Saturday, November 24, 2007
Eric is Derek?
This won't come as a shock to anyone, and it' probably a lame way to start off this blog, but I'm gonna say it anyway: Layla and Assorted Love Songs is an amazing album.
Last week I finished Clapton: The Autobiography. It was an odd book, both moving and reaffirming of the limited perspective anyone can have about their own life. Clapton is pretty fearless in his transparency about some of the darker times of his life. At the same time, Clapton chooses to focus on odd details, like a joke he played at a party one night or the first time he saw a certain hair style, and he glosses over some things of seemly greater importance, like say Cream's recording sessions. But the book did spark my renewed interest in both the man and his music, and I went out and picked up a few of the 'Clapton Remastered' editions of a few albums: 461 Ocean Blvd, Slowhand, and the afore mentioned Derek and the Dominos album. Wanna guess which one blew me away? As well regarded as this album is, it may actually be underrated.
Let's start with the cover. Rarely has artwork so closely fit the feel of the music dwelling inside. Take a moment to look at it: The layers! The girl, the flowers, the birdy-thing, the closer you look, the more you see. And yet, probably the best way to see its beauty is to step back and let your eyes see it as a whole, not focusing on any one detail, but letting the sum be greater than the parts. Just like the music within.
This is my favorite Clapton. Not preachy about the purity of the blues like on his early albums, and not burdened with carrying the torch of the blues into the future like on his later albums, this is Clapton just surrounding himself with great musicians and letting his emotions rule. And if there is one defining characteristic of Layla, it is that emotion trumps all. The voices soar, more concerned with being honest than with perfect harmony. The guitars seem to moan along with both classic and unexpected phrases. And listening to this album, really listening, can tear you up. Here's a few of my favorite moments.
Bell Bottom Blues: The simple fact that a song called Bell Bottom Blues could have stood the test of time is amazing in itself. When the twin voices rise in the chorus of 'Do you want me to crawl across the floor for you?', it's maybe the first gut-wrenching moment of many that will follow.
Have You Ever Loved a Woman: Two-thirds of the way through the album, and it's like they just couldn't hold the blues in anymore. And boy does it shine.
Little Wing: I'll be honest; I used to kinda hate this version. After hearing the SRV cover of the Hendrix classic, this one seemed like an odd departure that completely missed the point of the original. The truth is that both SRV and the Dominos capture the intent of Jimi's beautiful tune, they just do it by tapping into completely different veins. And I love both of them.
Layla: What can be said? Unrequited love; accept no substitutes.
Thorn Tree in the Garden: Out of left field come this quiet beauty that rounds out the album in an intense and fitting manner.