Making Tracks (DVD) by The Yardbirds

February 18, 2013

For better or worse, The Yardbirds will always be associated with the trio of guitarists who were members of the band during the 1960s. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page are among the greatest guitarists in rock history and all rose to prominence with the band. Songs such as “For Your Love,” “Heart Full Of Soul,” and “Over Under Sideways Down” explored the limits of rock music. They disbanded in 1968 as the members went on to various projects, most notably Page who formed Led Zeppelin and Clapton with John Mayall, and Cream.

The lights went back on in 1992. They were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and soon after original members Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja reformed the Yardbirds with a cast of new members. A new studio album, Birdland, followed in 2003.
Today drummer McCarty and Guitarist Dreja are joined by lead guitarist Ben King, bassist Dave Smale, and lead singer Andy Mitchell. They have just released a new DVD, Making Tracks, which chronicles their tours from 2010-2012.

The modern day Yardbirds can rock and King is a fine guitarist who can handle their classic material well. The sound is modern and far more polished than the original recordings. At times the 1960s Yardbirds had a tiny quality to their sound due to their recording process, so it’s interesting to hear the music with modern technology.

New material shares the stage with some of their older hits. “Heart Full Of Soul,” “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” “For Your Love,” and “Shapes Of Things,” fit in well with “I’m Not Talking,” and “Crying Out For Love,” which were tracks from their 2003 album.

Probably the best tracks are their covers of some old blues classics that the original Yardbirds used as the foundation of their sound. “I’m A Man,” “Smokestack Lightning,” and “Train Kept A Rollin’” are nice modern day slices of a fusion of rock and blues.

The DVD visuals are crisp and clear and the sound is excellent. I always prefer complete concerts but the tracks, recorded at various venues, over a period of two years give a good glimpse into the style of the present day Yardbirds.
There is a second bonus disc that includes interviews with McCarty and Dreja, a documentary of the band on the road, plus two tracks by the Jim McCarty Band.

Making Tracks finds the Yardbirds alive and well in the new millennium. It proves that they are still relevant and shows that the past and present can come together every once in a while.

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Heart Full Of Soul 45 by The Yardbirds

October 29, 2012

The Yardbirds had their break through hit during mid-1966 with “For Your Love.” Their happiness was short lived when guitarist Eric Clapton decided their sound had become to popish and left the band.

How do you replace one of the greatest guitarists of all time? The answer is simple; you hire another of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Jeff Beck stepped in as the lead guitarist for “Heart Full Of Soul.” His use of a guitar fuzz box to distort his sound was unique at the time. “Heart Full Of Soul” reached number nine on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in the United States and number two in England.

Beck would eventually leave the band as well but things would continue to work out just fine as Jimmy Page was on the horizon.


Over, Under, Sideways, Down 45 by The Yardbirds

August 21, 2011

Whenever someone mentions The Yardbirds, their three guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page always dominate the conversation. All three were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with the rest of the band during 1992.

“Over, Under, Sideays, Down” was released as a single, June 25, 1966, in The United States. It was a quirky piece of psychedelic rock. Jeff Beck was the lead guitarist.

The flip side was a song titled “Jeff’s Boogie,” which was based on a Chuck Berry riff. It was one of the songs that first established Jeff Beck’s reutation as a guitarist. ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE placed it at number 23 on their list of The Greatest Guitar Songs Of All Time.


For Your Love 45 by The Yardbirds

December 21, 2009

The Yardbirds are safely enshrined in THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME yet they remain most famous as the training ground for three of rock’s greatest guitarists. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page all occupied the position of lead guitarist for the group.

The group’s biggest hit in The United Staes came in May of 1965 when “For Your Love” reached the number six position on the National charts. It featured Clapton on guitar.

Ironically it was songs such as this that caused Clapton to leave the band as he thought them too pop oriented. He wanted the band to remain a pure rhythm & blues group and when this did not happen he left to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

“For Your Love” remains a catchy rock relic from the past and the song that gave Eric Clapton his first world wide publicity.


Having A Rave Up by The Yardbirds

September 23, 2009

The first two album releases in the United States by The Yardbirds were cobbled-together affairs featuring singles, B-sides and live tracks. For Your Love, issued in July of 1965, sold moderately and reached number 96 on the American charts. Having A Rave Up, released in November of the same year, would be more successful and reach number 53.

Having A Rave Up is an odd album in Eric Clapton’s catalogue. He had already left the group by the time of its release and is not pictured on its cover or mentioned in the credits. The six tracks on the album’s A-side feature Jeff Beck as the lead guitarist while the B-side is comprised of previously released live tracks featuring Clapton on lead guitar. They are some of the earliest live recordings by Clapton on record.

Among his earliest live recordings by on record, Clapton’s four tracks are representative of his early sound. “Smokestack Lightnin,’” the old blues tune by Howlin’ Wolf, presents Clapton at his best. His solos are imaginative as he steps forward to dominate the song. Also, “Respectable,” an Isley Brothers cut, was the type of song that taught him his craft. During the early part of his career Clapton was attracted to American rhythm & blues and here he adapts his style to stay within the song’s framework.

Two Bo Diddley tunes complete the album. “Here ‘Tis” shows that Clapton, even at this early point in his career, is a guitarist of note. His clarity and ability to bend the instrument’s sound in all sorts of ways are representative of his future work. “I’m A Man” is interesting when comparing it to the studio version that appears with Jeff Beck in the lineup on the A-side.

While it has nothing to do with Eric Clapton, if you are going to listen to the live tracks you might as well listen to the Jeff Beck ones as well. The top ten American single, “Heart Full Of Soul,” features some great early fuzz tone. And “Train Kept A Rollin’” was Beck’s coming-out party, proving that he was and would continue to be Clapton’s equal.

Having A Rave Up is early and elemental rock ‘n’ roll. Rolling Stone Magazine would ultimately place it among their 500 greatest albums of all time. Today it remains a good listen for anyone interested in Eric Clapton and the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll.


For Your Love by The Yardbirds

September 23, 2009

Eric Clapton is one of the best and most influential guitarists of the past 45 years. He is a triple inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, having been honored for his work with The Yardbirds, Cream, and as a solo artist.

He first came to the public’s attention when he replaced original guitarist Anthony Topham in The Yardbirds. During his two-year tenure in the group he began developing a sound which would come to fruition later on with Cream.

For most of his time with the group, The Yardbirds were a rhythm and blues outfit. Ironically, it was their first and biggest hit, “For Your Love,” that ultimately caused Clapton to quit as he resented its pop sound and considered it a move away from the band’s blues roots.

The Yardbirds’ first album release in the United States was 1965’s For Your Love, which was a compilation centered around the title track, their big American hit. Clapton is not pictured on the cover but was the lead guitarist on eight of the eleven tracks. Jeff Beck assumed the lead guitar duty on the other three.

The production leaves a lot to be desired even when comparing it to other releases of the day—specifically, there is a tinny quality that just does not go away—but the music is still very different from much of what was being released in 1965. Clapton’s guitar playing combined with Keith Relf’s harmonica fuses rock and blues in a unique way.

Clapton may not have been enamored by “For Your Love,” but he did provide lead guitar and it was nevertheless a strong track. Relf’s vocal and the song’s odd tempo made it one of the more interesting singles to receive airplay in 1965.

Clapton is really at home with some of the old blues and R&B numbers. “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “I Ain’t Got You,” and “I’m Not Talkin’” all show early flashes of his brilliance.

The Yardbirds with Eric Clapton were for the most part a raw unit yet would exert an influence on the development of rock ‘n’ roll. They also served as the training ground for one of the great guitarists in music history.


Live Blueswailing by The Yardbirds

June 17, 2009

I am a record person, always have been, always will be. I buy CDs for three reasons — a new release that will never be found in vinyl form, a box sets that contains unique material, or an impulse purchase when I can hear the CD whispering to me. Live! Blueswailing July ’64 by the Yardbirds falls into the third category.

The Yardbirds are one of the forgotten groups of rock history. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1992, they are remembered today not so much for their music as for being the training ground for three of the great rock guitarists in history. Eric Clapton (May 1963-March 1965), Jeff Beck (March 1965-June 1966) and Jimmy Page (April 1966-July 1968) each learned their craft as the lead guitarist of the Yardbirds.

As if that wasn’t historically significant enough, the tail end of the band’s golden era was equally as noteworthy. When the Yardbirds broke up in July 1968, Page and bassist Chris Dreja decided to form the New Yardbirds in order to fulfill some concert commitments. Singer Terry Reid turned them down but recommended Robert Plant, who brought along drummer John Bonham. Then, in one of the worst voluntary decisions in rock history, Chris Dreja decided not to participate in the new group, became a photographer and was replaced by bassist John Paul Jones. The New Yardbirds decided to look for a new name. Any idea what they settled on*?

Meanwhile, back in 1964… Blueswailing July ’64 features the Eric Clapton edition of the Yardbirds. The group is led by singer/harmonica player Keith Relf, who would die by electrocution playing the guitar at home in 1976. Relf was a wonderful blues/rock vocalist and one of the better rock harmonica players. The interplay of Relf’s harmonica with Clapton’s guitar playing is the highlight of this CD, which is unfortunately only half an hour long.

In fact, it is similar to the LP Five Alive Yardbirds and probably comes from the same concert tour. The main problem is that it was recorded in 1964, probably on a simple tape recorder, and is limited in sound. Three old rock/blues standards form the meat of the set — “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Smokestack Lightning” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” – and all feature a young Clapton learning his craft. The highlight of this disc is the song “I’m So Respectable,” which features the wonderful harmonica-guitar interplay mentioned above.

Make no mistake, while the main interest here may be centered upon Clapton, the leader and focus of the Yardbirds at this point in their history is Relf and here, at least, he shines. Still, it is 1964. The sound is very raw, not a surprise given that the Yardbirds never develop a very sophisticated sound, but here it’s too weak to give a true testament to the band’s concert sound.

As such, it’s interesting for a listen and for its historical value, but it’s not something you’ll return to very often unless you’re a huge Yardbirds or Clapton fan. Me, I’ll stick with the albums.