On the heels of his critically acclaimed and personally rewarding Grammy nominated collaboration with B.B. King, Riding With The King, Clapton is back with Reptile (Reprise Records). The album showcases Clapton's unique ability to mix music from different genres and timeframes into expressions that are both contemporary and timeless.
Co-produced by Clapton with Simon Climie, Reptile takes advantage of much of the musical team from Riding With The King. According to Clapton, "It [Riding with the King] was such a magical experience that I thought, 'Well, why not just take this complete philosophy and make an album while this is all still kind of hot, for myself?" Included in the all-star backing band are Billy Preston, Joe Sample, Paul Carrack and Tim Carmon on keyboards; Andy Fairweather Low and Doyle Bramhall II on guitars; Nathan East on bass; Paulinho Da Costa on percussion; Steve Gadd on drums and The Impressions on backing vocals, among others.
"It was interesting," reflects Clapton, "because without BB... this was much harder than I thought it would be. I underestimated BB's presence in the whole equation."
In the midst of recording, Eric Clapton's uncle died, changing and illumining the process. "I met up with some family that I have up in Canada and we were talking about the fact that my uncle had passed away, earlier in the year (2000). Suddenly, another element came in which was that I became inspired by the passing of my uncle, who was a very big influence in my life. Then, almost accidentally, The Impressions came in, Billy Preston came in and [everything] suddenly exploded and, in the following two weeks, we basically made my new album."
Explaining the rather unusual album title Clapton says, "Reptile is all to do with my uncle, and where we come from; in Ripley, the village where I was born, that's the way we refer to one another. In the pubs, it's like 'Here comes that reptile' or 'Have you seen that reptile guy?' That's just the way we talk. Reptile refers to my uncle, and it's me as well. In the album, I have actually written a little page of explanation. It says 'Where I come from, the word 'Reptile' is a term of endearment. It's a form of acknowledgement. It's what your good mates call one another; 'He's a reptile' meaning 'He's one of the lads.'"
The 14 tracks on Reptile encompass a number of Clapton originals as well as some vintage covers "You'd probably have to say that this is kind of like an unplugged album but electric," comments Clapton. "It's kind of old school, but I don't want people to think that it's retro, or that it's nostalgic because it isn't. A lot of the material is from the past for example, I've done covers of songs by Stevie Wonder [the '80's hit "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It] and The Isley Brothers ["Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," written by James Taylor] but, at the same time, I still think it's new. It still feels new to me because of the effort that went into it. We didn't consciously go about re-creating something that was nostalgic or or retro."
The collection also includes the JJ Cale song "Travelin' Light," Ray Charles' "Come Back Baby," Joe Thomas and Howard Biggs' "Got You On My Mind," the Murray Mencher and Billy Moll "I Want A Little Girl," and "Broken Down," by co-producer Simon Climie with Dennis Morgan.
On the original side, the album covers a lot of ground. The high-energy first single "Superman Inside" (co- written with Doyle Bramhall II and Susannah Melvoin) sizzles with classic Clapton, but as the artist describes, Reptile "pays little tributes to different areas. For example, the first track ["Reptile"] is a samba instrumental because I love that kind of music. I love bossa nova love those guys from Brazil. From there, the record goes into other areas. I had written this song about myself and my uncle called 'Find Myself', for example which I had The Impressions sing on as if they were The Ink Spots. And it really gave the song a kind of unique point of view, but without it being a caricature. To me, it's like mixing up as many styles as I can." Rounding out the Clapton originals are "Believe In Life," "Modern Girl," "Second Nature," (co-written with Simon Climie and Dennis Morgan) and the lovely album closer "Son & Sylvia." The latter is dedicated to Clapton's uncle and his wife and features Billy Preston on harmonica, because as the artist recalls, "my uncle played harmonica as well."
Of his unique ability to integrate his life experiences into his creative process, Clapton asserts, "I've been very blessed in that I've been able to make those connections in my music, or bring my personal life to the music, and make sure that the two things actually complement one another. I think that gives it joy for me. That gives it energy, and it's true and honest that way." Once again, Clapton has graced us with a deeply felt creative expression that transcends time or place and exudes a captivating energy and bittersweet joy.
Reptile echos back through the years, celebrating a singular life in music, one that began in a small English hamlet just as the war was ending. Eric Patrick Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, on March 30, 1945. His love of the blues and American R&B led him to learn guitar and study the masters. "The merest glimpse of Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry would send me into frenzies of delight," he recalls. "So when I found the stuff that was behind it, Muddy Waters, and beyond that, Robert Johnson, and beyond that, the work song, it did something to me emotionally."
After pinch-hitting in a number of British blues bands in the early '60s, Clapton rose to prominence in The Yardbirds, with a lineup that would eventually include the three top British guitar heroes of the decade Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. He left in 1966 to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and after that he formed Cream with bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, a band that quickly became the preeminent rock trio of the late '60s.
What made Clapton unique? Rather than simply replicate the blues riffs he'd heard on record, Clapton incorporated the emotion of the original performances into his own style of playing, thus expanding the vocabulary of blues guitar. Cream's enormous success propelled the guitarist to international stardom. The band's winning combination of neo-psychedelia blended with fiery remakes of such blues standards as "Spoonful," "Crossroads" and "Born Under A Bad Sign" cemented Clapton's reputation.
Clapton's post-Cream undertakings were equally admired. Along with Steve Winwood, Rick Grech and Ginger Baker, he formed Blind Faith in 1969, a band that enjoyed tremendous popularity with its self-titled No. 1 album. Later that year with Delaney and Bonnie & Friends, Clapton began to test his vocal skills as well. He followed with a 1970 debut self-titled solo album, and the magnificent Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos, another one-time-only collaboration that featured a then unknown slide guitar genius named Duane Allman.
By 1971, however, Clapton had hit an emotional low. The disbanding of Derek And The Dominos had a stunning impact on him. Aside from occasional session work, and special occasions like George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh and the 1973 Rainbow Concert organized in his honor by Pete Townshend, Clapton retreated from public view for nearly three years.
Clapton eventually rebounded with "I Shot the Sheriff" from the album 461 Ocean Boulevard, both of which topped the charts in 1974. Albums in the mid-to-late '70s, such as There's One In Every Crowd, E.C. Was Here and No Reason To Cry, were all Top 20 chart hits. Beginning in 1977 with the triple- platinum album Slowhand and its smash hit single "Lay Down Sally," Clapton began an amazing run of gold and platinum successes that continue to this day.
Subsequent albums include the platinum Backless (1978) and Just One Night (1980), recorded live at Tokyo's Budokan Theater; Another Ticket (1981), which contained the Top 10 hit, "I Can't Stand It"; Money and Cigarettes (1983); Behind the Sun (1985) and August (1986). In 1988, Clapton released the double-platinum Crossroads, which included 73 digitally remastered tracks covering every phase of the guitarist's career. The next year's Journeyman passed the two million sales mark, and earned the artist a Grammy for the single "Bad Love." In 1991 came the gold-certified 24 Nights, recorded live at Royal Albert Hall in London, with a four-piece band, a nine-piece band, an ensemble of blues legends and an orchestra. Guest players included Phil Collins, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray.
Clapton reached new heights in 1992 with the release of the soundtrack to the motion picture Rush and its Grammy-winning Top 5 single "Tears in Heaven." That same year, Unplugged, recorded live on the MTV program, hit No.1 for three weeks straight, selling 15 million copies worldwide. Eric earned six Grammy Awards that year, clearly a sign of renewed appreciation for his work. In 1994, he returned once again to the music that gave him his initial passion for playing. The all-blues double-platinum From the Cradle was a hit with both critics and fans around the world. Said Clapton then, "The blues are what I've turned to, what has given me inspiration and relief in all of the trials of my life."
Next came the acclaimed Pilgrim, which captured the Grammy nomination for Best Pop Album in '98. In 1999 he won a Grammy for his performance on "The Calling" from Santana's Supernatural. Clapton revisited the blues with friend and musical legend BB King in 2000's Riding With The King, garnering the artist more platinum and a Grammy nomination in a career full of chartbusters and precious metal.
Throughout the '80s and '90s, Clapton made his presence felt in the realm of film soundtracks as well, with contributions to such movies as Rush, Back to the Future, The Color of Money and Lethal Weapon 3. Yet his greatest soundtrack success came with "Change The World," the endearing smash hit from the John Travolta film Phenomenon.
The only triple inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of both The Yardbirds and Cream and as a solo artist), Eric Clapton continues to astonish and delight a vast spectrum of music lovers. It's a legacy that continues with the release of Reptile, the latest journey in the lifelong musical odyssey of an authentic musical genius.
--- from the official Eric Clapton website