Listening to Clapton as he plays “The Core” – it’s a standout track from Slowhand, a favorite album from a favorite era. Floating around in my stack of cassettes somewhere is a dub of Slowhand coupled with Backless on an old Maxell UDXLII, two albums that fit together perfectly in his catalog. You can’t really say that about any of his others; it sounds forced if you try it with any other two, but these two are separate halves of the same idea. (And additional props for his live album Just One Night, where he takes the Tulsa sound that much further along.)
So, the thing that finally sunk in, listening to the eight minutes-plus of this song, cowritten by Clapton and vocalist Marcy Levy (who does the same on “Lay Down Sally”), was how cool the drum track is. Jamie Oldaker oughta get a medal for the groove he pushes forward in this song. Which is where the “coulda been” factor comes in…”The Core” is just that close to being a jam-band masterpiece, and heaven knows it’s the right length. What a shame, considering all the other things Clapton’s done, good and bad and indifferent, that he didn’t chase this particular dragon a little further.
Imagine some alternate universe where Eric Clapton hung his hat in the Grateful Dead camp for a while, constructing epic-but-tight songs akin to the Allman Brothers in their Fillmore East zone. Who knows…if Duane Allman had lived, you could have seen him and Clapton create another Kind of Blue, only for rock.
It is to weep.
– Todd “Freak Freely, DOOD!” Berryman