Eric Clapton spent the 1960s forming his peerless reputation in one great band after another, but it was on July 25, 1970 that his name appeared on the charts as a solo artist for the first time.
After his sterling work with the Yardbirds, John Mayall, Cream, Blind Faith, and Delaney and Bonnie, the album simply titled Eric Clapton, released in America on Atco, popped into the US chart. This was a good six weeks before the UK edition, on Polydor, did the same in his home country.
Eric Clapton was a chance for Delaney Bramlett to return the favour the British guitarist had paid him and his wife Bonnie by going on tour with them and appearing on the resulting live album released, also on Atco, in the spring of 1970. With Bonnie on backing vocals, Delaney produced and played rhythm guitar on the Clapton debut, which also featured stellar backing from the likes of Leon Russell, Jim Gordon, Bobby Keys, Rita Coolidge, and Stephen Stills.
The rhythm section would soon, of course, have a new name, resurfacing behind Eric in the guise of Derek and the Dominos later that year. The feeling of a group of friends jamming was immediately apparent on the instrumental, “Slunky,” which opened the album. Clapton’s first vocal was a blues, on “Bad Boy,” among a set of songs mainly written with the Bramletts.
But there were also two co-writes for Russell and one, along with Delaney and Bonnie, for another guitar maestro, Steve Cropper, on “Told You For The Last Time.” This was also the album that established Clapton’s admiration for the songwriting and style of J.J. Cale, with the version of “After Midnight” that became a US radio hit. Listen, too, for the brilliant horn sound on “Lonesome And A Long Way From Home,” the charmingly stripped-down “Easy Now” and the fine, closing “Let It Rain.“
Billboard gave Eric Clapton’s solo debut the thumbs up, noting that “his guitar and vocal work are standout, and for added sales pull there [is] help from such ‘friends’ as Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, Stephen Stills, and John Simon.” In the same edition, Eric Clapton entered the chart at No.77, and went as high as No.13 in a 30-week run.
Buy or stream the 2021 Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Eric Clapton, which presents the album in three separate mixes.