Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Yardbirds: Anatomy Of A Rave Up In 5 Songs

Cover of "Five Live"Cover of Five LiveBy Lando Frock

Introducing Eric "Slowhand" Clapton

Eighteen year old Eric Clapton joined The Yardbirds in 1963, blew the doors off the London blues scene, and moved on in 1965 just as they had their first hit single. It was during this time that he was given his nickname "Slowhand" - which was a goof on the fact that he actually played quite fast. Indeed quite a few of the early Yardbirds live recordings display some of the fastest playing around.

One could easily have termed it 'speed blues', but the phrase on the street for this bombastic style of blues was 'rave up' - the sound of the Clapton era. Clapton's Yardbirds style ferocious rave ups again and again on their classic record 'Five Live Yardbirds'.

Five of the ravest cuts from 'Five Live Yardbirds' are Too Much Monkey Business, Respectable, Pretty Girl, Here 'Tis, and Who Do You Love. They run the gamut from cooking swagger to full on jittery rave up - often within the space of a single song. These are classic blues and rock songs given the Yardbirds treatment and taken to a new landscape.

Too Much Monkey Business

The record starts with the classic Chuck Berry song 'Too Much Monkey Business'. This is a good one to jog too. Right away they employ the classic Yardbirdism of turning the guitar solos into whole band high intensity blasts of raw blues plasma - classic rave up. Young Mr. Clapton busts solos that are amazingly precise, and driven - the perfect foil for the rests in the verses.


Penned by the Isley Brothers, The Yardbirds make it their own. The intro slides in and drops a hint at the double time rhythm coming down the pipe. Clapton's guitar solos begin with tasteful restraint. The steam starts to build in the 2nd half of the song when they drop into a shuffle verse of Humpty Dumpty then over the wall with blurring hands shaking the rhythm nearly to death before they drop out with a classic slow blue exit

Pretty Girl

The boys treat this Bo Diddley classic fairly straight - at the beginning anyway. Introduced with a loose swagger, by the time the choruses kick in things start to fly. Again displaying their trademark of laying down a nice riff, then cranking it up, letting it back out, then really pouring it on rave up style.

Here 'Tis

You can't get more rave than this. Another Bo Diddley tune, 'Here 'Tis' opens up and burns from start to finish. This is blues rave up at its most intense. Built furiously up and up again and again, then dropping the whole shebang into Jim McCarty's drum break. You can almost hear the audience trying to catch it's breath while Keith Relf begins his warning "There's more... There's more... Here it comes... Here it comes..." Then slamming back in with Eric's blazing riff trading with Samwell-Smith's stomping bass. They build it back up one last time and a halt on a dime. What an ending!

Who Do You Love

Yet another Bo Diddley verse. This one was added to the record as a bonus track for the 2003 re-release and it fits right in. The track fades in fast and furious before pulling back to make room for walking 47 miles of barbed wire. Things chug along nice and smooth for a bit, then almost sneaking into the rave up. Each time through the cycle the fevered strumming peaks higher until the final fade. A great version, and a great bonus to the record.

Fast Train To God Status

It would not be until he left The Yardbirds and hooked up with John Mayall and the Blues Breakers that London tube riders would see the writing on the wall proclaiming "Clapton Is God".

But you can hear his train rolling into the station at full speed with The Yardbirds on 'Five Live Yardbirds' as well as 'For Your Love', 'Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds' and the American compilation 'Having A Rave Up.'

After Claption left and was replaced with Jeff Beck (and Later Jimmy Page) the band explored new and exciting sonic directions, but their stamp on the rave up sound would become history.

There are some great bands these days who invoke the sonic fire of old school rock and roll - but do it in their own way. I'm very excited about a cookin' 3 piece called The Lovely Savages.

Get their blistering EP 'YES' for FREE at:

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