Although the Yardbirds are better known for their groundbreaking singles than albums, Roger the Engineer was the best full-length from their original 1960s run. Like other albums released by major British bands in 1966 – Revolver, Between the Buttons, Face To Face and A Quick One – Roger The Engineer was the sound of a band going beyond the blues and r&b covers of their early years, drunk on experimentation and ready to dive into unchartered territories. Songs like “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” and “Ever Since the World Began” were so progressive and advanced, they simply couldn’t have existed just twelve months earlier. Leading the Yardbirds into this era was guitarist Jeff Beck, who was at the top of his game on Roger the Engineer, adding excitement to “Lost Woman” and the tough-as-nails blues numbers “Jeff’s Blues” and “The Nazz Are Blue”, the latter of which he also sings. Elsewhere, “Hot House of Omagarashid” is every bit as wacky as its title, and “He’s Always There” is a bad-ass garage rock classic.
The 50th anniversary edition presents the album in both mono and stereo versions, with wonderfully remastered sound. The mono version is the familiar one, and the hard panning of the stereo mix is a little jarring for those who are used the mono. That said, the separation of the instruments on the stereo version lets you better hear the contributions of the individual musicians. There are bonus tracks of course, including the non-album recordings from the tail end of the Roger the Engineer era when Jeff Beck was joined on guitar by Jimmy Page (who was the band’s first choice to replace Eric Clapton, but declined, recommending Beck instead) for a guitar geek’s wet dream. There’s only three songs from this line-up, but the way the band attacks “Stroll On”, “Psycho Daisies” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” make them early prototypes of hard rock and heavy metal. Also included are a pair of Keith Relf solo singles from 1966, and though these songs are poppier than the Yardbirds’ material, they’re well executed pop.
If you like this album, The Yardbirds, or 1960’s rock/mod/psych, this reissue is essential listening.