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Eric Clapton | Happy Xmas

Slowhand turns to Snowhand on Clapton's first full-length Christmas album.

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I know what you’re thinking: Uh-oh. That’s fair. It’s exactly what I was thinking when I heard Eric Clapton was releasing his first Christmas album. Because let’s be honest: If Slowhand happened to be in one of those sappy moods that overtake him now and then, there’s every chance he could serve up a tepid disc of acoustic-guitar treacle and wimpy Yuletide pap. Thankfully, that is not what is happening on Happy Xmas. Not by a long shot. Turns out that Clapton — who also scribbled the cover-art portrait of Santa Claus on this disc — is apparently one of those guys who gets all happy and energetic at the holidays. At least, that’s how he comes off on this playfully eclectic — and surprisingly entertaining — collection of bluesy carols. Some of the selections are standards like White Christmas, Silent Night and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Others are lesser-known nuggets like William Bell‘s Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday, Anthony Hamilton‘s It’s Christmas or Lowell Fulson‘s Lonesome Christmas. Clapton even penned an original titled For Love On Christmas Day. And yeah, OK, some of them are acoustic ballads — but most of them hew closer to rustic slide-guitar blues jams than, say, Tears in Heaven. Better still, at least a handful of the 14 cuts are full-band electric blues-rockers, complete with gruff vocals and searing solos. The outlier in the bunch is Jingle Bells (For Avicii), which finds Clapton converting the classic into an instrumental dance track in tribute to the late DJ. Even so, Happy Xmas is cool enough to earn a regular spot on your holiday-party playlist. Just call him Snowhand.