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Eric Clapton’s Reprise Years: Every Studio Album, Ranked And Reviewed
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List & Guides

Eric Clapton’s Reprise Years: Every Studio Album, Ranked And Reviewed

From landmark songs to formidable collaborations and tributes to his heroes, Eric Clapton’s Reprise albums offer some of his richest work.

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Eric Patrick Clapton made his name in the 60s as part of three of the decade’s most iconic bands – The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith. After entering the 70s with the no less influential Derek And The Dominos, whose sole studio album, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, remains a blues-rock touchstone, Clapton embarked on a phenomenal solo career. Moving to Reprise Records in the early 80s, he launched his own imprint, Duck Records, whose releases consolidated his reputation as one of the finest guitarists of the modern era.

Though he has often returned to his true love of the blues – recording tribute albums to his hero, Robert Johnson, and recording his own triumphant duet album with BB King – Clapton, who was born in Ripley, Surrey, on 30 March 1945, has recorded in an eclectic range of styles.

His success has been outstanding. Clapton has won 18 Grammy Awards and is the only three-time inductee into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. In his solo career he has sold more than 280 million records worldwide, but his life has also been full of tragedy and drama. He has spoken openly about his alcohol- and drug-addiction problems, but also has also frequently shown he can transform difficult emotions into powerful music.

Here’s an album-by-album guide to Eric Clapton’s Reprise years: all 15 studio albums reviewed, with a must-hear song highlight.

Listen to the best of Eric Clapton here, and check out his Reprise albums, below.

‘Money And Cigarettes’ (1983)

Renowned studio engineer Tom Dowd, who co-produced Money And Cigarettes with Clapton, believed that the musician needed some fresh musical backing for his eighth solo album and first for Reprise Records. Though guitarist Albert Lee was retained, several of Clapton’s long-term band members – including keyboardist Gary Brooker and drummer Henry Spinetti – were replaced by hired session musicians such as Stax Records veteran bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn and Muscle Shoals drummer Roger Hawkins.

Dowd and Clapton also brought in the peerless slide guitar player Ry Cooder. Clapton and Cooder gelled well on Money And Cigarettes, especially on the slick opening track, a version of Sleepy John Estes’ Everybody Oughta Make A Change. Clapton, newly sober when the album was cut in Nassau, Bahamas, in late 1982, wrote six songs for the record, including the catchy Man Overboard. He also scored a US hit with the single I’ve Got A Rock’n’Roll Heart, co-written by Troy Seals, Eddie Setser and Steve Diamond.

Money And Cigarettes was a commercial success for Clapton, selling well in the US and throughout Europe.

Must hear: Pretty Girl

‘Behind The Sun’ (1985)

Both Eric Clapton and Phil Collins, who performed the dual role of producer and co-instrumentalist on Behind The Sun, later used the word “fun” to describe what it was like making the album together. Behind The Sun was recorded in 1984 at George Martin’s AIR Studios on the West Indies island of Montserrat.

Clapton’s marital troubles with Pattie Boyd inspired the songs Same Old Blues, Just Like A Prisoner and She’s Waiting (co-written with Peter Robinson), as well as the album’s anguished title track. Alongside a cover of Eddie Floyd’s 60s Stax hit Knock On Wood, the album also featured three songs written by Jerry Lynn Williams, including Something’s Happening, which featured Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham on rhythm guitar.

Released on 11 March 1985, Behind The Sun was eventually certified platinum after selling more than a million copies.

Must hear: Forever Man

‘August’ (1986)

After their success with Behind The Sun, Collins reunited with Clapton as the co-producer of August. Collins, who also contributed percussion and backing vocals, played a huge part in creating the slick, synthesised sound of the record – one he enjoyed making with his close friend.

The best-known track from August is the opener, It’s In The Way That You Use It. The song, co-written by Clapton and Robbie Robertson of The Band, was used in the 1986 Paul Newman and Tom Cruise movie, The Color Of Money, and it went to No.1 on the Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart when it was released as a single in October 1986, shortly before the album’s launch.

August, which also included a cover version of the Michael Jackson song Behind The Mask, had a range of musicians contributing to the pop-soul sound that helped Clapton’s 80s comeback. As well as featuring the synthesiser programming of Larry Williams – a regular sideman with Al Jarreau – Clapton and Collins also brought in jazz saxophone great Michael Brecker to play on five tracks. One of them was a version of Robert Cray’s Bad Influence.

Must hear: It’s In The Way That You Use It

‘Journeyman’ (1989)

“I still feel protective towards the blues, and I go back to it because of its rawness,” said Eric Clapton after recording Journeyman, an album that ended up achieving double-platinum sales.

There were four popular singles from the album – Pretending, Bad Love, Before You Accuse Me and No Alibis – yet some of the most affecting moments on the record were Clapton’s covers of songs he clearly loved growing up, including Ray Charles’ Hard Times and the Elvis Presley hit Hound Dog.

Clapton said he had a lot of help from Reprise Records’ parent company, Warner Bros, for Journeyman. The label’s executives encouraged him to use Texas songwriter Jerry Lynn Williams, who ended up contributing five songs to the record, including its second single, Running On Faith. “Warners sent me some Jerry Williams song, which I really loved, and off I went to Los Angeles,” Clapton said. “There, in the studio, I met [keyboardist] Greg Phillinganes and [bassist] Nathan East. They’d been hired to play on the songs by the president of Warner Bros, Lenny Waronker. I thought they were great.”

Must hear: Breaking Point

‘Rush (Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack)’ (1992)

The 1991 crime drama Rush, which starred Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric as undercover cops, dealt with drug addiction. Its subject matter – and Eric Clapton’s recent grief over the tragic death of his four-year-old son, Conor – inspired the singer and guitarist to create a potent, affecting soundtrack album. Though Clapton had worked on soundtracks before, contributing music to the first two Lethal Weapon films (he would also work on the third instalment the same year that the Rush album was released), his work on Rush is his best for the cinema.

After seven instrumentals, featuring the elegant, eloquent guitar licks of Clapton on tracks such as Tracks And Lines, the album concludes with three potent songs. They include Clapton backing up Buddy Guy’s soaring vocal and guitar on Willie Dixon’s Don’t Know Which Way To Go and Clapton himself singing his landmark song Tears In Heaven, which started as a melody that Rush director Lili Fini Zanuck had liked.

Released as a single in January 1992, the same month as the soundtrack, Tears In Heaven sold more than three million copies in the US alone, and stands as one of Clapton’s most personal and poignant compositions.

Must hear: Tears In Heaven

‘From The Cradle’ (1994)

From The Cradle, which won Eric Clapton a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album, took its title from a four-line handwritten poem by the musician that read, “All along this path I tread/My heart betrays my weary head/With nothing but my love to save/From the cradle to the grave.”

Clapton’s guitar playing is red-hot on an album that features heartfelt covers of classics such as Blues Before Sunrise (written by Leroy Carr), Hoochie Coochie Man (Willie Dixon), It Hurts Me Too (Tampa Red) and Standin’ Round Crying (Muddy Waters).From The Cradle was recorded live in Olympic Studios, London, with Clapton bringing in talented support musicians and long-term collaborators, including the veteran drummer Jim Keltner and the guitarist Andy Fairweather Low.

Must hear: Someday After A While

‘Pilgrim’ (1998)

Pilgrim, which took almost a year to write, record and master, was one of Eric Clapton’s most introspective albums, full of emotional songs such as My Father’s Eyes, which dealt with his ongoing grief over the death of his son, as well as his feelings about his own father. When Clapton hired drummer Steve Gadd for the sessions, he told him he was creating “the saddest record that has ever been made” – an ambition reflected in songs such as River Of Tears, Broken Hearted and Sick And Tired.

Clapton wrote or co-wrote 12 of the 14 songs on Pilgrim, whose title was chosen because it had a deep personal meaning to the guitarist. “When it came to title the album I used that track as a key point to go from,” he told TV host Larry King. “Just looking at my life as a musician and a lot of other respects. It is autobiographical. And I see myself as kind of being like a lone guy on a quest.”

There were two covers on the album: the little-known Bob Dylan song Born In Time, and Going Down Slow, a blues standard by St Louis Jimmy. Another treat on Pilgrim is the tin-whistle playing from Irish musician Paul Brady on Broken Hearted.

Must hear: My Father’s Eyes

‘Riding With The King’ (with BB King) (2000)

Twenty-three years after a 22-year-old Eric Clapton played with BB King at the Café Au Go Go, in New York City, when Clapton was still a member of Cream, he got the chance to make his permanent mark with the famous blues guitarist and singer on their duet album, Riding With The King. The album’s title track was a John Hiatt original, and Hiatt re-worked his lyrics for this special cover version.

Clapton and King sound like they are having fun on the record, especially on covers of some of King’s celebrated songs from the 50s and 60s, including Help The Poor and Three O’Clock Blues. Joe Sample, one of the founding members of The Jazz Crusaders, and a musician who worked regularly with King in the 70s, brought his own stamp of class to his contributions on piano and Wurlitzer piano.

Riding With The King won huge acclaim – including the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album – and was a commercial success, reaching No.1 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart and earning a double-multi-platinum certificate in the US.

Must hear: Ten Long Years

‘Reptile’ (2001)

Released in March 2001, Reptile took its title from the childhood nickname given to Eric Clapton by Surrey farm worker Charlie Cumberland. Clapton, also known as Slowhand, recorded Reptile soon after his million-selling collection of duets with BB King.

The title track – a gentle samba that opens the album – and the closing tune, Son And Sylvia, are two polished instrumentals. Over 14 songs, Clapton blended lots of the styles he had worked in for four decades, including classic blues, soul, funk and gospel. The album contained several interesting covers, among them a version of Stevie Wonder’s I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It – from his Hotter Than July album – and an Isley Brothers hit, written by James Taylor, called Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.

Reptile, which was released by Reprise Records on 13 March 2001, sold more than 2.5 million copies and was notable also for its memorable artwork: the cover featured an infant Clapton, and the booklet presented a snapshot gallery of family members and friends from his home village of Ripley.

Must hear: Come Back Baby

‘Me And Mr Johnson’ (2004)

Robert Johnson was the Delta blues musician who stood above all others for Eric Clapton, who said he was always moved by the fact that the bluesman, who was only 27 when he died, in 1938, sang and played facing the wall during recording sessions because he was too humble to look the engineer in the eye. “His music is like my oldest friend, always in the back of my head, and on the horizon. It is the finest music I have ever heard. I have always trusted its purity, and I always will,” said Clapton.

Clapton’s Robert Johnson tribute album, Me And Mr Johnson, featured 14 Johnson classics, including Milkcow’s Calf Blues, Kind-Hearted Woman Blues, Love In Vain and Hell Hound On My Trail. Clapton’s passionate honouring of Johnson found favour with the public. Me And Mr Johnson sold more than two million albums globally and reached the Top 10 in more than 15 countries.

The album’s striking artwork was painted by British pop artist Peter Blake and included a rendering of the famous Robert Johnson portrait from his studio sessions in Memphis.

Must hear: Me And the Devil Blues

‘Sessions For Robert J’ (2004)

Eric Clapton so enjoyed recording his tribute album to Robert Johnson that he followed it up almost immediately with a companion piece, Sessions For Robert J.

The album showcased several songs that were not included on its predecessor – From Four Until Late, Terraplane Blues, Ramblin’ On My Mind, Sweet Home Chicago and Stones In My Passway – and included fresh acoustic versions of the blues legend’s songs, some performed on a steel-string guitar and in duets with Doyle Bramhall II.

At the same time, Clapton was also filmed by director Hiroshi Fujiwara, discussing his deep love of Johnson’s music. In one memorable segment, Clapton performed in the 508 Park Avenue building in Dallas, Texas, which had served as a makeshift studio in 1937 for Johnson to cut his most celebrated recordings.

Must hear: Sweet Home Chicago

‘Back Home’ (2005)

Recorded in London and Los Angeles, Back Home contained a poignant tribute to Eric Clapton’s close friend George Harrison, with a cover of the Beatles star’s 1979 song Love Comes to Everyone.

Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer Simon Climie was again in the producer’s chair, delighted, he said, to work again with “one of my all-time heroes”. Climie, who co-wrote the album track So Tired with Clapton, was also responsible for the keyboard programming on a collection of highly polished pop-style songs, including a cover of Stevie Wonder’s I’m Going Left.

Clapton said he was happier and more contented in his personal life while recording Back Home, and the album is full of uplifting songs such as Run Home To Me. It also earned Alan Douglas and Mick Guzauski the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

Must hear: Love Comes To Everyone

‘The Road To Escondido’ (with JJ Cale) (2006)

Eric Clapton and JJ Cale had shared a friendship and mutual admiration for nearly five decades when they came to make The Road To Escondido together. Cale wrote 11 of the 14 tracks on the album, and two of the songs, Any Way The Wind Blows and Don’t Cry Sister, were re-recordings of tracks from the 70s, the decade in which Clapton first recorded Cale’s hit Cocaine.

The album took its name from the city of Escondido, in San Diego County, California, where Clapton had lived for spells in the 80s and early 90s. It is also noted for containing the final recordings of the brilliant keyboard player Billy Preston – the pianist who gained renewed acclaim in 2022 for his filmed appearances in The Beatles’ Get Back documentary – and the record is jointly dedicated to Preston and Brian Roylance, a publisher and friend of Clapton.

Cale and Clapton gelled brilliantly – no surprise, given their musical empathy. Clapton, who praised Cale for his “musical understanding” and the way that his playing “summed up so many of the different essences of American music: rock and jazz and folk, blues”, played a key part in a tribute album to Cale, The Breeze: An Appreciation Of JJ Cale, following his death in 2013.

The Road To Escondido offered an intriguing range of styles – the reggae twist of Don’t Cry Sister, the earthy blues of the Brownie McGhee composition Sporting Life Blues and the sultry Hard To Thrill, co-written by Clapton and John Mayer. Guest guitarists on the album included Mayer, Derek Trucks and Albert Lee.

Must hear: Danger

‘Clapton’ (2010)

Eric Clapton acted as co-producer on Clapton, along with US guitarist Doyle Bramhall II and Australian songwriter Justin Stanley, for an album he said, “I just let happen.”

The star of the show made only a limited songwriting contribution to the record – his sole lyrics credit among the 14 tracks was Run Back To Your Side – but it was well received: his track was nominated for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance at the following year’s Grammy Awards.

The album also featured covers of songs by master songwriters such as Hoagy Carmichael (Rocking Chair), Irving Berlin (How Deep Is The Ocean) and Johnny Mercer (Autumn Leaves), as well as two songs by his old collaborator JJ Cale (River Runs Deep and Everything Will Be Alright). New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint played acoustic piano on two tracks, and the pop song Diamonds Made From Rain featured guest vocals from Sheryl Crow.

Must hear: Autumn Leaves

‘Old Sock’ (2013)

Eric Clapton was about to turn 68 when Old Sock, his 19th solo studio album, came out in March 2013. The album cover featured a selfie photograph the musician took with his iPhone while on holiday in Antigua, and the record is notable for featuring a stellar list of star guests, including Steve Winwood, JJ Cale, Taj Mahal and Paul McCartney.

Former Beatle McCartney played upright bass and sang backing vocals on an upbeat version of the 1931 jazz classic All Of Me. There were also covers of Lead Belly’s Goodnight Irene and the Gershwin classic Our Love Is Here To Stay.

Clapton, who played electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, dobro and mandolin on Old Sock, said that the album’s title came from a conversation with his friend David Bowie. After hearing Bowie’s song Where Are We Now?, from his comeback album The Next Day, Clapton sent him a note praising “such a beautiful song”. Bowie replied: “Thanks for the shoutout, old sock. Really appreciate it.”

Must hear: Still Got The Blues

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