Bill Levenson on Slowhand and Skydog
Over the course of his career, Bill Levenson has compiled several Eric Clapton multi-disc releases, including the last year’s Slowhand 35th Anniversary editions. His most recent project is the massiveSkydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective. The 7 disc set was released last month. Where’s Eric! reporter Barry Fisch, caught up with Bill to discuss both projects.
BF: Great job on the Slowhand box set. Did the outcome turn out to be as you had originally envisioned it?
BL: Absolutely. To visit an iconic record like that and to expand it even by three or four tracks is an honor and a responsibility. And to do it and have the bonus tracks be so seamlessly programmed. What I mean by that is listening to the disc and instead of ending where you think the record ends it goes on for three or four more tracks and you don’t feel that transition. That says a lot about the quality of the bonus tracks and the tone of the disc. I think we grew that record by making it only a positive experience. The live concert from that era is a fabulous little show, and the surround sound mix has never sounded better. So all those, packaged with a pretty good looking tweedy outer package, yeah I was very happy with it. I don’t think there was anything I could have done differently. There were a couple more outtakes but I think we knew when to use them and when not to. Sonically, I think the mastering was really good. If you listen to this and go back to an original pressing from ’77, it is very authentic. It is the way the record sounded when it came out. All in all it was a very positive experience. It’s fun when it turns out this well.
BF: You co-produced the Duane Allman box set Skydog. Derek and the Dominos Layla album is obviously a critical point in Duane’s career. Tell us how you came to decide which Dominos tracks to include in Skydog.
BL: The album is such a milestone and we’ve all spent so much time revisiting it, it was really hard to decide what to take. I was given the opportunity of licensing five tracks. For me, I always thought “I Am Yours” was one of those under the radar classics and Duane’s playing makes it even better, so that was a priority. “Mean Old World” for the same reason is a priority for me. Then it came down to what’s the best way to represent the record. “Layla” comes to mind of course, so with the other two, what do you do to round that out? You could have gone many different ways; we opted for “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” and “Have You Ever Loved A Woman”, which both have dynamic playing by both Eric and Duane. Could have been other tracks. I’m sure everyone’s going to say their favorite track wasn’t represented but these five seem to hold up together pretty well.
BF: Similarly to the way you covered all the session material in one package for the Duane box, do you foresee something along the same lines ever seeing the light of day for Eric Clapton?
BL: Its funny you ask that, because for years and years going back to when we worked on the Crossroads set in the late ‘80’s, it was always apparent that Eric, like Duane Allman, kept very busy as a session musician whether it was early Decca blues artists, or Apple artists, and still does so to this day. I had started years ago building a data base of essential session tracks, and it too can easily fill up seven, eight, nine CD’s. Whether there will ever be a time to pursue that is hard to know, but it’s certainly a very viable project.
[Barry Fisch is a regular contributor to Where’s Eric!. He’s also a record industry veteran who worked with Bill Levenson on Crossroads and other projects while both were at PolyGram Records. ]
Did you miss Barry’s interview with Bill Levenson about the Layla 40th Anniversary box set? Read it HERE.