decades of life, five on stage. Eric
Clapton, god of the six strings, has made to coincide the release of this
triple compilation with a double in the no less than mythical Madison Square Garden to celebrate his
birthday and demonstrate that age is merely an accident along the journey. Three
enormous discs—fifty songs—with the first part dedicated to studio recordings,
another with live performances and the third—the best— monographic with some of the jewels of the
blues that have passed through his guitar since 1983, the “cut-off” year imposed by his record company.
That the third chapter is the best is a mere question of taste. The selection of songs made by the executives from Reprise also, however in the case of Clapton three discs fall short to summarize the last three and half decades of his career discos plagued by hundreds—surely even thousands without exaggerating too much—of collaborations with many other companions along the road. Just remembering his hand to hand with Steve Winwood on the same New York stage makes one’s hairs stand on end. So, it was mission impossible to please everyone. Just to choose the version of, for example, Sunshine of your love, could take years of debate among fans despite circumscribing themselves to the later years of the 80’s.
Clapton is a simple man. Discrete as could be. His birthday barely had any special guests –Jimmy Vaughan and another few greats and much younger students—and his compilation only includes three: Winwood, J.J. Cale and B.B. King (newly hospitalized at the time of writing).
There could be more, obviously, but it would have distorted the reality because behind his hieratic pose away from that artistic temperament the rock stars are used to, he has always been the absolute protagonist behind his instrument, that electric guitar that barely gives way to the sound of an acoustic in a handful of tracks –Layla amongst others- of those included in a collection which is much more than a greatest hits.
Perhaps the second CD, the live recording, too predicable, is what comes closest to that definition because, of course, the abridged edition is not recommended… even less if the goal is to learn and because the sacrifice is precisely dedicated to the blues. A luxury that can not be waived.
Forever Man recovers from a step in time, the end of the last century, in which Clapton seemed swallowed by history. Probably only the closest with the master know all the tracks of the CD, the studio recordings which went unnoticed, at least for the general public and in which it is almost impossible to find the differences of style when listening to them although among them there may be thirty years of distance. This may be the second major reason for a dip of elegance with an instrumentalist whose technique perhaps is already outdated and an artist who as the title of the album says is "forever."