About three weeks ago, my brother got me a used vinyl copy of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes. It’s the original 1970 pressing and in really good shape for something more than fifty years old. I was in the middle of my Christmas music binge, so I just listened to it today for the first time. I’ve known for a long time that it’s an extraordinary album but listening to the 1970 vinyl was an extraordinary experience.
Part of it, I’m sure, was just because analogue sounds different than digital. The mix, though, made it feel like I was listening to the album for the first time. This album has been remixed and remastered so many times, it’s a little ridiculous. The version I’m most used to is the 1990 20th anniversary edition on CD. I didn’t realize how different it would sound.
It’s hard to describe the difference between them. The later editions of Layla feel denser. It’s as if the whole band was packed in a small room for the recording. There’s a lot more space in the original. That space really allowed me to hear each instrument. Nothing was buried. One clear example was the bass. Carl Radle is a great bass player. The bass parts are excellent. But in the mix I’m used to, they are hard to pick out. They blend with everything else. In the original mix, they come through clearly. It was such a pleasure to hear.
Everyone knows that Layla is a guitar player’s dream come true. Eric Clapton and Duane Allman are in top form. The extra space in the original mix let me appreciate them even more. On the solos, it’s always been easy to tell who was who. I always felt it was a bit muddy when they were playing under the vocals, though. I could never quite tell which guitar was Clapton’s and which was Duane’s. Not so with the original mix. It was clear as day.
The only thing I like better about the remixed version is in the song “Keep on Growing”. There’s a “Woo!” after the guitar intro that was discovered during the remixing and remastering process. It was left off the original, but it was added to the 1990 version. It fits so well I can’t believe it was ever left out. When that part came up on my listen today, that part of the song felt empty. It’s a small price to pay, though, for everything else sounding so good.
I don’t want to say that the remixes ruined the album. It’s spectacular any way you listen to it. But man did I love the original. It’s a shame it took me so long to hear it in its entirety. I even cried a little bit. Even though the songs are sad, they’ve never moved me to tears before. It was just so beautiful. If you can get your hands on the original mix of Layla, please do so. You won’t be sorry.