Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tindersticks – Clair Denis Film Scores: 1996-2009

January 01, 1970



Working with French director Clair Denis on six film scores
over the course of 14 years really changed Tindersticks, the Nottingham rock band
that seemed very moodily, literately British – Roxy Music elegance crossed with
Joy Division angst – when it started releasing albums in 1993. Now, a
much-changed Tindersticks seems more continental (bandleader/vocalist Stuart
Staples has a recording studio in France) and more like serious New Music
composers who selectively use rock when they choose, but have far more varied
interests and a great hunger for challenging collaborations. It’s a path other
arty British rockers have taken (Brian Eno, Pet Shop Boys, Jonny Greenwood) and
that the new wave of Brooklyn bands, like the
National, show interest in following.


Tindersticks, originally a sextet, actually disbanded during
the period covered by this set, with Staples recording solo records. The group then
reformed, but with just three original members – Staples, David Boulter
(keyboards and accordion) and Neil Fraser (guitar). Tindersticks early on
showed interest in orchestration, and the band has developed that forte
magically, yet ruminatively and cautiously, on these films scores.  Like Denis’ art films, which rigorously avoid
sentimentality, these scores never succumb to pretty lushness. They always keep
their introspective melancholy nearby.


Perhaps the best of the six scores, which has little traditional
orchestration, is for the 2008 film 35
Rhums (35 Shots of Rum),
which features both Staples and Boulter
prominently playing melodica, and Christine Ott adding touches of an early
electronic instrument called  Ondes
Martinet. Violinist Dickon Hinchliffe, who on his own is credited with the
score to 2002’s Vendredi Soir (Friday
confidently handles the stirring, yet not too stirring, violin and
cello arrangements (conducted by Lucy Wilkins) for that assignment. Hinchliffe
subsequently left the band to devote himself to scoring films, such as Winter’s Bone.  Staples handled the score for 2004’s L’intrus and it’s a hypnotic, vaguely Bitches Brew-like excursion into drum
loops, guitar and trumpet (Terry Edwards).


Overall, vocals are few and far between on these scores,
surprising since Staples’ foreboding, haunting baritone – and the lyrical
subject matter befitting it – is such a major part of Tindersticks’
non-film-score recordings. But he does sing the achingly, chillingly,
dirge-like romantic title song to Denis’ atypical sex-and-violence freakout of
a horror movie, 2000’s Trouble Every Day. The other films included here are 1995’s Nenette et Boni, last year’s White


DOWNLOAD: “Trouble Every Day,” “The Black



Blues Magoos – Psychedelic Lollipop + Electric Comic Book

January 01, 1970



The decade
of the 1960s was a truly magical time for rock ‘n’ roll music. It began in the
’50s with Bill Haley dancin’ around his timepiece and Elvis singing about a
hound dog, and jumped quickly into the new decade with the Beatles wanting to
hold your hand and the explosion of the whole British Invasion thing (i.e. the
Stones, the Who, the Kinks, et al). Independent and major record labels alike
cashed in on the seemingly-endless “Baby Boomer” youth movement, and
if a lot of people in positions of authority didn’t really understand the whole
rock ‘n’ roll thing, they were not nearly as risk adverse as their corporate
cousins of today.


During the
1960s, labels often signed artists and threw records out into the marketplace
to see what trends they could create or, more often than not, ride on the
coattails of until the fad was thoroughly played out. Yeah, this mindset
resulted in a lot of crap singles and albums being released, and your local Salvation Army or Goodwill store are probably
stacked to the rafters with some of them. But this marketing philosophy also
meant that a lot of interesting, entertaining, and imaginative music hit the
streets during the 1960s and early ’70s, a lot of it subsequently disappearing
into the rabbit hole of obscurity.


hit wonder” is the phrase often used to describe a lot of these obscure
bands and artists of the 1960s, musicians that were able to put their finger on
the pulse of the teen zeitgeist for one brief, all-too-quickly-gone moment of
success. This moment was usually represented by a single song that dominated AM
radio for the space of three or four weeks before consigning the artist to a
life of performances at potting sheds, teen dance clubs, and county fairs until
they threw in the towel. The Bronx, New
York based Blues Magoos were the literal definition
of the “one hit wonder,” the lead-off track on their 1966 debut album
Psychedelic Lollipop a number five
hit single with the infectious sing-along “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’
Yet.” It was a height they’d never reach again.


The song’s
prominent bass line, chiming keyboards, escalating guitar solos, and vocal
harmonies successfully combined a psychedelic-pop soul with a garage rock
heartbeat, driving “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” into the upper
reaches of the charts. Unlike many one hit wonders of the era, however, the
remainder of Psychedelic Lollipop isn’t mere chaff. The haunting “Love Seems Doomed” might have been an
unlikely pop hit, the song’s melancholy vocals matched by swirling
instrumentation, eerie keyboards, and an altogether depressing vibe that is all
the more impressive given the buoyant nature of the band’s big hit single.


The band’s
inspired reading of J.D. Loudermilk’s white-trash classic “Tobacco
Road” is more indicative of their garage-blues roots. Delivered with
appropriate soul and snarling instrumentation, the song’s familiar riffs are
extended to a radio unfriendly four-and-a-half minutes with a psychedelic jam
more worthy of Iron Butterfly than a Top 40 pop band. Mike Esposito’s lead
guitar squeals like a trapped animal, while vocalist Ralph Scala’s keyboard
waxes and wanes ominously like the soundtrack to a Hammer horror film. The rest
of the band chimes in with a clash of instrumentation before they march back
into the song’s more comfortable territory. Everything that would follow after
this raucous cover of “Tobacco Road” might seem tame by comparison,
but Psychedelic Lollipop offers a few
other fine moments.


The bluesy
“I’ll Go Crazy” mutes Scala’s vocals beneath the instrumentation, his
soulful delivery accented by the syncopated harmonies and scraps of twangy
guitar. The band’s original “Sometimes I Think About” is a rather
sophisticated (for the era) rock song with a dark ambience that is helped along
by dirge-like vocals and arcane keyboard fills that borderline on feedback. The
guitarwork here is quite nice, provocative even, displaying a cool tone and
timbre that plays well off the organ riffing. “She’s Coming Home” is another
great rocker, with plenty of guitar and screaming keyboards, rowdy harmonies,
and an overall steely resolve that eschews psychedelic frippery in favor of
muscular blues-rock.


Less than
six months passed between the release of Psychedelic
and the band’s sophomore effort, Electric Comic Book, but the resulting recordings sound years
apart. The band had spent much of the time in-between the two albums touring, tightening
up the chemistry between the individual players. Plus, the world had changed
rapidly during the ensuing days and weeks, and the songs on Electric Comic Book evince more of the
psychedelic flavor hinted at by the band’s debut. While the Blues Magoos’ label
obviously tried to position the band to take advantage of this “flower
power” imagery, they just as obviously had some other ideas.


While Electric Comic Book didn’t yield any hit
singles – the closest it came was with the #60 chart spot achieved by
“Pipe Dream” – the album offers up an engaging mix of psychedelic
rock and blue-eyed soul nonetheless. Scala’s raging keyboards dominate
“Pipe Dream,” an up-tempo rocker that displays a punkish intensity,
Scala’s low-key vocals overshadowed by the song’s intricate arrangement and the
complex interplay of Mike Esposito and Emil “Peppy” Thielhelm’s
guitars. The dreamy “There’s A Chance We Can Make It” is stone-washed
in a veritable wall of sound, the sharp guitarplay and solid rhythms spinning
around the spacey vocal harmonies, creating a sort of discordant and
disconcerting edge to the performance.


The less
said about the ridiculous “Life Is Just A Cher O’ Bowlies” the
better, the song a bad example of psyche-pop with dreary guitars, a
claustrophobic mix, and a ridiculously inane sing-along chorus that a
six-year-old would know better than to blurt aloud. Better is the Blues Magoos’
reading of the garage-rock classic “Gloria;” the band breathes new
life into Van Morrison’s too-frequently covered gem by mixing in some chaotic
instrumentation and gang vocals (not harmony, really), scraps of Esposito’s
guitar clashing with Scala’s keys while the overall instrumental anarchy really
drives the song to new (punkish) heights. While the CD cover shows
“Gloria” at a mere 2:12, the stereo clocks it in at a delightfully
pumped-up six-minutes of savvy, street-smart rock ‘n’ roll cheap thrills.


Much the
rest of Electric Comic Book alternates between muscular, grungy rock and psyche-pop. One stand-out is the
British-sounding “Albert Common Is Dead,” a brief treatise on 1960s
conformity and consumerism that mixes Syd Barrett-era psychedelic Pink Floyd
with fast-and-furious instrumentation often delivered at Ramones-level
intensity. A cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Let’s Get Together” highlights
the band’s R&B roots with slippery guitarplay, a funky beat, gruff vocals,
and honky-tonk piano-pounding while “Take My Love” treads close to
Young Rascals’ turf with a soulful keyboard riff, a shuffling rhythm, and
raucous harmonies. “Rush Hour” is a flat-out rocker with snarling
vocals, tightwire guitar, and a steady locomotive heartbeat.


With the
benefit of better than 40 years of hindsight, the performances on Electric Comic Book sound a bit more
rushed, the songs less fully-formed that those on Psychedelic Lollipop. Listening to the two albums together (just
slightly more than an hour, really), however, with updated digital sound, the contrast
between them isn’t so apparent as to be distracting. Instead, these two albums
sound like different sides of the same coin.


The Blues
Magoos may have been the result of a certain time and place in pop culture
history, when record labels were more willing to experiment, but these albums
are more than mere relics of the 1960s, Blues Magoos much more than a mere
“one hit wonder.” These albums are the sound of a band trying to find
itself while adrift in the constantly-changing cultural rapids which, when you
think of it, is the story of rock ‘n’ roll itself. The Rev sez “check ’em


DOWNLOAD: “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet,”
“Tobacco Road,” “Pipe Dream,” “Gloria” REV. KEITH


Emmylou Harris – Hard Bargain

January 01, 1970



Emmylou Harris records have been traditionally supported by some of
the finest musicians and producers in the business. Harris has collaborated
over the last 36 years with Brian Ahern, James Burton, Rodney Crowell, Albert
Lee, Sam Bush, Daniel Lanois, Buddy Miller, and many others. Her voice has
always soared over musically intricate and elegant surroundings.


For Hard Bargain, Harris
chose to work with only two other players, producer/guitarist Jay Joyce and
synthesizer player/space music noodler Giles Reaves. Neither one has much in
the way of personality on display, though both are competent enough musicians
to make Harris sound good. With the exception of the title track, written by
perennial songwriter favorite Ron Sexsmith, and the album closer “Cross Yourself,”
written by Joyce, the songs are all originals by Harris.


Two elegies stand out from the rest of the material. “The Road,” a
tribute to Harris’ one-time musical mentor Gram Parsons, doesn’t tell us
anything we haven’t known before about their relationship, but it is a
beautiful statement of love, memory, and influence for someone who has long
since passed away. “Darlin’ Kate” is much fresher, written about the death last
year of Kate McGarrigle, a long-time friend of Harris who, along with her sister
Anna, sang background vocals on many Harris records. For those who have
worshipped the music of the McGarrigle sisters (or who have loved the music of
Kate’s son and daughter, Rufus and Martha Wainwright), this song serves as
evidence that Kate was as lovely a person as she was a musical presence. At any
rate, it’s clear that Harris considers her to be that way.


Emmylou Harris has always been more personal than political as a
singer or songwriter, but she does cover some larger topics this time around.
“Home Sweet Home” puts us in the mind of a homeless person who has encountered
troubles through no fault of his own. “New
Orleans,” which benefits from an atypically, for this
album, propulsive rhythm track, doesn’t quite solidify its details to make us
feel the pain of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. “My Name is Emmett Till”
is a tough one to call. The story of Till, who became a Civil Rights icon after
being beaten to death for merely being black and saying hello to a white woman
back in 1956 Mississippi, is worth keeping in mind, but Harris doesn’t quite
inhabit his character enough. The horrors are described, but for a song written
in the first person, Till just doesn’t seem human here.


The only other song which really connects on Hard Bargain is “Big Black Dog.” Harris is famous for her love of
canines – she lives with many, and reportedly always brings a few along on her
tours. This sing-songy tale of love for a specific rescued beast is full of
love and joy. Joyce and Reeves even sound like their having some fun on this
cut, instead of doing their best to ape Daniel Lanois soundscapes without his
sense of emotional breathing.


So it’s not her finest effort, but Harris is in strong voice, and the
songs are pleasant enough even when they don’t resonate. It’s hard to tell if
some of the material is just sub-par, or if the arrangements fail to bring them
to life. Either way, we are left with an album for hard-core fans more than


DOWNLOAD: “Darlin’ Kate,” “The Road,” “Big Black Dog”

Femi Kuti – Africa For Africa

January 01, 1970

(Knitting Factory)


If a musician bears the name Kuti, his work will come with heavy expectations attached. At the
very least he or she will be expected to follow in the footsteps of African
bandleader/political activist Fela Kuti, both in philosophy and style. Fela’s
eldest son thus far has not disappointed in either regard. (Another Kuti scion,
Seun, is also in the family business, with his dad’s band in tow.)


Femi’s sociopolitical stance is right out front in the
title, and that’s before you get to blunt songs like “Can’t Buy Me,” “Bad
Government” and “Politics in Africa.” Not exactly subtle, but with the situation in
the Kuti family’s native Nigeria as dire now as it’s ever been, there’s no need
to be. Besides, it’s the music in which the messages are couched that makes Africa For Africa (his sixth studio LP)


Like his father, Femi has mastered the art of Afrobeat, his
jazzy, guitar and horn-driven trance funk riding the groove of undulating bass,
percolating percussion and liquid melodies all the way to the Shrine. The main
difference between Femi and his pioneering father is brevity – Femi tends to
keep his songs in the 4-6 minute range, as opposed to Fela’s 15-20 minute
monsters. Occasionally this leads to a groove being choked off just as it’s
warming up, but on the languorous “No Blame Them,” the defiant “Can’t Buy Me”
and the funky “Now You See,” it gives the songs more immediate punch.


Indeed, Femi is at his most consistent as a composer here,
with engaging melodies and singalong choruses, and his band is as tight as a
tourniquet. Musically absorbing, conceptually plainspoken, Africa For Africa is Femi Kuti’s best record so far.



Buy Me” “Now You See,” “No Blame Them” MICHAEL TOLAND

Apache Relay – American Nomad

January 01, 1970

(Thirty Tigers)


When Apache Relay’s 2009 debut, 1988, came out, the Nashville-based band was cast as successors in
the new acoustic movement vein of the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. With
American Nomad, the group boldly
states its intentions to cover much broader terrain.  While the album wanders through a variety of
influences, it’s most firmly planted in the goes-down-easy anthemic roots rock
of Guster and latter-day Wilco. Lead singer Michael Ford, Jr. delivers his
sincere prose with the intense, rough-and-tumble grace of David Gray,
especially in the building folk explosion of “Power Hungry Animals” and the
edgy pop hook of “Sets Me Free.”


A lone cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” starts
off with sparse grit and eventually peaks with a brief spiraling dual jam
between the atmospheric electric licks of guitarist Mike Harris and tensely
fulfilling fiddle fills of Kellen Wenrich. There’s also a foray into blue-eyed
soul in the ballad “Watering Hole.”


With thorough production from Nielson Hubbard, this is a
surprisingly mature effort from a group of guys who were still working out
songs in a Belmont University dorm room just a few years ago-a sign of even
better things to come.


Me Free” “State Trooper” JEDD FERRIS


Skull Defekts – Peer Amid

January 01, 1970

(Thrill Jockey)


When the great Julian Cope
offers your band a public endorsement, you know you are on the right track.


And after five years of
gaining an impressive following on the psych/drone underground, these caustic
Swedes make good on the king druid of out-rock’s credible kudos with their most
accomplished title yet. On Peer Amid,
the group’s debut on the Thrill Jockey imprint, the Skull Defekts enjoy the
company of former Lungfish frontman Daniel Higgs, who gives the band a newfound
sense of vitality by providing them with one of the most unique voices in
American punk.


With Higgs at the fore, his
delivery of improvised shamanistic scatting, psychedelic soul singing and
conspiracy-riddled spoken word preaching makes for a quintessential fit for the
Skulls’ circular post-punk epics. “No More Always” choogles like
early Butthole Surfers with Higgs chanting the mantra “Nobody nothing
nowhere no more” like a man possessed, while the singer’s spiritual
intonations on “Gospel of the Skull” perfectly aligns itself with the
song’s raga-core riddims. The unholy combination of Higgs’ vocalizations and
the Skulls’ sonic propulsion reach meltdown status, however, on both the title
track and “What Knives”, reaching a fever pitch of Dadaist anarchy
like Captain Beefheart fronting Blueprints
for a Blackout
-era Ex.


While the permanence of this
union of Daniel Higgs and the Skull Defekts is uncertain, we should be grateful
that these disparate titans of experimental rock were able to cross paths at
least once on acetate in order to deliver this weird, wild bastard of an LP
that you can very well bet is in some kind of steady rotation on Julian Cope’s
hi-fi for 2011.


DOWNLOAD: “No More Always”, “Gospel of the Skull”, “Peer
Amid”, “What Knives” RON HART

Chancha Via Circuito – Rio Arriba

January 01, 1970

(ZZK Records/Crosstalk International)


The ‘shrooms on the back cover and on the inside make it abundantly
clear that this is the trippiest music this side of South America.
Actually, it is from South America – Buenos Aires, Argentina,
to be exact, and right now Chancha is touring the US on his “Muy
Bueno/Rio Arriba” tour with ZZK label honcho/deejay El G.


Not since early Pink Floyd has there been
anything so tripped out and it’s not aimless jam band noodling. Argentina’s
ZZK label, with their deejay based music combines electronica and psychedelia
with varying amounts of folk and trad, performing with live musicians and
dancers accompanying their inventive knob twirling. Chancha Via Circuito is
among the best Buenos Aires
deejays and this, his sophomore effort, is up to his previous high standards.
It’s a mellow, languid yet rhythmical intro to contempo South American music.
Chancha’s eco-friendly music combines his electronica with the natural world.
He takes indigenous chants, colonial Spanish melodies then re-arranges,
transposes, recombines and decomposes them into lush, gorgeous mutations.
Essentially minimalist, there’s a strong emphasis on rhythms, dronings and
ethnic mixes inspired by the native sounds of the South American interior.


Track one reminds me of Calexico and Iron and Wine’s “He Lays in
the Reins” with its old school vocal. “Cumbion de los Aves” is a remix of
indigenous rhythms, replete with pan pipes, flutes, charangos and hallucination
inducing rhythms. “Pintar El Sol” is more of the same, but even more hypnotic,
with sampled vocals rising to the forefront. More of the same throughout, with
much variety in rhythm and percussion; some are instrumental, some with vocals,
including 6th cut ” Revenge of Chancha” featuring one of his best remixes
 featuring guests, Fauna.


Only qualifier on this is “Prima,” which strikes me as too much
electro knob-tweaking for the sake of tweakage.  A number of these cuts
have turned up on other mixtapes and mashups, some better, some different
 but the thing about “Rio Arriba” is that it’s consistently excellent,
like a smooth ride on a free-flowing tropical river with Chancha as your guide
to other worlds.


DOWNLOAD: ” Revenge of Chancha,”  “Pintar El Sol” LEW HERMAN



Moonlight Towers – Day is the New Night

January 01, 1970

(Chicken Ranch)


Does anyone still hanker
after crisp, soulful rock with a hand to its heart; i.e., music inhabiting a
universe similar to that of Dwight Twilley, Graham Parker with the Rumour, or
Greg Kihn? Perhaps more to the point, is there anyone who’s heard Moonlight Towers
and who hankers for more, whether or not he or she is aware of Twilley, et
al.?  The answer to the latter’s gotta be
affirmative: after all, the Austin-based power-pop quartet’s been picked up by
the Austin-based label, Chicken Ranch. The hands at CR seem to think with their
hearts as much as their heads: the roster’s packed with unsure bets seemingly
chosen on the basis of talent and, um, special-ness,
more than on any projection of breakout success, financial gain, etc. Okay; I
doubt the label’s headed by saints. But everything I hear from CR shines with a
feeling that can only be described as authenticity. Sometimes, as in the case
of Peelander-Z, it shines with outright, charming lunacy: How truly alternative.


“Do you remember the good
times/or are they lost in your mind?” is James Stevens’ way of popping the cork
on Moonlight Towers’ third release, Day is the New Night. Stevens’ lead vocals transmit his thoughts
and feelings without an ounce of inhibition – and an occasional touch of metal
ballad nuance.


A band that keeps it this
simple needs compositional chops and assured musicianship. Moonlight Towers
get check marks on both counts. The unit feels seamless. The rhythm section’s
tight as a just-wound clock. In classic power pop mode, the guitars
unobtrusively embellish and casually underscore melodies. The songwriting’s
handy in an older-school sense; featuring at least two parts (verse/chorus) and
a satisfying sense of resolution.


Moreover, Moonlight Towers
is possessed of a less effable quality that tends to distinguish important
sonic art from the yada-yada. Passion burns. Riffs we’ve heard are artfully
combined in new ways, and with riffs we haven’t. Several of these tunes raise
hairs on the back of my neck. To clarify, I have to fall back on comparison: I
LOVE Paul Collins. I very much like The Loons. And nothing on either of those
artists’ recent releases has affected me like the tracks I suggest downloading.
When music’s this good, it hardly matters (to me) whether tons of other people
“get it.” Music this good makes me downright selfish: I just want Moonlight Towers
to be fed enough to keep feeding me.


DOWNLOAD: “Black River,” “Not a Kid Anymore,”  “Can’t Shake This Feelin’,” “The Easy Way
Out,” “Baby Don’t Slow Me Down” MARY


Globes – Future Self

January 01, 1970



The Globes transform complexity into something accessible on
this impressive debut. Here intricate rhythms jitter under chilled otherworldly
vocals, translucent guitar textures blossom unexpectedly into off-kilter
flourishes of proggy dexterity. Melodic pop lines may shoulder softly into
view, but only to be shredded into prismatic, asymmetrical bits. If the best
comparison is Radiohead that is partly because both bands are so unpredictable,
so ready to fracture time signatures and break chord structures, so that the
line you hear is subtly, intriguingly different from what you expect to hear.


The Globes came together in Spokane, Washington
with the aim to use traditional rock instruments in unusual ways. Since the
beginning the band has had a fairly conventional line-up, Kyle Musselwhite and
Erik Walters on guitar, Sean McCotter on bass and Marcus Ourada on drums. (Musselwhite
sings as well.)  Yet also since the
beginning, they have worked on breaking the confines of two-guitar-bass-drums
expectations with intricate rhythms, sudden dynamic shifts and an approach that
marries the romantic yearnings of guitar pop with a chilly postmodernist
detachment. Future Self follows two EPs, the second of which, Sinter
, caused a fair amount of excitement among northwestern indie fans.


It’s not hard to see why, based on Future Self, a
disc that is smoothly self-assured as it balances on a tightrope. Musselwhite’s
eerie floating vocals display not a whisper of uncertainty as they glide over
shrapnel-pocked, sharp-edged difficulties. The opening cut, “Haunted by Bears”
is coolly, unruffledly gorgeous, building into outsized drama over drum rolls
and guitar flourishes. “Stay Awake” posits a nervous cacophony of clock-ticking
percussion, a clipped mania of eighth note guitars, a machine-age,
sleep-deprived paranoia which is eased, soothed and humanized by the vocals. “I
want nothing here/I want nothing more…from you,” Walters sings with a big flourish
on the “you.” The song blossoms with sustained romantic yearning, finding color
where all had been clamped down and affectless before.


The Globes put their best pop moves up front, but then,
towards the end of the album, allow their most irregular, post-rocking
tendencies to shine through. “Ghost”‘s jittery guitar riff could have been
pulled off a latter-day Tortoise album. Its abrasive mid-cut rhythmic interval
makes no compromises with pop.  “Japan,”
following just after, stutters to life in a dialogue between cowbell and snare.
The guitars build up underneath in an indeterminant wash, and the vocals, when
they come, are monochrome, a chant on mostly one note. Yet the plain-ness of
the vocals, sets off shifting, shimmering beaded curtains of guitar. There is
an abstraction here, a certain intellectual chill, but also sheer lyrical


The Globes are still forming their sound, still feeling out
the relationship between melody and experiment, still deciding how much to give
freely to listeners and how much to make them work for. Hard to say what shape
this band’s Future Self will take, ultimately, but definitely worth
keeping an eye on the process.


Awake,” “Haunted by Bears” “Japan”





Derek & the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs 40th Anniversary Edition

January 01, 1970

(Universal Music Enterprises)


Looking back at Eric Clapton’s career, it’s hard not to be
disappointed. After setting the world on fire on the ‘60s and very early ‘70s,
he has spent the last four decades coasting, seemingly more interested in
getting on to adult contemporary radio than unleashing the great bluesman that
most likely still lurks inside him.


At this point, it’s sometimes hard to remember why he’s so famous in
the first place. Let the 40th anniversary of Layla serve as a reminder. The album is not only Clapton’s high
water mark, it’s one of the best rock albums ever made. Hell, even the title
track – which usually makes me want to take a baseball bat to the studio of my
local classic rock station – is powerful and moving within the context of the


Does that mean you should run out and buy one of these 40th anniversary packages? Yes and no. The Deluxe reissue is a 2-CD set – a
better-sounding version of the album you probably already own and a disc of
outtakes, most of which were also on the three-disc 20th Anniversary
Layla Sessions box set. The new stuff
includes four great Dominos performances from The Johnny Cash Show, the best of
which is ragged but right version of “Matchbox” featuring Cash and Carl
Perkins. Disappointingly, it doesn’t include two tracks from The Layla Sessions (“Tender Love” and
“It Hurts Me Too”), making it slightly incomplete. It also doesn’t contain the
studio jams from that set, but how often does anyone really play those anyway?


If you didn’t buy The Layla
, picking this one up is a no-brainer. The improved sound quality
and bonus disc are well worth the price tag of $20-$25.  (Hence the “10” rating, above.)


More problematic is the Super Deluxe set, which contains the two CDs
mentioned above, an audiophile DVD of the album, high-fidelity vinyl, a hardcover
book, and a remastered and expanded version of Derek and the Dominos In Concert, an album that was already
remastered, expanded and renamed Live at
the Fillmore
in the ‘90s.


If you’re even considering this, you’re most likely a pretty big fan,
meaning you probably have nearly all of this material. It seems hard to fathom
that it’d be worth shelling out nearly $100 to buy it again with slightly
better sound quality and a nice book, especially when it still doesn’t give you
the entire picture. Why not include the jams from the 20th anniversary set in this version? And if you’re going to include a DVD, why not
put video from the Johnny Cash show on there – it’s not like the clips aren’t
available all over YouTube? The two-disc version seems like a proper tribute;
this one seems more like a money grab – if our reviews could display separate
star ratings, it would be in the vicinity of a “5”.


DOWNLOAD: The entire
original album, “Mean Old World” “Matchbox” HAL BIENSTOCK