This is Claptons finest solo on Fresh Cream and possibly of any Cream studio recording.
The tune is the closest to a live sound on the LP outside of "Rollin' and Tumblin' ". In the key of E (same as "Cat's Squirrel", "I Feel Free" and "I'm So Glad") the band starts off with a slow hypnotic main riff which consists of the notes G and E corresponding to "Spoon Full". The G note is of coarse slightly bent for the blues effect. Clapton sets the mood and tension by the end of the third verse when he pulls off a massive stretch vibrato which represents the staple of vibratos all others would follow. The tune continually sneaks up on the listener until Clapton breaks for his solo.
This solo is a classic example of Clapton architecture, displaying tension, tonal perfection, space, build-up, climax and slow reduction easing back into verse. Eric starts out teasing the ear with slow stretch vibratos on the second string 12th fret, then as he builds up tremendous anticipation in the same 12th position, he introduces the setup for the climax by brilliantly increasing his picking pressure and releasing the G string bend and hitting the low open E string. Then he lifts you up with another massive soaring stretch vibrato (second string, 15th fret, high E note) hanging it just long enough to tear into a climactical fast sequence, quickly descending down to hard picked massive string bends on the G string and continuing the high energy overall attack, slowly reducing tension and passively merging back into the main theme. This solo is almost a benchmark by which all others could be measured.
Live versions of Spoonful (due to there length) rarely capture the excitement of Claptons studio solo except for some very aggressive playing on the Detroit Grande Ballroom version and especially Ricky Tick bootleg, where Eric keeps a consistent level of excitement and dynamics, reminding the listener of his Fresh Cream masterpiece. Other Spoonful live versions of course are very long jams, but still display moments of Clapton building tension and displaying his masterful architecture and flawless execution. Atco records made a huge mistake when they cut Spoonful from the original American version of Fresh Cream. Guitar players had to find imports to hear Claptons wonderful solo.
© Jeffrey Aarons, 1999