Review Summary: Eric Clapton's final peak.
After breaking up with his former band Cream, which he is most famous for, and the recently formed Blind Faith, Eric Clapton, who was considered back then a guitar god, sat down and started recording with Delaney and Bonnie's former members what would eventually be his best album. The record also symbolizes Clapton last enjoyable work, before once again ego fights would disband his band and he would turn to start a rather poor and shameful solo career.
The album starts amazingly with two of its best tracks. I Looked Away is a fast-paced blues ballad. It features the tiniest bit of Clapton's soloing work, but he still makes it work with great melodic parts. The organ makes this song sound more nostalgic and gives it an epic feel. Bell Bottom Blues, on the other hand, is much slower-paced; bluesy Ballad, yet again, but in my opinion it suppresses the opening track, and it's one of the album greatest. The solo in Bell Bottom is slow and beautiful, and the lyrics and vocals are spectacular.
"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."
Eric sings these lyrics with such passion that tops almost anything else he has done in his career.
These two songs illustrate the album like no other. Later tracks like Anyday and Why Does Love Got To Be Sad? Follow the exact same structure as Bell Bottom Blues's, with three different verses and three choruses and some heartbreaking emotional solos in between.
The record reaches its climax, though, in the seven minute epic Layla. The song is ridiculously famous, and many consider it to be Clapton's all-time best. I won't beg to differ, as the only tracks that may rival it are Sunshine of Your Love, Badge or White Room.
The track doesn't come close to anything else from the album, as it abandons some of the blues influences. It starts with a hard rocking riff, one of the most well-known riffs of all Rock music, accompanied by some beautiful lead guitar work. The song sharply shifts between the bluesy verse, with its interesting lead and chord progression, and the Hard Rock chorus. In Layla, Eric Clapton delivers without doubt the best vocal performance of his life. He sounds so hurt, on the verge of tears, and the screaming of "Layla!" in the verse never ceases to move me.
Eric Clapton was in a very difficult personal situation whilst the recording of this album. He was deeply in unrequited love with his best friend's, George Harrison, wife Patty Boyd. That situation obviously affected Clapton and made Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs special. His vocal performance is his most emotional, and his songwriting sounds the most sincere. This comes to an extent on the title track. The lyrics and vocal performance in this song are beyond words. The song was actually Clapton's confession to Patty Boyd, what makes it even more special.
After the great solo, which uses some unique attributes that make it almost sound like it was played by violin, the first part of this song ends, and a piano riff plays from all of the sudden. This second part is what makes this song one of the greatest of all time. Fully instrumental, the heavenly piano riff drives it through, with emotional leads all around. I always imagined the first part of the song is like a huge, epic battle, and the second part is the aftermath, when everyone goes to heaven.
The albums ender, Thorn Tree in the Garden, serves as a rest after the amazing epic. While being a decent song on his own, the integration of it and Layla makes for the best ten minutes of the album.
The record does have his flaws, though. Besides having nine original tracks, the album also contains five covers. Jimmy Cox's Blues standard Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out, Willie Bronzy's Key to the Highway, Billy Myles's Have You Ever Loved a Women, Jimi Hendrix's amazing Little Wing, and Chuck Willis's It's Too Late. Most of these covers are amazing, and some even top their originals. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out, Little Wing and It's Too Late even top some of the original work of the album, but the album's most major flaw is Key to the Highway. Reaching almost ten minutes, the song is nothing more than a poor improvisation. The riff and the solos get tired of after about five minutes, and being ten minutes long, the song becomes an unfortunate immediate skipper. Nonetheless, the album's other tracks are so amazing; they have Key to the Highway pardoned.
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is basically its title. It contains only love songs, probably because of the emotional state Clapton was in whilst the recording of this album (as I have mentioned earlier), but still manages to not be cheesy, and to be one of the greatest records of all time. Its only flaw, Key on the Highway, is minor and seems unimportant in comparison to the rest of the material. If you are a Rock or a Clapton fan, or just a guitar player, you must listen to this album as soon as possible. In my opinion it is Clapton's best.
Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs was released in November 1, 1970. The record label is Polydor and it is 77:16 minutes long.
- Bell Bottom Blues
- I Looked Away
Eric Clapton – lead, rhythm, slide, and acoustic guitars, lead vocals
Duane Allman – lead, rhythm, slide, and acoustic guitars, on tracks 4 through 14
Jim Gordon – drums, percussion, piano
Carl Radle – bass guitar, percussion
Bobby Whitlock – organ, piano, vocals, acoustic guitar
Howie Albert – engineering
Ron Albert – engineer
Tom Dowd – executive production
Dennis M. Drake – mastering
Mac Emmerman – engineering
Albhy Galuten – piano and assistance
Chuck Kirkpatrick – engineering
Carl Richardson – engineering
Emile Théodore Frandsen de Schomberg – cover painting "La Fille au Bouquet"
Dan Gellert – assistant engineering
Scott Hull – digital editing
Mitchell Kanner – art direction
George Lebon – art direction
Bill Levenson – production
Bob Ludwig – mastering
Steve Rinkoff – mixer
Gene Santoro – notes