Monday, March 18, 2013

115. Layla and other assorted love songs. We need more Duanne

Album: Layla and other assorted love songs
Artist: Derek and the Dominos
Genre: Blues
Year: 1970


1. I Looked Away
2. Bell Bottom Blues
3. Keep On Growing
4. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
5. I Am Yours
6. Anyday
7. Key to the Highway
8. Tell the Truth
9. Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?
10. Have You Ever Loved a Woman
11. Little Wing
12. It's Too Late
13. Layla
14. Thorn Tree in the Garden

Even if you hate Eric Clapton and all he stands for you have to admire him for some of the decisions he made in 1970. After spending most of the sixties being revered as a god and being the biggest name in a number of bands (The Yardbirds, The Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie etc) he was in a perfect position to start establishing the Cult of Clapton. He could have forged his career and released an album called "Clapton sings and plays Clapton songs for Clapton fans". He could have demanded a recording contract in which he was treated like a star and backed himself with anonymous musicians who had to refer to him as Mr God and never make eye contact with or point at it his guitar (Don't even point at it!)

But he didn't. He wanted to be part of a band. He wanted to be a guitar player in a group and have musicians around him who challenged his playing and pushed him places. Turning your back on personal adoration and wanting (relative) anonymity is a noble thing for a musician but Clapton was prepared to take things a step further. He was even prepared to invite a guitarist who some consider his equal and other consider his superior to join him in the studio. Duane Allman was a magnificent blues guitarist and if his life hadn't been tragically cut short at a young age he would have achieved the same level of fame as a lot of those we consider guitar greats. He really was that good.

Clapton heard Allman play and invited him not just to guest on the album his new band was making but to be a fully fledged part of the group. Apparently John Lennon took a long time to invite Paul to join The Quarrymen because he was worried about sharing the group with someone so talented who would steal the limelight. Clapton on the other hand had no hesitation in bringing in someone whose talent threatened to overshadow his own.

The results are not just good at times they're amazing. Duane is an astonishing musician and brilliant guitar player who understands and loves the blues. But he's not a soloing show pony. Allman understands the idea of being part of a band and he and Clapton bring out the best in each other. Their playing together is a joy to listen to and makes Layla one of the great blues rock albums of all time. The rest of the band are no slouches either and a more than capable backing group for the two superstars to launch their assault on your ear drums.

The problem, as it is with most of Clapton's output, is that he can't write songs that justify his talent. If Clapton was half as good a songwriter as he is a guitarist there would be a lot more of his albums on this countdown but he's not really a great writer of tunes or lyrics. The obvious highlight on this album is Layla which is a brilliant rock and roll number but most of the other highlights are old blues covers. Nobody Knows you when your down and out, Key to the Highway and Have you Ever Loved a Woman are all fantastic blues covers but I Looked Away, Keep on Growing, I am Yours, Any Day etc have great playing but there's a reason nobody has ever bothered to cover them since they've been recorded. They're just not very strong songs. Only Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad can hold its head up with Layla as a great song.

Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is a fantastic album but it could have been better if they'd jettisoned a few of the originals and played some more blues instead.

It's a massive shame Duane died before he could reunite with Clapton to record more albums and play some shows. I would love to own live Clapton albums in which I hear him get to say "Ladies and Gentlemen Duane Allman!" as the great man walks out onstage to make more magic with his musical equal. Sadly it was not to be but thankfully they had a brief time together for us to enjoy.

Highlight: Why does love got to be so sad?
Lowlight: Anyday

Influenced by: The Blues
Influenced: Blues rock

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Well, w/ the Arabic origins of LAYLA we now know that if Clapton's God, he must serve Allah, right? I thought that was Cat Stevens, in whose class Clapton must be considered. "

-What? It's true that the name Layla is derived from an ancient Arabic poem but are you really trying to claim Clapton is a closet muslim?

So does this have you on your knees begging mercy please? Let me know below.

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