Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, recorded by Derek and the Dominoes, was released in 1971. A two-record set, it was the only recorded studio album of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman playing together. The band would tour briefly (without Allman) and eventually release a live album, but like the other Clapton bands, would dissolve as Clapton moved on.
Fifty years later, the Layla album, remains an iconic musical collection, both in Clapton’s career, and in early 1970s blues-rock. The song, “Layla”, is one of Clapton’s signature songs, and the rapid-fire guitar intro, helps rank this as one of the best guitar songs ever. If you include the backstory of this bittersweet love song (Clapton-Pattie Boyd Harrison-George Harrison), the song becomes part of the rock and roll history.
There are four exceptional songs on the set, three or four good songs and the best, mainly blues song are okay. The set is mostly written by Clapton and Bobby Whitlock, who first met up in Delaney and Bonnie’s group, along with future Dominoes Carl Radle and Jim Gordon.
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is held in reverence today, but when it was first released, it made ripples, not waves. There are many theories on its lack of immediate impact, but not because of the music. It just took a few years for critics and fans to catch up with it.
I do not recall any musician or group tackling the Layla album as a live project. That is what makes Layla Revisited (Live at Lockn’) such an awesome release. The Tedeschi-Trucks Band has done an incredible job capturing the spirit and fire of this set of songs. Guitarist and band co-leader Derek Trucks, nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, is simply one of the best guitarists around. You might recall, when Dickie Betts was asked to leave the ABB, the guitar slots were filled by Warren Haynes and Trucks, the best guitarists in the band since Duane Allman and Betts shared a stage.
Susan Tedeschi, the other co-band leader, is no slouch of a guitarist herself and provides many of the band’s lead vocals. On Layla Revisited, the band is joined by Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Doyle Bramhall II on guitar and vocals. The Tedeschi-Trucks Band is superb by themselves, but the extra muscle is nice, given the guitar layering on the original album. I have seen this band in concert before and they are terrific. They are solid musicians and give the sound a lot of versatility
A bit of trivia, Trucks was named after the “Derek” in Derek and the Dominoes, and Tedeschi was born on the day the Layla album was first released.
“By the time that I started playing guitar, the sound of Duane Allman’s slide [on Layla] was almost an obsession,” says Trucks. “The spirit, the joy, the recklessness, and the inevitability of the record finds a way to pull you back in. And of course, being a part of their history was the honor of a lifetime.”
Trucks spent more than a year touring with Clapton earlier in the 2000s and got to play on many of these songs performed by Clapton’s band.
This album was recorded from one concert, performed on August 24, 2019. The performances are somewhat faithful to those on the Layla album, but are certainly not note for note, as this is a great opportunity to put their own touches with four guitars. In several songs here, the rhythm section plays lightly to allow the guitars to each be heard, before cranking up the volume again.
I Looked Away – Written by Clapton and Bobby Whitlock. This song is fairly faithful to the original. If you like the original version, you will also like this one.
Bell Bottom Blues – Written by Clapton and Whitlock. A very familiar song from the original album receiving a lot of airplay. This is better than the original version, the vocals are superior and it is gentler than the Layla version.
Keep On Growing – Written by Clapton and Whitlock. The original is excellent, one of my favorite songs on the album. This version is quite a bit longer than the original. The lead-in is added here, not in the original. The song has an excellent groove and here is supplemented with horns. Halfway into the song, the rhythm section softens to allow the guitars to be featured, then the song cranks up again for a few more minutes of soloing.
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – Written by Jimmy Cox. A traditional blues song. Tedeschi rocks it out on vocals. I like this version more than the original, mainly because of Tedeschi and the horns in the arrangement.
I Am Yours – Written by Clapton and Nizami. The gentle, breezy vibe of the song comes through very clear along with the slide guitar. Not really an improvement or a diminish of the original version. It is a nice counterpoint to the noisy songs.
Anyday – Written by Clapton and Whitlock. This is a really stretched out version over the original. This version sounds a lot like an Allman Brothers song. An average song from the original album, but the guitar work makes this an enjoyable listen.
Key to the Highway – A blues cover, it offers plenty of opportunity for different soloing.
Tell the Truth – Written by Clapton and Whitlock. This version has the grit and blues-rock of the original, plus some extra riffing. Terrific playing.
Why Does Love Have to Be So Sad? – Also written by Clapton and Whitlock. The live version by the Dominoes is superb and much better than the Layla album version. Very funky with horns and the soulful singing of Tedeschi. The soloing on the backend of the song is gorgeous.
Have You Ever Loved a Woman – Written by Billy Myles, another heavy blues song. It’s an okay song on its own, the muscular guitar work here lifts this from average to very good.
Little Wing – Written by Jimi Hendrix, this song was really designed to be played with a band like this. It is perfect for musicians to stretch out like they do here. The original on Layla was good, but never seemed to have the oomph that a live performance could bring.
It’s Too Late – Another blues cover. Not bad, but not great.
Layla – Written by Clapton and Jim Gordon. This version is every bit as good as the Layla album version. The backend section of the song is quite good with slide guitar. It is dangerous to tackle one of the most treasured songs in rock history, but this is a great version.
Thorn Tree in the Garden – Written by Whitlock. This is the one studio track, which is fitting because the song is a soft ballad. Tedeschi and Trucks are on acoustic guitars. This is even better than the original.