Last year, legendary Aussie songwriter Richard Clapton started a crowd-funding campaign for his new album. We received a preview copy and so we want to share what we think of the new album by one of the country’s most important singer-songwriters.
One of Australia’s favourite musical sons, Richard Clapton, spent two months in Nashville with Australian producer Mark Moffatt along with some of the finest American musicians to create his new album The House Of Orange.
Supported by fans through a crowd-funding campaign on PledgeMusic.com, Clapton said, “This new album is the sort of album people have wanted me to make for a long time because they wanted to see what I would sound like with a bunch of top American players. They are about to get their answer because it puts me in a whole different light.”
Despite recording in Nashville, Clapton says the album’s dozen songs aren’t typically country. “I am a bit tongue-in-cheek but I have been calling it ’70s hippie music. There is no click track, no machines, it is just real music played by real musicians”, Clapton states.
One such musician is the legendary guitarist Dan Dugmore. Originally from California, Dugmore has performed with Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and has played on records by David Crosby, Neil Diamond, Faith Hill, Stevie Nicks, Billy Ray Cyrus and many more. While different in some ways, Dugmore’s credentials align well with Clapton’s own.
Clapton’s body of work includes some genuine Australian classics, like ‘Goodbye Tiger’, ‘Deep Water’, ‘Girls On The Avenue’ and the rocking ‘I Am An Island’. Here, on The House Of Orange, you can’t help but think Clapton has returned to the roots of these landmark songs. Right from the opening bars of the first track, you get the feeling that this is the magic of the Clapton of old. Ralph is back!
‘Something About You’ is a great opener – rocking rhythm and sonic melody, with all the swagger of ‘Precious’ from the Distant Thunder album. If there is justice in the world, this should be a hit single. Next, ‘Here Inside Of Me’ is classic Clapton, slowed down just a little, sublime backing vocals and guitar lines that weave around the melody. Clapton’s signature spoken-word interjections also make an appearance, with ‘that’s how it is’ replacing the evergreen ‘that’s alright’ for this song.
‘Stay With Me’ (previously from the Angeltown album) echoes the sounds of some of the great rock/blues tracks from the hippie days while ‘Carry Me Home’ takes a new direction, co-written by Clapton and his daughter Saskia. “She’s 25 and hangs out with really ultra-hip, cool dudes in the UK, and plays in all of these cool bands, whereas in the song she co-wrote with me, in Nashville we made it quite pretty”, says Clapton with a laugh.
There’s a gritty edge to some of the new songs. ‘Strings and Wood’, for example brings together slightly distorted slide guitar and vibrato to great effect – it’s an old sound renewed here to give Clapton his sonic wish. ”This is NOT a country album – in fact it’s kind of a tough sounding album in a way whether it’s a slow ballad or uptempo rocker. It’s definitely on the front foot and sits up real well.” In fact ‘Shine A Light’ is about as straight-out country as this album gets. The phrasing, the guitar licks and the tune itself are all country-infused but the sound is unmistakably Clapton. And ‘Keep Your Blues Eyes Open’ could easily be a track from The Band in their heyday.
In addition to the new songs, fresh versions of some older songs also make an appearance on the album. ‘Some Sunny Day’ from Diamond Mine, ‘Hearts On The Nightline’ from the album of the same name, plus ‘Real Life (Is Stranger Than Fiction)’ and ‘Stay With Me’, both from Angeltown, as well as ‘Steppin’ Across The Line’ from the Past Hits and Previews album all receive new, invigorated treatments. It’s as if Clapton chose these songs because, perhaps, they didn’t receive a solid listening the first time round. He may well be right.
In most cases, the new versions work a treat but, for ‘Hearts On The Nightline’, we prefer the original for its sheer rocking energy and angst.
The House Of Orange, named after the Nashville house Clapton stayed in while recording the album (owned by Charles Orange – see pic), is perhaps Clapton’s best release for some time. The sounds are crisp and full, the songs are alive with catchy melody and astute arrangements and the insightful lyrics are Clapton through and through.
If you’re a Clapton fan, then this album will more than delight as it reminds you of why Richard Clapton has etched an indelible place in Australian culture and its musical history. Clapton’s back and it’s great that he is.
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