When you’ve had a long string of success like guitarist icon Eric Clapton, there comes a point when reviews and album critiques are ludicrous. Why? Because the artist no longer has anything to prove. He can pretty much do what he likes.
That’s really the vibe I get from Clapton’s 21st studio recording Old Sock. It’s not a phone-in by any means (you don’t get to be a rock icon by phoning it in); it’s just a good, calm, relaxed record by someone who no longer has something to prove.
The vibe is set even before you press play. Look at the album title: who else but someone completely comfortable in his own skin would name a record “Old Sock?” (It’s a recent nickname bestowed on him by fellow icon David Bowie.) Then there’s the photo: a headshot of Clapton that looks sort of like a snapshot from vacation—blue skies and palm trees behind him, his face shaded by the brim of his hat. You could just imagine the shot widening to find him lounging by a pool, a mint julep in his hand.
Then there’s the music itself—a surprising mix of cover tunes, often played in a jazzy or reggae style, with an occasional country swing thrown in for good measure. In fact, all but two songs on the record are covers like these, from old standards like “All Of Me” to Otis Redding’s “Your One and Only Man” to Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” from An American In Paris.
So what the heck? Has Clapton sunk to airport lounge act? Nope. These songs were chosen by “Old Sock” himself as personal favorites from his own life. To heighten the experience, he invited some friends to come and join him on the record—folks like Steve Winwood, Chaka Khan and Sir Paul McCartney. The result is something that plays not entirely unlike a backyard jam session, except with better production value. (It wasn’t actually recorded by the pool.)
Now, lest you think Clapton is hanging up his hat a bit early prior to his recent announcement that he’s retiring in three years…he puts that to rest with the two original tunes that appear on the album, “Every Little Thing” and “Gotta Get Over.” The latter, in particular, presents the hottest jam you’ll find on this record, the stellar guitar work reminding us just who it is who made this record—just in case we forgot.
So what we have here is not so much an obligatory “next album” as it is a “life soundtrack”—a rock legend playing his favorite tunes with a few of his friends. That alone makes Old Sock worth picking up.