When you find yourself beginning to nod off half way during the first track of an Eric Clapton album you know something is wrong. For someone who was once one of the most celebrated and explosive guitarists in the Western world to venture off into planet Sleep Plex is as odd as it is confounding. But I guess Clapton had his reasons, and certainly not all the blame should be aimed at The Band and J.J. Cale.
Opener “We’ve Been Told (Jesus Is Coming Soon)” is pleasant enough, but if Eric is hoping to atone for his sins, then you’d reckon he could have sung with a little more urgency, instead of sleep walking his way through the Second Coming. The reggae oriented “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” is about as riveting as watching grass grow, and the sort of thing which I doubt would set the Bahamas on fire. “Little Rachel’” starts off promisingly but fails to really go anywhere, much less stimulate any extra neurons. Clapton continues his affair with reggae with “Don’t Blame Me”, another repetitive and inoffensive excursion into the inner and outer regions of musical ennui.
Clapton’s cover of Elmore James’s “The Sky is Crying” is first class, and is one of the LP’s few highlights. While the original had an element of exigency about it, this version sounds just like it is; a gathering of wealthy white men expressing their troubles. Still, it works, and that’s all that matters. On “Singin’ the Blues” Eric proves that he has at least one testicle remaining, although it’s actually George Terry who provides the testosterone when it comes to the guitar. Eric lets out his inner angst on “Better Make it Through the Day”, which for me is the most superlative of the album, and one which is also the most psychologically revealing. It’s lazy and laconic sure, but at least the man’s beginning to articulate his feelings in an immediate manner. “Pretty Blue Eyes’ is fairly boring but in a pretty sort of way. Like a song in search of a meaningful hook or melody. Things pick up with “High”, where Clapton waxes philosophically about “Trying to put my mind at rest” along with various other ruminations. It must be difficult being depressed and rich, living on one’s expansive estate while indulging in the odd crate of Prestige Cuvée, not to mention the odd mountain of cocaine on the side. So much for the poor black (or maybe white) bastard down the road who’s living on the bones of his arse while trying to eke out a living on some obscure bank of the Mississippi. Thanks Eric, I never really knew about suffering until I heard your records. Well at least that’s how some people may have felt.
“Opposites” might sound ambitious, but is hardly the most inspiring. It’s almost as if Clapton had either run out of ideas or the simple act of getting out of bed each day in itself was becoming too hard. Instead of trying to wake you with an extreme musical awareness, as he did in his days with Cream, by now he just wanted to put you to sleep, in the hope that the listener would persist with every note and self-indulgent emotional digression the artist could think of. Which I suppose is my own polite way of saying that this LP is so dull that it makes the Walton’s look like the Osbourne’s.
There’s One in Every Crowd is far from Clapton’s best, to the extent that one wonders why he was even recording at all. I guess a lot of it perhaps came down to what nowadays is known as the brand, not to mention that drinking a whole swimming pool of brandy every day requires a regular income. The remastered edition contains several bonus tracks, as if to reinforce just how uninspired the sessions really were. But that’s OK, because like so much of the man’s output from the mid 1970’s onwards, there’s enough going on to get it past the finish line. But only by a nose I might add. And speaking of noses, at least the album cover is endearing.