Monday, October 15, 2007

Rock 'N' Roll Revisited I

As appears in tomorrow's issue of The New School's newspaper, the New School Free Press.

It's easy to bash Eric Clapton for many reasons (can we begin with "Tears In Heaven"?) but as much as I dislike his solo career, the bands that he's been in have released albums that are required listening for anyone interested in rock—especially Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

Recorded in August and September of 1970, Layla would be the only studio album Derek (Clapton) and the Dominos (Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle and Duane Allman) would release together as a band. But if you're only going to release a single album, it might as well be as great as this one.

Even 37 years later, Layla sounds fresh. That's due partially to the timeless quality of the blues genre that they're emulating, but also because of how good they sound. In songs like "Why Does Love Have to Be So Sad?" and "Have You Ever Loved a Women?" Clapton and Allman seemingly both try to outplay one another—a kind of, as Rolling Stone called it, "an electric, brotherly love."

Along with "Woman" and "Sad," a trend develops on the album of songs detailing lost love or a love that can never be. Other tracks like "Bell Bottom Blues," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" and "It's Too Late" continue this trend, because Clapton had fallen in love with George Harrison's wife, Patti Boyd—an affection that even his heroin addiction at the time couldn't cure.

In "I Looked Away," which leads off the album, you can clearly hear Clapton's broken voice—an instrument that's sometimes more powerful than even the loudest and complex guitar solo.

Unlike most of Clapton's solo work (especially "My Father's Eyes"), this is an album that's brilliant and, more importantly, memorable from beginning to end. Great lyrics, impressive vocals and amazing guitar playing are tough to find on the same album, but on Layla, they're all there.

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