461 Ocean Blvd. (Deluxe Edition)
This 1974 release, his first studio album in four years (and first since kicking his heroin problems), announced the arrival of a new Clapton: desperately trying to shed his guitar-god reputation, he emerged as a more polished, more focused mainstream rocker. Sure, there are still a number of blues covers and ample six-string wizardry to be found here ("Motherless Children," "Steady Rollin' Man"), but there's also a laid-back, easy flow. Clapton's own songwriting ("Give Me Strength," "Let It Grow") showed a newfound emotional maturity, and his cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" (amazingly, a chart-topping single) found him expanding his musical horizons. 461 balances Clapton's guitar mastery, songwriting skills, relaxed vocals, and refined taste as well as anything he's recorded.