Me and Mr.
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
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,
emotional release is Layla
and Assorted Love Songs.
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.
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
"Little Queen of Spades" with solid orchestration and an expressive guitar
solo. "Love in
Vain" is also a good arrangement.
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.
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 ©
Guitar and Piano
Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD)
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
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.
"Sweet Home Chicago" there is a tease of "Hide
Away," one of my favorite blues instrumentals; Clapton's
rendition with the Bluesbreakers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.