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Me and Mr. Johnson
     

Me and Mr. Johnson

4.4 15
by Eric Clapton
 

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While the blues has imbued Eric Clapton's music for the better part of four decades, only once before has he made it the sole focus of an album (on 1994's From the Cradle). Clapton doesn't stray far from the fountainhead on this 14-song set, which is entirely devoted to Robert Johnson, perhaps the

Overview

While the blues has imbued Eric Clapton's music for the better part of four decades, only once before has he made it the sole focus of an album (on 1994's From the Cradle). Clapton doesn't stray far from the fountainhead on this 14-song set, which is entirely devoted to Robert Johnson, perhaps the most myth-shrouded man in American music history. Not surprisingly, Clapton spends most of Me and Mr. Johnson traversing life's dark side, pleading purposefully on a poignant "Love in Vain" and mustering up his most threatening delivery in quite some time on "Me and the Devil Blues." Wisely, he keeps guitar heroics to a minimum here, lacing the lusty "Little Queen of Spades" with a sharp solo and flexing some slide muscle on "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day" but otherwise focusing on gritty rhythm riffing. Guests like Billy Preston -- who steals the show on "They're Red Hot" -- offer plenty of support, but by the time the last notes of "Hell Hound on My Trail" wind down, Clapton's vision is all you hear. Me and Mr. Johnson is a respectful document, and while not as fiery as the guitarist's previous forays into his idol's work (particularly those early versions of "Crossroads"), it paints a clear and powerful picture of an American icon whose work resounds even decades after his death.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Ten years after his first all-blues album, From the Cradle, Eric Clapton released Me and Mr. Johnson, an album-length tribute to his hero, the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Not that this is the first time Clapton has paid tribute to Johnson. Throughout his career, Clapton has not only drawn on Johnson for inspiration, but he has covered his songs at pivotal moments: "Ramblin' on My Mind" on his classic album with John Mayall, Bluesbreakers; "Four Until Late" on the first Cream album; and, most memorably, the rampaging cover of "Crossroads" on Wheels of Fire that became his anthem and arguably his defining moment. Considering this long history, perhaps a full-length tribute was inevitable, yet Me and Mr. Johnson still is welcome, in part because it's been a long time since this guitarist has sounded so comfortable and relaxed, as if he was having fun making music. With the possible exception of the spotty yet charming B.B. King duet album Riding With the King, this is simply the most enjoyable record he's made since From the Cradle, and in some respects it's a better blues album than that since it never sounds as doggedly serious as that guitar-heavy affair. Given the somber, sometimes chilling lyrics Johnson wrote -- Clapton admits that "At first [his music] scared me in its intensity," an accurate summary of the haunting nature of those 29 sides the bluesman cut in the '30s -- it's a little ironic that this tribute winds up being fun, not somber, but the light touch makes for a better album. That lightness comes from the deep love Clapton holds for this music, since the enthusiasm and enjoyment he and his band -- all the old regulars like Andy Fairweather-Low plus Billy Preston on keyboards -- give the performance results in the album's light, infectious feel. While that does result in versions of "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day" and "Hell Hound on My Trail" that sound anything but haunted, they do sound nicely next to the up-tempo rave-ups of "They're Red Hot," "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," and "Stop Breaking Down Blues" since all of them sound like Clapton is having a hell of a good time. Some might take issue with this, and others may find the album too slickly produced -- admittedly, blues albums should never boast a credit for Pro Tools, as this does -- but this is a heartfelt tribute that's among Clapton's most purely enjoyable albums.
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
When he finds Satan on his doorstep in "Me and the Devil Blues," you can hear in Clapton's deep, scarred howl that he is confronting an old acquaintance.
Entertainment Weekly - Chris Willman
Clapton sounds reinvigorated in these 14 songs by crossroads soul-salesman Robert Johnson, with phlegm in his throat and (relative) fire in his belly. (B+)

Product Details

Release Date:
03/30/2004
Label:
Reprise / Wea
UPC:
0093624842323
catalogNumber:
48423
Rank:
418

Tracks

  1. When You Got a Good Friend
  2. Little Queen of Spades
  3. They're Red Hot
  4. Me And The Devil Blues
  5. Traveling Riverside Blues
  6. Last Fair Deal Gone Down
  7. Stop Breakin' Down Blues
  8. Milkcow's Calf Blues
  9. Kind Hearted Woman Blues
  10. Come on in My Kitchen
  11. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day
  12. Love in Vain
  13. 32-20 Blues
  14. Hell Hound on My Trail

Album Credits

Customer Reviews

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Me and Mr. Johnson 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I suspect fans of Eric's lite rock persona will be perplxed, the fans of Eric as rock guitar deity will disappointed and some blues purists may feel distain, but this hits its stated target dead-on. A tasteful, listenable Chicago-blues rendition of classic folk blues. I downloaded it from iTunes and then bought the CD a week later and I find it well worth having paid for it twice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Here is Claption at his best, putting his signature on the works of his idol, but paring it down in a dignified way befitting a tribute. If it doesn't have the range of "From the Cradle", it's because it consists of covers of one artist, but it has the energy, heart, and skill, and makes for a wonderfully unified, yet still dynamic work. Even to those who know the original versions, covers such as the wild up-tempo "They're Red Hot" and the rich "Milkcow's Calf Blues" will knock your socks off. Highly Recommended, and another Clapton Masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Johnson has always been Eric Clapton's muse, and while he's covered selected RJ songs throughout his career (most notably Cream's scintillating rendition of "Crossroads"), he's never done anything like this. I've been fortunate to have had an advance copy for a couple of weeks, and have listened to this album many times. It is a beautiful work, done with passion. This isn't a "guitar god" album, so those Clapton fans who are awaiting the second coming of "Layla" or "Bluesbreakers" may have to wait a little longer. What this is is a collection of excellent performances by a very tight band (Billy Preston, Doyle Bramhall II, Jerry Portnoy, Steve Gadd, and Nathan East), produced just right, and sung exceedingly well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've followed Eric Clapton's career for years and it has been amazing to watch. Listening to him work the blues though is just a sweet, sweet listen because you can hear him feel it and love every chord. Not since "From The Cradle" has Clapton's artistry impressed me so much. Robert Johnson's inspiration in Clapton's music has always been hovering but this is flat out amazing. Get into "Me and the Devil Blues" where Clapton lets loose vocally. Hear passion in his guitar on "Little Queen of Spades" and "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day". Billy Preston on piano is working genius on "They're Red Hot" and I cannot get enough of Jerry Portnoy's harmonica. Steve Gadd's drums are a huge frame to the overall sound and this cd has found a home in my player for a long long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There aren't many albums out there that every song is a great one, except for this one. The only thing wrong with this album is that is to short. Everything for the songs that he has chozen, to the order they where placed on the album will leave you wanting more. It lets Claptons ture talent shines. But watch yourself. Your neighbors will be bang on your wall to turn it down, the lounder it is played the better. It is that good. The sound mixings is very clear, you can hear every note as if you are sitting in a concert hall by yourself. Some that better songs include: Come On in My Kitchen, Traveling riverside Blues, Milkcow's Calf blues, little Queen of Spades, and oh yes, If I Had Possession Over Judegement Day
Guest More than 1 year ago
Any project by Eric Clapton is usually excellent, and "Me and Mr Johnson" is no exception! The approach is the band's own: rather than attempting to mimic the original delivery with solo resonator guitar and vocals, Eric presents these classics as more of an open blues jam. The opening song "When You've Got a Good Friend" comes at you full tilt. "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" gives Eric the opportunity to show his mastery of an expressive blues guitar solo, with the perfect blend of attack and restraint. Overall, Robert Johnson songs performed by Eric is about a good as it gets!
Guest More than 1 year ago
No question, this is traditional blues with sound benefiting from recording technology. While it's not the Best of Clapton, it certainly is worth buying when the CD goes on sale for $9-10.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From his days with the Yardbirds, to Cream, to John Mayall, to his album "From the Cradle", EC has always embraced the blues, even with songs like Layla. This is a natural evolution for him. This album of songs from his longtime hero is a wonderful experience. I firmly believe that those who prefer Layla, might even like this album. The depth of his rich talent has no peers. I doubt you can name any artist who has played for more groups, helping found many, and then followed it up with, arguably, an even more successful solo career.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eric Clapton has presented an interesting compilation here of the music that inspired him as a young man. Those looking for his "stinging" lead guitar solos, by and large will not find them here. Instead, this CD is more of a showcase for his vocals, which have gotten better over the years with each recording. Clapton does offer some tasty leads and slide guitar on some tracks. The backing band are the usual excellant musicians on some of his other more recent recordings. This CD is somewhat reminicent of "Unplugged", but with a higher level of production and a more focussed, backing band. I would have liked to hear a bit more lead solos from him, like all Clapton fans crave, but all in all a fine CD. If you are a Clapton fan this CD belongs in your collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was a little puzzled when I read that he was doing the album with full band, but the Chicago styled perfromances are perfect, if Johnson himself had beat the grave he most likely would of gone north and electrified. Clapton vocals are stunning and his guitar has never sounded so fierce. Clapton is the definition of a performer who improves with age.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Robert Johnson's music, probably because of Eric Clapton's fascination with the man. If you listen to recordings of Johnson you see that there were two sides to his performance style. One is the dance hall musician who needed to fill the room with a heavy danceable beat, and the other a dark troubled soul. You can hear this in alternate takes of the same song, one performance that is loud and rhythmic and one that is moody and empathetic. In this recording Clapton chose to elaborate upon Johnson the dance hall musician. The performances are the work of excellent seasoned musicians who hit their marks with precision.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its an OK album, heard it on XMRADIO's premiere today on Deep Tracks channel 40. But its just another blues ablum from Eric Clapton. Leaves me with the same question. Is clapton dried up? Also, he didnt do them in the traditional delta folk blues style. God (clapton) might not be dead, but he is taking a long vacation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Heard album on XM. I can't fault Clapton for not recording the songs in the traditional style as that is best left to Robert Lockwood, Jr., the man recognized as Johnson's 'stepson' and last living blues link to Johnson. I feel that the album lacks a certain excitement. If this album serves to introduce RJ to a wider audience, wonderful. If you want to hear great covers of RJ go buy 'Delta Crossroads' by Robert Lockwood, Jr or the Rhino release called 'Hellhound on my Trail'. Otherwise buy RJ.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago