Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Derek and the Dominos: Layla [Atco, 1970]
What looks at first like a slapdash studio double is in fact Eric Clapton's most carefully conceived recording. Not only did he hire Duane Allman for overdubs after basic tracks were done, but he insisted that Duane come up with just the thick, sliding phrase he (Eric) wanted before calling it a take. The resulting counterpoint is the true expression of Clapton's genius, which has always been synthetic rather than innovative, steeped in blues anti-utopianism. With Carl Radle and Jim Gordon at bottom, this album has plenty of relaxed shuffle and simple rock and roll, and Clapton's singing is generally warm rather than hot. But his meaning is realized at those searing peaks when a pained sense of limits--why does love have to be so sad, I got the bell-bottom blues, Lay-la--is posed against the good times in an explosive compression of form. A+