Tuesday, February 5, 2008
No. 353: Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds
Band: The Yardbirds
Album: Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The last album with Eric Clapton (and it's only half the record, as Beck plays on the second half) is the Yardbirds at their blues-guitar best. The band tears through blues standards with a pace not seen before.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's mostly a one-trick pony and Keith Relf's vocals just aren't my thing.
Best song: "Smokestack Lightning" is tons of fun and "Train Kept A-Rollin'" is amazing.
Worst song: "Still I'm Sad" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Maybe.
Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton are great guitar players. I imagine there isn't much doubting that. Everyone knows that Clapton has a godlike following and Beck -- for all his bouncing ego -- can light up a fretboard. Just listen to "Smokestack Lightning" to hear it.
The Yardbirds are very much a gateway band. They were wildly important in the long march of rock and roll, as the band's guitar players went on to become legends and their reimagining of blue standards became templates for harder rock. (To use some pretty tortured logic) Without the Yardbirds, there is no Jimmy Page. And without Jimmy Page, there are no New Yardbirds (Page's original name for Led Zeppelin). And without Zep, there isn't much of anything (however much I prefer Black Sabbath).
And so we have the 'Birds amping up songs like Bo Diddley's "I'm A Man" to the point that it sounds mildly (stress on "mildly") threatening. We have the band destroying "Train Kept A-Rollin'," to the point that it partially inspired Aerosmith to cover it (and fail miserably, by the way). Keith Relf's vocals don't really do it for me, but, nevertheless, the band is tight as can be.
My thought on the Yardbirds is similar to my thought on Clapton: I may not love them, but the history of rock and roll cannot be written without them. And so, we have this album on the list and rightfully so.