Happy birthday. Eric Clapton. A
day late anyway.
I h0pe he was able to eat cake as
he observed his 36th birthday Mon-
day in St. Paul's United Hospitals,
where he is recuperating from an
ulcer in his digestive tract.
He’s on a strict nutritional regi-
men, according to a hospital repre-
"‘sentative. so the guitar hero prob-
ably didn’t have a conventional
Clapton remains in fair condi-
tion, with the ulcer healing. the
representative said. The British‘
-r0ck star is expected to remain
hospitalized here for several more
A And now a look at some new al-
THE WHO. “Face Dances"
(Warner Bros.). This is the great .
British rock quartet‘s first album
with new drummer Kenney Jones
and producer Bill Szymczyk. best
known for his work with the Ea-
gles. it’s an uneven affair that may
be more distinguished for its stun-
ning. pricey cover--—four portraits
of each of the four band members
by 16 artists—than its music.
The music is not especially com-
pelling. and the lyrics are not espe~
cially revealing. Most of guitarist-.
songwriter Pete Townshend's
tunes are love songs. though “Uai-
ly Records" and “Another Tricky
Day" deal with pushing on. His
songs are less personal than on last
year‘s excellent solo album. “Emp-
ty Glass." In fact. it's not as re-
warding as “Empty Glass," and no
more satisfying than the erratic '78
album ”Who Are You."
”You Better You Bet," a hit-
bound single. is a bouncy. playful
tune destined to become a classic.
“How Can You Do It Alone" also
has hit potential. and “Another
Tricky Day" is attractive.
Bassist John Entwistle contrib-
utes two solid rockers. the autobio-
J on Bream
graphical “Quiet One" and “You,"
both of which allow Townshend
room to move on guitar.
As for drummer Jones. he ac-
quits himself respectably but un-
spectacularly. That description
also fits “Face Dances" as a whole.
ROBIN TROWER. “B.L.T.”
(Chrysalis). Since the heavy-metal
rock of Van Halen and AC-DC is
burning up the pop charts. a
throwback to the bluesy rock of
Cream. the seminal heavy-metal
power trio. seems in order. So.
Hendrix—inspired guitarist Trower
and his drummer. Bill Lordan, have
teamed up with Cream bassist-
singer Jack Bruce. It‘s a worth-
while blend, with more bulk and
spice than your garden-variety ba-
The trio plays heavy rock with-
out being leaden. pretentious. sex-
ist or headache-inducing. Trower,
writing with ex-Procol Harum
partner Keith Reid, shows a flair
for lyrical melodies. although “No
Island Lost" will convince you that
Cream has risen to the top again.
Also noteworthy is “Carmen." an
eerily hypnotic ballad. tit.
PHOEBE SNOW. “Rock Away”
(Mirage). This album pairs the
New Jersey pop-jazz singer with
producers Greg Ladayni (Jackson
Browne’s engineer) and Richie
Cannata (Billy Joel’s saxophonist).
It’s a rocky marriage that, in the
end. overextends Snow’s abilities.
She is chiefly a stylist, not a
singer. When her voice is not the
focal point or kept within its limi-
tations, the results are annoying. A
strident chorus ruins the country-
flavored “Cheap Thrills." Snow’s
whiny voice mars “Gasoline Al-
ley," and she overtaxes her voice
a A low-key 36th for Clapton
on Allen Toussaint’s ”Shoo-Rah
Shoo-Rah." At times. she simply
seems to be shouting.
By contrast. she fares admirably
on understated ballads. including
the self—penned “Something
Good," which are her strength.
Her “Rock Away” is also affect-
ing, while the hard-edged “Games"
and the familiar rock-soul “Mercy.
Mercy, Mercy" are the only inter-
pretations that triumph. *t.
1.1. CALE. “Shades” (Shelter).
The epitome of laid-back, Cale’s
music sounds like what Eric Clap-
ton (who has recorded Cale songs)
has been playing for the last six
years. He’s a country-blues stylist
whose lazy music usually suffers
from sameness. This, however, is
his most varied album since his ’72
debut “Naturally.” It’s pleasant
and sometimes moving music.
Cale, a smokey vocalist and a
haunting guitarist, is joined by var-
ious stellar musicians. including
James Burton. Glen D. Hardin and
Jim Keltner. The standoout tracks
are the rolling “Mama Don’t,” the
Mose Allison-like “Runaround,”
the strolling “Love Has Been
Gone," the upbeat “Carry On" and
“If You Leave Her," which sounds
perfect for Clapton. tit.
MARVIN GAYE. “In Our Life-
time” (Tamla). This great ’605 soul
singer‘s output in the ’703 has been
erratic but influential. He contin-
ues with the kind of long, elliptical
numbers he has been turning out
since the landmark “What’s Goin‘
On.” This is more philosophical
than his personal 1978 discussion
of divorce, “Here My Dear." Here
he muses about art and love.
Gaye creates a distinctive. fluid
sound without ever finding a com-
pelling groove. His songs sound
like washes. with Stevie Wonder
and Quincy Jones painting the
backdrop, and George Benson and
Gaye exchanging brush strokes.
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