Eric Clapton



by MasterSan USER (17 Reviews)
February 8th, 2009 | 18 replies

Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Pilgrim is a massive chore to listen to. It's half-hearted, boring, it doesn't rock, the lyrics are bad, and both the music and vocals are so professional they're bland. Avoid.

If I was asked to name the musician whose solo career I consider to have been the biggest disappointment, I'd immediately name Eric Clapton.

My reasons are simple. While in Cream and Derek & the Dominos (Blind Faith is a little iffier), he contributed some great guitar playing to some of the best acid-rock/blues-rock of the 60s/70s. By contrast, his solo career looks like a never-ending stream of barbiturates. Yes, he did throw in some gritty or heavy rock songs every once in a while, but most of it is a wasteland of soft-rock, watered down reggae, lethargic blues and shiny-but-rote mainstream rock. Essentially, his solo material lacks teeth.

Despite that flaw, most of his solo albums have at least one memorable song (whether mellow or not), despite the change in the ratio of memorable:formula songs after 1977. Closer to the recent day, there is a bigger tendency for his albums to be overloaded with ear candy and sound lifeless. Worse, he sometimes sounds like a guest on his own album, playing weak solos and ceding the foreground to electronics.

Pilgrim marks for me the nadir of his solo career. It is a perfect storm, with the following components:

* Not a single one of these songs is memorable, everything is totally slick and faceless.
* All of the riffs/melodies are recycled, mediocre or apparently focus-grouped.
* The tempo is super slow on every song.
* All the lyrics are impersonal and clichéd. Yes, even when dealing with personal issues.
* The production is excessively Adult Contemporary-oriented.
* Everything's loaded down with an overdose of synths, keyboards, strings and cheesy female backing vocals.
* Overdone sentimentality.
* Everything sounds half-hearted, lazy.

In short, the record comes slathered in a massive, diabetes-inducing amount of Narm and goo. The entire record is drained of life and colour until it becomes a sonic wallpaper: it's great if you want to fall asleep, but actually listening to it is a huge chore.

The issues can be broken down even further into the following:

The vocals: bad. Clapton sings every song in a very smooth, flat manner. Yes, even the ones meant to exorcise his personal demons. Even the blues songs that require at least a certain amount of grit and realism, "Going Down Slow" and "Sick and Tired" are sung lifelessly. The latter in particular should elicit laughter as Clapton threatens to blow a woman's brains out despite sounding like a total pussy.

However, there is the added annoyance of Chyna, who adds backing vocals to almost all of the songs. Her vocals are very saccharine and overwrought, and at some points overdubbed to sound like a sort of gospel choir, adding an extra dimension of unpleasantness to the material.

The lyrics: horrendous, torurously clichéd that sounds machine-generated.

The first lyrics heard on the album go as follows:

"Sailing down behind the sun, waiting for my prince to come.
Praying for the healing rain to restore my soul again.
Just a toerag on the run. How did I get here" What have I done"
When will all my hopes arrive"
How will I know him" When I look in my father's eyes."

This sets the benchmark of originality, quality and human interest for the album. Most of the lyrics that follow are trite and overdone, to the point of being embarassing.

The very next song, "River of Tears", somehow manages to take a plunge quality-wise, especially in its refrain:

"Lord, how long have I got to keep on running,
Seven hours, seven days or seven years"
All I know is, since you've been gone
I feel like I'm drowning in a river,
Drowning in a river of tears.
Drowning in a river.
Feel like I'm drowning,
Drowning in a river."

No subtlety, and completely literal to boot.

"Fall Like Rain" has horrifically repetitive lyrics:

"Tell me why did I fall in love with you"
Tell me why did I fall in love with you"
Tore me all to pieces cut me half in two.
Tell me why did I fall in love with you"
Tell me why do my tears fall like rain" [x2]
Tore me all to pieces nothing else remains.
Tell me why do my tears fall like rain"
Worry worry worry;
Worry all day long.
Don't know where I'm going;
Don't know right from wrong.
Tell me why, tell me why. [x2]
Tell me why did I fall in love with you" [x2]
Tore me all to pieces, cut me half in two.
Tell me why did I fall in love with you"
Tell me why do my tears fall like rain" [x2]
Tore me all to pieces, nothing else remains.
Tell me why do my tears fall like rain"
Fall like rain, fall like rain. [x4]"

And the rest of the songs have other issues, from repetition, bad metaphors ("Pilgrim"), insincerity ("One Chance)", more triteness ("Circus", "Needs His Woman", "She's Gone"), platitudes ("You Were There"), insincerity ("One Chance", "Needs His Woman"), pretension "("Inside of Me", complete with shitty monologue by Clapton's daughter) and misogyny in "Sick and Tired".

The music/performance: But, hey, everyone knows countless examples of songs with bad lyrics that are saved by the backing music, or an energetic performance.

Pilgrim is not an example.

The main problem with the music is its total lack of teeth, life, colour or anything that isn't totally bland and middle of the road. All arrangements are:

* mechanical, watered down with excessive keyboards, strings, electronics and backing vocals (yes, even the blues numbers!).
* mindless, repetitive and totally straightjacketed.
* completely lacking in variety. There is absolutely no variety on any song, just constant, wearying repetition and endless adult contemporary noodling.
* either slow or midtempo.

The material: does not rock in any way whatsoever. In fact, it's more Adult Contemporary/bad R&B than anything approaching "rock".

There are four kinds of songs here:
* funk-influenced R&B, heavy on drum machines ("Pilgrim", "One Chance", "She's Gone", "Inside of Me")
* incredibly slow Adult Contemporary ("River of Tears", "Broken Hearted", "You Were There")
* moderately slow Adult Contemporary ("My Father's Eyes", "Needs His Woman")
* covers (both "Going Down Slow" and "Born in Time" are castrated and defanged)

Needless to say, none of them work.

All the previously mentioned problems are laid out in the open with the first song, My Father's Eyes: listless R&B backing, lazy slide guitar in lieu of actual melodies, mannered singing, overwrought backing vocals. The other moderately slow AC song, Needs His Woman can be summarized as "a sappy, insincere love song", but with a measure of restraint due to the lack of strings. And thematically it seems to steal from "She Loves You" by the Beatles.

The funk-influenced R&B material is not too bad, but it's monotonous. In fact, all of these songs seem like carbon copies of each other. Pilgrim has a moronically simplistic main riff which sounds like it was looped, and quickly becomes irritating through incessant repetition, and the only variety here is through a loud, "A Day in the Life"-ish string crescendo towards the end. One Chance is similarly drab, and She's Gone is an embarrassing and obvious ripoff of Sly & the Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), even down to the fuzzed-up guitar riffs and the chicken-scratching.

The covers are as follows:
* Going Down Slow, a blues song by St. Louis Jimmy. I haven't heard the original, but I believe that it's way better than this crap. Clapton again softens the material and sucks all the life out of it, making it sound like what you'd hear in really cheap bars at 3 AM while drunk.
* Born in Time, a Bob Dylan song that doesn't seem to appear on any studio albums. Clapton's version has more of those R&B drumloops, with some sanitized fuzz-guitar strumming and lame slide guitar. More wallpaper keyboards and strings, and cloying backing vocals.

However, it's the incredibly slow AC category of songs that form the album's worst material. River of Tears has a main melody played on a MIDI fretless bass and some machine-generated drumming. The arrangement itself is quite minimal, with some background strings and more slight solos. And it takes 2 minutes for any singing to start. If you're not numbed already by the interminable non-melody, it doesn't get better with lyrics. In fact, it gets worse. The song's oppressive arrangement stays the same, never changing at all except for some strings in the refrain. And to top it all off, it just shuffles like a zombie for 7 motherfucking minutes. "Boring" does not even begin to describe it.

Broken Hearted is the worst song on the disc thanks to its insane song length (7 minutes and then some), boring music, recycled melodies and all its super-sentimental clichés. But it takes the cake thanks to Paul Brady's insipid tin-whistle, and how he and Clapton noodle routinely for the last two minutes of the song.

There are exactly two detours, and both of them aren't worthwhile. Fall Like Rain is a perfunctory attempt at something resembling "upbeat". There are some real drums on the song, acoustic guitars are strummed in the background, and there is an electric guitar delivering the main hook. But again, this all sounds half-hearted and half-asleep, and bizarrely, Clapton's singing on this song reminds me of Liam Gallagher. Despite all that, it's probably the best song on the album.

On the other hand, Sick and Tired is a perfunctory blues number. Its fuzz guitars again sound sanitized for the AC audience, drum machines are employed to predictably lame effect, and there is more organ noodling and pointless strings in the background. The song has no edge, and again, Clapton threatening to shoot a woman's brains out on this album should induce laughter for the listener.

The album's final song, Inside of Me begins with more hip-hop drumloops and wah'ed guitars. We get some variety at 0:20 with what sounds like a bass solo, but that quickly ends, and it's back to brain-deadening repetition, especially with the highly clichéd violin melody (3 notes at best). And at 4:38 a spoken monologue is inserted over the song's fadeout. It's pretentious and excruciating.

Conclusion: At the risk of sounding redundant, Pilgrim is a massive chore to listen to. It's half-hearted, boring, it doesn't rock, the lyrics are bad, and both the music and vocals are so professional they're bland. Avoid.

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user ratings (61)

Comments:Add a Comment 
February 8th 2009


Album Rating: 2.0

I tried to reduce the snarkery and make better arguments for this review, hopefully I've suceeded somewhat.

February 8th 2009


Its so long...

February 8th 2009


Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah. Sorry, I used my "Emancipation" review as template.

February 8th 2009


wow, I didn't think it was possible to say that without being struck by lightning.

February 8th 2009


Album Rating: 2.0

Outside Cream/Derek & the Dominos/every solo album before 1977, I guess you could say that.

February 8th 2009


I say every album he made under his own name, as opposed to those awesome projects he had.

February 8th 2009


Props to you for being the other guy on here that writes Prince reviews besides myself. And yeah, I remember my dad bought this tape when it first came out and I was so excited to hear it. Truthfully, it kinda does suck in an Adult Contemporary way.

February 8th 2009


Album Rating: 2.0

I can indeed confirm the shittiness of this particular clapton album.

February 8th 2009


I haven't listened to this, but I absolutely love My Father's Eyes.

February 8th 2009


yea this album is kinda boring. Most of it sounds like background music.

February 8th 2009


Album Rating: 3.0

Good Review but I think this deserves a 3.

Worst album off all of his 90's works.


February 9th 2009


god this is long. haven't read all of it yet, but one thing: yes Clapton needs someone to kick his ass to be really great, but I actually enjoyed quite a lot of his solo work as well. it's just completely different and I think he gets a lot more bashing than he deserves.

February 9th 2009


Album Rating: 2.0

Thanks, kygermo. To be honest, I just wanted to rip into Emancipation, and moderately recommend TGE since nobody else seemed to tackle those.

Bastard: well, I'd write that if "Cocaine" and "The Core" didn't exist. But they do. So, nah.

February 10th 2009


I dont blame you MasterSan. Imagine if Prince was allowed to do the triple album back in 87 that ended up being Sign! Wow. To be honest, TGE has only about 5 good songs on it, and thats it. I think its overrated, but it is his best lp from the 90s. No arguments there. If you get a chance, check out my Prince reviews sometime (I did Dirty Mind all the way up to Graffiti Bridge, excluding 1999, PR, and Sign since others have already done them, and done them very well).

February 11th 2009


Album Rating: 2.0

I did. They were really well written. Much better than mine...

February 12th 2009


Aww thanks man. Naa yours were good, you totally wrote the negativity that i always have when i hear those albums perfectly.

June 26th 2012


albums pretty bad

June 11th 2013


Album Rating: 2.0

It's the vocals that drive me nuts!

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