Wishing to escape the superstar expectations that sank Blind Faith before it was launched, Eric Clapton retreated with several sidemen from Delaney & Bonnie to record the material that would form Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. From these meager beginnings grew his greatest album. Duane Allman joined the band shortly after recording began, and his spectacular slide guitar pushed Clapton to new heights. Then again, Clapton may have gotten there without him, considering the emotional turmoil he was in during the recording. He was in hopeless, unrequited love with Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison, and that pain surges throughout Layla, especially on its epic title track. But what really makes Layla such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion. He makes standards like "Have You Ever Loved a Woman?" and "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out)" into his own, while his collaborations with Bobby Whitlock -- including "Any Day" and "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?" -- teem with passion. And, considering what a personal album Layla is, it's somewhat ironic that the lovely coda "Thorn Tree in the Garden" is a solo performance by Whitlock, and that the song sums up the entire album as well as "Layla" itself.
Universal's super-deluxe 40th anniversary reissue of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, the lone studio album from Eric Clapton's Derek & the Dominos, gathers all the released master recordings from the short-lived supergroup and adds a handful of heretofore previously unreleased rarities, packaging it all in a handsome box containing four CDs (the proper album, a disc of rarities, the double-disc Fillmore East in Concert), a double-vinyl edition of the album, a Surround Sound DVD of Layla, a book, and assorted pieces of memorabilia. Rarities-wise, there's not much that hasn't been out in some form or another: most of the sessions from the group's scrapped second album surfaced on Clapton's Crossroads box, and 1990's three-disc The Layla Sessions contained a few outtakes and alternates that are here, along with a bunch of jam sessions that are not, leaving only the smoking performances from the group's spot on The Johnny Cash Show as a genuine rarity, and even that has seen release on a Legacy DVD. So there's not much in the way of unheard material, but even so, this is the best reissue of Layla yet: it's a dynamite remaster, the second disc finally gathers all the extant rarities in one place, and the lavish package is certainly the kind of thing designed for the libraries of wealthy collectors.