I have the original band, Blind Faith, performing “Can’t Find My Way Home“, in a live outdoor concert performance. What’s really striking to me is how fantastic it sounds, with none of the glitches or things that you sometimes get with a live performance. No strained vocals or microphone issues, or that “it just sounds better on the studio version” feeling. When I think of this song, this is the version I would refer to most often.
The studio version doesn’t sound as good or interesting, to me, as the live performance. I don’t particularly care for the high pitched vocals in the beginning. It actually doesn’t draw me in until almost the end. The guitar, though, is solid. Very mellow and wistful, and I like that.
I love the sparseness of the next video. It’s just the writer, Steve Winwood, his guitar and a couple of mikes. There’s even a snap from the roaring fire in the background. Nothing else needed.
The live version from Corey Glover and Daniella Cotton is really engaging. It starts of slow, with only Daniella’s guitar, Corey jumps in and then the whole band kicks it up a few notches. It’s a great mix of artists rocking it out.
I think the music takes a backseat to the vocals in the studio version done by Joe Cocker. Right from the opening riffs it sounds more rushed and up-tempo, and just serviceable. It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t seem to be as integral as it is in other guitar-focused versions.
Now from the video of Joe’s live version you can see it’s a totally different story. The tempo is certainly not as … peppy as the studio version. It’s much easier to get into and appreciate the song and, of course, Joe’s fantastic growl and performance.
Another example of a great live performance is the video featuring Steve Winwood (again) and Eric Clapton. It just cements a realization that I got when I saw the next video.
When I was listening to the Warren Haynes version featuring Sheryl Crow this thought just came to me: This song can only be really, truly appreciated live. A live performance seems to bring out the absolute best of the song, whether it be the improvisational aspect for the artist or just the fact that you don’t have to conform to a specific radio friendly length for your “product”. I just believe that having it done live showcases the nuances of the work better than any studio recording. At least for this song.
Alison Krauss‘ style of singing this also serves the song very well. She has such a lovely voice and the playing is so sweet and heartfelt, without being precious or wimpy. She starts off very delicate-sounding but quickly reveals the strength and resolve in her vocals.
I was such a big Styx fan back in the day. I haven’t really listened to them in ages, so when I saw they had a version, I thought it would be a big grand thing. But thankfully they kept the integrity of the song and didn’t overdo it with a big production and a raucous spectacle of sound. I think they did a really nice job with it.
Bonnie Raitt and Lowell George and John Hammond noodling around in the studio with other musicians sounds (and is) very raw and in the moment. Comrades and road buddies just riffing and going wherever the mood takes them. I love the bluesy and drawling guitars (can guitars drawl?) sound. It’s exceptionally mellow. And it’s beautiful and kind of amazing.
Sneaker Pimps. Um, what now? It starts with sci-fi movie sounds of aliens invading the planet. It’s trippy and really really bizarre. It also makes me think this is what it’s like to be on drugs and makes me glad I’ve never been. That was my initial impression. As the song continues and I kind of take it as its own thing, and not as a cover of a song I’ve just listened to multiple versions of, I’m actually getting into it more. It kind of reminds me of something I might hear from Medeski, Martin and Wood (If you haven’t listened to them you need to check out my playlist for their CD Shackman).
I like Alana Davis‘ take on this a lot. She’s got a nice soulfulness and honesty to her voice. Her version has more instrumentation, or arrangement to it, but I don’t mind.
I don’t find anything remarkable, good or even that interesting about the Yvonne Elliman, Mama Lion, or Black Label Society versions. Ok, maybe the Black Label guitar solo sounds a little cool. The Johnny Rivers version is fine, but that’s about it. And I really like Johnny Rivers!