Sessions For Robert J. Eric Clapton (Warner) Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The lightweight renditions of Robert Johnson's influential pre-war blues classics that Eric Clapton released as part of his Me And Mr. Johnson tribute disc earlier this year were far from exciting. This companion DVD (with bonus CD) documenting Clapton's studio rehersals and informal hotel-room run-throughs promised a much rougher, rawer, perhaps bluesier version of the material. Well, the performances are marginally less stilted, but don't count on any tormented howling or string-busting from old Slowhand, especially at 11 am on a sunny morning, surrounded by grinning backing geezers decked out in Bermuda shorts and sports sandals.
There's a little more passion involved in Clapton's acoustic duo exchanges with sideman Doyle Bramhall II, perhaps because they were playing devilish stuff like Hellhound On My Trail in the third-floor room of the famous marble-walled Dallas building at 508 Park Avenue where Johnson himself recorded back in 37. The most interesting bits are Clapton's few solo workouts and his between-song discourses on how he came to be interested in Johnson's music in the first place and why it's so hard for one person with only 10 fingers to play the stuff.