Guide to British Music of the 1960s

January 2018

CD Review: The Yardbirds - Yardbirds '68

 

This 2LP/2CD set was originally available through www.jimmypage.com and now has wider distribution. The live concert was recorded on the Yardbirds' final US tour, not long before the band split and Jimmy Page formed the New Yardbirds, later Led Zeppelin. The Yardbirds went through three distinct phases in their career. This is the end of the final phase where the live set consisted of the same standards that the band had always played such as I'm a Man and Train Kept a Rollin'; the "hits" which were mostly recorded with Jeff Beck such as Shapes of Things, Heart Full of Soul and Mr You're a Better Man Than I; and the Jimmy Page era where the original members of the band were "tired" but Page was full of ideas, leading to some experimental and exciting music that later appeared with Page's next band such as Dazed & Confused and White Summer. Indeed, the live performances on this US tour were akin to the real Yardbirds sound. In the studio producer Mickie Most had attempted to turn the band into a pop act and this resulted in some poor quality tracks that did not reflect the true talents of the band.

However, while the Yardbirds may have been on their final tour and on the verge of splitting up, this is an incredibly powerful performance that shows just how good a live band the Yardbirds were. They played the Anderson Theater New York on 30 March 1968 on their final US tour. This is not the sound of a band in its final days but a band that is still full of energy and ideas. The best-known tracks such as Shapes of Things and Heart Full of Soul sound fresh with nothing lost during the switch to a single guitar from two guitars. At the same time Page is bringing new songs into the set, some of which would become better known over the next few years as Led Zeppelin staples such as Dazed and Confused and White Summer. This is certainly a great document of a wonderful band.

The studio tracks were recorded around the same time and should be taken as jottings from a notebook. They show songs under development including Knowing I'm Losing You which later became better known as Led Zeppelin's Tangerine. Avron Knows also sounds like it could have been a classic track if finished and released earlier. This latter track shows just how good a songwriter Jim McCarty was.

The Jimmy Page era of the Yardbirds is vital in music history as it was Page's first major band even though he was well-established as a session musician and it is a vital steeping stone to what came later with Led Zeppelin. The studio recorded material at the time, notably the Little Games LP and the Goodnight Sweet Josephine single did not play to the band's strengths and failed to show just what a hot band the Yardbirds were. This release rectifies this. However, it is important to remember that this is not a Jimmy Page album. Prior to Page joining in 1966 the Yardbirds had been an incredible live act during the Eric Clapton years and the Jeff Beck period. They remained an exceptional and underrated act to the end of their days. Great listening.

Dark Peak JPRLPBX3

CD Release: 5 November 2017

Essential Tracks

  • Dazed & Confused
  • Shapes of Things
  • Avron Knows

Track Listing

Disc One: Live at the Andersen Theater, New York
  1. Train Kept a Rollin'
  2. Mr You're a Better Man Than I
  3. Heart Full of Soul
  4. Dazed & Confused
  5. My Baby
  6. Over Under Sideways Down
  7. Drinking Muddy Water
  8. Shapes of Things
  9. White Summer
  10. I'm a Man

Disc Two: Studio Recordings

  1. Avron Knows
  2. Spanish Blood
  3. Knowing That I'm Losing You (Tangerine)
  4. Taking a Hold On Me
  5. Drinking Muddy Water (version 2)
  6. My Baby
  7. Avron's Eyes
  8. Spanish Blood (instrumental)

 

 

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