The Yardbirds – Live At The BBC (Repertoire Records)

The Yardbirds’ Live At The BBC has everything you’d expect from an album of 1960s BBC sessions: familiar singles, awkward interviews with terminally unhip BBC announcers, and some exclusives you can’t hear anywhere else. The majority of these tracks are from Jeff Beck’s tenure as lead guitarist, two sessions are from the Jimmy Page era (he does a great solo on “Think About It”), and there’s nothing from the Eric Clapton years, as he left just prior to their first session. None of these recordings are from the brief period when Beck and Page both played guitar in the band. Regardless of who was or wasn’t in the band at any given session, The Yardbirds turn in a series of great performances, and the audio is sourced from well-preserved tapes, which isn’t always the case for archival BBC releases. The exclusive tracks are a mixed bag. A cover of “Hang On Sloopy” isn’t particularly inspired, though it’s interesting to hear The Yardbirds tackle such a light-hearted tune. Bob Dylan’s “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” is a better fit, and if singer Keith Relf isn’t exactly a convincing delivery system for Dylan’s lyrics, at least the band attack the music with ferocity. Lastly, “Love Me Like I Love You” is an original tune from a June 1965 session never released elsewhere. It’s a relatively boring throwback to the band’s poppy British Invasion origins, but Jeff Beck’s killer solo saves the day. Though it’s not ideal for casual fans, The Yardbirds faithful will love The BBC Sessions, and even if you’ve bought previous versions, the expanded tracklist and improved audio make this new edition the one to own.

The Yardbirds – Roger The Engineer: 50th Anniversary Edition (Repertoire)

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, Aftermath,  Face To Face and A Quick One – Roger The Engineer was the sound of a band moving past 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”, taking lead vocals on the latter. 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 anyone used to the mono. That said, the separation of the instruments on the stereo version lets you hear the contributions of the individual musicians a little better. There’s bonus tracks of course, including non-album recordings from the tail-end of the Roger the Engineer era when Jeff Beck was joined on guitar by Jimmy Page (the band’s first choice to replace Eric Clapton, he declined, recommending Beck instead) for a guitar geek’s wet dream. There’s only three songs from this line-up, but the high-volume attack of “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.


The Story Of The Yardbirds (ABC Entertainment)

This excellent documentary covers the quick rise and even quicker fall of The Yardbirds from 1963-1968. The band’s history hasn’t been rehashed as frequently as their peers, so the information presented here – taken from interviews with band members, managers and producers – feels fresh and exciting. The DVD also benefits from excellent live clips, which show the band’s origins as a merely OK blues-rock band, but then really catching fire when Jeff Beck replaced Eric Clapton on guitar and pushed them into a more aggressive and experimental sound (compare the version of “I Wish You Would” with Clapton to the one with Beck…Beck’s kills). When Jeff Beck left and Jimmy Page took over, the band gained an even better guitar player, but Page was actually too good, running circles around the rest of the band, who struggled to keep up with him. When they broke up in 1968 Page was already experimenting with some of the ideas that would later become the foundation for Led Zeppelin. Still, don’t let rock history paint The Yardbirds as just a starting-point for three great guitar players – The Story Of The Yardbirds proves they were a great, and highly influential, band in their own right. The only negative is the lame booklet which talks mostly about the recently reformed Yardbirds (who aren’t mentioned in the movie) and the back cover where “For Your Love” is erroneously listed as “For The Love”.