One of the most surprising aspects about the release of the Derek and The Dominos one studio album, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”, was that it was meet with fan indifference upon its release in 1970. The band members were Lead Guitarist and signer Eric Clapton, keyboardist and singer Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon. Produced by Tom Dowd the album today is considered a blues-rock classic and perhaps some of Clapton’s finest and most refined guitar moments. How many times has the single “Layla” been played on radio and performed by Clapton live over the decades.
The double album faltered in early record sales when released. It was when the single “Layla” was released in March 1972, as part of a best of collection, that the album and the single began to get the attention it deserved.
Sadly it was already over for Derek and the Dominos by 1971 as the band imploded upon itself. Reflecting on the original album you get a sense of tight song structures with a real immediacy in the guitar playing and the presentation of the songs.
Remember that the super group Cream finished up for Clapton in November 1968. What a contrast the Dominos are compared to the free flowing 10 minute or better songs from Cream. It would have been maybe 18 months or less, and Clapton had already a totally different guitar tone and real inward focus on the songs. No doubt the inner pain and drivers where to win the affections of Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s wife at the time. Classic tracks like “I Am Yours”, “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” and a ripping cover of “Have You Ever Loved A Woman?” shows the deep inner conflicts going on inside Clapton.
With only one offical release a fan might wonder what was going to be next evolution for the band. During April and May 1971 the group began work at Olympic Studios for a follow up album. The album was never completed but what tracks where cut have since appeared on re-issue box sets and the 40th Anniversary editions of the Layla album.
Below are my top three track review from the Alternate Masters, Jams and Outake Disc:
Mean Old World – Starting with a classic blues slide guitar lick the song quickly descends into a driving plea of a man’s loneliness. Mid section solos are a delight. A true lesson in blues slide guitar playing and a passionate vocal delivery.
Got To Get Better In a Little While (Jam & Song) – My god, what a band!! The jam groove not only highlights the individuals playing, but how they worked as a musical unit. The song version is tight, arranged and packs the power and delivers with full passionate vocals. Check out the wah-wah fills on the left channel, and various Hammond organ parts. The ride cymbal work from drummer Jim Gordon is a delight giving the track air and always pushing the band forward at every bar. Repeat this one!!
Evil – More blues trouble ultimately coming via the phone. A track written by Willie Dixon and also covered by Howl’in Wolf. Very funky with a deep groove and the layering of some of the coolest guitar parts. Its worth the listen if you can mute the left, or right channels in isolation.
The band’s producer, Tom Dowd, said of it that he “felt it was the best … album I’d been involved with since The Genius of Ray Charles“. Listening to the outtakes you came to release the group had the potential to become of the greatest 70’s bands, but the core ethos of the members is they didn’t want to be a some sort of stadium super group with all the trappings of fame.
Clapton has said of this UK tour, “no one knew who we were, and I loved it. I loved the fact that we were this little quartet, playing in obscure places, sometimes to audiences of no more than fifty or sixty people.”
For these guys it was about the love of the music.