Me and Mr. Johnson
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Me and Mr. Johnson Contribute to 
The Best of Website

March 2004

Sessions For Robert J.
 Dec. 2004
 
 
 
 
 
Me and Mr. Johsnon - Eric Clapton's Robert Johnson Tribute - Review Sessions for R

Me and Mr. Johnson review

Eric Clapton's album Me and Mr. Johnson is a tribute to the Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson. To gain some perspective about this albums concept from Clapton's point of view we included his album cover message.

Robert Johnson recorded 29 songs in 1936 and '37. On this album, Eric Clapton records 14 of them. Johnson records are just himself and his guitar, whereas Clapton uses a band. 

Since Clapton's previous roots tribute, From the Cradle, is so incredible, we were expecting Me and Mr. Johnson to be sensational too. Perhaps in time the album will grow on us, but our first impression is lukewarm. 

Robert Johnson's recordings are seeping with intensity, which Eric Clapton does not try to replicate. Actually that is probably good as the type of emotions expressed by Johnson must be natural. For Clapton, his most emotional release is Layla and Assorted Love Songs

While Robert Johnson's material has a similar tone throughout his catalogue, Clapton's interpretations offer much more variety as well as a more friendly and more accessible sound. The closest he comes to imitating Johnson is the discs last track "Hell Bound on My Trial," in both vocal phrasing, and guitar arrangements.  

Other musical styles he adds to the arrangements include a New Orleans rag time feel to "They're Red Hot" and "Last Fair Deal," and a rockabilly approach to  "32 -20 Blues." One of the stronger tracks is "Little Queen of Spades" with solid orchestration and an expressive guitar solo. "Love in Vain" is also a good arrangement.

If you are seeking Clapton playing explosive guitar solos this is not the album to get. That shouldn't be a complete surprise because that is not what Robert Johnson was about. Johnson's material, to me, is more about emotion, feeling, and intensity, and comes across very personal, as if he was recording the material for himself rather than commercially. Though, Clapton's first two recordings of Johnson's music, "Rambling On My Mind," with John Mayall (and numerous live versions), and "Crossroads," with Cream, do offer sizzling guitar parts. 

I expect that the audience for Me and Mr. Johnson is quite narrow. Though, it should sell well due to Clapton's name. If you have large Clapton collection, have Robert Johnson's recordings, and some extra money, this MAY be worthwhile. Otherwise, we suggest picking up some of our higher ranked Clapton albums. Perhaps this album will grow on us. Regardless, there is so much fantastic Clapton to choose from that getting playing time may prove difficult. by Barry Small   
Grade
C

Related topics:
Guitar and Piano
Acoustic Blues

December 2004 
Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) 
Our notes
The Sessions for Robert J. is more what I was hoping the original release, Me and Mr. Johnson was. The comments below are from the DVD. All in all, a solid and worthwhile purchase. 

Session One
This is with Clapton's band. The opening track, "Kind Hearted Woman" Clapton sings his heart out with both he and pianist, Chris Stainton, do a fine job of soloing.

Prior to "Sweet Home Chicago" there is a tease of "Hide Away," one of my favorite blues instrumentals; Clapton's rendition with the Bluesbreakers is essential. 

On session one, the band is certainly tight. The instrumental solos are generally concise per musician. I like the fills perhaps better. The last track "When You Got A Good Friend" closes nicely with Eric and Doyle playing dual leads.

Session Two
The second session includes the band again, this time rehearsing in Texas. On "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day," both guitarists play slide with nice results. Listed as a bonus track, "Little Queen of Spades" is performed superbly, one of the better tracks. To close session 2, "Traveling Riverside Blues" offers similar thrills. 

Session Three 
The is very well done and enjoyable. It captures Eric Clapton and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II playing acoustically. Doyle handles most of the fills, while Clapton focuses on singing and holding the song foundation together. 

Session Four 
Just Eric Clapton, solo, performing a handful of Johnson tracks. These are certainly a joy to watch. It helps one understand the difficulty of Johnson's material. 

From Amazon
Live, intimate, and raw, Sessions For Robert J is the essential audio/video companion to Eric Clapton's 2004 gold, Top 10 Me And Mr. Johnson, tribute to blues legend Robert Johnson. Filmed during tour rehearsals in London and Dallas plus a Los Angeles hotel room and the Dallas warehouse where Johnson made some of his final recordings, Sessions for Robert J finds Clapton performing all Robert Johnson songs with his touring band, acoustically with Doyle Bramhall II and solo-as well as discussing Johnson and his influence. A performance/documentary DVD with 14 tracks (from which the 11 CD selections are taken), Sessions for Robert J. is blues heaven. 

Robert Johnson
Me and Mr. Johsnon - Eric Clapton's Robert Johnson Tribute - Review
Track List

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CD
1. When You Got A Good Friend 
2. Little Queen Of Spades 
3. They're Red Hot 
4. Me And The Devil Blues 
5. Traveling Riverside Blues 
6. Last Fair Deal Gone Down
7. Stop Breakin' Down Blues
8. Milkcow's Calf Blues
9. Kind Hearted Woman Blues
10. Come On In My Kitchen
11. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day
12. Love In Vain
13. 32-20 Blues
14. Hell Hound On My Trail

Session for Robert J. release
DVD

Session 1
March 15, 2004 - England
With band

Kind Hearted Woman Blues 
They're Red Hot
Hell Hound On My Trail  
Sweet Home Chicago
When You Got A Good Friend 

Session 2
June 2, 2004, Irving Texas
With band

Milkcow's Calf Blues
If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day 
Stop Breakin' Down Blues 

listed as bonus tracks
Little Queen of Spades
Traveling Riverside Blues

Session 3
A
coustical, Eric Clapton and Doyle Bramhall II

Terraplane Blues 
Hell Hound On My Trail
Me And The Devil Blues 
From Four Until Late 
Love In Vain

Session 4

Ramblin' On My Mnd 
Stones In My Passway
Love In Vain 
Little Queen Of Spades
Traveling Riverside Blues

DVD bonus
Behind-the-scenes footage. 
Little Queen of Spades
Traveling Riverside Blues

Session for Robert J. release
CD 
1. Sweet Home Chicago 
2. Milkcow's Calf Blues 
3. Terraplane Blues 
4. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day 
5. Stop Breakin' Down Blues 
6. Little Queen Of Spades 
7. Traveling Riverside Blues 
8. Me And The Devil Blues 
9. From Four Until Late 
10. Kind Hearted Woman Blues 
11. Ramblin' On My Mind 

Me and Mr. Johsnon - Eric Clapton's Robert Johnson Tribute - Review
Musicians:       

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Eric Clapton - Guitar, Vocals
Nathan East - bass 
Steve Gadd- drums
Andy Fairweather Low - guitar 
Doyle Bramhall II - guitar
Billy Preston - keyboards
Jerry Portnoy - Harmonica

Track 5
Jim Keltner - drums
Pino Palladino - bass

DVD musicians
Eric Clapton - Guitar, Vocals
Nathan East - bass 
Steve Gadd- drums
Doyle Bramhall II - guitar
Billy Preston - keyboards
Jerry Portnoy - Harmonica
Chris Stainton Piano

Me and Mr. Johsnon - Eric Clapton's Robert Johnson Tribute - Review
Notes:

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Label - Warner Brothers

From the album cover:
IT IS A REMARKABLE THING ... to have been driven and influenced all of my life by the work of one man. And even though I accept that it has been the keystone of my musical foundation, I still would not regard it as an obsession, instead, I prefer to think of it as a landmark that I navigate by, whenever I feel myself going adrift.

I AM TALKING OF COURSE, ABOUT THE WORK OF ROBERT JOHNSON. Up until I heard his music, everything I heard seemed as if it was dressed up for a shop window somewhere, so that when I heard him for the first time, it was like he was singing only for himself, and now and then, maybe God... At first it scared me in its intensity, and I could only take it in small doses. Then, I would build up my strength and take a little more, but I could never really get away from it, and in the end, it spoiled me for everything else...

NOW AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, his music is like my oldest friend, always in the back of my head, and on the horizon. It is the finest music I have ever heard. I have always trusted its purity, I always will... ERIC C. - Back to the review

Me and Mr. Johsnon - Eric Clapton's Robert Johnson Tribute - Review

 

 

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