Derek And The Dominos - Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
It has been over forty years since the seminal Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs snuck its way into the record shops, the first and only album of the super group Derek And The Dominos. Initially a flop, due primarily to the fact no one knew quite who Derek and his pals were, but is now considered the Shakespeare in any guitarist’s curriculum. The wistful, heartache blues might not be to everyone’s taste, but you cannot argue with the brilliance of Eric Clapton’s guitar work; the consistency is a marvel, and proof that you do not have to be showy to show off. But it is not all about Clapton, far from it; fellow axe-wielder Duane Allman is the perfect foil, the duelling of ‘Keys To The Highway’ or the symbiosis in the coda of the title track the most striking examples. And though oft forgotten, you just have to glance at the writing credits to see that Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle are far from passengers on this flight.
With any anniversary reissue, it is the little bonus treats that come with it that is going to attract the attention (and money) of fans. So is this version of Layla... likely to tempt the discerning admirer? Whilst most of the material has been released before, it does bring everything nicely together: alongside the Robert Johnson homage of out-take ‘Mean Old World’ and both tracks from the original ‘Tell The Truth’ 7” produced by Phil Spector, there are also numerous songs from the aborted second Derek And The Dominos album. Previously only available on a rather exhaustive Clapton box set, they are a solid if slightly underwhelming collection that, with the exception of the lively ‘Got To Get Better In A Little While’ (complete with a previously unreleased jam version), lack a sense of cohesion and completeness.
But the real gems of the collection are the four tracks recorded on the Johnny Cash TV Show just before Layla... was released. This little twenty minute collection is bristling with an energy and immediacy that is electrifying, a blistering display of the blues. This is no more so than on ‘Matchbox’, a dream team combination when the band are joined by not one but two legends in Johnny Cash himself as well as its original composer Carl Perkins for this bristling rock ‘n’ roll blues number that sends shivers down the spine.
It is always nice to wander back in time and revisit classics such as Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, and while many a cynic will just see the anniversary as another chance to cash in, this is a satisfying collection of material from that will garner interest from both the die-hard and casual fan alike.