Reptile: It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

HEAR THE ALBUM’S ORIGINAL 2001 BONUS TRACKS AND MORE!  Twenty years ago, on March 13, 2001, Eric Clapton’s 14th studio album, Reptile, was released.  Produced by Eric and Simon Climie, it came hot on the heels of the guitarist’s Grammy-winning collaboration with B.B. King, Riding With The King. A critical success like its predecessor, Reptile reached the Top 10 in 20 countries and was Certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) two months after release. 

Reptile featured many of the same players as RWTK: Nathan East, Steve Gadd, Andy Fairweather Low, Joe Sample and Doyle Bramhall II to name a few.  R&B legends, The Impressions, were backing vocalists on 11 songs. Billy Preston, Pino Palladino and Paul Carrack (now part of EC’s touring band), rounded out Reptile’s session players.

In the liner notes, Eric explained the title: “Where I come from, the word ‘reptile’ is a term of endearment, used in much the same way as ‘toe rag’ or ‘moosh.’ It is used sparingly and with the greatest respect. It’s not an insult, it’s a sign of recognition. In my recollection, the first person ever to use the word in reference to me was Charlie Cumberland. ‘Here comes the reptile that plays the banjo.’ And coming from Charlie, that was indeed a compliment.” The album artwork included a photo gallery of some of the most significant ‘reptiles” Eric had met on his travels.

EC dedicated the album to the man he considered to be the greatest reptile of them all, his Uncle Adrian, his mother’s brother, who passed away in the spring of 2000.

Recording sessions for Reptile started in September 2000 at  Record One Studios in Sherman Oaks, California.  Eric soon realized the magic wasn’t happening and put the sessions on hold. After a few weeks off, the sessions picked back up in October at London’s Olympic Studios, where the album was soon completed.

It opens with the breezy samba,”Reptile” and closes with the jazz-tinged tribute to EC’s uncle and aunt, “Son & Sylivia.”  Both represented Eric’s best instrumental work on record in years. Between them, songs included the understated “Travelin’ Light” (penned by J.J. Cale), the rollicking blues “Got You On My Mind,” Eric’s engaging original, “Believe In Life,” the slow burn of “Come Back Baby” and the hard rocking “Superman Inside.” The disc also featured Eric’s brilliant interpretations of Stevie Wonder’s “Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” – the album’s high point – and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”. The Japan-only edition contained a bonus track, a cover of Ray Charles’ ‘Losing Hand’ while another leftover, EC’s take on “Johnny Guitar” was issued with the single for “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” in several countries.

In his Rolling Stone review, Anthony DeCurtis wrote of Reptile, “Soft soul, classic blues, gutty funk, gospel, after-hours piano and guitar excursions, lite jazz — it’s all there, and regardless of what he does, Clapton never drops beneath a certain level of mastery and taste. That can be as much a problem as a virtue, as the polished but undistinguished samba that opens the album (“Reptile”) and the polite noodling that closes it (“Son and Sylvia”) demonstrate. In between those instrumental bookends, Clapton hits his stride about half the time. He sinks his teeth deeply into Ray Charles’ “Come Back Baby” — his most passionate solo on the album graces this track — and he finds an appealing, soulful groove in Stevie Wonder’s “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It.” He comes to James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” by way of the Isley Brothers and, particularly in his inspired vocal, does a lovely job with it. Of the handful of Clapton originals, “Superman Inside” recalls the best of Clapton’s sleekly produced Eighties material. And, as you would expect, the players on Reptile — keyboardists Joe Sample and Billy Preston, bassist Nathan East, drummer Steve Gadd and the Impressions on background vocals, among them — are uniformly first-rate.”

Simon Warner, a critic at PopMatters said the record, “could have been mawkish but it’s actually quite moving. Clapton, circumspect as a composer and still highly adept as a musical practitioner, has his own authentic blues to draw on now and, in many ways, they hit a truer note than when he dips into the older, existing catalogue of standards. Reptile may be an uneven collection, but it’s best moments stand close listening”.

The fans who only wanted fiery blues / rock solos from EC were largely disappointed. But those who viewed Eric’s body of work as a musical journey, found the sheer breadth of material tackled and convincingly delivered by Eric to make for an extremely satisfying disc.

In support of Reptile, Eric kicked off a massive world tour in mid-February 2001 at London’s Royal Albert Hall that continued through December. A film by director Jane Bokuva documented the tour rehearsals. Entitled Eric Clapton And Friends, it was screened at only a few film festivals and never gained wide release. Footage from the documentary was used in the official music video for “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It.”

01. Reptile
02. Got You On My Mind
03. Travelin’ Light
04. Believe In Life
05. Come Back Baby
06. Broken Down
07. Find Myself
08. I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It
09. I Want A Little Girl
10. Second Nature
11. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
12. Modern Girl
13. Superman Inside
14. Son & Sylvia
15. Losing Hand (Japan-only Album Bonus Track)

Album Personnel:
Eric Clapton – guitar only (1 and 14), guitar and vocals (2 to 13, 15)
Doyle Bramhall II – guitar (2-9, 11-15)
Andy Fairweather Low – guitar (2-9, 11-15)
Paul Carrack – keyboards (1), Hammond organ (10), Wurlitzer electric piano (10)
Billy Preston – Hammond organ (2, 5, 13), acoustic piano (6, 9), harmonica (14)
Tim Carmon – Hammond organ (3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11), acoustic piano (5, 13), synthesizer (12, 14), organ (15)
Joe Sample – Wurlitzer electric piano (3, 6), Fender Rhodes (4), electric piano (8, 11, 14), acoustic piano (11, 14, 15)
Pino Palladino – bass guitar (1, 10)
Nathan East – bass guitar (2-9, 11-15)
Steve Gadd – drums
Paul Waller – drum programming (1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13)
Paulinho da Costa – percussion (1, 3-9, 11, 13, 14, 15)
Nick Ingman – string arrangements (6, 11, 12, 14)
The Impressions – backing vocals (2-5, 7-13)

Where’s Eric!
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