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Derek and the Dominos were a blues-rock supergroup formed in the spring of 1970 by guitarist and singer Eric Clapton with keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon, who had all played with Clapton in Delaney, Bonnie & Friends.
The band released only one studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, which featured prominent contributions from guest guitarist Duane Allman from the Allman Brothers Band. The album went on to receive critical acclaim, but initially faltered in sales and in radio airplay. Although released in 1970 it was not until March 1972 that the album's single "Layla" (a tale of unrequited love inspired by Clapton's relationship with his friend George Harrison's then wife, Pattie Boyd Harrison) would make the top ten in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The album, which has received praise from both critics and fans alike, is often considered to be the defining achievement of Clapton's career.
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is a blues-rock album by Derek and the Dominos. It is now consistently regarded as one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time, and one of the high points in Eric Clapton's career.
It was released in December of 1970; critical reception at the time was mixed, and it had mixed sales success. It peaked at #16 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart but, remarkably, in Britain it never made the charts at all.
The group which created Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs grew out of Clapton's frustration with the hype associated with the supergroups Cream, and the short-lived Blind Faith. After their dissolution, he joined Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, whom he had come to know while they were the opening act for Blind Faith, for a British tour.
After that band also split up, a Delaney and Bonnie alumnus, Bobby Whitlock, joined up with Clapton; the two spent some months writing a number of songs "just to have something to play", as Whitlock put it. These songs would later make up the bulk of the material on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.
After a tour with Joe Cocker, some more of the personnel from Delaney and Bonnie joined up with Clapton; he attempted to avoid the limelight in a group dubbed Derek and the Dominos, and booked a British tour of small clubs. The group's name had reportedly resulted from a gaffe made by the announcer at their first concert, who mispronounced the band's provisional name вЂ“ "Eric & The Dynamos" вЂ“ as "Derek & The Dominos". In fact, Eric chose the name "Derek and the Dominos" because he did not want his name and celebrity to get in the way of maintaining a "band" context.
After the tour, they headed for Criteria Studios in Miami to record an album.
The other source for Layla was Clapton's personal life: he had fallen in love with Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend George Harrison. Not even heroin, which Clapton had then begun to use, could dull the pain. Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, wrote that "there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder, or a suicide... to me, 'Layla' is the greatest of them."
Clapton had long admired the work of Duane Allman, which he knew from recordings by Aretha Franklin and others, and he had long wanted to meet him. Allman, like many other musicians of the day, revered Clapton, and wanted to watch him record. Dowd, as a producer for both, was in a position to make it happen.
When Clapton heard from Dowd that the Allman Brothers Band were due to play in Miami on August 26, 1970, he insisted on going to see their show, saying "You mean that guy who plays on the back of (Wilson Pickett's) Hey Jude? You know him? .. We have to go." He was allowed to sit at the front of the stage, and made his way out while Duane had his eyes closed, playing a solo. When Duane opened his eyes and saw Clapton, he froze. Dickey Betts, the Allmans' other lead guitarist, assumed Duane had broken a string and decided to take up where Duane left off. When he saw Clapton, he turned his back, presumably to keep from freezing himself.
After the show, Duane asked if he could come by the studio to watch some recording sessions, but Clapton refused: "Bring your guitar; you got to play!" The two returned to the studio and formed a deep bond overnight; Dowd reported that they "were trading licks, they were swapping guitars, they were talking shop and information and having a ball вЂ“ no holds barred, just admiration for each other's technique and facility."
Although the original concept was that "I was just going to play on one or two", Duane said, he wound up contributing to almost all the tracks on Layla, even the ones on which work had already started вЂ“ and lifting everyone's work onto a higher plane. "He brought out the best in all of us", said Whitlock.
Most of the songs were products of Clapton and Whitlock's writing co-operation, but a number of classics were included as well, including the blues standards "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out", "It's Too Late", "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" (a Billy Myles song originally recorded by Freddie King) and "Key To The Highway".
The last was a pure accident вЂ“ the band heard Sam Samudio in another room at the studio doing the song for his album "Hard and Heavy". They liked it and spontaneously started playing it. Dowd told the engineers to start the tape recorder running вЂ” which is why that song fades in in the middle on the album.
"Tell the Truth" was initially recorded in June 1970 as a fast up-beat song and released soon after as a single. During the Layla sessions, "Tell the Truth" was recorded again, this time as a long and slow instrumental jam. The final version of the song that appears on the album is a combination of these two takes: the frantic pace of the single is slowed down to the laid-back speed of the instrumental. The two previous versions were later released on The History of Eric Clapton (1972).
Also included was the Jimi Hendrix cut "Little Wing". Though some think it was recorded as a tribute to Hendrix, it was recorded a week before he died.
The long lyrical piano coda which forms the second half of the version of the title track, "Layla" was composed independently by Rita Coolidge (appeared on an album "Time" recorded by Rita's sister). Jim Gordon who had been dating Rita at the time took the piece after trying in vain to do something with it with Bobby Whitlock. He had been disturbed about the fact that he wasn't a writer and began to insist that his songs be heard, and recorded. He finally persuaded Eric to add the coda to the end of Layla. "Layla" remains one of the most widely played rock songs of the 1970s.
The last track on the album is a Bobby Whitlock tune entitled "Thorn Tree In The Garden". Eric having heard the song, was struck by it and asked Bobby if he would play it as the last track. The recording was as Tom Dowd said "the perfect stereo recording". Bobby, Eric, Duane Allman and Jim Gordon sat in a circle with the mic placed strategically in the center and they played live.
Assistant recording engineer Karl Richardson recalled that a couple of women came in and were hanging out in the control room and one of them spilled coffee on the master tapes, in which he and producer Tom Dowd had to pass the master tape back and forth through the reels to get the coffee spills out. As well a quirky tape player caused some tunes to have altered tempos.
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" and was disappointed at the lack of acclaim it garnered in its release.
01. "I Looked Away" (Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock) вЂ“ 3:05 02. "Bell Bottom Blues" (Clapton) вЂ“ 5:02 03. "Keep on Growing" (Clapton, Whitlock) вЂ“ 6:21 04. "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (Jimmie Cox) вЂ“ 4:57 05. "I Am Yours" (Clapton, Nezami) вЂ“ 3:34 06. "Anyday" (Clapton, Whitlock) вЂ“ 6:35 07. "Key to the Highway" (Charles Segar, Willie Broonzy) вЂ“ 9:40 08. "Tell the Truth" (Clapton, Whitlock) вЂ“ 6:39 09. "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?" (Clapton, Whitlock) вЂ“ 4:41 10. "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" (Billy Myles) вЂ“ 6:52 11. "Little Wing" (Jimi Hendrix) вЂ“ 5:33 12. "It's Too Late" (Chuck Willis) вЂ“ 3:47 13. "Layla" (Clapton, Jim Gordon) вЂ“ 7:04 14. "Thorn Tree in the Garden" (Whitlock) вЂ“ 2:53
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