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Me and Mr. Johnson


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Audio CD, March 30, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

On Me And Mr.Johnson, Eric Clapton covers 14 of the 29 songs Robert Johnson, the most mythic figure of the blues, wrote and recorded in his lifetime. For fans of deep blues,it doesn 't get any better than this. After the success of Clapton 's first two traditional blues albums -+1994 's Gram- my-winning triple-platinum, #1 pop From The Cradle, and 2000 's Grammy-winning, double-platinum,#3-charting Riding With The King collaboration with B.B.King -+Me And Mr.Johnson finds Clapton once more at the crossroads of blues and rock.

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It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of singer-guitarist-songwriter Robert Johnson's contribution to blues music. The same can be said of Eric Clapton, one of Mr. Johnson's most dedicated interpreters. From his work with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers to Cream and beyond, Clapton has arguably attracted more widespread attention to Johnson's music than any other living musician. A decade after his all-blues From the Cradle (which included no Johnson material), Clapton jumps into the icon's catalog with both feet by covering 14 Johnson tunes. With a stripped-down veteran band that includes such longtime associates as drummer Steve Gadd, keyboardist Billy Preston, and harmonica ace Jerry Portnoy, the guitarist attacks these songs with passion, intelligence, and a refreshing lack of blues-rock pretense. From the upbeat jump of "32-20 Blues" and "They're Red Hot" to the slower, grinding "Little Queen of Spades" and "Milkcow's Calf Blues," Clapton acquits himself well, eschewing his slicker inclinations with arrangements that underscore Johnson's rawest tendencies--although perhaps he doesn't seem sufficiently terrified when walking with Lucifer on "Me and the Devil Blues." Still, this is a successful and admirable return to his roots, one that will hopefully introduce an even larger audience to Johnson's seminal work. --Hal Horowitz

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

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 30, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Reprise / Wea
  • ASIN: B0001HAHXW
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,846 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Riccardo Pelizzo on May 15, 2004
Format: Audio CD
When Clapton recorded and released his 'Unplugged' few years ago, he made wonderful covers of both Robert Johnson's Malted Milk and Walking Blues. The result was absolutely brilliant. I had not heard a more inspired, passionate,soulful Clapton in years.
I would say that the opposite is true of 'Me and Mr. Johnson'. Leaving aside why Clapton decided to record the 14 songs he chose instead of Rambling on My Mind, I'm a steady Rollin'Man, and so on; the record has a major problem.
There's no energy, there's no strength, there's no passion. If you listen to Robert Johnson's original recording they're phenomenlly powerful. In Clapton's rendition, those very same song almost put you to sleep.
Love in Vain is a perfect case in point. It is a very powerful song, one of those songs that strikes some chords inside you. Robert Johnson created that magic, the Rolling Stones were able to preserve that magic in their cover, but all the magic is lost with Clapton. Love in Vain is almost boring. Clapton is a great guitar player and great bluesman, but the arrangements he chose for this record are terrible. They take all the energy away from these great great songs. What a disaster.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Sir George Martini on August 19, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Eric Clapton has been introducing the "Blues" to new audiences for almost his entire life. Early in his career, he could take an obsure blues song like "Crossroads" and make it into a rock hit. A number of Robert Johnson's songs were recorded in the corner of a hotel room on ancient equipment. These harsh sounding, yet powerful performances can send chills up your spine. Sadly, "Me and Mr. Johnson" is just plain boring to listen to. The song arrangements stay mostly faithful to the original recordings, but there are too many instruments on them. The band contains some fine musicians, but they sound so polished and lifeless. Clapton's playing is competent as usual, but it lacks the enthusiam that used to set him apart from all his peers.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By R. Weinstock VINE VOICE on April 11, 2004
Format: Audio CD
With all the hoolpa this cd has received, one is atonsihed by the absolute nonsense of some of the rock critics who rave about this. Much of this collection of performances of songs that Robert Johnson recorded is on the level of a bar band doing Robert Johnson. None of Clapton's renditions of these songs match those by Robert Lockwood, Johnny Shines, Honeyboy Edwards, Big Joe Williams, Junior Wells, Eddie Taylor, Boyd Gilmore, Muddy Waters and others who have taken Johnson's songs and produced recordings that are more passionately and personally performed. Clapton is too reverent to these songs and the lyrics which is strange for a homage to Johnson whose own work adapted and transformed his contemporaries music as Elijah Wald details in his recent book. Check out Leroy Carr's In the Evening before listening to Robert Johnson's Love in Vain and Clapton's rendition pales compared to the Stones' cover of it three decades ago. Both Junior Wells and Eddie Taylor had standout recordings of Stop Breakin' Down that makes Clapton's rendition here sound not very distinguished. Call Clapton a rock guitar god all you want and a great popularizer of the blues, but when you have assimilated not simply Johnson's music but also the great bluesmen of the past fifty years, than Clapton's achievement is clearly overstated. One other point was that I was not enamored by the studio band. There are some great players (and Mr. Portnoy is a great harp player), but the rhythm section does not swing and they sound second rate comapred to some of the classic Chicago bands of the sixties and seventies.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By M. Brevetta on February 10, 2008
Format: Audio CD
The power of Robert Johnson's music lies in his haunting lyrics, stark arrangements, and tortured delivery. Unfortunately, in reworking Johnson's songs for "Me and Mr Johnson", Eric Clapton has robbed them of their original power, substituting instead competent, but out-of-place, Chicago Blues-style arrangements and disappointingly hackneyed vocal delivery. Johnson's lyrics alone are left to carry the load and, alas, they cannot.

Clapton can do better, and, indeed, he has. Listen to "Malted Milk" from Unplugged and "Terraplane Blues" and "Ramblin' on My Mind" from
Sessions For Robert J. (CD + DVD) for proof that he can interpret Johnson's music in inspired fashion. Given the magnitude of Robert Johnson's influence on Eric Clapton, a Clapton album comprised entirely of Johnson's songs seemed a very promising undertaking. If only "Me and Mr Johnson" had lived up to that promise . . .
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By B. K. Stepp on August 4, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Hate to admit it but this just isn't very good. Been a fan since 'Slowhand' so i've been frequently disappointed and underwhelmed by Clapton, but this is just amazing. This has everything going for it but it just doesn't come together. The featured review by 'Woomer' mirrors my feelings that nothing since 'From the Cradle' has been worthwhile barring 'Riding with the King' and that was helped immensely by King himself.

Toss this onto the heap along with 'Reptile' and 'Pilgrim'.
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63 of 76 people found the following review helpful By "The Woj" on April 1, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Clapton plays it safe here with some very laid back blues playing reminiscent of his late 70's early 80's recordings. The production is slick and commercial with no rough edges to the sound, almost "overproduced" (hardly a quality for anyone who is a blues "purist"). All the instruments are mixed equally with no particular musician upfront in the mix; consequently this is not a "Clapton guitar" album. If anything Clapton's vocals are the most prominent feature here. I give Eric credit, he has become an above average singer and it shows on this release. His vocals are very smooth and soulful. Billy Preston contributes some fine piano, too bad Billy couldn't have taken over the vocal chores on a song or two. If you've been a Clapton fan since his Yardbirds & Bluesbreakers days, chances are you'll be more than a little disappointed here (you gotta get John Mayall's 70th Birthday Concert with both Clapton & Mick Taylor). If "Unplugged" is your favorite (and first) Clapton album, chances are you'll really enjoy this recording.

Personally, I find it a bit too "commercial" for my blood. The music is better suited for an elevator ride rather than a Southside Chicago Blues Club. The blues is emotion & passion. This album comes off a little too "blues-by-numbers", lacking in the above to qualities. Clapton's vocals on "Ramblin' On My Mind" from the Bluesbreaker's album have 10 times the emotion shown here. I would not use the term "restraint" in reference to this release as much as the term "record sales". It reminds me of the story about a young British Blues Guitarist who left his band back in the mid-60's because he thought they were getting too commmercial.
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