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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Multi-Channel Music > Derek & The Dominoes - Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (Universal SA-CD/SACD/Super Audio CD)

Derek and the Dominoes: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (SACD)


PCM Stereo: B†††† DSD 2.0: B+†††† DSD 5.1: A-†††† Music:A-



Itís a strange thing listening back to the now classic album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, because it has such a different context now than it ever did.It seems stuck in the middle, at least for Clapton, of his prolific career and falls between his roots as a guitar player and the influence he had with Cream, and then his work in the late 70ís and into the 80ís.It might also be argued that this is Clapton at his most daring and honest moments as a guitar player, but his life would drastically change after Derek and the Dominoes short-lived existence due primarily to the tragic death of Duane Allman.


Not only that, but then in the 80ís Claptonís infant son fell from a window to his death, which would also put a hold on Claptonís life, plus the years of addictions and just making it day by day, itís hard to believe he was able to pull through and still today be in the business.There is no doubt that Clapton will go down as one of the greatest guitar players ever, which even to my disagreement I cannot help but admire his work on this particular project, which remains one of my all time favorites.


There is also very little that can be left said about such a huge album after all these years and to drone on about such would just waste time and text.However, I can honestly say that I have heard this album thousands of times, but listening to it again for itís multi-channel debut on SACD was like falling in love all over again.Actually itís almost better than falling in love again because you fall in love this time around with something that is in some ways a more fully realized version of the original, yet you still have that original feel.One advantage that the SACD format has is that it tries to come as close to the sound and feel of the original masters, but also include multi-channel for a new remix and enable certain musical cues and passages to sound like they never did before.In some cases, you can hear things that you never heard before.


What I am getting at is that even if you know every little nuance with the original mix there are still surprises with the 5.1 mix simply because the instruments and vocals have more room to breathe.In comparing just the two stereo channels (the DSD and the PCM CD tracks) there is a gigantic difference in the definition and clarity as expected.Since the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) source enables such a high sampling rate you are ensured a much cleaner playback that truly comes close to sounding like it would from the master, and without the compression that the CD layer in PCM seems to always have.So you have more depth in this case, which I think it extremely important when you are working with the wide range of instrumentation and arrangements that Derek and the Dominoes were putting out.


If you decide to just bypass the stereo mixes and go straight for the core of this release with the remixed DSD 5.1 then you are in for a real treat!While I may have heard some slightly better recordings from this period perhaps sound a tad better, this is still one of the best yet.What I particular love here that most remixes miss out on is keeping the original vibe, but at the same time mixing with 5.1 in mind and allowing the music to just casually blend itself into the corners.The vocals are mixed heavily through the middle channel allowing for the left and right channels to take on the larger portion of the sound, while the surrounds became active with more of the melodies and standout sections of the songs.The mix never becomes hollow or empty and is constantly engaging the listener in as each song has something fresh to offer, despite how many times you have heard it before.


There are a few Elton John SACDís on the market such as Madman Across the Water, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and even the self-titled 1970 album (reviewed on this site along with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) that are just amazing realizations.This is also a superb outing as well, that probably does not come as close because this particular recording was intended for a more raw emotional sound, while the Elton Johnís have a more polished feel.Even with Tom Dowd (check out Tom Dowd & The Language of Music reviewed on this site) behind the mix for Layla there is no way to truly remix these tracks without losing anything in order to make them lose that raw power.Part of that raw power was contributed by Duane Allmanís slide guitar, which allowed for Clapton to break into new territory with more passionate undertones followed by the lucid upper range of the slide effect taking the song to new heights.


Layla is a true achievement in sound mixing both then and now.There is no doubt that his song alone has influenced much in the way of rock and the way a fusion between a passionate ballad and a hardcore rock song can unite.Also notice the way it has been used effectively throughout time since, even Clapton would re-record an acoustic version of the song and who can forget the montage of death accompanied by Laylaís outro in Martin Scorseseís infamous Goodfellas?In this particular case this is the best Iíve ever heard the song with the exception of the live version from Eric Claptonís One More Car, One More Rider tour available on DVD in DTS.That is one impressive recording giving the song new energy and stamina.Layla from the beginning, along with some of the other tracks that include layered guitars, are distinctly placed inside the 5.1 to give separation that have never been there before.Now you can hear a more articulate rhythm guitar and that allows for the lead to become more crystal clear and cutting.If I am not mistaking it sounds like there are at least 3 different guitar parts not including slide guitar inside Layla.Of course mixing technology was becoming much better in the 70ís and by the time that this particular album was ready to be pressed it was more possible to isolate the musical tracks and lay down various parts much more swiftly than before.Allmanís slide guitar cuts through like a laser through the entire song and is also effectively placed in other songs as well that he joins in on.


The unique relationship that was sported by this album is that Clapton and Allman do not compete against one another, yet they compliment each otherís playing and add texture to each otherís abilities.No ego seems to be heard and they harmonize their parts together with such flamboyance and attitude that we do not get these days in the music industry.


Track Listing:


I Looked Away

Bell Bottom Blues

Keep Growing

Nobody Knows You When Youíre Down and Out

I Am Yours


Key to the Highway

Tell The Truth

Why does Love Got to Be So Sad?

Have You Ever Loved a Woman?

Little Wing

Itís Too Late


Thorn Tree in the Garden


What should also be noted are a few other highlight tracks, which stand out in particular.Bell Bottom Blues carries a bit more low end with this mix, which make it sound more full and powerful like it should as itís clearly a call out to a lost love, which Clapton at the time was experiencing.As if some of the other tracks are not obvious enough with their titles.Even the cover version of the classic Little Wing you can hear a more full sound coming forth, while I am still not nearly a fan of this version or even the Stevie Ray Vaughan one for that matter.What both of these versions lack is the smoothness and almost poetic nature of the original that Hendrix seemed to pull of effortlessly.Claptonís is a bit too stadium sounding with the raw rock oriented riff added here and there to the main melody line.


I canít really find anything negative in this release and it is a high recommendation for a classic catalog title that needs to be re-experienced in 5.1.It would be great to see the major companies really start to pick up the pace with the SACD catalog and convert more classic material over.Once you experience this you will not likely want to hear any inferior form again.Itís easy to be spoiled by such a solid release that offers something new even for the biggest fan.Letís continue to hope for more material equal or even better in the near future.



-†† Nate Goss


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