Derek And The Dominoes
by Peter Grainger
It is simply one of the best blues rock records of them all and arguably Eric Clapton's finest hour: 1970's "Layla And Other Assorted Love Stories" billed as Derek And The Dominoes. Eric WAS Derek as the promo buttons of the time, suggested.
Clapton was creating a new persona for himself, possibly to escape the star status he’d been living with at the end of Cream, as well as his ‘supergroup’ Blind Faith the year before.
Clapton met singer/keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and session drummer extraordinaire Jim Gordon, first during the Blind Faith Tour in 1969, when ‘Delaney & Bonnie’ was the opening act. Clapton then enjoyed a short tenure with
an expanded band called ‘Delaney & Bonnie & Friends’, trading riffs on stage with George Harrison and Traffic’s Dave Mason as they toured Europe and the UK. Many of these musicians played on Clapton’s first solo album, which Delaney Bramlett
produced in London and Los Angeles in late fall of ’69. Under the working title of “Eric Sings”, Clapton had finally found his voice.
The future Dominoes honed their skills further, as part of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour, then becoming the house band for both Dr. John’s churning funky gumbo “Sun, Moon And Herbs” LP and George Harrison’s stately triple set
“All Things Must Pass”. Clapton and Whitlock were the first of the Dominoes to hang out together; they began singing, playing and writing new songs at a furious pace. The pair developed a passionate, dual call-and-response vocal technique,
very reminiscent of what Stax soul singers ‘Sam And Dave’ had done five years before. Dave Mason was involved in the Dominos early on too, contributing to their first single, “Roll It Over” b/w “Tell The Truth”, even performing on stage together
in London, but he soon decided to get his own solo thing going in LA.
Transplanting themselves in Criteria Studios in Miami, in order to work with one-time Cream producer Tom Dowd, the sessions began as furious jams. Thanks to introductions made by Dowd, The Dominoes were soon aided on half the songs by slide
guitarist Duane Allman. These recordings display some of the best ensemble work you'll ever hear. Although the “Layla” sessions were fueled by cocaine, heroin and tequila, the music was incredibly tight.
Clapton had been going through a tough time emotionally during this period in his life, falling hopelessly in love with George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. The song “Layla” captures all the pain and frustration one suffers in an unrequited love,
based on an 800-year old poem by Muslim mystic Nizami. With that first descending seven note phrase by Duane Allman, adapted from a blues tune by Albert King, the song is a scorcher of epic proportion.
Clapton had recently switched from his favoured Gibson to a Fender Stratocaster, giving him a thinner, more sinuous sound. Once he began coiling lead lines with Allman, it raised the heat, setting the room on fire. Most of the songs on the album show this,
although even better is the score of lengthy jams found on various “Layla” box sets and bootlegs. Impassioned vocals, searing dual guitar-lines, bouncing bass, glorious drum-fills, and great songs, make “Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs”, one for the ages.
Layla And Other Assorted Love Stories
Release Date: 1970