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Yardbirds

'The Lawn Jockeys' was already taken.

Introduction
Five Live Yardbirds
For Your Love
Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds
Roger the Engineer
Little Games
Live with Jimmy Page
Live at the BBC
The Yardbirds Vol. 1: Smokestack Lightning
 

The Lineup Card (1964-1968)
Keith Relf (Vocals, Harmonica) also of Renaissance
Paul Samwell-Smith (Bass) until 1966
Jim McCarty (Drums)
Chris Dreja (guitar, bass)
Eric Clapton (guitar) also of Cream and others
Jeff Beck (guitar)
Jimmy Page (guitar, bass) after 1966 also of Led Zeppelin and the Firm

I think probably a lot of people wouldn't have thing one to do with the Yardbirds if they didn't have such name-brand string-pickers. Three of 'em, in case you don't know, sort of like a Montreal Expos of British Invasion guitar heroes. On their own, before Cream Zippo and 'Radioactive' and Other Assorted Crap Songs, they were one of the sorts of bands that was marginally well-known, and may of even had a hit or two (in the US...in the UK, God knows how popular they were...I'll have to ask my British friends the next time they're sober, probably some time next year), but certainly never captured the hearts of the young dupes in the same way as the Beatles or, shit, the Dave Clark Five. They played too heavy, Keith Relf was a mediocre lead singer among Burdons and Jaggers, didn't have a 'looker' in the bunch, and only released four proper studio albums in their entire existence. In four years! Four albums! Fucking Animals released like twice that many, and the Ventures probably filled a whole record shelf during that period. And since the band wasn't particularly hot on writing a bunch of their own material (only Roger the Engineer is 100% original, and the early albums are extremely padded with blues covers), it's hard to see exactly why they're put above just about everyone in the Invasion besides the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, and possibly Zombies. Maybe even with the Zombies....

It's all about a crazy little hair in the arse of the world, circa 1966, called psychedelic music. A year or two after Eric Clapton expanded the idea of the guitar in rock music by playing blues solos not at all as well as his influences (yet) but at probably three times the volume, Jeff Beck introduced the world to psychedelic guitar freaking out. Around the same time the Byrds were busy cooking up the psychedelic atmosphere, and around the same time as weirdos like Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead were just warming up, Jeff Beck was unleashing 'Shapes Of Things' on the world. While Pete Townshend was probably the first person to intentionally use feedback and wacky knob-twiddling and switch-turning to create sonic noisescapes, it was Jeff Beck that first put all that crap together with extremely strong soling technique into what most people now understand as 'the lead guitar', at least in terms of classic rock. What Jimi Hendrix later perfected was mostly the result of Jeff Beck. Jeff was by far the most important member of the Yardbirds...he was there for all of the really earth-moving stuff the band did, and got out before it began to really stink at the end. And here, Jeff's the one that gets the least respect. Everyone wants to hear Clapton before he could really play, or Jimmy Page without much songwriting balls to cover up the gimmickiness of his playing style (and the fact that he learned everything he knew from Jeff, and a bunch of old dead black guys), but no one wants to hear Jeff Beck revolutionize the electric guitar.

Anyway, the guitar players deserve all the credit they get, no doubt, and if you've grown up on the kinds of guitar solos the early Beatles and Stones used to play, or the proto-punk blasts of the early Kinks, you'll be shocked by the level of technical mastery the Yardbirds boys achieve. But it's all gonna seem pretty tame if you're coming at it from the other perspective. While, even after all these years, a Jimi Hendrix or Cream-era Clapton solo can still shock and inspire, the Yardbirds solos have been digested and passed through the lower intestines of so many guitar players over the years (technically, they're not that hard) that they're going so sound pretty ordinary. And once you sniff beyond the guitarists, you'll find that this band is extremely technically limited, really no better than the Kinks, but with generally a lot worse songwriting. Singer Keith Relf, while distinctive and charismatic, owes a lot more to Buddy Holly than Mick Jagger for his singing style, and has the most defiantly 'white' timbre of any of those 60's blues singers. The rhythm section can cook up a pretty hefty head of steam, but sure ain't ready for the JB's, you know? All in all, if you're not in it for often innovative songwriting, you better be in it for the guitar solos, because there sure ain't much else...the Yardbirds is what they is. Or rather, were what they is. And aren't probably quite what you think they're gonna be, Zeppelin fan...


Five Live Yardbirds - Epic 1964

Incomplete

Unlike a lot of my incomplete grades, I actually own this record (cassette tape, to be specific), but I plum can't find the damn thing. I'll review it once I come across it. I have a lot of it on my copy of Having a Rave Up With..., but I decided reviewing it right now would be even more irresponsible than usual. I remember they do a lot of 'raving up' here, which means they just start playing faster and faster until the girls all just orgasm at the same time and the whole hall is filled with the musky odor of chocolate milk and British girl-sweat. I bet Eric Clapton loved it, because he quit the band once it seemed like they were moving away from the direction of the 'rave up' blues covering he loved so dearly. Ah well...


For Your Love - Epic 1965

You really can't call this (or, for that matter, the next one, Having a Rave Up With...) an album. It's really just a Yardbird-ian version of a US-only Beatles release like Yesterday...and Today or Meet the Beatles was Purely record-company product cooked up by some executive out of singles and EPs and crap lying around, just waiting to be put together into a package by some enterprising young under-assistant West-Coast promotion man looking for a vice-presidency. Well, good for that anonymous leech, because he really got this one right on. If only the Yardbirds themselves would have had the idea to put out this wild-and-willing bunch of Brit Inv blooze splooge...unfortunately they weren't really in the mood to make records at the time. They'd just weathered the loss of Eric Clapton and were busy breaking in Beck. Since the Clap appears on all but three of the tracks on For Your Love, it could even be argued that this album almost feels like an artistically arranged, planned piece, rather than the pasted-together Frankenstein's monster that it is.

But like I said, the Yardbirds never would've put out an album like For Your Love. Eric Clapton wouldn't have allowed the title track to stand, since it was so far afield of his uber-conservative blues purist stance. He was extremely uncomfortable with 'For Your Love's move towards Zombies-ish stylized pop music, complete with harpsichord, pleadin' and plegdin' lyrics, and bongo drums...this is go-go dancin' music, and damn fine dancin' music. Clapton, as he's wont to do, has His head up His arse. To quit this band over a song with a hook so looming, something that he'd later try over and over again, unsuccessfully, to mimic with Cream, is pretty daffy. But, I guess if he hadn't left, all sorts of things in rock music wouldn't have happened...no Cream, no Led Zeppelin, no Rod Stewart, no Ronnie Wood, no Firm...hmmm...no Firm. No Coverdale-Page. No August. Well, maybe that wouldn't have been so horrible after all. Just remember what Grandpa Simson says: 'If you go back in time, just make sure not to step on anything...'

The rest of these tunes are balanced between rough-and-tumble covers of blues standards and poppier material like 'Putty In Your Hands', which was written by one K. Rogers. Let's right now sit down and hold hands and pray to the good Lord of Chicken Franchises that this isn't Kenny Rogers. Just to think that that blow-dried ball of foam might have been involved with the innovation of rock music in such a direct and undeniable way gives me the dry heaves. The other songwriters are a lot less contentious, but not nearly as recognizable. B.B. Arnold? M. Lance? O. Rasputin? What's the dark, devastatingly creepy spiritual advisor to Czar Nikolai II doing writing blues instrumentals, for Chrissakes? And why couldn't he do a little more than some walking basslines and chord vamping? Too busy hypnotizing the Czaress and holding Satanic orgies in the Winter Palace, I presume. Someone ought to knock that guy off...poison him, shoot him, and throw him in the frozen Neva.

Who needs to cover versions of tunes when you have Mr. Keith Relf writing recycling projects like 'I Ain't Done Wrong', who so naturally integrates good ol' blues cliches in such a way that his band can take a musical sledgehammer to them and they still hold up? If Jeff Beck could hit those strings just a little harder....I don't think the neck of that Fender is quite bowed to Kingdom Come quite yet. After so much Eric Clapton and his decidely less violent guitar technique, hearing Beck come through with some guerilla soloing like he does here is a revelation. Eric might've been able to develop himself into more of a pure technician, but Jeff had it all over him in raw talent.

This is the closest the Yardbirds ever came to the promise of being a hard blues-rock band, right here on For Your Love. If after this point in time they began to stretch out to the limits of their capabilities, both musically and pharmacologically, right here they're in full command of the sort of dirty, brutish blues that made their name on Five Live Yardbirds. It's striking how heavy this album sounds in comparison to contemporary albums by the Beatles and Stones. Listen to the fuzz bass on 'A Certain Girl' or the distinct lack of anything approaching a ballad....these guys don't need to politely ask for a girl's hand. They demand it, and even at their softest ('For Your Love', the cover of 'Sweet Music') they're still swinging like mad. I mean, the Stones may have been cold motherfuckers on 'Heart of Stone', but even they had 'As Tears Go By'. And while at their most uncompromising the 'birds are too formal and technical to really rival the madness of the Stones or the punk idiocy-cum-genius of the early Kinks, they really do rip it up on tracks like 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' and especially their rollicking and irreverent version of the McCoy's 'Hang on Sloopy', a version in which Beck takes Rick Derringer's teenage ass and kicks it all around the lunchroom with his very ahead-of-its time, near Eddie Van Halen pulloffs. This Yardbirds band may not have been the most creative bunch on the block, but they capture the attention like a motherfather over the course of an album full of other people's songs, and that's an amazing achievement that not even the Stones were able to compare to all the time.

Capn's Final Word: A bashing, brawling job of an album that never was. Try to find it, because they probably hold the rockin' line better on For Your Love than anywhere else.

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G. J. Donnelly Piranha_1@MSN.com     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: The tracks on FOR YOUR LOVE have been so recycled over the years by virtually every chump label in the world, the album is almost a pointless listen these days. But since the original release was compiled in an equally haphazard way, I may be splitting hairs. FYL is a confused LP that presents the Yardbirds as three different bands---1) garage-punk blues ravers (i.e. "I Ain't Got You") 2) average Merseybeat hacks (i.e. "Sweet Music") 3) moody, hypno-pop hard rockers (i.e. "For Your Love"; "I'm Not Talking"). "Putty" and "Sweet Music" are syrupy throwaways that were added to the album soley as filler after "For Your Love" established the band in the U.S. Clapton's "Yardbirds too pop" bitching disguised the reality that he was too blues obsessed to embrace left-field ideas like Gregorian chants, harpsichords or Eastern music scales. Simply put, the Yardbirds had outgrown Clapton, not the other way round. E.C. would never have imagined the loony string bend!s Beck pulls off on "I'm Not Talking" (backed by a great, bubbly bass line from Paul Samwell-Smith). That doesn't mean Slowhand doesn't deliver his share of fiery solos---check out "I Ain't Got You," "A Certain Girl" and "Good Morning Schoolgirl", where his heavy, Buddy Guy-style solo is totally at odds with the band's aimlessly cheerful arrangement. Similarly, Beck's eclectic fury wouldn't emerge until RAVE UP, but his wicked slide lick on "I Ain't Done Wrong" (Relf's rip-off of "Done Somebody Wrong") offers a hint of the mayhem to come. He has little to do on the plodding cover of "Hang On Sloopy" except warm up the chicken scratch chops he'd soon unleash on "I'm a Man." Relf's harmonica and vocals dominate the reverb-thick "I Wish You Would," which lacks the reckless oomph of the Yardies' live versions. Although the album is a typical Epic rush job, it ironically captures the Yardbirds' swift tranformation from snotty R&B wanna-bes to Swinging London mod-pop weirdos. (Loo!k out for versions of the CD that contain "Questa Volta"---it is the worst piece of shit the band ever recorded, even worse than the Most
singles or "I Remember the Night". It's so wretched, it belongs on WINDS OF CHANGE. An off-key Relf yowls the lyrics in Italian while Dreja---Beck sensibly refused to play on this garbage---plonks one of the great unintentionally awful guitar solos in pop history.)

 


Having a Rave Up With... - Epic 1965

Another singles, EP's, and leftovers record company patch job that had no input by the band. Do you really think 5 cool dudes, like the Yardbirds no doubt were, would let an album go out with such a cheesy fucking name as Having a Rave Up With The Yardbirds, or slap such an ugly, dork-knocking cover shot like that on it? No way...besides the fact that when you listen to this album, you'll hear material that spans a quantum leap in development from very early stuff stolen from Five Live Yardbirds to their newest, most cutting-edge singles. First you'll hear the proto-protest song 'Mister You're a Better Man Than I', about not judging people by their skin color or length of hair or odor of breath or whether they hang their toilet paper roll frontwards or backwards (these are the opinions of the Yardbirds and not my own...I think anyone who orients the toilet paper roll with the hanging part in the back should be potato-peeled until nicely skinned, then thrown in a kiddie pool full of cocktail salt). Let's be honest, though. The important part ain't the words, it's the guitar solo that Beck positively screams into in the middle. You think the 'rave up' section in 'I'm a Man' is going to compete with that? Hell no...luckily Beck feels the same way and peels off another one of his stutter-step classics. You can hear the juice flow when he clicks on his dirt pedal, its gonna be a heavy one. Now this is ravin' up. Fine bunch of gas in that song...

But if they've gotten their blues numbers to the point that they're ripping at the seems, they've got a huge ceiling above them for their pop numbers. Imagine 'Still I'm Sad', a chant piece (no shit), driven by the massed Gregorian Yardbird Choir, an acoustic (and later, a very quiet electric) guitar, and a triangle humming their way through this very midieval series of melody lines punctuated by Keith Relf's depressive lyrics and his resolution to 'noooooowwww I'mmmm Saaaaaaad!' Eek! 1965? The Beatles wouldn't even come knocking at the door with this kind of material until the next year. Of course, I like it better when they're able to integrate some of their wing-dingier pop innovations into a more accessible song structure, like the massive 'Heart Full Of Soul', all fizztone lead guitar, background cries from the darkness, and ripping 'Bolero' strumming on the chorus. 

So maybe after all this mad reconstruction of the popular music form as cooked up by the moody Keith Relf and folky Paul Samwell-Smith, and put into practice by the ever-willing Jeff Beck, I'm a bit taken back by the return to blues purity on the second half. Things start out with a blast, though, with the savagely rocking 'Train Kept-A-Rollin', which even buries the reverential Aerosmith cover of ten years later...those double-tracked yet almost completely unreleated lead vocals are a real trip, and they drive the song from being just another blues riff-tune to something a lot more sinister. But after that, we're back in 1964 and the wide-eyed, wet-eared Five Live Yardbirds ragged live material again, something that Jeff had nothing to do with. Sure, they were a fun live band and these tunes are great once you recover from the shock, but I liken this to putting half of Hard Days Night as the flipside of Revolver....they're not even from the same celestial plane, gentlemen. Plus, it becomes painfully obvious that Eric Clapton, though at his most exuberant for sure, just doesn't have much to say with his guitar yet besides just fanning the chords at a zillion miles a second, thus ushering in 'the rave up' that substituted for actual blues soloing in the old days. Sometimes gives a rush, sure, but sure doesn't say much for his future status as God of the Guitar.

Sill though, even if the two far-differing sides of this band mesh together like A-1 sauce and chocolate mousse, you're still getting nothing here that isn't at least definitely entertaining, and often it's jaw-dropping. Yeah, I've dropped the score from For Your Love to reflect the displeasure resulting from the visible plastic surgery marks from the creation of this 'album', but that first part is as strong as anything the Yardbirds would ever do, and as such makes it a necessary part of any rock collection.

Capn's Final Word:  Truly schizoid mix of the cutting edge hard pop of late 1965 and the dancehall R&B of the '64 days, but contains some heart-stoppingly great material.

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G. J. Donnelly Piranha_1@Msn.com     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I totally agree---One of the coolest LP titles of all time, featuring a dazzling side of the most spine-tingling rock of the decade. But instead of meshing those gems with the best cuts from FOR YOUR LOVE (the title track, "I'm Not Talking," "I Ain't Done Wrong," "I Ain't Got You," "A Certain Girl" and "I Wish You Would"---hell, even "Shapes of Things" and "New York City Blues"!) Epic rehashed four live tracks from FIVE LIVE. Nothing says more about Epic's ineptitude with regard to promoting this group than the addition of a second version of "I'm a Man." It's good because the Yardbirds are good, but it doesn't belong HERE. Why didn't they just release FIVE LIVE instead? As it stands, it ranks among the best LPs of the mid-sixties on the genius of just one side, which absolutely blows away anything the Who came up with until SELL OUT. Why didn't the Yardbirds release as many LPs as the Animals Capn? Because the Animals didn't get lumbered with Epic.


 


Roger the Engineer - Epic 1966..

The Yardbirds second legitimate LP, the first time they'd ever gone into the studio with 'album' on their minds, and the only time they'd ever deliver an LP's worth of original tunes. And all of this happening right after one of the more interesting songwriting trajectories in 60's music, taking them from blues cover purity in 1964 to this, this mess of face-cracking, before-its-time psychedelia, goofy pop, and throwaway blooze. We've already seen what the addition of Jeff Beck has already started to do, but by 1966 the journey had already peaked. They'd arrived in this proto-acid rock netherworld, the Byrds as the only true fellow travellers, and the whole world on the way in. So what can you do when you're already so deep in the quicksand, but no one's yet made a roadmap of where you're going? I guess you keep yourself grounded in very rote blues tunes, that's what. So on Roger the Engineer, we're tossed out into the ether pretty early ('Over Under Sideways Down' as the prototypical mid-60's British psychedelic song...a full year before Pink Floyd attempted something similar, and some good months before the Beatles entered with their own color-drained entry Revolver), but then we're dragged right back into the barbecue joint with 'The Nazz Are Blue' (don't be fooled by the title as I used to be...this is pure keep-between-the-lines Chicago electric blues, not some Mod anthem). The third side of the equation is an expansion on the monk-rockin' good show that 'Still I'm Sad' showed us on the last record...these guys (mostly Relf and Samwell-Smith, so I hear) were heavily folk-influenced, but it's not in the Byrds kinda jankly Dylan way, so a lot of people miss it. 'Farewell', for example, is just a little acoustic trifle, but it's good and corny and English acoustic trifling, which ain't no small potatoes.

What strikes this ever-intriguing plastic disc down in the end, however, is the inconsistency in songwriting. For each dual-lead, mind-warping bit of benzene-sniff like 'Happening Ten Years Time Ago' (not actually an original Roger tune, but recorded later when Jimmy Page and Beck were sharing lead guitar roles and melting the eyeballs off most of the Western half of the European continent), there's a total boogie toss-off into the Kleenex box like 'I Can't Make Your Way'...it seems for the most part that the songs are written via committee, and as such have serious, jarring schizoid tendencies. How else can you explain that Jeff Beck seems to just about always rip off a distorted, wailing solo no matter how lightweight the material around him is? Or how the material takes a horrid turn for the flimsy right after 'Psycho Dasies', itself a sort of rabidly unswinging metallic deconstruction of the Chuck Berry cliche. 'Hot House of Omagararshid' has the band chanting 'ya ya ya, ya ya yah!' while the rhythm section attempts to sound hoodoo and someone takes the longest bong hit known to modern and post-modern man. That's a song, sirs and cousins, and I'm Meredith Baxter Birney's 'gettin' lucky' pair of crotchless panties. Oh, but things get even weirder than that, my pretties: after Jeff's 50's rollin instrumental, we get 'He's Always There', which was perfectly ripped off by Syd Barrett on, well, fucking damn well all the songs on Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Sing-song massed melodies, force-beat drumming, lots of goofy percussion like fish and maracas and shit like that...c'mon, if you've heard Piper, you get the picture. And you all wonder why I feel like Pink Floyd either stole all their best ideas or else had others give 'em to them! 'Turn Into Earth' is more Gregorianisms, but pretty trippy nonetheless, the odd interlude 'What Do You Want' almost sounds like an early Deep Purple proto-metal tune, and Jeff Beck makes pretty much his only real appearance after 'Jeff's Boogie', the rest of the time being drowned out by all the boomy chanting and bubbly noises and crap. The guy didn't last too much longer after this album was done and Jimmy Page made his appearance as bass player, and who could blame him? On record, anyway, the Yardbirds songwriters (Relf and whoever else) had no idea what to do with him...the only way he was ever going to be happy was to have his own band full of super-excellent musicians and just control them with an iron hand ('Sing, Damn you!!' and 'No, fucker, no more originals!! The world wants Elvis covers, fuckhead!') until they all left to become enormous hugeanious mongoriffic stars and he just stays home and polishes his old cars and grumbles.

Oh, and Ozzy Osbourne learned how to sing by copying the first section of 'Ever Since The World Began'. Listen to it, beggars, and tell me it ain't so...you caint do it! No way, Jose Feliciano! Black Sabbath owed a pretty huge debt too, I suppose. And so did Paul Anka, considering how GODFUCKINGGODDAMN HORRIBLE the croony lounge outtakes are that are tacked onto the back of my copy. What, was there a time where Keith Relf though he was going to be Engelbert Humperdink? How many drugs was he on? Was it more than whoever thought of the word 'Omagararshid'?

Capn's Final Word: Probably the first to stumble into the world of acid rock music, but, having no idea what to do with it, the first to abandon it out of hand. Some great mistakes ('Happenings', 'Over Under Sideways Down', 'What Do You Want', 'Turn Into Earth') and some real slow sections right in the middle to make you think it's all mistaken.

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G. J. Donnelly  Piranha_1@MSN.com   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: This album is an unstable, but beguiling whirl of blueswails, monk chants, Brit-pop and psychedelia You want to talk about where heavy metal was born? Welcome to its creche stage. The band was not "technically limited" mon frere. I love Relf's voice, but I can see why people who grew up with Robert Plant don't care for it. Still, I'll take Keith's brooding over Plant's screeching any day. Plus, Mr. One-Lung has a feel for graceful lyrics and is one helluva honkin' harmonica player. McCarty and Samwell-Smith were a dynamite rhythm section that could anchor the wildest riffs Beck could through at them, and Chris Dreja is THE revvin' rhythm guitar man. The songwriting is erratic, but I'll overlook that because the LP was slapped together in five days. Even so, it's hard to argue with the greatness of cuts like "Over Under Sideways Down," "Turn Into Earth," "He's Always There" and the eerie "Ever Since the World Began," which alluded to the devil a good half! decade and change before Ozzy Osbourne did. An absolute must for fans of the band, Beck, garage rock, Reniassance, Aerosmith and Zep, which ham-handedly copped the Yardies' mix of heavy blues and folk-pop with much greater commercial success, but far less joy. Few bands went so far so fast and in so many different directions as the 'Birds do here. BTW, I really enjoy your site. The writing is a gas---you must have worn the hell out your copy of Bangs's PSYCHOTIC REACTIONS---even when I disagree with it

G. J. Donnelly  Piranha_1@MSN.com   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: An NME reviewer called this a "Mini-Revolver" when this LP hit the shops in 1966 and a better phrase could not have been coined to describe it. The Yardies had five days to put this together with a ringer standing in on bass for Paul Samwell-Smith, who was busy in the producer's box. There are over a half-dozen classic Yardbirds tracks here, encompassing rave-ups ("Lost Woman," "Rack My Mind," "What Do You Want"), psychedelic Gregorian brooding ("Turn Into Earth," "Farewell"), a pre-Ozzie devil chiller ("Ever Since the World Began") and manic, shivvery guitar-pop ("He's Always There", the immortal "Over Under Sideways Down"). Plus, there's plenty of axe kicking from Jeff Beck ("Hot House Of Omagarashid," "Jeff's Boogie"), who even sings on one track! Okay, so several of the tunes were copped from blues riffs---who cares? Keith Relf has never sounded so sinister; more over he reasserts his claim as the world's greatest punk harmonica player. Jim McCarty w!hacks the skins with intensity and invention and Chris Dreja revs the engine on rhythm. This is garage band heaven, mon frere, and it wipes the floor with anything the Who did prior to SELL OUT on sound quality alone. If nothing else, it's an exhilarating example of five guys collectively shouting "What the fuck?" and letting rip. And that's not even including the reissue CD that features "Happenings 10 Years Time Ago," a track even Hendrix ripped off. Take that, Beatles. (Relf's solo tracks are a mixed bag, but I like "Knowing.")


Tom(mi)     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: 'Ya ya ya, ya ya yah!'  Aw c'mon, even the toss off tunes are endearing on this album.  This'll put fuzztone on yer balls, for crissakes.  This album was so precious to me in the 90's that I'd put it in a drawer, then take it out and look at it, then put it back, then take it out, then put it back, then take it out, then put it back, then take it out.... and *play* it!  I savored it, get it?  And when the *hell* is someone gonna do a swanky-cool cover of 'Over Under Sideways Down'?  Just give that shit away for free why don't I...

Joe X    Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: WTF!!!!???
if your stereo goes to 11 you will appreciate this. don't listen to it on your i-pod. cool comment about cranky ol jeff though..


 


Little Games - Epic 1967

Ungh. Don't let anyone try to convince you that 60's rock was just oh so much better than 70's or even 80's rock, 'cos they're full of shit. Do you realise how many failed pop/showtune/concept/psychedelic albums were released in 1967 alone? And how much worse they all got in 1968 when the drugs really got their icy hot fingers of nothingness stuckdeep in their dendrils? Ah, but this is the Yardbirds of Jimmy Page, wizened wizard of the Marshall stack, eh? No...this is the Yardbirds of Keith Relf's mainstream pop wet dreams, and Jimmy Page is there merely to provide creepy, subdued window-dressing. A bit of guitar bowing in the middle of this sub-sub-Monkees pop tune ('Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor', titled as such to provide convenient confusion with the 'birds last hit of any minor consequence, 'Over Under Sideways Down', no doubt), some sitar-twanging in some other Pink Floyd space-rock disaster.  Led Zeppelin disciples may try to hunt down this record in an attempt to find some pre-Robert Plant inspiration, but I can only say they'll be some disappointed dudes...the live Yardbirds in this epoch were ur-metal gods, and Jimmy Page rightfully taking center stage, but on record these guys are some frilly-dilly fracture cases. I mean large parts of this album sound a lot like that flower-power era Spinal Tap band, but worse than that, they don't even play them blues all that well anymore ('Drinking Muddy Water' sounds muted and dull, if you can believe that). In fact, the best scene of Jimmy Page guitar sorcery is in the middle-eastern guitar solo 'White Summer' (critically shortened on my copy, but mine's about as legitimate as Michael Jackson's cries of innocence, so who knows if this is the full version or not), and you LedHeads ought to already have that one from the Zep boxed set and countless live bootlegs anyway.

So you want kazoos and vaudeville fucking about? Hey! So you want pointless and idiotically lightweight childishness? Hey! You want good songs hacked off after two and a half minutes to make room for more of this horseshit? Hey! What was it about taking acid and automatically wanting to make music that would sound good as background to a puppet show, anyway? And make no mistake about it, besides maybe Mr. Page, the rest of this band has their head shoved up the rabbit hole but good by this time...not even the Rolling Stones in their Satanic Majesties-goof-nadir even compete with the level of aimlessness and fucked-upitude that seeps from the very glands of Little Games. Self indulgency, horrifying Byrds ripoffs, some piece of detritus called 'Ha Ha Said The Clown' that I wouldn't even blame on the Fifth Dimension or my worst enemy, and endless, endless, endless...apparently this particular version of my record has a bunch of added tracks on it, none of which acquit the original released shitpile in any way. Two versions of the deadly dull bloat showtune 'Goodnight Sweet Josephine', a version of the old children's rhyme 'Ten Little Indians' set to a martial march beat and some downright nauseating singing by Relf, and some idiotic in-joke like 'I Remember The Night' that just serves to make me hate this jalopy even worse than I already do.

Good things? Let me search...certainly 'White Summer', the Page-driven acid-riff rocker 'Think About It' is okay in a noddy way, 'Glimpses' is at least spacey, and the orchestrated title track is pretty memorable, I guess, in addition to being one of the few Little Games songs they ever attempted to pull off on stage. Not that anyone ever wanted to hear many of the other ones, for sure.

Capn's Final Word: A druggy, childish disaster. Not the records upon which legends are built. Or even self-respecting beeramids.

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G. J. Donnelly Piranha_1@MSN.com     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: Erratic as hell, and recorded in just three days in between gigs, LITTLE GAMES turned out a lot better than it deserved to. "Drinking Muddy Water" is the best call-and-response rave up they'd done since "I'm a Man" (the BBC version especially), Relf's "Only the Black Rose" is a stunning slice of melancholia with a great vocal from Keith and "Glimpses" is the best of all the band's forays into chanting psychedelia (although I'll be damned if I know what 'time is just a cumular limit' is supposed to mean). "Puzzles" was the logical follow-up to "Happenings," with incredible Relf vocals (his wails at the fade are awesome) and Page's best soloing until the simmering "Think About It" (co-written by Relf, McCarty and Page). "White Summer" is filler, but Page does play beautifully. The crunchy Brit-blues of "Smile On Me" is better, with a nice wah-wah fade from Pagey. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor" should've been an A-side. Call it a Monkees tune? Fine. The Monkees recorded lots of great tunes (i.e. "Pleasant Valley Sunday") and the combination of Page's bowing, McCarty's terrific drumming (like those tom-tom bursts that kick off the second verse) and Relf's double-tracked voice and amphetamine acoustic strumming is Carnaby pop at its most rockin. "No Excess Baggage" is passable but generic pop-rock. "Stealing Stealing" is clunky jugband nonsense, but it is so off-the-wall it makes me smile. "Little Solider Boy" reeks, however, just a sappy effort to ape Donovan's willfully naive flower child shtick. "Little Games" at least shuffles agreeably, even though the lyrics suck, and the other Most singles---"Ten Little Indians" and "Goodnight Sweet Josephine"---are shit. A mixed bag, sure, but not a total disaster by any stretch. The album was sunk by some godawful Most mixes (you should hear the original release) and the mere fact that it was unfinished. It really has a lot of charm if you give it a chance---certainly as good as what th!e Small Faces were doing around this time. The reissue with the BBC tracks is a fab primer of the band's undervalued final stretch. Check out CUMULAR LIMIT for a better look at what the four-piece was capable of. Their version of "Dazed and Confused" wipes the floor with Zeppelin's.

 

G.J. Donnelly Piranha_1@msn.com     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Yo Capn...cut 'em some slack. For an album that was tossed together in three days as the band commuted back and forth from France, LITTLE GAMES is pretty damn good---certainly a quantum leap over anything the Doors, the Dead or any San Francisco losers (Joplin and CCR aside) ever recorded. The first side is a solid mix of hard rock and psychedelic pop, even if "Glimpses" is the only track that really builds on their thrilling 1966 hybrids of heart pounding mayhem, psychedelia and Gregorian chanting. ("White Summer" is good filler, but filler all the same) Side two is where the trouble starts. "Drinking Muddy Water" is the Yardies' best speed-freak blueswail since "I'm a Man" but the sterile "No Excess Baggage" and unfinished "Little Solider Boy" sound like the Monkees aping the Animals and Donovan respectively. "Stealing Stealing" is sloppy fun, but non-fans will think it is bullshit. "Only the Black Rose," however, is a ghostly gem from Keith Relf, and !ranks with "Silver Tightrope" as his best-ever composition. "I Remember the Night" is novelty nonsense, almost a middle finger to Mickie Most in light of the weird string of crap singles he issued under the Yardbirds name with the grudging cooperation of Relf and Jimmy Page (who didn't even play on the shitty "Ha Ha Said the Clown). The B-sides, on the other hand, were ball-kicking masterpieces---especially "Puzzles" and "Think About It." Hunt down the CD that features "Dazed and Confused" (sorry Marvel, but Relf and co. do it better than Zep) and other interesting BBC cuts from the 1967-68 period. The chief drawbacks of LITTLE GAMES were its tin-ear mix, Most's ADD production style and an unfortunate descent into Donovan-like willful naivete. But when the Yardbirds stick to rockin and doing crazy-ass drones, LITTLE GAMES reminds us why they remain the coolest---if not the greatest---rock band of all time.

G. J. Donnelly Piranha_1@msn.com     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Ahoy Capn, and hit the deck because I'm about to deck you (well, not really---you've got to be pretty cool because your writing is a kick to read, even when I disagree with your opinion) because you got this album all wrong. The first side is solid pop-rock with some swirlingp sychedelia thrown in. I happen to like "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor" a lot---though it suffers from Page's failure to come up with an ear-catching riff. "White Summer" is good filler, but filler all the same, and even "Little Games" has a catchy charm, despite some truly awful lyrics. Side two is uneven as hell. I enjoy the bullshit jugband of "Stealing Stealing", but a lot of people won't, "Little Soldier Boy" is a rotten ripoff of the Byrds and Donovan, and "No Excess Baggage" just sounds flat. But "Drinking Muddy Water" rolls and tumbles, and Relf's ghostly "Only the Black Rose" is a gem. The extra tracks are a mixed bag---"Puzzles" and "Think About It" rock as hard as anything! the band ever did, but even the band disowned the A-sides released during this period ("Ten Little Indians", "Goodnight Sweet Josephine" and "Ha, Ha, Said the Clown"---which even Page didn't play on). Finally, the band had to record this in three days---under Mickie Most's clueless supervision---as they commuted back and forth from a French concert tour. EMI never gave the Yardbirds the studio time that the Animals, Who, Small Faces and their other rivals seemed to wallow in. Despite the handicap, they turned out an enjoyably flawed product with several top-notch tracks. If Led Zep was stuck with Most, you would have hated them too.

 


 

Live With Jimmy Page - Bootleg 197?

Released semi-legitimately exactly twice, both times being long, long ago, but now readily available as either an undoubtedly overpriced bootleg or a nicely-priced free download courtesy of the WinMX family of record pirates. And a whole fuckload of a sight better than that clambake arsesicle Little Games, fer sure. For some reason they decide to make everything but Jimmy Page's guitar completely and totally inaudible on the first two songs or so, part of which is (surprise!) an early version of Led Zeppelin's 'Dazed and Confused', already totally formed in Jimmy's mind. But, like I said, all you can hear is Jimmy's wavering, quivering paisley-pink Telecaster, so don't expect much from it. Things clear up to a near-acceptable 60's live-record level by the third track, which starts out, strangely, as the speedy solo section from 'Dazed And Confused', then blasts into 'Train Kept A-Rollin', and this by all accounts is the real Yardbirds, Keith 'Barf' Relf and Chris 'Dreadlock' Dreja and Paul 'Damn Well-' Samwell- 'Pissed' Smith, and whoever that other fool's name is, and Jimmy Page tearing holes in the sky already. Now, hearing Jimmy Page play in these old, stripped down, pre-20-minute soloing days (pre-Zeppelin, I mean) is a revelation. Zeppelin fans really need to check out the amazing level of command that Jimmy Page had over the band and the audience at this time. There's no way the lazy Song Remains the Same or the endless wanking on Led Zeppelin Live At the BBC is going to be able to prepare you for the near-Hendrixisms that Jimmy pulls out of the spirit realm here. And, even more shockingly, the band follows along pretty heartily...the rhythm section always plays it heavy and dark, and Relf knows exactly when to shut the fuck up. And, though I can't remember if they still had one, the rhythm guitar player plays it exactly right and just turns off and lets Jimmy run the show.

Of course, Jimmy Page live, no matter how young, still means lots and lots of wank-sessions, only some of which actually go anywhere. And these are not jams played by a well-oiled band that is firing on all cylinders like the Zep could be at certain times, but rather a pretty messy bunch of improvisational rock that probably turns out like it was supposed to only about 20% of the time. 'Mister You're a Better Man Than I', which starts of blisteringly heavy, falters under the weight of all this jamming, not to mention Relf's odd pronunciation, which renders the title as 'Misig Yerabettmn Than Aiiii!'. There's a better version of the proto 'Dazed And Confused' (called, I'm told, 'I'm Dazed') with different lyrics and some pretty cool duelling between Jimmy-bowed guitar and harmonica. 'Shapes Of Things' is fucking fantastic, and as Relf points out, they successfully do the solo section just as it was in the studio even though it supposedly couldn't be replicated onstage. This is obviously Live With Jimmy Page, so most of the material is of the sort that he did best, like 'White Summer', and very little else is heard from Little Games other than the title track and 'Drinking Muddy Water', both of which come off much better than in the studio. This, of course, is for the best, and I can only be thankful that they didn't put a lot of the dumber elements of that record on here, if they were ever performed onstage at all.

This album is frequently difficult to listen to, the performance is always juiced up but sometimes gets completely off-track, and it's painfully clear that Jimmy Page has so outgrown his bandmates that he seems to be playing more to pad his resume for his future supergroup than to further the Yardbirds. It's also probably completely impossible for most people to find unless they frequent the darker corners of the Internet where I like to hang out. But for sure it's the only place I've been able to truly see proof of the claim that the Yardbirds really were The Pioneers of Heavy Metal as they so often are described. And, there should be no argument, Jimmy Page fans ought to seek this one out today...

Capn's Final Word: The immolation of the Yardbirds and the simultaneous birth of Led Zeppelin...a fascinating bunch of live bootleg trash blooze-metal jams by Jimmy Page at his most immediate.

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G. J. Donnelly Piranha_1@msn.com     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Rotten sound---it was recorded by a Mantovani hack named Manny Kellem who had no idea about microphone placement---and ragged performances, but still amazingly listenable. Relf's voice is shot (his singing on "Over Under" is painful), but he puffs a mean harp; McCarty and Dreja are a grunge-worthy rhythm section; and Page rocks harder on this than on SONG REMAINS THE SAME, even though he's sloppy ("White Summer" is painstakingly off-key). But what Jimbo ain't is excessive, which is why I prefer this to Page's live stuff with Zep. BTW, I can play the "Shapes of Things" solo as well as Page does here---Jeff Beck he ain't. Yet, warts and all, it's worth the price, if only for "Dazed and Confused" (although this version pales with the one on CUMULAR LIMIT).

 


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