First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2001, Volume 8, #7
Written by John Metzger
Since embarking upon a solo career, Eric Clapton has shied away from his "guitar god" status. Instead, he has focused on singer/songwriter-oriented sets of which Reptile is just the latest chapter, and while it may not be the best album of his career, it certainly isn't the worst one either.
What's most interesting about Reptile is the manner in which Clapton updates the stylistic ambience of his 1977 masterpiece Slowhand. The closing instrumental Son & Sylvia — a tribute to his recently deceased uncle — treads the same gentle, melancholic ground as Peaches and Diesel; the mid-tempo blues number Got You on My Mind mirrors the groovy flare of Mean Old Frisco; and both albums contain an exquisite cover of a J.J. Cale song (Reptile's Travelin' Light vs. Slowhand's Cocaine).
Yet, Reptile also maintains its distance from the past by introducing several new elements to Clapton's music. For example, the percussive undercurrent on both Travelin' Light and Superman Inside play out like a collaboration with Carlos Santana or Widespread Panic, and Clapton's gut-wrenching, Ray Charles-channeled vocals on I Want a Little Girl are some of his best ever. In addition, the choice of Curtis Mayfield's Impressions to serve as part of his backing band was indeed a wise one. Their heavenly, gospel-tinged vocals breathe spirit and life into many of the songs, and even when Clapton veers too far off into adult contemporary territory, they often catch him and pick up the momentum.
But herein lies the main problem with Reptile: There simply are too many of these light-rock selections for this disc to ever be considered a classic, as they tend to bog it down significantly. Had the disc been edited to a more manageable length, perhaps Reptile might have stood a better chance at becoming legendary. ½
44th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Pop Instrumental Performance
Of Further Interest...
Reptile is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box