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Birdland

The Yardbirds

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Album Review

When this came out in 2003, it marked the first studio release by the Yardbirds in 35 years. In that time, of course, the personnel had changed quite a bit. Even those inclined to get excited by reunions of great bands should know right off that it includes just two original members, drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja (though Jeff Beck plays guest guitar on one number, "My Blind Life"). Rounded out by three "new" members (including bassist John Idan, whose lead singing sounds fairly close to original Yardbirds vocalist Keith Relf in style and tone), the record also features guest lead guitar cameos by Jeff Baxter, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Brian May, with Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls singing lead on "For Your Love." The instinct is to make cruel, sardonic jokes about how the absence of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and (for the most part) Jeff Beck doesn't matter, as guitarists were always the weak links in the Yardbirds anyway. Yes, the non-presence of these fabled guitar heroes, as well as Relf (who died in 1976), does mean that this can't be compared in any way to the group's classic 1960s output, even if it's billed to the Yardbirds' name. For all that, however, this is a lot better than you'd expect, and certainly far more respectable than most reunion/comeback efforts by decimated lineups of classic outfits. The production is straight-ahead without the usual sellouts to modern technology, putting the sleek guitar work to the fore. Half the record has remakes of old Yardbirds staples like "For Your Love," "Shapes of Things," and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," but they're not done badly, though you feel as though you're listening to a really good Yardbirds tribute band rather than the real deal. The original material, though not as good as those old Yardbirds tunes, actually sounds — whether as a result of conscious or unconscious effort — in the Yardbirds style, with plenty of irregular tempos, minor-keyed melodies, metaphysically questing lyrics, and Gregorian vocals (as on the Relf tribute "An Original Man (A Song for Keith)").

Biography

Formed: 1963 in Surrey, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '10s

The Yardbirds are mostly known to the casual rock fan as the starting point for three of the greatest British rock guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Undoubtedly, these three figures did much to shape the group's sound, but throughout their career, the Yardbirds were very much a unit, albeit a rather unstable one. And they were truly one of the great rock bands; one whose contributions went far beyond the scope of their half dozen or so mid-'60s hits ("For Your Love," "Heart Full...
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