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Picks and Pans Review: Pilgrim

updated 03/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/16/1998 01:00AM

Eric Clapton

The aggressive electric blues and hard rock he played for the Yard-birds and Cream presaged Led Zeppelin and heavy metal. But for Clapton, the 25-year mellowing period that ensued culminated with his 1992 Unplugged, in which he delivered a dispassionate, snooze-worthy bossa nova version of his 1970 masterpiece, "Layla." His latest release is an atmospheric album whose mood is mostly melancholy. In two songs, "My Father's Eyes" and "Circus," Clapton alludes to the tragic death of his 4-year-old son Conor, who fell from a window in his mother's Manhattan apartment in 1991. Unbearable loss and yearning are the central themes of Pilgrim, and with its heartbeat bass lines, melodic, meditative guitar figures and heartbroken lyrics, it offers moments of surpassing beauty. But at 75 minutes, Pilgrim is one long, slow slog, interrupted by only two or three uptempo tunes. Listening is like sitting through a film you much admire but fervently wish would hurry up and end. (Reprise)

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