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Yardbirds.US: Press

Live Yardbirds! Featuring Jimmy Page

Review by Bruce Eder

Arguably the most famous lost live album in history, Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page, cut at the Anderson Theater in New York on March 30, 1968, has been issued twice on vinyl legitimately (only to be suppressed by legal action) and innumerable times since as a bootleg. In August 2000, Mooreland St. Records put out the first authorized CD edition of the performance, and it is a complete revelation. The original master tape has been improved significantly; the absence of vinyl noise is an obvious plus, but the sheer impact of the instruments is also startling, given that the show was taped by a producer who had never recorded a rock band before, on equipment that was ten years out of date. The producers have expanded this reissue with help from a separate reference tape, an audience recording that preserved the complete unedited show; it's somewhat low-fi, but it captures material edited from the finished master, and it allows for the restoration of little nuances. Page's guitar (which goes out of tune several times) is the dominant instrument, alternately crunchy and lyrical, but always loud and dexterous; the roughness of Keith Relf's singing is also more apparent, but his shortcomings don't really hurt the music. The performance also reveals just how far out in front of the psychedelic pack the Yardbirds were by the spring of 1968; Page had pushed the envelope about as far as he could, in terms of high-velocity guitar pyrotechnics. Ironically, this album isn't quite as strong as the contemporary Truth album by Jeff Beck, mostly because the Yardbirds were still juggling three sounds: the group's progressive pop/rock past, the psychedelia of 1968, and a harder, more advanced blues-based sound. It's clear that they had few places left to go with the first two; "Dazed and Confused," by contrast, represented something new, a slow blues as dark, forbidding, and intense as anything that the band had ever cut — it showed where Page, if not this band, was heading.
Little Games- A Review

If you were a young James Patrick Page, session man, the years 1966-7 were a period of incredible highs and unbelievable lows. You're regarded as swinging London's top guitarist to call on when your fave-rave pop combo couldn't cut it in the studio. But you're tired of the endless jobbing and you welcome the chance to be the Yardbirds' bass player, working next to friend and hero, Jeff Beck. Ah, but Beck is disgruntled, bored and itchy to move on. One classic single ("Happenings Ten Years Time Ago") with both Beck and you on duelling psych-guitars and, woosh! The band are a four-piece and suddenly you're in the spotlight. By early 1967 you're back in the studio but, under the dread hand of grim popmeister, Mickey Most, recording lightweight pop nonsense for the forgettable (US only release) album Little Games. End of story? Not quite...

This album's been rehashed many times already, particularly as it contains some of the seeds of Page's later work with Led Zeppelin. Yet this particular package finally does away with the shoddy production of yesteryear and replaces it with sparkling clarity. This has its good and bad points. Page's sonic trickery and inventiveness (bowed strings, fuzz madness etc.) shine out in digital format, yet Keith Relf's already somewhat weedy vocals aren't helped whatsoever. Whiney is about the only thing to be said of his delivery. Yet beyond mere historic interest there is still plenty to amuse here.

Page's guitar work was pretty well up to scratch by this stage. Endless gigging Stateside had honed his psychedelic muse and the acoustic work on ''White Mountain'' (actually a copy of Davey Graham's ''She Moved Through The Fair'') was never bettered (and often recapped) in his days with the mighty Zep. Song writing, when allowed by the dictatorial Most, was much improved from the earlier blues rave-ups of their last album (Roger The Engineer). Relf's ''Only The Black Rose'' is particularly sweet, and, as extra live tracks (including the original template of ''Dazed And Confused'') and BBC sessions show, the band was as tight as they'd ever been in their Beckian heyday.

So, not the disaster that legend has it. In fact, were it not for the indifference met in the UK by late 1967, these Yardbirds may well have flown on to better things. Their last B-side, ''Think About It'', features playing every bit as explosive as anything that Page was yet to achieve. Unfortunately it came too late to save the band. This reissue goes some way in restoring an unnecessarily tarnished reputation.

Reviewer: Chris Jones
Chris Jones - the BBC (Mar 14, 2003)
Mostly Sonny- A Tribute To Sonny Boy Williamson

Dave Walker was the voice of the 1970's and '80's British Blues Rock band, Savoy Brown, as well as having short stints as the lead singer for Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath. Walker began his professional music career in 1960 at the age of 15 when he played with the Redcaps, a British version of Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps, and shared the stage with the Beatles. After recording dozens of albums and touring for three decades, he dropped out of the entire music scene to lead a Spartan existence as a survivalist, living without electricity or running water. He was accepted into the Pueblo Indian culture and changed his views about life in general. Today he lives in Bozeman, Montana, and two years ago he decided to re-enter civilization by getting electricity and even a telephone, but he doesn't own a TV set and has never used a computer.
The Mostly Sonny album was initially a project of Russ Garrett, who put together the Ambulators as an all-British Blues band, consisting of members from well-known groups: Savoy Brown co-founder John O'Leary plays harp; Peter Green's Splinter Group provides Nigel Watson on lead guitar and Roger Cotton on keyboards/piano/Hammond organ; Ray Majors, who was a member of the Yardbirds and Mott plays lead guitar; from the Downliners sect come Don Craine on rhythm guitar and Keith Grant, who plays bass; Mick Avory, who came from the Kinks along with Alan Brooks and Chris Hunt, handled the drums.

When producer Russ Garrett contacted Arnie Goodman, who was Dave Walker's manager when he was with Savoy Brown, about filling the lead singer position, the choice was obvious. So for the first time in thirteen years Walker consented to participate in a full-blown record album. Dave's gritty vocals were the crowning jewel in an album representing a collaboration of musicians from four decades of British Blues. The album gives recognition to the ultimate source of their inspiration, American Blues, in the persona of Sonny Boy Williamson.

The group was assembled at Roundel Studios in Kent, England, and Walker flew in for a two-day session where he provided the vocals on all eight of the Sonny Boy Williamson songs with lyrics, plus one of his own compositions titled "Floreen." Williamson's compositions include "Nine Below Zero," "Bring It On Home," "Help Me," "Eyesight To The Blind," "Keep It To Yourself," "Don't Start Me Talkin'," "Ninety Nine," and "The Midnight Special." "Talk the Talk" is a short band jam providing interplay between the dominant harp of John O'Leary and the guitar of Nigel Watson. Vocals on the remaining three tunes are sung by their respective authors: "Miss You Too" by Keith Grant, "Soup In A Basket" by Don Craine, and "Driftin'" by Ray Majors.

The album bears the test of repeated listening easily, from the beautiful guitar work reminiscent of early Peter Green period Fleetwood Mac on the first title, "Nine Below Zero," to the familiar finale "The Midnight Special," with its honky-tonk piano. Walker's voice is holding up beautifully as he prepares to enter his sixtieth year.
Outside Woman Blues-Jim McCarty Blues Band

If someone wrote a book about British blues-rock and failed to mention Jim McCarty, the book would have a gaping hole. McCarty was the Yardbirds' original drummer, and failing to mention him would be like not mentioning Cream's Ginger Baker or Led Zeppelin's John Bonham. The Yardbirds weren't strictly a blues-rock band; many of their songs favored a haunting, quasi-Gregorian outlook. But blues-rock was an important part of what they did, and McCarty's blues-rock side dominates Outside Woman Blues. This 2002 release finds the drummer leading a quartet that is billed as the Jim McCarty Blues Band, which also includes guitarist/singer John Idan and ex-members of Mott the Hoople (guitarist/singer Ray Majors) and the Strawbs (bassist Rod Demick). Not everything on this CD is blues-rock; "Lawyers, Guns and Money," for example, is '70s-style arena rock, while the moody "Heart's Not in It" is Police-like reggae-rock. But Outside Woman Blues favors blues-rock more often than not, and all of the material is solid — that is true of the studio recordings that dominate the disc as well as a few hidden live tracks at the end (including performances of "Train Kept a Rollin'" and the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul"). Overall, the sound could be described as London by way of Chicago (as in Chess Records, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Little Walter) and Detroit (as in John Lee Hooker). Is Outside Woman Blues groundbreaking? Hardly. But then, it isn't supposed to be; this CD is meant to be faithful to McCarty's history. Although not in a class with the best work that the Yardbirds, Cream, or Ten Years After had to offer, it's a solid effort that will appeal to die-hard fans of classic British blues-rock.
The British Invasion All-Stars (a review)

The British Invasion All-Stars are a 21st century band with a '60s sound, which isn't surprising because all of its members are veteran rockers who belonged to various '60s bands (some more prominent than others). In rock circles, the term British Invasion is used to describe the wave of British rock bands that made its presence felt in the '60s. Rock was born in the United States, but when the Beatles and many other British acts hit big in the '60s, it was clear that England had become a major player in the rock & roll field.

Formed in 2001, the British Invasion All-Stars boasts former-Yardbird Jim McCarty on drums and lead vocals, ex-Procol Harum member Matthew Fisher on electric Hammond organ, and Eddie Phillips (formerly of the Creation) on lead guitar. The three other members are Ray Phillips, of the Nashville Teens fame, on lead vocals, and two ex-members of the Downliners Sect: rhythm guitarist Don Craine and bassist Keith Grand (who contributes background vocals and shares the lead vocals with Phillips and McCarty). The British Invasion All-Stars' self-titled debut album, which was released on the independent Mooreland Street label in 2002, shows no awareness of the alternative rock sounds of the early 2000s; the band is totally unaffected by any of the punk, new wave, post-punk, pop-metal, or alternative rock that came after the '60s. From covers of well-known songs by the Yardbirds ("Shapes of Things") and the Who ("Shakin' All Over"), to new material, everything on the British Invasion All-Stars' first album is unapologetically '60s-minded. The CD boasts several guest musicians who have strong '60s credentials, including bassist Noel Redding (who was one-third of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) and two ex-members of the Pretty Things: Dick Taylor and Phil May.
Rockin The Garage: The Pretty Things 'n Mates with Matthew Fisher

Well, the Pretty Things are actually just Phil May and Dick Taylor; the Mates, or more precisely the Inmates, helping to fill the gaps left by missing Pretties Wally Waller, John Povey and Skip Allen. And while at the end of 1998 the Pretty Things are in the news all over again, with a live studio version of S.F.Sorrow, featuring guest Dave Gilmour a new studio album, and a European Rockpalast TV broadcast on the same bill as Van Morrison, this album from 1992 serves as a previous attempt to get back together and do what they do best ... rock.

The Pretty Things do what I wish the Stones were doing now. The musical roots are the same but the Things have loads more clout. Rockin The Garage is an excellent Rock album .

Matthew Fisher has thoroughly discarded his Procol Harum uniform and reverted to his personal favourite style. Anyone touching down on his website will read that he prefers the Stones to the Moody Blues. So this tribute to American Garage Rock was the perfect opportunity to leave the Hammond and the strings at home and stretch out on mid-sixties plastic pianos and organs. And he does it to perfection.

High point for Matthew Fisher is the well-known instrumental Red River Rock. Don't know the title? Just wait till you hear the tune ... it's instant recognition. He plays it with great swinging timing, accenting the notes just before the beat, exactly as it should be, and exactly where all the amateurs get it completely wrong. You don't play like this if you don't adore the music! It's hard to be serious about so lighthearted a ditty but Matthew really does pull this off superbly.

On the remainder of the album, of which even the total playing time is definitely retro (35 minutes!), Matthew Fisher plays far away in the background, sticking to functional piano rhythm backing or sixties-style high-pitched organ chords. His fake-suspense electric piano intro on Strychnine is classic, but it's really hard to hear piano or organ on the rest of the track. Dick Taylor is definitely hogging centre-stage here.

96 Tears has the classic sixties Vox / Farfisa transistor organ sound so reminiscent of the Doors and Iron Butterfly. You can almost hear Matthew Fisher smiling on this track...."At last a chance to play this great silly song! And the chords are easier to remember than Homburg".

So if you're looking for a new Pretty Things Rock Opera, with symphonic colour added by the famous Matthew Fisher, forget it. What you get here is a great sounding punching tribute to simple rock music, performed with lust and vigour, which just happens to have our hero playing backing and a few great leads.

If you find a copy, buy it. There apparently aren't many out there, and the collectability of the Pretty Things is set to increase with their current revival
Procol Harum Website (Apr 17, 2005)

Chris DrejaThe Yardbirds were doing a show with the Beatles in the mid-'60s when Paul McCartney arrived in their dressing room with a backstage surprise.

"Paul came in with an acoustic guitar and said, 'Hey, lads -- what do you think of this?'" says Chris Dreja, the Yardbirds's bass player at the time. "And he started to play a song called 'Scrambled Eggs.'"

Later, McCartney and producer George Martin would score orchestral parts to the song, a melodic ballad about a man reflecting on his younger years. "Of course, it would become 'Yesterday,'" Dreja says.

While the Yardbirds weren't around long, they made enough of an impression on the Beatles, who invited them to perform a series of shows with them in December of 1964 and January of 1965. "They dug what we were doing," Dreja remembers.

While the Yardbirds were relatively unknown, at the time, the Beatles were already a sensation. so the Yardbirds knew opening for the Liverpool band was a big break. "You couldn't go a day without hearing or seeing something in the press about the Beatles," Dreja says.

While the Yardbirds would eventually become known for having three of the greatest rock guitarists -- Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page -- in the band at one time or another, at the time Clapton was their lone lead guitarist, with Dreja playing rhythm guitar. When the Yardbirds toured with the Beatles that winter, Clapton found a lifelong friend -- George Harrison.

A few years later, Clapton would record a guitar solo for the Harrison-penned 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' While that solo is a legendary rock piece, when the Yardbirds opened for the Beatles, Dreja says, Clapton was a blues purist -- one who would dislike the Yardbirds hit 'For Your Love' because it wasn't bluesy enough.

"Eric is a chameleon, both as a character in many ways and as a musician," Dreja says, noting that Clapton would often change his look and musical styles through the years that followed.

Of course, the Beatles famously changed their sound through the years, and during that winter tour, Clapton and Dreja were able to witness the fruits of the Beatles' success. Between performances at the Hamersmith Odeon, Dreja remembers, the Beatles had a local car company drive a small fleet of Rolls Royces to the venue for the Fab Four's inspection.

"They had this line of Rolls Royces to choose from," says Dreja, who reunited with a reformed Yardbirds in the '90s, "and they were test driving them in the lot behind the stage." The Rolls that John Lennon chose -- and later had painted with a psychedelic design -- sold for $2.3 million in 1985.

While Dreja was one of the select few to hear 'Yesterday' in those early stages, it wasn't the only rock 'n' roll classic he'd get a sneak preview of. "I got to hear 'Stairway to Heaven' before it was released as a single -- with a few mistakes in it," he says.

What rock fan wouldn't want to be in those shoes

- Spinner Music (Jul 6, 2010)
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