• The Cream of The Crate - Record #31: The Yardbirds

      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      "(They) paved the way for psychedelic rock, progressive rock, heavy metal, Southern boogie and even punk." (Rolling Stone)

      Album Cover

      This is number thirty one in the series of albums I'm featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my personal collection. The series is called, "Cream of The Crate", and they represent vinyl albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

      The term 'Supergroup' has been used over and over again during at least the past 40 years of popular music, however, in my mind the very first real Supergroup, is the Yardbirds. It could be argued that any given Yardbird album could rightly feature in a review such as this. In fact my favourite album is Five Live Yardbirds, which was the first live album to come out of the 1960's. Sadly that album was lost from my collection, and even though I have it on CD, I no longer have it on vinyl.

      So I have chosen this album - "
      For Your Love". It's a great album that has two of the three (famous) guitarists that fronted Yardies, but in addition to having a fine selection of their material, it is a German pressing and the quality (like German cars), is excellent.

      There is some doubt about the release year of this album, it has many listings but none with a date - my recollection is that I purchased it very early in the 1970's. There was an album by the same name released elsewhere
      one year after Five Live Yardbirds was released, with a different track listing. This album was released on the ASTAN label (201 024) and produced by Giorgio Gomelski.

      The group formed in 1963 and folded in 1968. Only five years and six original albums, but their influence on music and musicians, and audiences worldwide cannot be overstated. As almost every music aficionado knows, the group featured at various times three of the guitarists to come out of the 1960's. They were, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

      Early Yardbirds (with Clapton, 2nd from the left)

      As previously mentioned, both Clapton and Beck featured on this album. However, Clapton was the 'blues' - he was seeped in it and at this time in his illustrious career it was his raison d'etre! So when the group began to move into a more commercial (and money making) direction, he quit!

      SIDE 1
      1. Still I'm Sad
      2. New York city Blues
      3. For Your Love
      4. I'm a Man
      5. Heart Full of Soul

      SIDE 2
      1. Smokestack Lighting
      2. I'm Not Talking
      3. You're a Better Man Than I
      4. Evil Hearted You
      5. I'm a Man

      Rear Album Cover

      So, to the tracks on this album. It has an interesting selection of great electric blues, tracks such as "
      New York City Blues" [a Keith Relf original] and "Smokestack Lightning" [Chester Burnett - aka Howling Wolf], not to forget the track by Elas McDaniel [aka Bo Diddley] - "I'm a Man". Then there are the more 'pop' oriented tracks, such as "For Your Love", "Evil Hearted You" & "Heart Full of Soul"[all three written by10cc Graham Keith Gouldman], and, "I'm Not Talking". Now this last track is interesting, because the liner notes credit it to 'The Yardbirds', but there is much evidence to suggest it was actually written by Mose Allison.

      I'm Not Talking

      Yet, the single most discussed issue is, who played what? So, let's (for the uninitiated), establish who was in
      The Yardbirds!

      They formed in May of 1963 with the line up:
      * Keith Relf on vocals and harmonica
      * Paul Samwell-Smith on Bass
      * Jim McCartey on drums
      * Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar & bass
      * Top Topham on lead guitar

      To my knowledge there is no known recordings with this line up.

      In October 1963 Topham left and was replaced by Eric (Slowhand) Clapton. The man considered as the pinnacle of guitarists, and fairly (if not uncomfortably) wore the nickname of 'god'! The groups first recording is the fabulous live album, "
      Five Live Yardbirds". Largely a blues-based album, Clapton was very happy with the direction the group had focused on and his playing was superb!

      On this album, a simply beautiful example of Clapton's blues playing style can be found on "
      New York City Blues", and, it is a particularly good example of the groups ability to really interpret the original feeling of the American Blues players. The vocals are well done and the rest of the group are tight and yet relaxed.

      New York City Blues

      Just as their third single was about to sell 1 million copies ("
      For Your Love"), Clapton left in disgust at what he saw as the move away from their blues roots. Yet, at the same time when we listen back there is no doubt that Clapton had the ability to slip from the blues idiom into the more successful 'pop' form with ease, something he later did with Cream. In fact Clapton went on to join the Bluesbreakers, prior to forming the second true 'super group' - "Cream".

      For Your Love

      He did recommend fabulous session guitarist - Jimmy Page, but Page was far too busy and concerned over the loss of his lucrative session work, so he in turn recommended 'gun' guitarist - Jeff Beck. Beck joined the
      Yardbirds in March 1965, just a couple of days after Clapton's departure.

      Now there is a very interesting track that I'd like to discuss, "
      Still I'm Sad". It has a most unusual backing vocals that sets an a most uneasy feeling for the whole track - almost (but not quite) a Gregorian Chant! Beck's guitar is quite delightful, it is some what understated. So following "Still I'm Sad" I have chosen to feature a track with Beck that is far more the 'classic' sound of the Yardies with him on lead guitar - that track is "I'm A Man".

      Still I'm Sad

      Yardbirds with Beck (left) & Page (2nd left)

      I'm A Man" is a classic Yardies track featuring Jeff Beck, and it has a great harp/guitar dual between Relf and Beck.

      I'm A Man

      In June 1966 Samwell-Smith left, and there was a lineup shuffle that saw Page join the Yardbirds and Page along with Beck, formed the powerful 'twin-guitar' attack. The only known recording example of their work together is the track, "
      Happenings Ten Years Time Ago", sadly this track is not on this album. In fact, it is also unfortunate that there is no track featuring Jimmy Page on this album.

      In July 1968, the
      Yardbirds disbanded!

      Yet their relatively short legacy, and limited number of original recordings can somewhat leave us gasping in amazement at the breadth of their styles, the quality of their music and the passion of their playing.

      They truly do deserve the title of England's first Super group!

      There aren't many copies available on Ebay, and they are bringing around $40.00 including postage

      VIDEOS -the following are three live performances of this group, showing some of their better known tracks. The third track, Smokestack Lightning, is a poor quality image, but it is a rare clip of the Yardbirds with Clapton playing this blues classic!

      Heart Full of Soul

      (Mister) You're A Better Man Than I

      Smokestack Lightning

      Previous Cream of The Crate Albums

      #1 – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues

      #2 – Otis Redding: Otis Blue/ Otis Redding Sings Soul

      #3 – Dr John The Night Tripper: Gris Gris

      #4 – Spectrum: ROYGBIV

      #5 – Son House: The Real Delta Blues

      #6 – Cruisin ‘61

      #7 – Live At The Station Hotel

      #8 – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young: Déjà Vu

      #9 – Moon Mullican: Rock it to the Moon

      #10 – Billy Thorpe: Time Traveller

      #11 – Bobby and Laurie: Cum Sum Ambulant (Hitch Hiker)

      #12 – Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland

      #13 – The Beatles: The Beatles Collection

      #14 – Johnny O’Keefe: 20th Anniversary Album

      #15 – Jimmy Cliff (and others): The harder They Come (The Soundtrack from the movie by the same name)

      #16 – Frank Zappa: Roxy and Elsewhere

      #17 – Junior Walker & The All Stars: Roadrunner

      #18 - The Moonglows, Flamingos & The Orioles: Jump

      #19 - King Federal - Rockabillys: Various Artists

      #20 - Max Merritt and The Meteors: Max Merritt & The Meteors

      #21 - Planet Gong: Camembert Electrique

      # 22 - Earth, Wind & Fire: Head To The Sky

      #23 - Ellen McIlwaine: We The People

      #24 - The Easybeats: Absolute Anthology

      #25 - Rainbow Generator: Dance Of The Spheres

      #26 - Martha and the Vandellas: Greatest Hits

      #27 - Buddy Holly: A Rock and Roll Collection

      #28 - The Who: Quadrophenia

      #29 - Elvis: The legend (1954 - 1961)

      #30 - Col Joye: Let's Rock With