Eric Clapton: Journeyman
Audio Fidelity AFZ 180
Eric Clapton is a true legend. Journeyman reached #16 on the Billboard album chart and EC photo became Clapton's first solo studio album to go double platinum. Like any of his best albums, there is no grandstanding to be found on Journeyman...it's simply a laid-back and thoroughly engaging display of his virtuosity. The album was heralded as a return to form for Clapton, much of it has an electronic sound, mostly influenced by the 1980s rock scene, but it also includes blues songs like "Before You Accuse Me," "Running on Faith," and "Hard Times."
There is an all-star assembly of guests: Dire Straits keyboardist Alan Clark, George Harrison, Chaka Khan, Daryl Hall, Robert Cray, Cecil and Linda Womack, Phil Collins and Gary Burton. Among the highlights are several cuts that feature slide-vs.-slowhand guitar dueling with Cray. George Harrison is particularly impressive on his little masterpiece "Run So Far," playing guitar and singing harmony vocals.
A couple of tracks rank among Clapton's best from any decade.The strongest commercial single is "Bad Love," which won the 1990 Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy Award, and reached the No. 1 position on the Album Rock Chart. "Pretending" is a firm mid-tempo rocker that also reached the No. 1 position on the Album Rock Chartand and includes one of his most assured vocal performances ever. Clapton sounds more convincing than he had since the early '70s. Not only is his guitar playing muscular and forceful, his singing is soulful and gritty - he seems to have struck the perfect balance between the fiery blues of his youth with the pop flavorings of his later years.
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Review by Rick Kosmick - January 5, 2015
During the 1980's, Eric Clapton had released a series of 4 mediocre albums prior to the excellent Journeyman in 1989. On this release his guitar playing returned to top form on mostly original material (Clapton only has co-writing credits on 2 songs) and a few well chosen covers. Audio Fidelity's release of Journeyman on SACD turns out to be a wise decision where the audio quality ends up making these recordings something very special.
Eric Clapton's strong performance is firmly planted in the blues/blues-rock material of Journeyman. As the virtuoso guitar skills are shown through powerful playing (yet always tasteful) that come to the forefront, his vocals are also notably committed and soulful. You have over 57 minutes of music on this album and not one second will be poorly spent. By the time you listen to the last track of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accused Me", you fully appreciate the sheer power and dedication behind Clapton's accomplishments. It is a totally engaging performance from beginning to end.
There is something definitive about this SACD version. I refer specifically to the superb mastering of Steve Hoffman. His preference for a vinyl-type sound in recordings has sometimes lead to choices and sacrifices in the upper range to achieve this warmth. However, on this SACD he lets the music breathe and extend upward resulting in some very nice dynamics. It is truly delightful to hear some edginess at the top end with bright but clear tones.
The sonics exhibit crispness in vocals and especially the guitars. The drums are exacting and punchy. The bass is not quite firm but very smooth and floats along the bottom end doing what it should and no more (I did adjust the subwoofer down by -3db only as a personal preference). However, what really makes a significant difference is the soundstage that is wide but more importantly, you get great depth that fully envelopes you....it is just such a beautiful sound and feeling.
As a note, there is no compression and you will have to adjust the volume significantly upward to enjoy the full benefits of the higher resolution audio. Also, there is no doubt in my mind the transfers are from the original master tapes.
I was so impressed by the SACD sonics on Journeyman that for this particular album, the audio quality for me elevated Clapton's outstanding performance so I moved up the rating from 4 1/2 to 5 stars. The sonics are indeed very special, in my opinion.
Journeyman is worthy of the highest recommendation.
Copyright © 2015 Rick Kosmick and HRAudio.net
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