Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Yardbirds 2: Having A Rave-Up

After scoring a hit single on both sides of the pond, the Yardbirds’ manager made sure they kept the hits coming in between gigs. Single after single were released in the UK, while America demanded albums, and that’s how Having A Rave-Up With The Yardbirds happened.

Side one of the album offers a smattering of those singles, although the first track made its debut here. The mildly socially conscious “You’re A Better Man Than I”, written by Manfred Mann’s drummer, sports good dynamics and a exploratory Jeff Beck solo over one chord. “Evil Hearted You” and “Heart Full Of Soul” were both written by Graham Gouldman, who was responsible for “For Your Love”; the former has a mild James Bond theme feel, while the latter sports a very Indian-flavored riff. Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man” had already been covered by everybody in London, but it’s the Yardbirds’ version that stands above, with their patented rave-up approach (which would be copped by the Count Five for “Psychotic Reaction”). The rhythm section gets credit for writing “Still I’m Sad”, which betrays the brief flirtation many British groups of the time played with Gregorian chant. “Train Kept A-Rollin’” is a trash classic, from Beck’s locomotive imitation to Keith Relf’s inexplicably double-tracked, mismatched vocals. This recording is responsible for Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, so take that as you will.

While the packaging said nothing about it, the entirety of side two was excerpted from the previous year’s Five Live Yardbirds, which was the band’s only British LP release so far, and which still featured Eric Clapton on lead guitar. This was the stuff Clapton thrived on: Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”, the Isley Brothers’ “Respectable”, Bo Diddley’s “Here ‘Tis”, and another blast through “I’m A Man”. And considering it was recorded at London’s legendary Marquee Club, the sound is very good.

Even though it wasn’t clear how or why the album was put together, Having A Rave-Up With The Yardbirds remains a solid listen. The singles are all solid, and somebody did us a favor by allowing the comparatively lengthy songs on side two, averaging five minutes each, to show the strength of the band, even if it did give short shrift to Clapton in the process. The album has had a confusing life in the digital era, but at the same time Five Live Yardbirds has remained available—starting with an official U.S. release on Rhino in 1988—which is a blessing.

The Yardbirds Having A Rave-Up With The Yardbirds (1965)—

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