Eric Clapton has performed a few Christmas songs in the past, specifically, I really like the contributions he makes on the Special Olympics charity record: A Very Special Christmas Live From Washington, D.C. This year, rather than just contributing to someone else’s album, he has gone one better and released his own: Happy Xmas! (That’s the name of the album, not just a seasonal greeting… although, while I’m here… season’s greetings to you!)
I think it is fair to describe Eric Clapton as an institution: three time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; ridiculously influential guitarist and more than fifty years in the business. Now, you don’t survive fifty years in music without:
1) finding something that works and doing it as long as people like it (Exhibit A – AC/DC and Exhibit Z – ZZ Top); or,
2) changing, adapting and growing as the years go by.
It seems to me that Mr Clapton chose option 2. Over the years, we have had blues rock Eric, classic blues Eric, soft rock Eric, schmaltzy pop Eric… even reggae Eric and all of them feature on the Happy Xmas album… as well as an Eric I’d not encountered before: electronic disco Eric!
So, does it work? Absolutely! If you want schmaltzy Eric (and who doesn’t like some schmaltz at Christmas?), check out “For Love On Christmas Day”, “Christmas In My Home Town” and, probably the schaltziest of all, “Sentimental Moments”. Rock Eric comes out to play in “Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday” and (if you get the version of the album with the two bonus tracks) “A Little Bit of Christmas Love”. Reggae Eric appears on “Away in a Manger (Once in Royal David’s City)” and “Silent Night” – which work surprisingly well. But the biggest surprise is disco Eric in the form of “Jingle Bells” which, if you can banish your inner Scrooge, will fill your Christmas boogie stockings with Christmas cheer.
My favourite, however, is blues Eric. The first track on the album is possibly the bluest “White Christmas” you’re likely to encounter this year (check out Day 13 of the Moshville Times 24 Days of Xmas) but there is also “Christmas Tears” – nothing says the blues like tears at Christmas, “It’s Christmas” – blues with added jingle bells, “Lonesome Christmas” – Blues with a capital B and no collection of Christmas blues would be complete without “Merry Christmas Baby”.
Happy Xmas. Fourteen tracks of Christmas Clapton (sixteen if you get the version with the bonus tracks). A Christmas cracker!