Eric Clapton has metamorphosed from tie-dyed guitar god for a mostly male congregation to Armani-clad crooner and chart-certified ladies' man, yet it misses the point to focus on that transition without considering '90s forays into blues (on From The Cradle, his brilliant 1994 live-in-the-studio homage), techno, and the silky contemporary R&B of "Change The World." Pilgrim, his first studio album of new songs since Journeyman, reflects all these facets in his most ambitious, and certainly darkest solo project. Its title isn't casual: These are elliptical meditations on the ravages of time, as preoccupied with matters of the spirit as affairs of the heart. "My Father's Eyes" opens the song cycle with allusions to the traumatic death of toddler son Conor (the inspiration for '92's poignant "Tears In Heaven"), while the title song adopts the fevered, falsetto vocal style of Curtis Mayfield to riveting effect. Coproducer Simon Climie sculpts electronic orchestrations and favors clipped synth rhythms, while Clapton himself largely eschews his once dominant, climactic electric solos for restrained but potent acoustic filigree, staccato riffs, and fluid rhythm work, letting loose with a rougher, more biting edge on the squalling "She's Gone."