Sunday, December 11, 2016

Derek and the Dominos - Can't Sleep at Night

Derek and the Dominos entered Olympic Studios in May, 1971 to start recording their second album. Their first, the double "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs", recorded with the help of Duane Allman on lead guitar, is one of Clapton's greatest works, and considered one of the greatest double albums ever. But despite this huge success, friction at the band was at an all time high: almost the whole band was addicted to heroin, there were fights about the direction of the band (Jim Gordon, the drummer, started presenting his own material to the band, which didn't quite make Clapton happy), and general paranoia caused the tumultuous sessions to end two months after it began, without a "clear" batch of songs, and the album was scrapped. Clapton spent the two next years at home high on heroin, only to come back in 1974 with 461 Ocean Bulevard, in which Carl Radle played bass. Clapton made some few overdubs in early 1974 to some of the songs from the '71 sessions, such as a clarinet overdub in "Got to Get Better in a Little While", and some more overdubs on "High", indicating he had not given up on the material yet. Most of the session's highlights were either released in the "Layla" reissue, or the "Crossroads" box set, or even bootlegs for some, like most Jim Gordon tunes (hmmm, I wonder why?). So if we take all those tunes and put them together, there's more than enough songs to fulfill the hard task of following "Layla", considering both Jim Gordon and Eric Clapton tunes, not considering Bobby Whitlock's first solo album, mainly because it was recorded before the album sessions, and because it stands up as it's own. So, I came up with this:

Side A
  1. Got to Get Better on a Little While
  2. High
  3. It's Hard to Find a Friend
  4. Mean Old World
  5. Till I See You Again
Side B
  1. Evil
  2. One More Chance
  3. Gold Devil Road
Side A starts with probably the best song from the batch, "Got to Get Better on a Little While" that was even played live with Duane, and was a live staple for them in the late '70 - early '71 period, making it the obvious choice for a opener. Song no.2 in side A is "High", that despite some overdubs in '74, it's still fair game to include, being written and mostly tracked in the sessions, so here it is, a nice acoustic tune, followed by the first Jim Gordon-penned song, the mellow "It's Hard to Find a Friend" and a blues cover, "Mean Old World", originally by Walter Jacobs. The side closer is the last Jim Gordon number, "'Till I See You Again", a little mellow number that bares a lot of resemblances to the other JG tune. Side B opens with a song whose lyrics inspired the title of the album, "Evil", a nice bluesy number that sounds like a good side opener, at least to my ears. Followed by "One More Chance", full of some nice slide guitar work by Clapton and some solid bass playing by Radle. The album ends in dramatic fashion with "Gold Devil Road", sung by Rene Armando, a long song that starts as a gentle ballad with Armando's melancholic vocals, but it soon becomes a showcase of Clapton's guitar work, and we're totally fine with it! Probably the best song along with "...Little While" it's a more than fitting ending to an album that was doomed since it's beggining.
Not included are "Snake Lake Blues", to me a boring instrumental, and "Mean Old Frisco", that sounded too much like "One More Chance", but they maybe could appear as non-album b-sides. Following one of 1970's greatest albums is no easy task at all, but I think this album holds up to it pretty easily. It isn't as near as good as their previous one, but is still a good LP with it's highlights (and let's agree: a ok album is better than no album at all!), like "Devil Road"'s jamming. The album's lead single would probably be "...Little While", with the outtake "Mean Old Frisco" as it's b-side. Clocking at about 44 minutes with equal sides, it's interesting to see that even though the band wasfalling apart, great music was coming out of it. Carl Radle played bass with Clapton until '79, and died of kidney failure in june 80, due to alchohol and drugs. Clapton and Whitlock did not work together again until 2000, and Jim Gordon, undiagnosed schizophrenic, murdered his mother in a psychotic episode in '83, being in a mental institution till this day.

Sources:
- The Layla Sessions: 20th Anniversary Edition
- Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (Deluxe Edition)
- Crossroads (box set)
- The Last Sessions (bootleg)

1 comment:

  1. Is there a download link for this somewhere?

    ReplyDelete