Saturday, 6 February 2016

"Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs" by DEREK and THE DOMINOES (2011 Universal/Polydor ‘Deluxe Edition’ 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Bell Bottom Blues..."

I had the 2004 single-disc SACD reissue of "Layla..." and was duly blown away by it (truly awesome audio). So why does anyone need a newly done 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' of this most iconic of double-albums? The answer is that the New 2010 Remaster on Disc 1 absolutely rocks - while the near sixty minutes of non-album single sides, live Johnny Cash Show material and aborted 2nd album outtakes on Disc 2 offer up solid thrills throughout and not just filler (most of it new to CD). In fact CD2 may be the very best 'Bonus Disc' to a Rock DE version that I've ever heard. Got me on my knees...Layla...here are the details...

UK released 21 March 2011 (26 April 2011 in the USA) – "Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs" by DEREK and THE DOMINOES (featuring Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Bobby Whitlock, George Harrison, Dave Mason, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins) on Universal/Polydor B0015353-02 (Barcode 600753314296) is a 2CD Expanded 40th Anniversary 'Deluxe Edition' and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (77:16 minutes):
1. I Looked Away [Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton song]
2. Bell Bottom Blues [Eric Clapton song]
3. Keep On Growing [Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton song]
4. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out [Jimmie Cox song, Bessie Smith cover]
5. I Am Yours [Eric Clapton song, Lyrics Adapted From A Nizami Poem]– Side 2
6. Anyday [Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton song]
7. Key To The Highway [Big Bill Broonzy cover]
8. Tell The Truth [Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton song] – Side 3
9. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? [Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton song]
10. Have You Ever Loved A Woman? [Billy Myles cover]
11. Little Wing [Jimi Hendrix cover] – Side 4
12. It's Too Late [Chuck Willis cover]
13. Layla [Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon song]
14. Thorn Tree In The Garden [Bobby Whitlock song]
Tracks 1 to 14 are the double-album "Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs" – released November 1970 in the USA on Atco SD 2-704 and December 1970 in the UK on Polydor 2625 005 (it peaked at No. 16 on the US charts – didn’t chart UK).

Disc 2 – BONUS DISC (58:32 minutes):
1. Mean Old World [Little Walter cover, Album Outtake]
2. Roll It Over [Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock song, Non-Album 7" B-side]
3. Tell The Truth [Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock song, Non-Album 7" A-side]
(Tracks 2 and 3 originally recorded in June 1970 at Abbey Road for the George Harrison "All Things Must Pass" sessions - both Produced by Phil Spector - single withdrawn)

4. It's Too Late - Live [Chuck Willis cover]
5. Got To Get Better In A Little While - Live [Eric Clapton song]
6. Matchbox - Live [Carl Perkins cover]
7. Blues Power - Live Encore [Eric Clapton & Leon Russell song]
Tracks 4 to 7 are Derek & The Dominoes 'live' on The Johnny Cash Show, taped 5 November 1970 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. JOHNNY CASH and CARL PERKINS join the band for "Matchbox" only

8. Snake Lake Blues [Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock song]
9. Evil [Willie Dixon song, Howlin' Wolf cover]
10. Mean Old Frisco [Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup cover]
11. One More Chance [Eric Clapton song]
12. Got To Get Better In A Little While Jam [Eric Clapton song, instrumental]
13. Got To Get Better In A Little While [Eric Clapton song, new 2010 vocal by Bobby Whitlock]
Tracks 8 to 13 are the April/May 1971 sessions at the Olympic Studios in London for the aborted 2nd LP (engineering by Andy Johns). The band was Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon. Bobby Whitlock's vocals on Track 6 were recorded September 2010 in Austen, Texas especially for this release. All tracks remixed by the original engineer ANDY JOHNS in September 2010.

DEREK and THE DOMINOES were:
ERIC CLAPTON – Guitars, Lead Vocals
BOBBY WHITLOCK – Keyboards and Vocals
DUANE ALLMAN – Guitars (All Tracks except 1 to 3)
CARL RADLE – Bass and Percussion
JIM GORDON – Drums and Percussion
ALBHY GALUTEN – Guest Piano on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out"

Despite how pretty these gatefold card digipaks can be – you have to say that the 12-page booklet is a surprisingly skimpy affair for a supposed 'DE' of an album as highly regarded as "Layla". The double-page photo spread (the inner gatefold of the original vinyl album) is reproduced on both flaps and the inner pages of the booklet with the other pages given over to track-by-track credits - and I'm afraid little else. There isn't any liner notes – no discussions of the supergroup's mercurial talent or its tortured discography – damn shame really. Having said that we are left with the sound and content on Disc 2 which will do very nicely indeed.

The September 2010 Remaster done at Universal Studios went back to the original British Master Tapes and long-time Audio Engineer ELLEN FITTON has done a stunning job. Motown fans will know of her staggering work with the Hip-O Select label out of the USA – all 14 of the massive ‘Complete Motown Single' Sets – 75 Volumes of CDs with 1847 tracks – so this experienced lady knows her way around an original tape box or two. The Audio is fabulous – really bringing out the layers.

While ERIC CLAPTON and DUANE ALLMAN always grabs the lion's share of attention (Allman is on 11 of the 14 tracks) – a quick glance at the writer credits above and you'll see that BOBBY WHITLOCK deserved just as many plaudits. Famously ignored in England (post Cream) and making only 16 in the US LP charts – Atco even had to issue 'Derek Is Eric' stickers to inform supposedly clueless punters as to the true identity of the 'head domino' on the sprawling 2LP set. In fact I've always thought that "Layla..." feels more like the studio double-album The Allman Brothers never made rather than a vehicle for Clapton's songs of love, passion and longing.

It opens with the mid-tempo but fairly nondescript "I Looked Away" - Clapton and Whitlock sharing the vocals with Whitlock's second-half-of-the-song croaking coming off the worst. Better is the more melodious "Bell Bottom Blues" – Clapton doubling up those guitars so well and that chorus sounding not unlike something released by Badfinger on The Beatles' Apple label. But the proper axe-wielding comes with the six and half minute ruckus of "Keep On Growing" where Clapton spends much of the song endlessly racing up and down the frets of several guitars – it's impressively dense, rocking and even a tad flashy. Time for some Blues to end Side 1 – the band call on a Jimmie Cox song made famous in 1929 by Bessie Smith on a Columbia 78" - "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out". It's the first time the distinctive slide of Duane Allman shows – and along with Whitlock's organ – they anchor every tune thereafter with great flits and licks - feeling like the second guitarist Clapton has always needed by his side.

The acoustic ditty "I Am Yours" has come in for some stick over the years but I'd argue its pretty (if not a little overly hissy here). "Anyday" is surely one of the great moments on the album – six and half minutes of Allman and Clapton on fire. Things lighten up considerably with the barroom boogie of Big Bill Broonzy's "Key To The Highway" – the band flexing their playing muscles for 9:38 minutes and enjoying it. Side 3 opens on another Clapton/Whitlock winner and future concert fave – the re-recorded "Tell The Truth". The album version of this guitar boogie weighs in at 6:30 minutes and is more measured than the frantic shorter original Phil Spector produced for the "All Things Must Pass" sessions (the 3:23 minute original recorded in June 1970 was slotted in for a supposed UK 7" single release in September 1970 but that was hastily withdrawn (that version is on Disc 2). "Tell..." is followed by the manic pace of "Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?" - but it's resolutely trounced by the side finisher – "Have You Ever Loved A Woman". Recorded 2 September 1970 with Duane Allman taking on the 2nd solo – it's a blistering piece of Rock Blues from the pen of Billy Myles (made famous by Freddie King in 1961 on King Records). Clapton sings the "...so much you tremble in pain..." lyrics with such passion that you can literally feel it translate to his fingers – fabulous stuff and next to the title track – surely one of the album's true highlights.

But Side 4 opens with yet another sweetie – a Soulful ramshackle take on Jimi Hendrix's beautiful ballad "Little Wing". We get an "...ok hit it..." silly inclusion of the Chuck Willis hit on Atlantic Records "It's Too Late" which definitely feels like a throwaway. The title track however is another matter. The intense and forbidden love that dominates the lyrics of "Layla" may have come from the translation of the 12th Century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi whose book speaks of the same. The duelling guitars of Allman and Clapton have become the stuff of legend in this seven-minute Rock Opus – and even to this day "Layla" sounds amazing – especially that wonderful keyboard break half way through. Following the album's release November 1970 in the USA but just prior to its issue in the UK (December 1970) – Polydor and Atco pulled what should have been their ace in the hole 45 – "Layla" b/w "Bell Bottom Blues". But alarmingly it garnished little attention on either side of the pond – genuinely odd nowadays considering what a classic the A-side was and is - and how ingrained into our musical psyche "Layla" as a song truly is. Just outside the Top 50 on initial release in the USA (51) – it would take until June 1972 for the song to get real chart action on reissue (Atco 6809) when it peaked at No. 10. A solo Eric Clapton Acoustic 'unplugged' version went even higher to No. 2 in October 1997 when he radically reworked the song to spectacular effect. The 1970 double album ends of another song that's been slagged off down through the years as sappy and even trite "Thorn Tree In The Garden" – a Bobby Whitlock original sung with his slightly annoying croak. I've always liked it and think the song as pretty an acoustic tune as you're ever likely to hear.

DISC 2 (Bonus Tracks):
It opens with a fantastic find – three members of the band doing a slide acoustic take on Little Walter's "Mean Old World". Clapton and Allman share bluesy guitar licks while Jim Gordon plays Drums (Eric sings Lead) – and it sounds utterly amazing. Two obvious Derek & The Dominoes exclusions from the 1990 '20th Anniversary' Edition 3CD set and not on the 2004 SACD reissue either were the stand alone single "Tell The Truth" b/w "Roll It Over" which I mentioned earlier. Polydor UK tried the original version of "Tell The Truth" (Track 3 on Disc 2) as a 7" single in September 1970 (Polydor 2058 087) with the non-album Clapton/Whitlock original "Roll It Over" (Track 2 on Disc 2) on the flipside – but then withdrew it at the band's insistence. Both tracks were originally recorded at Abbey Road in June 1970 for George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" sessions. Both sides are produced by PHIL SPECTOR with the A-side "Tell The Truth" being a much shorter 3:23 minute version of the re-recorded 6:30 minute take that would eventually appear on the "Layla" double album. It's also frantically faster (I love it actually). But even "Tell..." is as nothing to the totally brilliant flipside "Roll It Over". Unlike the A – the B-side included the stellar talents of GEORGE HARRISON of The Beatles and DAVE MASON of Traffic both on Vocals and Guitar. Clapton takes lead vocals while Carl Radle plays Bass with Jim Gordon on Drums. What a winner this is...and collectable on so many fronts...

The live stuff on the Johnny Cash Show features an introduction by the mighty Johnny when he name-checks all four band-members (sans Duane Allman). The audio is far better than I thought it would be and Eric's playing very fluid especially on the stunning second track "Got To Get Better In A Little While" – a non Layla side that sees Clapton funking-out on Guitar much to the clapping audience's enthusiasm (screams for more). They return with Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash to do a cover of Perkin's boppin' classic "Matchbox". After an introduction and a vocal appreciation from Cash and Clapton – they launch into a joyous take of the song The Beatles loved and recorded. "...I'm an old poor boy and I'm a long way from home..." Cash and Perkins sing as Clapton lays into the most tasteful solo (its fabulous stuff). Then Eric agrees to do another song (huge applause) and pulls out the EC/Leon Russell original "Blues Power" where he and the band give the crowd six and half minutes of what they want.

As if these goodies aren't enough to put the release into five-star status – we get even more brilliance – 6 outtakes from the aborted 2nd LP recorded in London April/May 1971. "Snake Lake Blues" is an instrumental that you can't help feel was probably waiting for lyrics that never came. But whatever way you look it – Clapton's playing on "Snake..." is fantastic and the remastered audio just kicking (clear, warm and full). The same applies to a wickedly good version of Willie Dixon's "Evil" which he'd return to on his solo LPs. Fans will double take at the identikit Dobro sound on "Mean Old Frisco" – practically a doppelganger for the sound of the version that would turn up a full seven years later on Clapton's "Slowhand" LP. The same stunning audio (remixed by Andy Johns) applies to the superb acoustic boogie of "One More Chance" and the two ramshackle but wildly exciting versions of that Johnny Cash show stopper – "Got To Get Better In A Little While". The first is a Funky Jam instrumental at just under four minutes (utterly brilliant) while the full 6:05 minutes version has Bobby Whitlock's vocal mixed into it in September 2010 – a seamless job done too – wow!

For the insatiable there's even a Super Deluxe Edition version of this "Layla" reissue that gathers up the double live set that followed the album (sans Duane Allman), Surround Mixes, Single Sides and an awful lot of other stuff.

But if you want the short sharp shock – then this double-dose 2011 DELUXE EDITION of "Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs" is a superlative reminder of why people painted Derek's name on walls once upon a time...


This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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