Music Article

The Sounds of Slowhand Clapton

More praise for Eric Clapton -- From ''Best Live Album'' to ''Best Anthology Over $50,'' our guide to the musician's memorable work

Los Angeles, Feb. 23 — In light of Eric Clapton's nine nominations (in eight categories) at this year's Grammy awards, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences announced it would dispense with all its previously announced categories and devote the entire evening to giving statuettes to Mr. Clapton. ''Hell,'' snorted one Academy official, ''we know he's gonna win a bunch of 'em anyway, so why not go all the way?'' A partial list of winners:

BEST CLAPTON ANTHOLOGY OVER $50:
Crossroads, four CDs (or tapes) that touch upon each phase of his life.

BEST BUDGET CLAPTON COLLECTION:
Time Pieces: The Best of Eric Clapton, featuring '70s hits like ''Lay Down Sally'' and ''I Shot the Sheriff.''

BEST ALBUM MADE BY CLAPTON DURING HIS HEAVY HEROIN PERIOD:
Derek & the Dominos' Layla, hands down. Two decades later, Clapton's torment and the band's equally impassioned playing still rip through, even on digital formats.

BEST CREAM COLLECTION:
Strange Brew, all the hits and none of the interminable jamming.

BEST CLAPTON POP ALBUM:
(tie) 461 Ocean Boulevard, his self-effacing 1974 comeback, and 1977's Slowhand. Both show his ability to be not just an inspiration for air guitarists the world over but also a respectable singer, interpreter, and team player.

BEST LIVE ALBUM:
None of these represents Clapton at his best, but of the four available, 1980's Just One Night wins, mostly for its version of ''Cocaine'' and a no-frills band.

BEST SINGLE ON FORGETTABLE '80S CLAPTON ALBUMS:
''Forever Man'' (Behind the Sun), ''Tearing Us Apart'' (August).

BEST UNDERRATED CLAPTON ALBUM:
Money and Cigarettes (1983), a typically subdued but burning batch of modest, back-porch shuffles with guest guitarist Ry Cooder.

BEST ALBUM PACKAGE:
Sorry, no winner. The man has been saddled with some of the drabbest album covers in rock history. Get Herb Ritts on the phone — pronto!

Originally posted Feb 19, 1993 Published in issue #158 Feb 19, 1993 Order article reprints