Derek & the Dominos – Layla (40th anniv ed) (album review)

Derek and the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (40th anniversary edition) (Universal) CD review The Layla album is widely considered the zenith of Eric Clapton’s career.  He was madly in love with his buddy (George Harrison’s) wife, Patti Boyd Harrison, and he poured his emotion out in these tracks.  He would go on to have hit singles and bigger album sales, but this record is hands-down the most passionate and inspired of his entire catalog.

The original two-LP set was given the deluxe treatment in on it’s 20th anniversary 1990, by offering three discs, featuring alternate versions and an entire CD of jams between Clapton and guitarist Duane Allman.  After that mammoth collection, how can there be anything left in the archives for this

Well, the difference is in the scope of each set.  The 20th anniversary edition just concentrated on the sessions for the Layla album, while this new release covers the entire history, however short-lived, of the band.  So, you not only get the original, 14-song album on disc one,  you also get the A and B side of their first single, produced by Phil Spector while the band was backing George Harrison for his All Things Must Pass Album, which predates the Layla record by a year.

After the release of Layla, Duane Allman would return to his Allman Brothers Band, and Derek and the Dominos would try and soldier on without him.  Disc two begins with a Layla session outtake between Clapton and Allman, “Mean Old World,” then segues into four songs from the group’s appearance (sans Allman) on the Johnny Cash TV show, which are surprisingly good (including a jam between the band and rock legend Carl Perkins).

The remainder of the bonus disc is fleshed out with tracks for what was to have been the band’s second album, but was scrapped as the group disintegrated in a haze of drugs and infighting.  Although these five cuts were already included on Clapton’s Crossroads box set, it’s nice to have them in the context of the other Derek & the Dominos material.  Also, the best song from these sessions, “Got to Get Better in a Little While” was always unfinished – missing vocals on the chorus.  That is until vocalist Bobby Whitlock went back into the studio last year and sang the missing parts.  His voice had held up quite well, and it sounds great finally having a complete version of a song that would’ve been another Clapton classic had it actually been released back then.

Also of note is their stop/start take on Willie Dixon’s “Evil.”  One final tidbit on the actual original album: on the 20th anniversary, they chose to remix the record – this improved the sound quality, but removed some of the immediacy and punch of the original.  On this new edition, the original 1970 LP mix has been used.  A further glimpse into the peak of Eric Clapton’s career.  –Tony Peters