I've decided that this bit should have been its own post, so I've redacted it from below and bringing it up here. For something a bit more angry and maybe a bit more universally relevant, there's a recent-ish post below
I thought I'd write a bit about the album that Eric Clapton and JJ Cale cut together. I forget if I'd talked about it before. It's old news, but I finally get what the deal was with it. JJ Cale, of course, is the man who wrote two of Clapton's biggest hits, "Cocaine," and "After Midnight," both of which were curiously absent from the album.
To put it bluntly, it was pleasant sounding enough, but did not by any means live up to the expectations that come with the prospect of a Clapton/Cale collaboration. One might buy Cale's wax if one wants mellow background music as he's got a knack for that on guitar, and I'll be the last to deny that he's all manner of artful with it. Laid back, and yeah, it was a pretty sound and I would not be at all embarrassed to be responsible for such an album. But I'm not Eric Clapton. And I was confused as all hell by it until today, when I saw the dvd of the Crossroads Guitar Festival of 2004.
Fantastic, by the way. I absolutely recommend that you watch it. The list of performers alone should sway you, if my vote of confidence isn't enough. And Clapton plays with a number of him. One of the great things about the guy is that he loves to play music with other people, and won't hesitate to back off and play guitar 2 for a little while to let the other guy's style bleed into the song. Which brings us back to JJ Cale, who he played with at the festival. He gave some fucking great performances that day, including the best version of "I Shot the Sherrif" I've yet heard. But when he played with JJ, he played like he did on the album. He played well, but he wasn't being Eric Clapton. He was being the guy playing with JJ Cale. And so we arrive at the crux of all this: He absolutely refuses to show anyone up. And that's a good thing, but he applies that principle overzealously to the extent that he won't take lead when he's clearly the better guitar player. And I'm not saying he should have overpowered Cale. The two could certainly have coincided, each doing their thing, and come out with a great performance. And hell I'm not complaining; they did sound good. I just think it's interesting. I guess the thing of it is that for Clapton to be at his best, he needs to be playing with people he has no need to worry about showing up. Which is why the Cream reunion was so good. He was playing with two of the most highly regarded musicians for their respective instruments, and if he came off as the sole star in that concert it's only because his was the only name among the bunch that everybody knew.
So that's the conclusion I've drawn, in case anybody was interested.
Also, I happened upon this Rolling Stone article that John Mayer wrote about Jimi Hendrix when I was researching Mayer after seeing him on the Crossroads dvd. He's got some serious grace on electric guitar, and his take on Hendrix is certainly worth a read. I could talk forever about Hendrix. He lit the ears and the soul on fire with his guitar and his voice. It's hard for me to understand someone who doesn't appreciate him. One sees him in modern culture as some supernatural being, and the sounds he coaxed from a guitar certainly serves to justify that view, but listen to his words and you see him for what he was and still is; a man flying through the aether of the universe and the collective unconscious, letting us all know what it felt like. And that's what he'll always be. A reminder that a human being can touch that insane energy and be its conduit and make it one's own. He shaped universes and put them on wax so that we can visit them in our spare time. And god damn if you aren't better for the visit.
Right now I've got the Zeppelin live dvd playing, and that's some serious tunes. Zepp is pretty high up there on my lists of bands I wish I got to see live. Anyways, that's all I've got for you now.