By listening to this album, you can follow the band’s increasingly creative and complex progression together with their successive and legendary line ups with their different lead guitarists that included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page
“The Yardbirds Live at the BBC Revisited”: An absolute Rock music document
Very few bands successfully went through several different music directions over the period of 5 years, though it is not the case with The Yardbirds…
The band started as one of the London based R&B bands in 1963, getting their big break when they replaced the Rolling Stones as resident band at Crawdaddy club. By 1964 they were a household name, with a following that rapidly grew around the world. “Live at the BBC Revisited,” it’s a three disc set, that tells the story of their musical evolution, spanning from 1964 to 1968. It starts with a fast blues rock sound in disc one and progresses to the pioneering Heavy Metal sound in disc three.
For the fans of the band, this album it’s filled with gems that include never officially released songs as well as multiple versions of their most well known works, including “Heart Full of Soul”, “For Your Love”, “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” and ”Evil Hearted You” among many others. By listening to it, you can follow the band’s increasingly creative and complex progression. Their successive and legendary line ups with different lead guitarists, that most notably began with Eric Clapton who was replaced by Jeff Beck, who worked alone and together with Jimmy Page, ending with Jimmy Page alone as the final lead guitarist. This shift might explain how The Yardbirds sound evolved faster than the Rolling Stones one for example, with each new guitarist bringing different influences and helping the songwriting process in different ways. Whenever the band was doing their BBC Sessions, it didn’t only served to promote their new singles, but also for them to experiment freely in the studio as if live, without he pressure of not making mistakes. This is one of the most important facts about these recordings, it captures the band organically at their very best, doing their best without any kind of pressure. As the band members remember, it was a great time to experiment surrounded by the relaxed BBC sound professionals that helped them with valuable insight of studio sound manipulation. The uncut sessions include the in-between introduction speeches from the DJ’s and short interviews with the band members, that start in their first sessions by telling their plans to tour outside England and end up as one of the top bands in the world.
Overall The Yardbirds most popular songs are present in this album through alternative or different versions. Songs such as “Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I”, “Shapes of Things”, a Bob Dylan cover “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” and as Max Stax from Ugly Things Magazine puts it on the liner notes “One of the many highlights of this collection is the utterly transcendent version of ‘Smokestack Lightnin’’’ recorded for the BBC in November 1965.” There’s no better way to say it. The amazing version of “Still I’m Sad” will let you forget that you are actually listening to a live album. The band’s talent and professionalism is once again reflected here on this track, as they successfully replicate a complex vocal and atmospheric studio creation live and uncut.
In 1968 the band made their final BBC Session, with Jimmy Page as the lead guitarist, and we can sense things got heavier. With the R&B songs way behind, the Psychedelic Rock gives slowly time to a heavier kind of music, that would later became known as Heavy Meal. You can listen to it in songs such as “Think About It” and of course, the big treat for Led Zeppelin fans, the actual first version of “Dazed and Confused”, more organic, heavier and dirtier. We can almost imagine the look on John Peel’s face after the band finishes the song , when he says “That’s an amazing performance.” Halfway you can still listen to a Jimmy Page instrumental “White Summer”, reminiscent of the sound he’d develop in his future band. It’s indeed notorious that the songwriting was again taking a turn into a different direction propelled by Jimmy Page, who at the time was the newest member in the band.
After reaching the end of this album, you cannot help but ask yourself, had The Yardbirds continued as a band, would they have become Heavy Metal oriented? Though The Yardbirds journey seemed far from over, sadly it ended that same year of 1968.
The 3 disc set, “Live at the BBC Revisited”, is available now for you to add to your collection as an important part of Rock music history
By David Warren for Pop Expresso
Photos: Chris Walter, Bob King
Illustration: David Warren for Pop Expresso
Listen to “Heart Full of Soul” live at the BBC by The Yardbirds
Listen to “Dazed and Confused” live at the BBC by The Yardbirds
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