(All Album Reviews by AdmKirk)
Where would we be without The Yardbirds? The band that gave us Clapton, Beck and Page has been written about and analyzed, dismissed and hailed as one of the greats of the 60's due to the guitar triumvirate that has produced so much great music in the last 40 years. In addition to those 3 guitarists the Yardbirds were also the forerunner to Renaissance (Mark I). Eric Clapton’s wild excursions with Cream, Jeff Beck's fusion, techno and flashy guitar and Page's experimentation all began with The Yardbirds.
The band's debut was a live recording, a fairly bold move by 1964 standards, called Five Live Yardbirds. Recorded at the famed Marquee Club in London, this has been THE document of Clapton's era of the band and featured plenty of the "Rave Ups" the band was known for. In 2003, Sanctuary Records released a recently discovered, unreleased Yardbirds performance recorded just prior to Five Live Yardbirds in 1964. While only containing 7 songs and clocking in at about a half hour in length this live set blows away Five Live Yardbirds.
The recording quality is quite remarkable. Jim McCarty's drums have much more presence than on Five Live, Paul Samwell-Smith's bass is easily heard and full of punch. Chris Dreja's rhythm guitar is finally able to be heard over Keith Relf's harp and vocal. But the real treat is Eric Clapton. Playing a Fender Jazzmaster, he cuts through the mix with some fine, fiery work. While his playing is sharp through out the entire album, it's the last song, “The Sky Is Crying” that really takes things to another level. Clapton doesn't even join in on this slow blues until 3 minutes of the tune has passed but when he does, it's easy to see why EC would be nicknamed “God” in couple of years. This is where you first hear him play the licks he became known for and has been doing for 40 odd years. Other tracks include Yardbirds staples such as Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business", Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin'" and Sonnyboy Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl".
There's some great stage patter by Keith Relf including a story about Dreja'z guitar breaking during a gig. Nice liner notes too, and this is also available from Earmark Records on LP (180 gram pressing) Needless to say I have the vinyl, and it does sound wonderful.
If you've ever been curious about Eric Clapton's early work or what the Yardbirds were like before Beck and Page got hold of them, here's your best bet. Most Blueswailing, indeed.