Monday, December 16, 2013

Derek And The Dominos - Layla (1970 uk/us, classic treasure, 2013 platinum SHM edition)

In 1970, the recording engineer Tom Dowd brokered one of the most auspicious meetings in rock history -- between guitarist Eric Clapton and the slide-guitar master Duane Allman. Clapton was working with Dowd at Miami's Criteria Studios, attempting to shake off the bitter demise of Blind Faith with a new group that included keyboardist and singer Bobby Whitlock. After a few days of what Dowd describes as "getting sounds and breaking ice," Allman called, curious to see the British guitar legend in person. Clapton's group went to watch the Allman Brothers play instead, and afer the concert, the musicians partied all night, eventually repairing to the studio the next afternoon. Dowd: "We turned the tapes on, and they went on for fifteen, eighteen hours like that. I went through two or three sets of engineers."

Those jams -- furious marathons based loosely on blues songs (Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor") and simple riffs -- set the stage for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, a multidimensional rock landmark. Clapton was, according to legend, at loose ends durng this time: He'd fallen in love with Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend George Harrison, and was deeply troubled -- a pain evident not just on the celebrated title track he wrote with Jim Gordon, but also such apt covers as Freddie King's sorrowful blues about messing with a friend's wife, "Have You Ever Loved a Woman."

Fueled by cocaine, heroin, and Johnny Walker ("It was scary," Whitlock recalls, because "we didn't have little bits of anything....We had these big bags laying out everywhere"), the group went from open jamming to developing actual songs, among them the beseeching "Bell Bottom Blues." The basic concept was rock, pitched at the whiplash frequency of Memphis soul. The band worked up nontraditional approaches to old blues (this "Key to the Highway" has a searing energy that far outstrips Clapton's more scholarly later blues), and then recorded the masterpiece "Layla" as a suite, in stages.

Inspired by the Persian poet Nizami's romantic fable The Story of Layla and Majnun, Clapton wrote lyrics that expressed a worshipful devotion, and surrounded the verses with a guitar phrase, authored by Allman, that endures as a rock and roll anthem. Then, when things can go no higher, comes the postcoital cigarette -- in the form of a reflective elegy, written on piano by Gordon, that allows Allman and Clapton to have a more leisurely discussion. Their combined mojo takes everyone to church, where the impassioned whirling-dervish embrace of two swooning, imploring guitars leads to a state of illuminated bliss. Transcendence-wise, this is as close as rock gets to Coltrane's quartet collectively hitting the rafters at the Village Vanguard, or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing in an unshakable trance, or... 
by Tom Moon
1. I Looked Away  (Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock) - 3:05
2. Bell Bottom Blues  (Clapton) - 5:02
3. Keep On Growing  (Clapton, Whitlock) - 6:21
4. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out  (Jimmy Cox) - 4:57
5. I Am Yours  (Clapton, Nizami) - 3:34
6. Anyday  (Clapton, Whitlock) - 6:35
7. Key To The Highway  (Charles Segar, Willie Broonzy) - 9:40
8. Tell The Truth  (Clapton, Whitlock) - 6:39
9. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?  (Clapton, Whitlock) - 4:41
10.Have You Ever Loved A Woman  (Billy Myles) - 6:52
11.Little Wing  (Jimi Hendrix) - 5:33
12.It's Too Late  (Chuck Willis) - 3:47
13.Layla  (Clapton, Jim Gordon) - 7:05
14.Thorn Tree In The Garden  (Whitlock) - 2:53

Derek And The Dominos
*Eric Clapton - Lead, Rhythm, Slide, Acoustic Guitars, Lead Vocals
*Duane Allman - Slide, Acoustic Guitars
*Jim Gordon - Drums, Percussion, Piano
*Carl Radle - Bass Guitar, Percussion
*Bobby Whitlock - Organ, Piano, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar

Related Acts
1972  Bobby Whitlock - Where There's a Will There's a Way (2013 remaster)
1975  Bobby Whitlock - One Of A Kind (2016 japan SHM remaster)
1976  Bobby Whitlock - Rock Your Sox Off (2016 SHM remaster)

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Sweathog - Hallelujah (1972 us, great southern rock)

Sweathog was a San Francisco-based quartet whose sound was fairly far removed from the music normally associated with that city. They were a powerful ensemble instrumentally, keyboardist/singer Lenny Lee (aka Lenny Lee Goldsmith), guitarist/singer Bob Jones, bassist/singer Dave Johnson, and drummer Frosty (aka Barry Smith, aka Bartholomew Smith) all top players in their field -- Frosty had played with Lee Michaels on his third and fourth albums, while Jones had played on Harvey Mandel's Cristo Redentor and Righteous in the late '60s, and Goldsmith was an ex-member of the Five Americans. 

They were not bad as singers, either, with Goldsmith handling the leads. Their music was a mix of Southern-style soul, early-'70s funk, and blues, all wrapped around a virtuoso rock sound. The group was signed to Columbia Records at the time of that label's fixation on West Coast acts, under Clive Davis's regime -- they were always looking for another Big Brother & the Holding Company, or something to take the place of that act on their roster. The group's self-titled debut album passed mostly without a musical trace, without an AM radio hit to drive sales, though its cover image of bare buttocks was censored in various countries. 

In 1972, they seemed to hit paydirt with their single "Hallelujah," a driving piece of explosive Southern-fried rock & roll with a soul edge that was a killer showcase for all four players (especially Frosty). It got to number 33 on the national charts, but that relatively modest performance doesn't indicate how popular it was on the radio, where it got airplay closer to that of a Top 20 hit. 

The song got the album (also titled Hallelujah) into stores, at least, but it never sold in huge numbers, despite a respectable promotion effort and a lot of exposure for the band, touring behind Black Sabbath, among other top acts of the period. They broke up in 1973, and Goldsmith later played on Martha Reeves' first post-Motown solo album before joining Stoneground. 
by Bruce Eder

The Top 40 title track got Sweathog some chart action in 1971. Drummer Frosty found fame with the pop/blues minstrel Lee Michaels, and here forges a Southern rock sound with bassist Dave Johnson, guitarist B.J., and organist Lenny Lee -- none of them household names, and an album that is highly competent but as non-descript as the players. When your drummer and a guest pianist by the name of Michael Omartian have more recognition, it is clear it will be an uphill climb. 

There's an interesting version of "Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo," a song which wouldn't hit until 1974 for Rick Derringer, so the band showed they have some taste (and that they toured with or at least listened to Edgar Winter's White Trash). For the times, though, heartfelt songs like "In the Wee Hours of the Night" needed a strong personality fronting the group. L. Goldsmith performing Joe Cocker's "Ride Louise Ride" or Sanford Townsend Band material makes for a solid outing, but not the additional hit singles this group needed to amass a following. 

Great music, stirring performances, it's just that the world wasn't quite ready for Three Dog Night meets the Allman Brothers Band. The title track remains a forgotten classic which oldies stations would be smart to add to their play lists. 
by Joe Viglione
1. Road To Mexico - 2:18
2. Ride, Louise, Ride - 3:16
3. Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo - 3:17
4. Questions And Conclusions - 4:08
5. Things Yet To Come - 2:48
6. Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice - 2:30
7. Hallelujah - 2:55
8. Darker Side - 4:07
9. Working My Way Back Home - 2:55
10.In The Wee Wee Hours Of The Night - 4:58
11.Rock And Roll Revival - 3:22

*Lenny Lee - Organ, Vocals
*Frosty - Drums, Percussion
*B.J. - Guitar, Vocals
*Dave Johnson - Bass, Vocals
*With Michael Omartian - Piano
*Jimmie Haskell - Horns Arrangement

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