Welcome once again to song of the week everyone. Today we’re looking at Eric Clapton’s magnum opus. A song that is also statistically proven to be single-handedly responsible for 95% of the people named Layla. Let us begin.
Top 5 Renditions
1- Live at Montreux 1986
This is the ultimate “Layla”. The beautiful intro solo with the keyboards is my favorite intro this song’s ever had, and the guitar playing still rocks hard. But it’s the keyboards that give this one the top spot. You all know by now that I’m a sucker for keyboards and this version delivers big time, especially during the chorus, which also features excellent backing vocals by Nathan East and Greg Phillinganes. And if all that wasn’t enough it has the best solo during the middle, only further accentuated by those keyboards. Clapton sticking to rhythm guitar through the whole song also helps the keyboards shine. It is easily my favorite version of the song. And then Clapton’s YouTube had the audacity to misname the Eric Clapton and Friends version from the same year as Montreux. I’ve found the actual Montreux performance above
2- The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 1988
This version is sort of an amalgamation of the other versions. You’ve got your female backing vocalists from live aid and the more rock oriented guitar playing of the studio but it’s got its own uniquenesses too. But the real draw to this one is the rhythm guitarist. You know you’re good when you’ve got Mark Knopfler on second guitar. And this also allows Clapton to play lead, resulting in a rendition quite close to the studio one. Objectively speaking this may be the best performance of the song.
3- The original
Keyboards are good and all, but sometimes you just need the fiery guitar of the original without any of those 80s embellishments. And that’s what the original does best. Straight-up no-nonsense rock.
4- Live Aid
The live aid version is a bit of a protoform to the Montreux version. It has a similar intro solo but retains a more rocking edge. My preference is simply with the keyboards of the Montreux. It’s quite similar to the studio version as well and the female backing vocalists are a nice touch, but the studio version wins out with a superior drum sound and production.
And now, behold the great hypocrite as he speaks! Yes it’s true that I’m on record on multiple occasions as deriding acoustic versions of songs as crimes against rock, but this one is the exception, partly because it’s so good. I consider it almost as good as the studio version
The Best Cover
“Just what is HE doing on this site?”, you may ask. It turns out not not many people have the guts to cover “Layla” but Mr Sheeran does an admirable job. He’s just a bit not there on the ‘Layla!’ part, but the rest of the song is pretty good, especially for a contemporary artist covering a classic rock song. The orchestral elements are a nice touch too. And for today’s humorous sendoff we have a pun (one of my favorite types of humor) that never fails to crack me up.