Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Yardbirds - 5 Best Songs

The Yardbirds, 1966. Clockwise from left: Jeff...Image via WikipediaBy Lando Frock

The Yardbirds had three of the hottest English guitar players of the 1960's: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Each man's peak of musical influence in the band was distinct, and each era pushed the boundaries of rock music.

Eric Clapton's era could be described as a mixing of straight blues and English rave-up. Jeff Beck's run retained the blues influence, yet mixed in elements of jazz and new sounds like the fuzz box. Jimmy Page took up the rains and brought in a powerful psychedelia and riffy style - still honoring the blues root - which of course lead directly to Led Zeppelin. That's quite a legacy for a single band.

Here I have assembled The Yardbirds 5 best songs. These are the ones you absolutely must have with you the day you get stuck on that desert island.

Too Much Monkey Business

During the Clapton era, the band's focus was on "pure" blues. Their set consisted of a collection of manically performed covers. They take this song by Chuck Berry and throw it down fast with swagger to spare. Eric Clapton, barely 18 years old, delivers a solo with authority and taste.

Here 'Tis

This is a good one for speed freaks. Here 'Tis fakes like it's going soft for about 5 seconds before it blasts of into blurry fast, jittering intensity; the gold standard of the rave up. It's blues alright. The song was written by Bo Diddley. But this interpretation sets it on fire.

Over Under Sideways Down

What an amazing style shift from the 'speed blues' of Clapton to Jeff Beck's strutting riff on Over Under Sideways Down. This song has all of the Jeff Beck elements: hooky fuzz riff, swinging rhythm, and a touch of space. It's a poppy tune, but the little bluesy elements like the double stop bends under the chorus give it a richness that makes the hair stand up. Genius!

What Do You Want

Another from the time of Beck. It takes the pop sensibility and also brings back a bit of the rave up craftsmanship of their earlier sound. Sprinkle in some feedback and spider legs guitar solos and get an infectious romp that won't let you sit still

Little Games

By the time Jimmy Page took over the band was all but burned up. From this difficult time springs Little Games. Of the songs on the album of the same name this song is like a telescope looking into a nearing future called Led Zeppelin. A lot of Page's signature sounds are being born here and his genius is already quite apparent.

Whether you agree with my picks for their 5 best songs or not, The Yardbirds were totally unique from beginning to end. Even when they were "blues purists" they still did it their own way. There are some great bands these days who invoke the sonic fire of old school bands like The Yardbirds - but do it in their own way. I'm very excited about a cookin' 3 piece called The Lovely Savages.

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