Tuesday, June 30, 2009

numbers 10-11

11. Derek and the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. I'm not the hugest Eric Clapton fan in the world, either, though again I respect his musical ability and the fact that he's a rock 'n' roll giant. But back in high school, I methodically worked my way through some of the landmark albums that I'd read about in a Rolling Stone guide to the history of rock. And I just loved this album then and still do, from the classic title song to the anthemic cover of Jimi Hendrix' "Little Wing" to the covers of blues standards like "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" and "It's Too Late."

You can hear the exuberance and joy that went into the making of this album, the only one released by the Clapton-led supergroup. Somehow, they dug deep into the heart of the blues and found joy. Maybe playing with Eric Clapton when he was at his creative peak would do that to anybody, I dunno. But you can hear it in many of the songs here, especially "Anyday" and "Why Does Love Got to be So Sad?", which totally rips. (It rips, man!) "Bell Bottom Blues": also a fantastic song, inexplicably full of both heartache and joy.

Apparently, this album wasn't as well-received as it should have been when it was released, ultimately leading to some of Clapton's darker days of drug addiction and the break-up of the band. Interestingly, he ultimately ended up marrying Pattie Boyd, the object of Clapton's unrequited love and the inspiration for "Layla," as well as George Harrison's wife at the time this album was made. Their marriage lasted for 6 years. The album, on the other hand, is timeless.

10. Love, Forever Changes. This may be one of the greatest albums to come out of the 60's, and I didn't even hear it until just a few years ago, while I was studying one night at a coffee shop in Burlington, VT. (You rock, Muddy Waters!) From what I understand, Arthur Lee, Love's frontman and driving force, did not like touring/traveling outside of the West Coast, so they remained relatively unknown to the general public. And they never made another album that had any sort of an impact like Forever Changes (although Jimi Hendrix played guitar on a track of a later release), and the band broke up a few years after it was released in 1967.

Forever Changes
has an unmistakeable 60's vibe, but without sounding like any of the other major groups of the day. How can I describe it? I can't, really. I shouldn't. You should just listen to it for yourself. Let's just say that Arthur Lee had a great voice, was a great songwriter, and must have hit some incredible source of inspiration when he was writing these songs. There's some great horn on some songs, including a thrilling duet between a fanfare and Lee's voice on "Maybe the People Would Be the Times." And the final majestic number, "You Set the Scene," could easily have served as an anthem for the 60's itself.

What would've happened if I'd gone to Starbucks to study that night? I don't even want to think about it ...

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