Derek & The Dominos - Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)

Derek & The Dominos were a short-lived blues-rock supergroup led by guitarist Eric Clapton.

Guitarist Eric Clapton, keyboard player Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon all got to know each other playing as part of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. All four of them appeared on their 1970 On Tour album, and they all worked together on Clapton's first solo album at the same time. Radle and Gordon then left due to the Bramletts' constant fighting, and went to play with Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. The four of them next met up together working on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album. Eventually they decided to form their own group together. Clapton planned to divert the attention away from him as a star, and focus on the group as a whole. With this in mind, they named themselves Derek & The Dominos (supposedly due to a misreading of their provisional name Del & The Dynamos).
They recorded their album between August and October 1970 in Miami. The songwriting was mostly undertaken by Clapton and Whitlock together, and they also both shared the vocals. The album was produced by Tom Dowd, who at the time was also producing The Allman Brothers Band's Idlewild South. Dowd introduced the two bands to eachother, and Clapton struck up a friendship with guitarist Duane Allman. The two greatly admired eachother, and both bands went back to the studio and recorded some informal jams. Allman hoped to stay and observe the Dominos recording, but instead Clapton invited him to play on the record. Duane Allman thus appeared as guest guitarist on all but four of the songs on the album, and the interplay between the two of them took them both to new heights, resulting in some of their best playing. Allman was invited to become an official fifth member, but decided to stick with his own band instead.
The result from the recording sessions was an incredible double album, Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs, widely considered Clapton's artistic masterpiece. Indeed it is testimony to the fact that he performed at his best when working alongside other guitarists and singers. As well as the brilliant playing, the shared vocals of Clapton and Whitlock are another highlight of the album (Whitlock is arguably a better singer than Clapton, with a real gritty soul edge to his voice). Alongside the original songs were five covers - Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing", Chuck Willis' "It's Too Late" and the blues standards "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out", "Key To The Highway" and "Have You Ever Loved A Woman".
The secret to the album's success might actually be the inspiration. Clapton at the time was hopelessly in love with George Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd Harrison. Therefore when he sings numbers such as "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" and "Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?"... Well, you can hear that he really meant it. It's a good example of real emotional pain inspiring fantastic music.
Unfortunately the album was mostly ignored on its release. Perhaps Clapton's idea of leaving super-stardom behind had gone too far, as much of the record-buying public didn't actually realise he was a member of the band when they saw it in the record shops. The band went on a drug-fuelled tour (without Allman), and underwant a messy dissolution in 1971. Allman himself tragically died as the result of a motorcycle accident in October '71. But the song "Layla" was belatedly released as a single in 1972, and unexpectedly became a massive hit. Better late than never! The song is now considered a rock classic, and the album itself both the highlight of Clapton's career and one of the greatest blues-rock albums of all time.

|> In Concert (1973)
More from Derek & The Dominos



edison61 said...

Yeah, it's really interesting, looking back, at how poorly-received this LP was when it came out. It definitely colored my opinion of it as a kid, I actually didn't appreciate how great much of it was until a few years ago. Thanks!

Anonymous said...