The Yardbirds were one of the most powerful and
innovative British groups of the 1960s. Three of the top
guitarists of all time passed through their ranks but the legacy
of this band is much stronger than that. The band started in
south-west London and rode the crest of the British Blues boom,
following the Rolling Stones at the Crawdaddy Club in
Richmond. However, even in the early days and once Eric Clapton
had replaced the original lead guitarist they were already
forging a new direction with the creation of the rave-up whereby
the guitars would build to a crescendo within the songs. This
approach is audible on many of the tracks in this collection.
The second phase of the Yardbirds' career started when Eric Clapton
left and was replaced by Jeff Beck. There followed a string of classic hit
singles, some of which like For Your Love, were written by Graham
Gouldman. For Your Love had showcased a different direction with the use
of harpsichord but this was too far from the blues for Clapton. However, the
following singles were much more in the blues mode though creating new sounds at
the same time. Heart Full of Soul showed Beck using the electric guitar
to create a sound similar to the sitar, an Indian instrument that was becoming
"in vogue". The follow-up included Still I'm Sad which was a very unusual
track in having almost a Gregorian chant as the backing vocal. In a BBC
interview (disc 5) Brian Matthew asks Keith Relf about the band utilising new
electronic noises on records and live and this is evident in the session version
of Shapes of Things that follows.
The third phase of the Yardbirds was potentially the most exciting but
only produced three recorded tracks even though the band was gigging
extensively. Paul Samwell-Smith left the band to focus on production and was
replaced on bass by Jimmy Page. The idea of a twin lead guitar attack with Beck
and Page would always be something special and produced a memorable single in
Happenings Ten Years Time Ago as well as its b-side Psycho Daisies.
The Train Kept a Rollin' was a staple part of the live set and lasted
well into Led Zeppelin days. However, they were denied permission to use
the track in the film Blow Up and hastily wrote new lyrics and the song
became Stroll On.
When Jeff Beck left the group in October 1966, Chris Dreja switched to bass
to allow Jimmy Page to return to lead guitar. By this time the group was
becoming tired and they produced the patchy Little Games LP that mixed
innovation with pop songs. The latter were not well-suited to the Yardbirds.
However, new Page tracks such as Think About It showed a new direction
that would have been exciting if it had been seen through. The live set was also
being expanded with new songs like Dazed & Confused and White Summer.
These would become better-known as Led Zeppelin tracks although they
debuted with the Yardbirds.
This set of five CDs cover the Yardbirds full career with a mix of
live tracks, radio sessions and unreleased or alternate takes. These are
interspersed with interviews with band members. Unfortunately they are not
always in chronological order which can be a little confusing but they do add to
understanding the band and put the tracks in the context of when they were
recorded. A 7" vinyl disc includes the single I Wish You Would backed
with Baby What's Wrong. However, this is top quality all the way through
and it shows just how important the Yardbirds were in the 1960s scene.
They did not have many self-penned tracks and preferred to rely on cover
versions of blues classics and established songwriters. Graham Gouldman of the
Mockingbirds and later of 10CC, for example, wrote some of their
biggest hits including For Your Love, Evil Hearted You and
Heart Full of Soul. However, band members can be credited with writing the
incredible Shapes of Things, Over Under Sideways Down and Happenings
Ten Years Time Ago.
This is a near complete record of the Yardbirds' work although it
would have benefited from an additional CD of the single A and B sides. The live
tracks, especially those from the Marquee and National Jazz & Blues Festival,
show just how powerful a band they were. The later tracks show what clearly
could have been but then came Led Zeppelin and that is another story.
CD Release: 6 February 2012
Easy Action EARS035
- Shapes of Things
- Heart Full of Soul
- Happenings Ten Years Time Ago
- Dazed & Confused