Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Yardbirds ~ Birdland

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock, progressive
Label: Favored Nations
Year: 2003
Home: England

Members: John Idan ~ vocals/rhythm guitar/bass
Jeff Beck, Gypie Mayo ~ lead guitar
Chris Dreja ~ rhythm guitar/percussion
Jim McCarty ~ drums/b. vocals
Alan Glen ~ harmonica

Additional: Martin Ditchum ~ percussion

Guests: Jeff Baxter, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash, Brian May, Steve Lukather ~ guitars
Johnny Rzeznik ~ lead vocals


Let's be honest. Outside of the name this isn't really the Yardbirds nor even the brief New Yardbirds. Yes, some of the original members are here & as they got a career boost so long ago behind blues king Sonny Boy Williamson II there's nothing wrong with having a guest heavy album. The Yardbirds were actually one of the most adventurous bands on the British scene, even eclipsing the early Beatles, as they moved from a blues band to a psychedelic band with their songs remaining undoubtable classics. But, times have changed ... the bird has been plucked. Gone are the experimental wild eyed blues boys to be replaced by a plodding near middle-age tribute band. The music falls flat while the 7 new originals are interesting, but the fact that they are the best songs on the album, only one including a guest guitarist & its the weakest, doesn't say much for keeping the Yardbirds name alive. The classic songs are weak & without the risk or even bluesy swagger that they once had. Even their peers Deep Purple, which is criticised today for its FM radio friendliness that was never present with Richie Blackmore, put in a more exciting show. Originally, the Yardbirds came to an end when everyone left except for new guitarist Jimmy Page, who recruited new members, labeled them the New Yardbirds, only to have the name of the band missing from the first album & thus all we have is the name of the album - Led Zeppelin. Before Page the band also had the guitar powerhouses of Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton ... Tony Topham where are you? ... pushing the band through distinct personality changes. Nobody is pushing now. Though Beck guests for a single track on Birdland all that's left of the band is the drummer & rhythm guitarist, returning to the studio 35 years after their last recording. We don't even have original singer Keith Relf, long gone from this world, & singers can make all the difference to a band. It's like someone other than Eric Burden fronting the Animals. You don't know what you've got till it's ... The remaining members might have co-composed the songs but we turn to others to make it pop. Some bands reunite & its like the music kept developing even though it wasn't played for decades. The reunited Doors with Ian Astbury, aka Riders On The Storm or previously Doors of the 21st Century, sound as if they never broke up but kept developing. Big Brother & the Holding Co., numerous singers post Janis Joplin, are the same for those still listening. While other bands reunite falling somewhere between a tribute band & a brand new entity. The Yardbirds here are like that. It's not bad, but it's not the Yardbirds. It's a nice tribute band with no guts except when they do the new songs, which are in a Yardbirds style whatever that means. Not even the guests are able to boost the songs. Actually, the guests seem unnecessary just adding flash where a little breath would be better. The songs, most obviously "For Your Love", started life so primitively that to flesh them out works against them. The result is often one not bluesy enough nor rock enough. This was always a problem with the band since day one, not helped by the "Over Under Sideways Down" psychedelic period, but becomes more so here 35 years later. One of the problems is that there was never any real dominant force within the band & the revolving guitarists didn't help, while the band also went through numerous musical changes. There still is no domininant face, just torchcarriers. To be fair, though, to have only two members of a once five member band it doesn't matter whether the two members are Clapton & Relf back from the dead or the rhythm section. There's not enough parts of the equation to take it home & give it life beyond a second rate but high profile tribute band. For those that don't know the Yardbirds outside of their major hit "For Your Love" with Eric Clapton it's time for a musical education. Just don't start with this album as they've got a rich catalog that will keep you happy awhile before you get to this release. Since Birdland the line-up has changed again. McCarty & Dreja remain & so does the revolving door.





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