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Posts Tagged ‘Cream’


Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs [2 CD 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]Albums in the 60’s could be frustrating. Everyone seemed in search of the hit single, not developing strong albums of strong songs. So, when I think of the albums produced by the Yardbirds and Cream (and the Kinks), I think of some great songs that Clapton played on. But not necessarily albums that stood out to me.

For Clapton, that changed (for me) with Derek and the Dominos one and only release, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Eric had spent time touring America with Blind Faith and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends was the opening act. Some of those friends joined him to form Derek and the Dominos: Bobby Whitlock (keys & vocals), Carl Radle (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums).

Clapton’s sound had shifted. With the Yardbirds, the focus was on R&B, and with Cream it was blues rock. His time with Delaney & Bonnie seems to have moved him in more of a southern blues rock direction which would take up most of the 70’s. He also grew weary of fame, which may be a reason for “becoming” Derek.

Derek and the Dominos.pngThis album sounds like Clapton joined the Allman Brothers, and not just because Duane Allman played some slide guitar on this album. Other guests included Dave Mason (actually a member of the band for about a year, playing some live shows with them) and George Harrison. Mason grew weary of Clapton’s focus on helping George instead of them working full time as a band.

We owe the success of this album as much to Harrison as to Delaney & Bonnie. Derek and the Dominos formed during sessions for his All Things Must Pass Album. They had been jamming and writing songs before those sessions, but didn’t seem to have had much of a plan beyond the moment. The persona of Derek allowed Eric to sing about his unrequited love for Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. George was his best friend, so this internal conflict was more encouragement to get stoned, and play guitar. It wasn’t just Layla that expressed this, but a number of the songs deal with love gone sideways and feeling like you’re going to die. For instance, Bell Bottom Blues which is probably one of my favorite Clapton songs:

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry.
I don’t want to lose this feeling.
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms.
Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away.
Give me one more day, please.
I don’t want to fade away.
In your heart I want to stay.
It’s all wrong, but it’s all right.
The way that you treat me baby.
Once I was strong but I lost the fight.
You won’t find a better loser.
The double album is a collection of original songs and covers of older blues standards and a tribute to Hendrix in Little Wing.
The album begins with I Looked Away, which is credited Clapton & Whitlock. We see the lost love theme right away.
She took my hand
And tried to make me understand
That she would always be there,
But I looked away
And she ran away from me today;
I’m such a lonely man.
It came as no surprise to me
That she’d leave me in misery.
It seemed like only yesterday
She made a vow that she’d never walk away.And if it seemed a sin
To love another man’s woman, baby,
I guess I’ll keep on sinning
Loving her, Lord, till my very last day.
But I looked away
And she ran away from me today;
I’m such a lonely man.

Related imageClapton’s voice cracks at times. The slide guitar chirps and Whitlock adds some background vocals. This is a short song, a mere 3:04, on an album dominated by songs 5 minutes or longer. But it sets the tone both musically and thematically.
Then it is 5 minutes of blissful agony with Bell Bottomed Blues (BBB). This is such a great song, written by Clapton and Whitlock. Clapton alternates his vocals and lead runs perfectly. The pain is seemingly evident in the whole song.
Keep On Growing doesn’t hit the heights of BBB, but it is a good song. It is about a young man who learns he has much to learn about love. It has plenty of instrumental sections to fill its 6 minutes.
Next we have the first cover, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out by Jimmy Cox. It is more of a straight blues song about a man who has lost it all and finds himself friendless.
Next Clapton used much of the Persian poem The Story of Layla and Majnun by Nizmai as the lyrics for I Am Yours. It is a song with more space than others on the album. Some acoustic guitar, organ and simple lead along with the lyrics seem to dominate. The repeated lines of “I am yours, however distant you may be” continue the theme of the album.
Anyday returns to the sound similar to the rest of the album, and Allman’s slide guitar. While touching on the rejection, it hangs on to hope that anyday now she will smile and receive him.
You were talking and I thought I heard you say
“Please leave me alone
Nothing in this world can make me stay
I’d rather go back, I’d rather go back home”
But if you believed in me like I believe in you
We could have a love so true, we would go on endlessly
And I know anyday, anyday, I will see you smile
Any way, any way, only for a little while
Well someday baby, I know you’re gonna need me
When this old world has got you down
I’ll be right here, so woman call me
And I’ll never ever let you down
Key to the Highway is another old blues standard written by Charles Seger, William Lee and Conley Broonzy. Eric would later play this on his album with B.B. King as well. In this song, he is leaving her. While there is one last kiss, there is no time to waste in heading for the border.
Back to their own compositions with Tell the Truth, about who’s been fooling who. This song doesn’t really stand out.
More upbeat southern blues rock with Why Does Love Got to Be so Sad?. The chorus is repetitive. He’s like a moth to the flame, however. He’s aware she’ll break his heart, but still there’s a song in that heart.
Stop running away;
I’ve got a better game to play,
You know I can’t go on living without you.
Have You Ever Loved a Woman is a song by Billy Myles. A blues song with plenty of good licks. We see why it is on this album when we look at the lyrics:
Have you ever loved a woman
So much you tremble in pain?
Have you ever loved a woman
So much you tremble in pain?And all the time you know, yeah
She bears another man’s name

But you just love that woman
So much it’s a shame and a sin
You just love that woman, yes
So much it’s a shame and a sin

But all the time you know, yes you know
She belongs to your very best friend

All this makes on wonder what it was like to hang out with Eric and George during this time.
Little Wing is by Hendrix and would also be covered by Stevie Ray Vaughn. Hendrix notes it is about the women you sometimes meet who flit in and out of your life but leave their mark. They leave sadness because they seem so far above us. Hendrix died tragically 8 days after they recorded this track which was devastating to Eric (and many others).
It’s Too Late is a cover of an Animal’s song. The reason it is too late is she’s gone.
Layla takes its name from the aforementioned Persian love poem. It is, of course, the best known song from this album and a staple on classic rock radio. Fittingly. The instrumental is a bit too long for some people. Not for me. Last night I learned that Clapton played a Les Paul rather than his Strat for this song. Layla is obviously Pattie. And Eric is obviously a mess.
I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with you,
Turned my whole world upside down.
Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.
Let’s make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don’t say I’ll never find a way
And tell me all my love’s in vain.
It is strange to find a popular song so deep into an album. This is the 13th track! But it ended up on the Top 10 in 1971.
The album closes with Thorn Tree in the Garden. It is under 3 minutes. Bobby sings to acoustic guitar. It was written by him about the only girl he ever loved, and still misses. Musically, it doesn’t quite fit on this album. But it is the last song, and it is short so who really cares.
The band only survived this album. Perhaps they were done in by the drugs. But it was also the realization that it was fake, they were hiding and this was Clapton singing about trying to steal his friend’s wife. The album itself was not warmly received at first, by critics and the public. This fueled Clapton’s depression and addiction. Tragedy followed the members. Allman would die in an accident a year later. Radle’s drug and alcohol abuse lead to kidney problems that caused his death in 1980. Jim Gordon’s schizophrenia was not diagnosed (drug induced?) and he killed his mother with a hammer. He’s been institutionalized since 1984.
While initially not a success, it would chart in 1972 and again in 1982. It is known as one of the high marks of Clapton’s career. Sometimes the things that seem our biggest failures end up defining us, in a good way. The pain behind this album is obvious but it also seemed to bring out the best in Slowhand, producing music which touches the soul.

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Continuing with my favorites from the 60’s series…

ILater North American releasen high school I was a big Jimi Hendrix fan. He was the first great guitarist I listened to. I read one of his biographies, ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, multiple times. My favorite album of his at the time was Are You Experienced?, the one that started it all.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was one of the first great power trios. It put the focus on Jimi’s innovative style of playing guitar.This doesn’t mean the other members were slouches. Noel and Mitch were excellent musicians in their own right, able to to complement Jimi. They just weren’t well-known names like Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce when Cream was formed. Noel was actually a guitarist.

What Ritchie Blackmore appreciated about Hendrix was that he was always searching for the right note. He pushed the boundaries. And when he found that note it was amazing.

This goes back to your idea of what a musician, particularly a lead guitarist, is supposed to do. Some people want a band to perfectly reproduce their music live. If you listen to Matthias Jabs of the Scorpions, you wonder if he ever misses a note. But the reason I love live music is the improvisation. That is probably why I love Blackmore so much. It is a reflection of my personality. Blackmore often begins and ends his solos with “standard” solos, phrases from the studio recordings, and then improvises. He’s on the tightrope.

That was Hendrix too.

One of the weird things about the album is that the title track is the last one on both the U.K. and U.S. versions. The U.K. version included Red House, Remember (which I don’t remember hearing- perhaps it wasn’t memorable) and Can You See Me. The U.S. versions included Hey Joe and The Wind Cries Mary instead. Red House shows up on other collections so Americans could enjoy this great blues rock number. It was frequently played on the radio here in the States. It is a song that has stuck with me.

Purple Haze is one of his songs most commonly played on classic rock stations. It is quintessential Experience. Oddly enough, it was not on the original U.K. release. That opening riff gets your attention and sets the tone. According to Noel, Jimi hadn’t taken LSD yet. Jimi said it was about a dream he had. But that’s not important now. The point is the music, and this is a song full of hooks and great guitar. The psychedelic style helps create some of the misheard lyrics, like “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy.”

The mood changes slightly with Manic Depression which supposedly isn’t about bipolar disorder. It is essentially about not being able to get what you want. Perhaps it is about Jimi’s inability, even his, to produce the sounds in his head expressing (I know what I want, but I just don’t know, how to go about getting it). It has the feel and timing of a jazz song more than a rock song. As a teen who seemed to be on the outside looking in, this song captured some of how I felt.

Hey Joe is a cover of a oft-covered blues song by Billy Roberts. Deep Purple also did a version of this song. This is still the standard version of the song for many of us. Straight up blues.

A black and white photograph of three men, one is sitting on the floor.They go back to psychedelic with Love or Confusion, May This Be Love, and I Don’t Live Today. The tempo is faster, and the guitar work is great. Sadly these are all pop songs too. They were made to be played on the radio. The last song on the side is the longest at 3:55. Purple Haze is an all too short 2:45. You are left wanting more, especially from a guitarist this good. I had the same feeling with the first Van Halen album. The songs really didn’t have extended solos, which is precisely what I want, but both albums made their mark. Perhaps it was simply an issue of money. The budget for this introductory album was small, and studio time was at a premium. It takes time and money to put together longer songs.

The rest of the album is also full of songs under 4 minutes with the exception of Third Stone from the Sun, which is 6:40 of Jimi using feedback and pedals for a strong psychedelic feel. But it starts with Jimi’s nod to Bob Dylan in The Wind Cries Mary. It isn’t a Dylan song, but you’d swear it was.

Back to fast-paced rock and roll with Fire about passion. This is something any teenager can identify with. His guitar work mirrors the urgency.

After Third Rock, is the song that starts the U.K. release, Foxy Lady. This is a classic guitar song about an attractive woman with attitude. This another one of the songs on this release that has stood the test of time despite the ‘dated’ style.

The album ends with the title track. The rhythm, bass and drum tracks were backwards, which Mitch reportedly hated trying to do live. It added to that psychedelic feel.

This was a ground-breaking album that broke a ground-breaking artist. There really isn’t a bad track on this album. The only weakness is that you want longer solos, to hear more of this incredible guitarist.

After my collection was stolen in the late 90’s I never replaced this album. Putting this together makes me think it is time to do so.

 

 

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