Christmas 2021 (03) – Eric Clapton – Happy Xmas (2018)

FrontCover1Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE (born 30 March 1945) is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter, widely regarded as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and fourth in Gibson’s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time”. He was also named number five in Time magazine’s list of “The 10 Best Electric Guitar Players” in 2009.

After playing in a number of different local bands, Clapton joined the Yardbirds in 1963, replacing founding guitarist Top Topham. Dissatisfied with the change of the Yardbirds sound from blues rock to a more radio-friendly pop rock sound, Clapton left in 1965 to play with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. On leaving Mayall in 1966, after one album, he formed the power trio Cream with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce, in which Clapton played sustained blues improvisations and “arty, blues-based psychedelic pop”. After Cream broke up in November 1968, he formed the blues rock band Blind Faith with Baker, Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech, recording one album and performing on one tour before they broke up. Clapton embarked on a solo career in 1970.

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Alongside his solo career, he also performed with Delaney & Bonnie and Derek and the Dominos, with whom he recorded “Layla”, one of his signature songs. He continued to record a number of successful solo albums and songs over the next several decades, including a 1974 cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” (which helped reggae reach a mass market), the country-infused Slowhand album (1977) and the pop rock of 1986’s August. Following the death of his son Conor in 1991, Clapton’s grief was expressed in the song “Tears in Heaven”, which appeared on his Unplugged album, and in 1996 he had another top-40 hit with the R&B crossover “Change the World”. In 1998 he released the Grammy award-winning “My Father’s Eyes”. Since 1999, he has recorded a number of traditional blues and blues rock albums and hosted the periodic Crossroads Guitar Festival. His most recent studio album is Happy Xmas (2018).

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Clapton has received 18 Grammy Awards as well as the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. In 2004 he was awarded a CBE for services to music. He has received four Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and of Cream.

In his solo career, Clapton has sold more than 280 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. In 1998, Clapton, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, founded the Crossroads Centre on Antigua, a medical facility for recovering substance abusers. (wikipedia)

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Happy Xmas is the first Christmas album by Eric Clapton, his twenty-first solo studio album, released on 12 October 2018. It includes 13 covers of Christmas-themed songs (15 on the European re-release), both well-known and relatively obscure ones, arranged in a predominantly blues style, and one new composition by Clapton and producer Simon Climie.

Tracks 15 and 16 were originally released, for Record Store Day 2018, on a 12″ shaped picture disc, and later included on the European December 2018 re-release of the album.

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During the 23-minute television special A Clapton Christmas, which includes excerpts from a longer interview with producer/musician Simon Climie, Clapton says that the original inspiration for the album came from his wife Melia about three years before the album was produced. She had been listening to the Christmas-themed playlists which her husband created every year on his mobile phone for the end-of-year holiday season; one day, she left him a message on his phone: “Why don’t you do a Christmas album?” Clapton was initially reluctant, as many of his favourite artists had done likewise before him, but he was convinced after he started working with pianist and keyboard player Walt Richmond (from The Tractors), who came up with unconventional harmonizations and arrangements for most of the tracks.

“For Love on Christmas Day” was written in early 2018 as “Living in a Dream World”, when Clapton completed a fragmentary tune by Simon Climie and wrote lyrics to it. At the time, the album was supposed to be a regular studio album rather than a Christmas one. Upon deciding to make it such, Clapton changed two lines of lyrics in the last verse – the only ones which actually include the word “Christmas”.

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“Home for the Holidays” and “It’s Christmas” are taken from American soul singer Anthony Hamilton’s 2014 holiday-themed album, also called Home for the Holidays. Clapton discovered his music on Spotify and called him “the best soul singer on the planet”.[5]

The song “Christmas in My Hometown”, according to Clapton’s comments on a flexi disc included with the deluxe edition of the album, was discovered by him on a Christmas compilation album, which he found by scouring the Internet while looking for unusual Christmas songs to cover; in this case, it was a country album, which included Gene Autry among its featured artists. The original version of this song, recorded by its writer Sonny James in 1954, sounded to Clapton like a pub song and reminded him of a scene he saw on a TV documentary, depicting a group of Romani people singing and having fun in a pub, so he arranged it in that style.

The artwork for the album, consisting of cartoonish, childlike drawings, was created by Clapton himself, who drafted all of it very quickly on some sheets of paper he found in his hotel. The front cover features a Santa character who looks vaguely like Clapton, while the inner spread includes a Santa sleigh pulled by reindeer under a four-pointed Christmas star, as well as a Christmas tree. In his interview with Climie, Clapton jokes that the artwork took him “months and months” of failed attempts, before revealing the truth. He also states that he was inspired by Bob Dylan, who, as an accomplished painter, came up with his own artwork for several of his albums. The “Happy Xmas”/”E.C.” lettering on the front cover, as well as the whole of the tracklist on the back, are also in Clapton’s own handwriting. (wikipedia)

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Happy Xmas, Eric Clapton’s first Christmas record in a career that’s spanned over four and a half decades, certainly bears its share of seasonal charm, but it’s also of a piece with the warm, amiable music he’s made in the 2010s. Like Old Sock and I Still Do before it, Happy Xmas relies on songs from other songwriters (he wrote only one tune, the slow-burning “For Love on Xmas Day”) and cooks to a cozy groove that’s grounded in the blues but also encompasses soul, reggae, rock, and a bit of vaudeville shuffle (“Xmas in My Hometown”). This homey atmosphere is certainly suited for the season, even if it rarely sounds like a typical holiday record. Chalk that up to Clapton studiously avoiding a reliance on shopworn carols. When he does play an overly familiar tune, he switches it up: he opens up the affair with a blues rendition of “White Christmas,” “Silent Night” is given a reggae bounce, “Away in a Manger” has a soulful underpinning, and he turns “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” into a seduction.

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These clever interpretations are nestled alongside nice holiday chestnuts, turning this into a comforting Christmas listen — so comforting that it makes the presence of “Jingle Bells (In Memory of Avicii)” all the more bizarre. Situated in the middle of the album, “Jingle Bells (In Memory of Avicii)” is a lite-EDM tribute to the late DJ and producer, a track that is perhaps more dexterous than Clapton’s ’90s electronica experiment T.D.F. yet feels wholly tacky as a tribute to Avicii. Worse still, in terms of the confines of Happy Xmas, “Jingle Bells (In Memory of Avicii)” doesn’t fit the vibe and it carries only trace elements of the titular holiday standard, so it stops the party cold halfway through. Cut this track out and Happy Xmas delivers some cheery Christmas vibes. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

Sorry, but this is the most superfluous Eric Clapton album of all time

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Personnel:
Toby Baker (keyboards)
Doyle Bramhall II (guitar)
Tim Carmon (organ)
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)
Simon Climie (keyboards, guitar, percussion, programming)
Nathan East (bass)
Tim Gill (cello)
Peter Lale (viola)
Perry Montague-Mason (violin)
Dirk Powell (accordion, fiddle)
Walt Richmond (keyboards)
Mary Scully (bass)
Emlyn Singleton (violin)
Ringo Starr (drums)
Paul Waller (drum programming)
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Metro Voices (choir)
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background vocals:
Melia Clapton – Sophie Clapton – Sharon White Booklet03+04Tracklist:
01. White Christmas (Berlin) 2.59
02. Away In A Manger (Once in Royal David’s City) (Traditional/Kirkpatrick) 4.44
03. For Love On Christmas Day (Clapton/Climie/Morgan) 3.36
04. Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday (Bell/Jones) 3.38
05. Christmas Tears (Wilson/Thompson) 4.23
06. Home For The Holidays (Hamilton/Wooten) 4.00
07. Jingle Bells (In Memory of Avicii) (Pierpont) 5.58
08. Christmas In My Hometown (James) 2.52
09. It’s Christmas (Hamilton/Wooten/Davis) 4.44
10. Sentimental Moments (Holländer/Freed) 4.07
11. Lonesome Christmas (Glenn/Fulson 3.51
12. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr/Young) 4.03
13. Merry Christmas Baby (Baxter/Moore) 4.12
14. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Blane/Martin) 3.32
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15. A Little Bit Of Christmas Love (Gordon) 2.44
16. You Always Hurt The One You Love (Roberts/Fisher) 3.58

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