A newly unearthed Eric Clapton track, to be included in a lavish 35th anniversary reissue of Slowhand, finds the guitarist offering his own quietly weary take on a Gordon Lightfoot deep cut.
“Looking at the Rain,” as performed by Lightfoot for his 1972 album Don Quixote, is a straight-forward folk lament, sung over a pair of delicately conveyed guitar lines amid the period’s expected swell of orchestral lushness.
Clapton’s guitar, unsurprisingly, becomes a singular focus on his take from five years later, though he doesn’t take the expected solo turn. Instead, the focus is squarely on Clapton’s vocal — a ragged and resigned echo of Lightfoot’s caramel smoothness, something that adds a darker sense of loss to the track. Dick Sims also offers more straight forward atmospherics at the keyboards, while Jamie Oldaker’s feather-light brush strokes give “Looking at the Rain” a gentle momentum that wasn’t there before.
That said, as warmly received as this rare track will no doubt be, it’s not hard to see how “Looking at the Rain” missed the cut on Clapton’s most successful 1970s-era project. Produced by Glyn Johns, the No. 2 smash Slowhand already included future radio staples like “Wonderful Tonight,” “Lay Down Sally” and “Cocaine,” not to mention a favorite album track in “The Core.”
“Looking at the Rain” is actually part of a quartet of rare and unreleased songs, all originally recorded during the same 1977 sessions for Slowhand, that will be featured on this new reissue. Also included: “Greyhound Bus,” “Stars, Strays and Ashtrays” and “Alberta” — the last of which earlier found a home on the 1999 two-disc compilation Blues.
All four will be included on the deluxe edition of Slowhand, as well as a portion of a Clapton concert from 1977 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The super deluxe edition, meanwhile, will include the extra quartet of songs and the complete London show. Highlights from that performance include live takes on “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Layla,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” “Tell the Truth” and “Badge,” among others.
The anniversary edition of Slowhand is due on December 18, 2012.