The best copies of Layla are Tubey Magical, energetic, and tonally balanced. Most importantly, they sound RIGHT. You get the sense that you are hearing the music exactly as the band intended. The best sounding tracks have presence, clarity, and transparency like you have never heard — that is, unless you’ve gone through a pile of copies the way we did.
Like Blind Faith or Surrealistic Pillow, this is no demo disc by any stretch of the imagination, but that should hardly keep us or anyone else from enjoying the music, and now we have the record that lets us do it.
That’s not to say it’s going to blow your mind sonically from start to finish. This ain’t Tea For The Tillerman, to say the least. Many tracks can sound amazing, but a few (such as the title track) may leave you cold. It’s yet another hit and miss Tom Dowd production, much like Wheels of Fire and Disraeli Gears.
Allow me to point the way to the tracks that we think have the best sound on each side.
I Looked Away
Bell Bottom Blues
One of the better sounding tracks on the album. If you’re going to critically make judgments about the sound of this or any other side one, Bell Bottom Blues is probably your best bet. It’s usually less dry, richer and bigger than the other tracks on this side, with notably more correct vocal reproduction.
Keep On Growing
Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down And Out)
I Am Yours
One of the better sounding tracks on the album. The notes for Bell Bottom Blues above apply. The best copies have superb Tubey Magical grungy guitar tone and energy to spare — they can really rock.
Key To The Highway
Tell The Truth
One of the better sounding tracks on the album. If you’re going to critically make judgements about the sound of this or any other side three, Tell The Truth is probably your best bet. Listen for big guitars, lots of energy, plenty of bass (not always easy to come by on this album) and choruses that get big and loud without distorting.
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad
Have You Ever Loved A Woman?
Another one of the better sounding tracks on Layla. Much more space than most, with more Tubey Magic, less congestion, less compression and less distortion.
There’s huge, wall to wall and floor to ceiling sound on the best copies. Listen for how energetic and present the vocals are, and how emotional the singing is. And the soaring guitars on this track are really something, arguably the best playing on the album.
If you play this song good and loud and it doesn’t knock you out, something is very wrong somewhere.
It’s Too Late
As you may know, some of the songs on Layla are just never going to sound especially good. Unfortunately, one of those songs is the title track. We’ve played it on our British originals, our domestic originals, later pressings, and the actually-pretty-good Simply Vinyl reissue [not sure if we would still agree with that assessment in 2022], and we were never favorably impressed. There’s just too much distortion, and it’s clearly got to be on the master tape as well since you can hear it on the CD. (Some other records where the hit sounds bad can be found here.)
These guys weren’t trying to record an audiophile-quality Demo Disc, but thankfully the best sounding tracks can sound wonderful on the right pressings.
Thorn Tree In The Garden