For this one I want to mix things up a little bit. I’ve been having creative spurts lately that only seem to happen just when I’m about to go to bed and the latest one came when I was listening to the La’s the other night. I’ll say off the bat that their one and only album is fantastic and is the perfect way to kill half an hour. The sad thing is that it just leaves you wanting more of that classic 50s/60s-style music and the brilliant songwriting of Lee Mavers. They could easily have been as high up as the Beatles but it wasn’t to be and they broke up not long after the album was released. Then two things occurred to me:
- There were several sessions of that album’s recording under several producers.
- It’s 2020. The Internet exists.
I went digging on YouTube and came across the John Leckie-produced version of Feelin’, one of my favourite songs of theirs. Compared with the official version found on the album as produced by Steve Lillywhite, it’s got a different feel to it yet I found myself enjoying both songs for what they were. Let’s compare and contrast real quick.
If you’ve listened to the album you know how this one goes. A quick and peppy number clocking in at just under 2 minutes that could probably best be described as a feeling of overbearing sadness disguised as a jaunty romp. Complimented by a lively and enthusiastic performance from Lee, you’ve got a song that you can’t help but nod your head to. Worth the price of admission just for that opening blues-style guitar, which is very pronounced and dominates the tune over the acoustic, bass and drums. Like I say, one of my favourites on the album and probably my go-to La’s song along with There She Goes.
Same DNA, same lyrics, same singer, but different tone. This one comes across as almost melancholic thanks to its slower tempo and the backing vocals, which I think is the tone the La’s were going for in the first place. Whilst he sounded lively thanks to how fast the Lillywhite version was, here Lee sounds a lot more focused, heartfelt and determined to get it right. We also have the electric guitar breaks that separate the solos and the verses. Here, they just don’t seem to fuse as well with what they come between, but I actually think that works in its favour in a way, seeing as the La’s always prided themselves on going for a more raw sound. Sadly, the actual sound of the electric guitar isn’t quite as powerful as it was in Lillywhite’s, being on a level pegging with Mavers’ acoustic as opposed to one level above it.
The reason I’ve decided to dive into this is because I always find alternate versions of songs fascinating, and there are plenty of different takes from the La’s on their songs. Seriously, take one look at the collection of songs on Spotify and you’re gonna end up burrowed in one hell of a rabbit hole. Anyway, if you’re going to compare two versions of the same song, you’re going to have to pick one and I’m obviously going to pick the official version courtesy of Lillywhite. I think the reason I ended up paying so much attention to the Leckie version was because it just sounded different and provided a new take on Feelin’. Both are good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that the slower tempo does not work in the song’s favour. The faster, more guttural sound of the version found on the album is what makes Feelin’ for me. The backing vocals on Leckie’s version are sweet but they do not suit the rawness that the La’s were going for and the electric guitar isn’t prominent enough. It’s good, it just sounds a little too clean.
Is this the kind of overbearing analysis Mavers would do, or am I barely scratching the surface here? Perfectionism is a bastard.
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