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20 Years Later: An Improved, Remixed 'Layla Sessions'

October 12, 1990|ROBERT HILBURN | TIMES POP MUSIC CRITIC

Derek & the Dominos' "Layla and Other Assorted Love Stories" was a widely respected album when it was released in 1970, but the album has become even more admired over the years. It has now been re-released in CD as part of a three-disc anniversary box set.

In his original review of "Layla . . ." in the Village Voice, rock critic Robert Christgau wrote, "What looks at first like a slapdash studio double (album) is in fact Eric Clapton's most carefully conceived recording." He gave the album at the time an A.

But when Christgau put the same review into a book in 1981, he upped the grade to the maximum A+.

Though one could still argue that some of the songs and vocals on the album indeed have the feel of hurried, unfinished works, the musicianship is frequently inspired--not just the dramatic tension between Clapton and guest guitarist Duane Allman, but also in the interplay with the rest of the Dominos: Bobby Whitlock on keyboards, Carl Radle on bass and Jim Gordon on drums.

Much of the album's power--summarized in the title track, which has become one of the anthems of radio's classic rock format--grew out of Clapton's emotional state at the time.

"It was actually about an emotional experience, a woman that I felt really deeply about and who turned me down . . .," he once said in a Rolling Stone interview, describing the events surrounding the album. "I had to kind of pour it out in some way." (The woman, incidentally, was Patti Boyd Harrison, the wife of Clapton's best friend at the time, George Harrison.)

Though "Layla . . ." has been available in CD, the sound quality was disappointing. The new PolyGram box set--titled "The Layla Sessions: 20th Anniversary" and retailing for around $40--features a much improved, totally remixed version of the album plus more than two hours of additional jams with the Dominos, Allman and guitarist Dickey Betts, plus various alternate versions of such songs as "Tell the Truth," "Tender Love" and "It's Too Late."

The fact that no one got around to releasing the additional material until now is a reasonable tip-off that the new tracks aren't essential to the average fan, but long-time Clapton admirers should find much of it quite appealing.

Note: The new box is the only way at present to get the remixed version of "Layla . . ." in CD, though PolyGram's Bill Levenson said the remixed version may eventually be released as a single disc CD--but probably not for several months.

COUNTRY HITS: Rhino Records--which has already released sets devoted to the pop and R&B hits of the '50s, '60s and '70s--has finally put together a series of country music packages. With just 10 songs each, the albums are short by CD standards, but they are designed for the budget market, retailing for around $9. Each of the collections is devoted to the hits of a specific year, from 1959 to 1967. Artists featured range from Faron Young and Webb Pierce to Don Gibson and Buck Owens.

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