Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Live Yardbirds - The Yardbirds

Live Yardbirds
The Yardbirds
Epic E30615

I bought this record sealed for $25 in the early 1980s at my favorite record store ever, Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley.  It seems like a bargain now, it was actually a bargain then too, but for me, a starving student at the time, it was a princely sum.  I had to skip a few meals to pay for it.  It was worth it though.  The Yardbirds, or more specifically Jimmy Page, had this album withdrawn supposedly because he didn't approve of the dubbed crowd noises or more likely the attempt to cash in on the fame of Led Zeppelin.  There was no reason to be embarrassed by this album though, if anything Page ought to be embarrassed by Led Zeppelin's live album "The Song Remains the Same" which is a far worse record.  Yes the crowd noise is a little irritating, but the perfomance is awesome and the recording quality is pretty decent for a 1960s era live recording.  The group's performance of "Over, Under, Sideways, Down" is the best I've heard and they also deliver blistering takes of "Mr. You're a Better Man than I," "Heart Full of Soul," "Train Kept A-Rollin'" and "Drinking Muddy Water."  If you are a Yardbirds fan you are probably familiar with the extended psychedelic version of "I'm a Man" that the group developed with Page which has been featured on various archival reissues.  I admire the effort to breathe new life into the song, but I prefer the studio version the group recorded with Jeff Beck.  Nonetheless Page's fiery solo comes close to matching Beck's breath-taking solo on the original and you get to hear him play his guitar with a violin bow as well.  The group also offers up an epic version of Jake Holmes' "Dazed and Confused" (here entitled "I'm Confused") which Led Zeppelin essentially copied for the version they put out on their debut album, which might be another reason why Mr. Page has been so reluctant to allow this record to be released.  Much of this record is like a blueprint for the early Led Zeppelin sound.  Like any good live record, this performance is a little rough, a little sloppy perhaps, but full of energy and excitement.  Tracking down an affordable vinyl original may be impossible at this stage, but it has been widely bootlegged and was also issued on CD a few years back.  If you have any interest in the Yardbirds you definitely should check it out.  Recommended for people who think Led Zeppelin invented heavy metal.

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