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Sometimes it's amazing how the arrangement of a song can completely change the feel... or even something as small as the guitar timbre. Maybe this is why guitarists spend so much time searching for their perfect guitar tone; to create that perfect mood for the song. Changes to that tone though, or to the arrangement of a song, does not always have to produce undesirable results. In many cases, if the song is strong and the musicians talented, the song can morph into something new that stands on it's own, just as well as the original.
A good example of this is the "unplugged" version of "Layla" recorded by Eric Clapton, long after his days in Derek and the Dominos. That version turns into something completely different than the original, going from soaring hard rock, to smoldering bluesy goodness, all just with a little change of instrumentation arrangement and guitars (acoustic vs electric).
Although "Layla" is definitely a good example of these differences, I picked it for another reason as well... Eric Clapton was also a part of the band I'm featuring in this post: Cream. For "Layla", those were pretty big changes that went into the new version of that song, but sometimes it's not so drastic and this video illustrates is, as Cream takes a surprisingly subdued take on "Sunshine of You Love".
If you're familiar with this song... and who isn't... you might be wondering what happened with all the guitar overdrive/fuzz that gives it that signature thick guitar tone. In this case, I'm pretty sure it was more so a necessity, as opposed to a choice by the band. In the 60s, rock and roll on TV was notorious for being a very poor representation of the sound, one reason band's like Led Zeppelin avoided it with such ferocity. I'm not sure if it was just that they couldn't turn up the amps, that the TV sound engineers of the Glen Campbell show (where this is taken from) actively made the band play at a lower volume, or what... but I have a feeling that it was not the band's decision in this case to take away that thick overdriven guitar sound they were so familiar with.
Luckily, it produces some surprising results and created this unique version of a classic song.
With this cleaner guitar timbre, the song really seems to be distilled down to some of it's bluesier roots. The signature guitar riff takes on a different personality with a bit of subtlety, and a different kind of complexity. Guitar timbre aside, Clapton still plays a great solo, showing off his typical bluesy, yet adventurous style from this era, and the band really locks in.
I was pretty surprised when I stumbled upon this take of "Sunshine of Your Love", having never heard it played live without Cream's typical setup, but it's really grown on me. I think it not only shows the strength of the song, but the strength Cream had as a band, connective and creating something unique no matter the circumstances.
I'm not going to say I prefer this version to others, but it's definitely interesting to see and I'm glad I'm able to share it with a few other Cream fans out there.