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Eric Clapton
Unplugged [deluxe edition] - REPRISE
FILTER Grade: 75%

By Nevin Martell on November 5, 2013


Eric Clapton

It’s almost unbelievable to think that an album could sell a staggering, jaw-dropping 19 million copies. However, that’s exactly what Slowhand’s acoustic performance for MTV did when it was released back in 1992. Critics were equally enthusiastic, calling the set the work of a master craftsman deftly highlighting his considerable catalog and the songs that shaped him.

Now that more than two decades have passed, we can all acknowledge Unplugged for what it always was: a bland blueprint for Baby Boomer coffee-shop music. Take Clapton’s stripped down “Layla,” which neuters the song’s swooning, soaring hook and completely castrates its gloriously self-indulgent outro. Renditions of folk favorite “San Francisco Bay Blues” and Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” possess more vim and verve. However, if you close your eyes and let the music sweep you away, you’ll simply imagine that you’re standing in a strip-mall Starbucks. 

A six-pack of unreleased performances fills out the bonus disc, including “Circus” and “My Father’s Eyes” (both later recorded for 1998’s Pilgrim). These two songs, along with the still-heartrending “Tears in Heaven,” all took their inspiration from the tragic passing of Clapton’s young son Conor. This trilogy is the emotional core of this set, providing fleeting moments of somber transcendence. You just might shed a tear into your mocha latte.  

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