A certifiable all-time classic, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is a blues-rock album by the pseudo-group “Derek and the Dominos”. It is best known for its eponymous title track, “Layla,” inspired by Eric Clapton’s infatuation with Patti Boyd (then George Harrison’s wife). It seems the perfect winter listen for the end of this year.

This album is uniformly regarded as Clapton’s greatest musical achievement. I agree. Clapton enlisted the support of “Dominos,” Bobby Whitlock on keyboards and vocals, Jim Gordon on drums, Carl Radle on bass, and special guest performer Duane Allman on slide guitar. Duane had serendipitously joined the band for this drug stoked marathon jam session and contributed heavily to the album with his signature “Skydog” howling guitar wail, dueling with Clapton on many songs and contributing the guitar hook to the song “Layla.”

Layla (and The Allman Brothers’ live album, At Fillmore East) cemented Duane’s reputation as a world class visionary guitar player with a unique and emotive sound. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at #2 in their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, second only to Jimi Hendrix (Clapton was #4 behind B.B. King). Duane’s sound (achieved with a Gibson Les Paul and a 50-watt Marshall amplifier) was named one of the greatest guitar tones of all time by Guitar Player. He was killed at age 24 on October 29, 1971 in a motorcycle accident only three months after the release and initial success of the amazing At Fillmore East.

Incredibly, Layla had none of the musicians names on the front or back cover but still hit #16 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart within five weeks in 1970. It also made the Billboard 200 again in 1972, 1974 and in 1977. Amazingly, it never charted in Britain. VH1 named it the 89th greatest album of all time, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 115 out of the 500 greatest albums in 2003. Check out an original UK LP pressing or the MFSL CD (or SACD) for best sound. The 30th anniversary CD set offers some great off-record jams. Of note, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” is a blues standard written by Billy Myles and recorded in 1961 by Freddie King, who had a tremendous influence on Clapton’s guitar playing and vocals. If this album doesn’t move you, you need to check your pulse.

(Cover Art: Frandsen-de-Schonberg)