extra points for the sound of crackly vinyl before the song starts)," "Going Down Slow," and "She's Gone." Clapton managed to stir up some controversy with "Sick and Tired," a basic blues tune (and not even a very good one at that) featuring the lyrics "I'm gonna get me a shotgun, baby, keep it stashed behind the bedroom door. I may have to blow your brains out, baby, then you won't bother me no more." If Muddy Waters or any of the other blues greats would've written this song, no one would have batted an eye. But no, this is the 90's and this is Eric Clapton.

Luckily, he saved the worst for last. "Inside of Me" features some decent fretwork and great guitar tone, but the song is awful. All of the good songs on Pilgrim were better in concert. It's a shame that he had to bring the drum machine into the studio. Granted, there are a few 'nice' songs here, but nice isn't what I want to hear when I put on a Clapton record. Pilgrim is like candy--ingest too much and you're gonna get sick.

© 1998 Steve Marshall