One Track Mind: Eric Clapton, “Looking at the Rain” (2012)

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.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: We went in depth on Eric Clapton’s solo career, searching for recommended blues songs -- and found examples from every decade between the 1970s and 2000s.]

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.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

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