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BANDS JUST DON'T MAKE ALBUMS LIKE THIS ANY MORE...
on 21 March 2011
Nowadays we all know that "Derek is Eric", but back in late 1970 this wasn't as obvious to many, and so the double-album into which Eric Clapton and his new band had invested so much emotion and effort, which he released pseudonymously under the name Derek and The Dominos, failed to achieve the level of commercial success it deserved; Clapton's wish to refrain from the spotlight had proved detrimental. Accompanied by keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bass player Carl Radle, drummer Jim Gordon and guest star Duane Allman on slide guitar, Clapton and the Dominos nonetheless recorded a spectacular set ranging from ferocious blues ('Have You Ever Loved A Woman'), joyous Southern boogie ('Keep On Growing', 'Anyday'), lovelorn romanticism ('I Looked Away', I Am Yours' and, of course, 'Layla'), and some sublime reinterpretations (a sky-scraping cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing').
This Deluxe Edition of LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS is a stunning repackaging of one of the finest moments in Eric Clapton's career. The new remaster, cut from the original British Polydor Records master tapes, sounds great, and serves to bring out the album's atmospheric live-in-the-studio vibe to even stronger effect; it's some improvement upon the previous 1997 issue. Meanwhile the extras on disc two conclusively wrap up the brief history of Derek and The Dominos. We get the band's withdrawn, Phil Spector-produced debut single, backing an up-tempo version of 'Tell The Truth' (re-recorded and extended for the album) with the otherwise unavailable 'Roll It Over', a strident rocker the equal to what would subsequently be recorded for the LAYLA album; a great set played on Johnny Cash's television show, the highlight of which is Cash, Clapton and Carl Perkins performing an exuberant cover of Perkins' 'Matchbox'; and finally the several tracks taped for what was planned as the Dominos' second LP, which was destined never to be finished. Of these numbers, which have been newly mixed for this reissue by their original engineer Andy Johns, the stop-gap riffery of Willie Dixon's 'Evil' and the anthemic 'Got To Get Better In A Little While' are the highlights from these aborted sessions (Bobby Whitlock has laid down new vocal and keyboard tracks for the latter incidentally, though his voice seems unchanged over the last 40 years and it blends in well).
With regards to the packaging, well, all the LAYLA album's original artwork is present and correct (they've got the colour tones of the front cover painting more faithful to the vinyl edition this time around in my opinion; the '97 edition looked much too pale), but aside from containing some worthy recording session information, there is no essay about the band's history and dissolution included, perhaps because the story of the Dominos - involving a repertoire fuelled by Eric Clapton's longing for Patti Harrison, and the the drug-soaked tour which planted the seeds of the band's destruction - has already been etched into rock legend. Arguably, though, the story of this band is right there in the music.
Passionate, powerful and at times incredibly moving, LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS may still touch a raw nerve with Eric Clapton - the album's lack of success deeply disappointed him, and his involvement in this reissue has apparently been minimal - but it just goes to show that screaming guitars, soul-baring vocals and a little heartache are just the ticket when it comes to producing some incredible rock music.
Bands just don't make records like this any more, and if you're one of those purchasing this album for the first time, then you're in for a treat. While for those of you who have got to know and love this album well over the years, then this stands as its definitve edition and is highly recommended.