Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Golden Eggs - The Yardbirds

Golden Eggs
The Yardbirds
Trademark of Quality  TMQ-61001

I often see this vintage bootleg selling for ridiculously high prices which, even as a Yardbirds collector myself, I think is absurd.  All of the tracks on here were originally commercially released and all of them have been easily obtainable on CD for many years.  I believe they are all available again on vinyl as well thanks to Repertoire Records' recent series of Yardbirds compilations (highly recommended by the way.)  Admittedly back in the mid-1970s a lot of this stuff was pretty hard to find although you could get most of it if you tried hard enough.  I bought this in the early 1980s even though I already had most of it.  I bought it because I wanted to hear the two Keith Relf solo tracks.  I also liked the cover art and I got it at a bargain price.  I certainly don't need it any longer.  I keep it as a dumb collector thing even though it has a major flaw, namely all the stereo tracks were improperly recorded.  Only one of the two channels was dubbed on to the record and that channel comes out of both speakers when you play the album.  Thus either the vocals or some of the instruments are barely audible.  Fortunately only 8 of the 17 cuts are in stereo but it is still often annoying.  This reportedly is not true of all versions of this album, mine is apparently a bootleg of the bootleg.  The Eric Clapton era of the group is represented by two oddly chosen cuts from "For Your Love."  "Putty (In Your Hands)" is a minor song and "Sweet Music" is one of the worst songs they ever did.  "Putty" is in mono and sounds fine, but "Sweet Music" is the stereo version and Relf's vocal is buried deep in the mix so it sounds ridiculous.  The record jumps into the Jeff Beck era with "Steeled Blues" from 1965 which was originally the B-side on the "Heart Full Of Soul" single which is fairly easy to find.  It is an instrumental credited to Beck but it is basically a generic blues given a lethargic treatment by the band although Beck and Relf (on harmonica) have their moments.  It jumps forward to the two songs from "Yardbirds" that Epic Records dropped for their version of the album "Over Under Sideways Down."  Both are in stereo so Beck's dazzling guitar work is generally too far down in the mix on "The Nazz Are Blue" and on "Rack My Mind" Relf's vocal is practically inaudible.  The Jeff Beck/Jimmy Page era of the band is represented by "Stroll On" from the "Blow-Up" soundtrack."  It is my all-time favorite Yardbirds track.  It is in mono so it sounds fine although I prefer the stereo version that I have on my copy of the soundtrack album.  The Jimmy Page era of the band makes up the bulk of the album which makes sense since it was the Yardbirds music that was hardest to find back in the 1970s.  There are four tracks from "Little Games" which are among my least favorite tracks on the album.  All are in stereo and suffer from the missing channel.  The jug band style "Stealing, Stealing" and the largely instrumental psychedelic song "Glimpses" both sound okay even with the missing channel.  On the poppy "Little Soldier Boy" Jim McCarty's vocal impersonation of a trumpet that runs throughout the song is buried deep in the mix which makes the song sound naked like a demo.  On the commercial sounding "No Excess Baggage" the lead guitar can barely be heard.  The album also features "Puzzles" which was the B-side of the "Little Games" single as well as the band's final singles "Ha Ha Said the Clown," "Ten Little Indians" and "Goodnight Sweet Josephine" along with the latter's B-side, "Think About It" written by Jimmy Page.  Relf wrote "Puzzles" which has a pop-psych sound and a sizzling Page solo and I think it is a lot better than many of the tracks that made it onto "Little Games."  "Ha Ha Said the Clown" was released in 1967 and features Relf with a bunch of studio musicians.  It sounds fine although it is not characteristic of the band's sound and I prefer the Manfred Mann recording of the song which this version closely copies.  "Ten Little Indians" was written by Harry Nilsson and also was released in 1967.  The album notes say that this is a stereo track but the song was originally issued in mono so I have no idea how they got a stereo copy.  To me it sounds identical to the mono version I have on a different album so perhaps the note is wrong.  I like the way the song builds in strength and its slightly trippy arrangement, but it is far from essential.  "Goodnight Sweet Josephine" is bolstered by expansive use of phasing and is engaging but inane.  Its flip side is much superior, in fact "Think About It" is among the very best tracks the Yardbirds ever did, boasting a heavy riff and some smoking guitar work from Page that clearly anticipates his future work with Led Zeppelin.  Even though I generally disdain singles I paid five bucks to buy this 45 at Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley in 1980 and I still consider it one of my best scores.  The album also contains a 1966 single by Keith Relf.  The A-side is the moody "Mr. Zero" by Bob Lind which sounds nothing like the Yardbirds, but I still really like it.  Its B-side is a Relf composition entitled "Knowing" which is a chamber pop track that sounds a bit like the Zombies.  Despite all of this record's many flaws, the Relf single makes it worthwhile (although you can easily find it elsewhere on better albums.)  I can't recommended my version of this album because of its recording defect but even a properly recorded version is a dubious purchase.  The selections from "For Your Love" and "Little Games" are poorly chosen and frankly the inclusion of only legitimately released music as opposed to unreleased tracks or concert recordings makes this bootleg even more ethically questionable than a normal bootleg.  "Stroll On," "Think About It," "The Nazz are Blue" and "Rack My Mind" are essential tracks that every Yardbirds fan should own, but you should look for them elsewhere.  Not recommended to anyone but fanatics.

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