I’ve seen Richard Clapton perform a few times over the years, and no matter how old he gets, he never seems to date. The songs are just as good as they were thirty, even forty years ago. His music has a way of getting beneath your skin, like an old friend – always good to catch up with every now and then, have several drinks with, complain about life, politics, and reminisce about how it was when you were younger.
In 2006, Richard recorded and released Rewired, an album consisting of many of his classic songs, along with a few surprises. Certainly no stranger when it comes to compilations, whether live or studio, for anyone who enjoys their Clapton, then on this predominately acoustic album they’re in for a real treat.
Opening with “Trust Somebody”, Clapton’s superb voice interweaves with the instruments behind him, which at times have a continental feel to them. The classic “Blue Bay Blues” is given a stripped back, unplugged rendering, with Richard singing each verse and chorus like a man with many memories under his belt. And when he sings “I guess we got born in the wrong time”, I know how he feels. The philosophical “Glory Road” has an almost David Sylvian aspect to it, with its semi-Eastern arrangement, while “Get Back to the Shelter” and the exquisite “Goodbye Tiger” are each given an emotional reading.
“Up There Where Angels Fly” is touching, as is “Katy’s Leaving Babylon”, which has Clapton trying to find “some piece of mind”. “High Society” gets a white reggae reworking, followed by a country-rock version of “Hearts on the Nightline”, a song which truly takes me back. The beginning of “Capricorn Dancer” may have some listeners guessing as to what it is they are actually listening to, but once Clapton starts to sing, rest assured you can relax with your chamomile tea, or glass of wine, and chill to the wondrous imagery he evokes through his words.
The reflective “Prussian Blue” is a Proustian narrative of inner dialogue, finding our protagonist toward the end merely pleading for his love “to come in from the cold”, promising to play his “broken gramophone”. We end with “Ace of Hearts”, another continental sounding number – full of refined instrumentation and of course, that voice, which is as hypnotising as ever.
Rewired is the work of someone who has clearly spent a lot of time gazing into the oblivion of existence, wondering what it’s all about. Many of his songs are concerned with asking questions to which answers are not easily exposed. Clapton’s Montaigne-esque dissertations are a quality sorely lacking in popular music. I only wish that there were more like him.