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Extended Analysis

Derek & The Dominos: Live at the Fillmore

By Published: September 10, 2004
Derek & The Dominos
Live at the Fillmore

Eric Clapton and Miles Davis have in common their involvement with several "super groups." The Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, The Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, and, finally, Derek and the Dominoes were all historic assemblies in which Eric Clapton took part. The majority of this history occurred before Clapton released his first solo recording, Eric Clapton (Polydor) in August 1970. Shortly before his solo effort and while on the road with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Clapton conceived his final super group, Derek and the Dominoes. Absconding with bassist Carl Radle, keyboardist Bobby Whitlock, drummer Jim Gordon and adding guitarist Duane Allman, Clapton put together history. Between late August and early October 1970, the band entered the Criteria studios in Miami, Florida under Allman Brothers producer Tom Dowd and recorded the 2-LP Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs , which was released in November of that year. Clapton and the band, who had toured prior to recording, returned to touring, wrapping up their Gotterdammerung with their final concert date on December 6, 1970.

The myth surrounding Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs is thick. Clapton was woefully in love with the Beatles' George Harrison's wife at the time, Patti Boyd. Clapton had been professionally involved with George Harrison on the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Sleeps" and then leading the bulk of Derek and the Dominoes, backing Harrison on his landmark All Things Must Pass. Patti Boyd and George Harrison married on January 21, 1966 in Surrey England. Once their relationship began to fail, Boyd began a relationship with Clapton in an order to gain Harrison's attention. Eric returned the affection and ended up falling completely in love with his colleague's wife, contributing to Clapton's severe depression and subsequent heroin addiction. Harrison and Boyd divorced after a long separation. She and Eric were married then shortly thereafter. It was during this flirtation with Boyd that Clapton met the muse that produced Layla, which continues to be his defining moment in music.

During this whirlwind of unrequited love, addiction, depression, and creativity, In Concert , was captured and released, sans Duane Allman. This 2-LP set was the precursor to this final selection of the Ten Best Live Rock Recordings, Derek and the Dominoes— Live At The Fillmore. Live At The Fillmore is not simply a remastering of In Concert with previously unreleased sides. It is actually a different assembly of music extracted from the same set of shows used on In Concert. Live At The Fillmore sports six of the nine pieces originally included on In Concert. Three of the five previously unreleased songs are different recordings of pieces on In Concert ("Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?," "Tell the Truth," and "Let It Rain"). The remaining two unreleased songs, "Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out" and "Little Wing" have never been available in an Eric Clapton live version. The songs common to both releases have been re-edited on the new recording (leaving out, for instance, the most cool drum into to "Its Got to Get Better in A Little While").

Beyond all of this technical stuff is Eric Clapton as guitar god in the wake of the death of Jimi Hendrix, who passed away from a barbiturate misadventure a month before these shows. Clapton is at the height of his power, just prior to his recording semi-retirement to address his raging heroin addiction and deepening depression. This is rarified music, visceral, exciting, primal, extended, almost but never quite self-indulgent (as is most of the music on Clapton's later Crossroads II ). "Blues Power," "Tell The Truth," and "Key To The Highway" are defining. "Its got To Get Better In A Little While" transcendent. Clapton never made music like this after Derek and the Dominoes. "Wonderful Tonight" might be a commercial success, but it is no "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" and "Tears in Heaven" may be heartfelt, but it is no "Layla"; it simply lacks the despair of these songs. Had Clapton had no other recordings than the Dominoes, he would still have assured his place in Rock History.

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