Top critical review
Good material, bad production
on June 7, 2003
I have given this album three stars, partly because of the slick, glossy 80s production by Russ Titelman which has completely removed any hint of real grit from these songs. They might as well have been played using synthesizers (actually most of the drums aren't drums but a digital drum machine).
The songs themselves are generally pretty good, though. They are not as lean, nor as muscular, as they could have been, but "Pretending" is a fine, mid-tempo rocker with some really great vocals by Eric Clapton. "Bad Love" suffers from terrible, overblown production and weird synthesizers, but it's not a bad song, and "Running On Faith" is a slow, bluesy ballad with relative lean instrumentation and some nice slide dobro playing.
"Hard Times" is another slow blues, augumented by a horn ensemble, and Clapton actually does a pretty good, funky rendition of "Hound Dog".
"Run So Far" is a little masterpiece, written by George Harrison, who lends a hand playing guitar and singing harmony vocals. Nice, sparse arrangement there.
Clapton wrote "Old Love" with Robert Cray, and it works pretty well, too, without too much of the wall-of-sound treatment which has partly ruined "No Alibis", "Breaking Point" and "Anything For Your Love". And the album ends on a high note with some real, three-dimentional drumming from Steve Ferrone and Jim Keltner on the fine ballad "Lead Me On" and Bo Diddley's fiery blues classic "Before You Accuse Me" (albeit in a slick, less fiery version).
All in all, "Journeyman" is a good album. It could've been great, if a few more songs had been good instead of merely adequate, and if the production had resembled his 70s albums a bit more, but it is not one to be avoided by any means.