3 out of 5 stars
There is no shortage of Eric Clapton compilations but this one is slightly different. Forever Man focuses solely on his Reprise label years from 1983’s Money and Cigarettes to 2013’s Old Sock. So we get either a double or triple disc package that covers the last three decades in the guitar legend’s extensive career. The two CD edition is divided into live and studio platters; the deluxe adds a blues one, which for aficionados is the best of the batch.
It’s a chronologically jumbled selection whose opening two tracks– the first from ’83 and the second from 2013– cover the 30 year span and show how musically consistent Clapton has been throughout this period. Since this is the only multi-disc set dedicated to these decades, it cherry picks deeper tracks from what even veteran admirers generally admit were hit and miss albums, especially those from the 80s and 90s. The compilers smartly feature gems from later releases such as Reptile from 2001, 2010’s Clapton and 2013’s Old Sock.
The concert selections are also a mixed bag since they feature many of his Cream, Derek & the Dominos and Blind Faith hits played by a much slicker –and far less exciting–90s band (a nearly nine minute “Sunshine of Your Love” complete with drum solo will tax anyone’s patience) although a few tracks from his Steve Winwood collaboration show real fire.
Still, the question remains;who is this for? Casual fans already have most of these and won’t care about the more obscure items. Harder core and longtime admirers own the rest (there is no previously unreleased music) and the thought of yet another Clapton assemblage that repeats the overplayed to death acoustic “Layla,” “Wonderful Tonight” (a dreary, nine minute live version that seems endless) and “Cocaine” can’t have much appeal. But, if you fall somewhere between those camps, this does a solid if not particularly imaginative job of rounding up Slowhand’s pop, rock, reggae, soul and blues over the past 30 years into a handy bundle, albeit one that doesn’t identify who plays on each cut.
That, along with all of the rare and hidden music that must be lurking in Clapton’s vaults, makes this a bit of a missed opportunity; one that will hopefully be rectified by future archival releases that will dig deeper into the musician’s voluminous catalog.