“ I went to visit the Band in Woodstock, and I really sort of went there to ask if I could join the band. I mean, I didn’t have the guts to say it —I didn’t have the nerve.” –Eric Clapton
Clapton obviously never joined The Band (unless you count the Last Waltz!), but he came darn close while recording his 1976 album No Reason to Cry in the Band’s Shangri–La Studio in California. He often claimed having his world turned upside down upon hearing their Music from Big Pink album. While inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he explained what he liked about their music: “It was serious, and it was grown up, and it was mature, and it told stories, and it had beautiful harmonies, fantastic singing, beautiful musicianship without any virtuosity. Just economy and beauty.”
All those elements are present on this album. Clapton ventures beautifully into Americana, with the help of The Band’s Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson as well as their former frontman Bob Dylan. One of the most beautiful and poignant songs on the album is the Clapton/Danko duet All Our Past Times. Co-written by Danko, it features the most beautiful lyrics and guitar solo on the entire album. Hearing the two musicians trading off vocals on this stunning track is pure bliss.
All our past times should be forgotten.
All our past times should be erased.
I don’t care how much it costs;
’Cause I don’t count the loss
As long as I can see your face again.
The other standout track is definitely Dylan’s Sign Language. I cannot explain how wonderful it is to hear Clapton and Dylan together (even though Bob’s vocals overshadow Eric’s), not to mention Robbie Roberton’s superb guitar work! Dylan describes his evolvement in this album in the booklet to his The Bootleg Series box set. From Wikipedia: The sessions were in March 1976. Dylan dropped by and was just hanging out, living in a tent at the bottom of the garden. He would sneak into the studio to see what was going on. Dylan offered his new, unrecorded song Seven Days to Clapton. Clapton passed on it, but Ron Wood took him up on the offer and released it on his third solo album Gimme Some Neck.
All in all No Reason to Cry sounds more like a Band album than Clapton and there’s nothing wrong with that! He did after all want to be part of the BAND!