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Classic of the Week

Eric Clapton: "Money and Cigarettes" (1983), Warner Bros .

March 10, 1994|JON MATSUMOTO

"Money and Cigarettes" probably isn't the best album for those looking for an introduction to Eric Clapton's formidable body of work. It doesn't include any of the English singer/guitarist's better-known songs, nor does it feature the type of scorching instrumental work that earned him the ironic nickname "Slowhand" back in the '60s.

But for those who already have tasted and digested Clapton's more acclaimed albums, "Money and Cigarettes" comes across as a marvelously appealing album by an artist playing mostly--if not entirely--for the love of it. This is certainly one of Clapton's least commercial, most understated efforts (indeed, it sold rather dismally when it first was released). There is a certain looseness and soulful passion permeating the tracks that can be traced to the impressive lineup of roots-oriented musicians recruited for the project. It's hard to argue with a band that includes ace slide guitarist Ry Cooder, former Stax studio bassist Donald (Duck) Dunn and ex-Muscle Shoals percussionist Roger Hawkins, among others.

From the opening, laid-back blues of "Everybody Oughta Make a Change," Clapton and company settle into a rhythm and groove that seems as natural and spontaneous as some of the earliest, earthiest rock records. There is no evidence of battling egos here; the band members play with unselfish grace and assurance as they enliven a number of blues covers and Clapton originals.

Among the highlights: the restrained but cutting rocker "The Shape You're In" and a little-known Johnny Otis song, "Crazy Country Hop," a Clapton favorite from his teen years.

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