Sunday, December 5, 2010

353. Having a Rave Up.

Album: Having a Rave Up
Artist: The Yardbirds
Year: 1965
Genre: Rock

Tracks

  1. You're A Better Man Than I
  2. Evil Hearted You
  3. I'm A Man
  4. Still I'm Sad
  5. Heart Full Of Soul
  6. The Train Kept A-Rollin'
  7. Smokestack Lightning
  8. Respectable
  9. I'm A Man
  10. Here 'Tis

Some bands have a truly great guitarist playing with them: Led Zep had Jimmy Page, Cream had Eric Clapton, The Jeff Beck group had Jeff Beck which was convenient because their name would have been really baffling otherwise. When people gather together to argue about the greatest English guitarist of all time (and believe me they do) Clapton, Beck and Page are always the three names they will throw around. While you can argue until you're blue in the face the one thing nobody can deny is that one band and one band only featured all three of these great musicians throughout the course of it's time on earth. A band that featured three of the most famous men to play guitar in the sixties and yet a group unknown to most listeners of mainstream music. I'm referring to The Yardbirds, who managed to replace a great guitarist with another one and then pull off the same trick again but somehow managed to fade into relative musical obscurity.

The Yardbirds started life as blues band who would set rooms alight with Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry covers. They were partly led in this endeavor by Eric Clapton who at the time was such a blues purist he once beat someone to death for humming the jingle from a cigarette ad. Okay I made that last bit up but he was notorious for avidly refusing to play anything that wasn't originally written by an impoverished black guy. That's not to say the band were slavish plagiarists, they took blues songs and made them their own. Mainly they sped them up and emphasised the beat which turned rooms full of punters into a seething mass of raving dance fiends. Which is why Yardbirds shows started to be called Rave ups. Side Two of Having a Rave Up contains edited highlights of one of these events. Clapton and the rest of the band tear through four blues standards with the sort of energy and ferocity and nobody else could match at the time. It's punk-rock played by a virtuoso and it's flat out fantastic.

While they may have been dynamite in a small club, blues covers didn't make the charts and gain you access to mainstream radio. If the Yardbirds wanted the sort of money the rest of the British invasion bands were enjoying they needed to start producing original pop material. At the time pop was a dirty word for Clapton and he left the band so he wouldn't have to offend his blues purism. You can't help but wonder what his former bandmates must have thought when he later produced songs like Change the World. Their replacement was Jeff Beck, a talented guitarist with less puritanical standards. He was happy to play pop songs and the band released a string of singles which sold respectably enough to give them international exposure. Some of these songs (although not the best of them) are featured on side one of Having a Rave Up. There is less emphasis on guitar and speed and a clearer attempt to jump on the psychadelic bandwagon kicking around at the time.

The best of these singles is Train Kept a Rollin, an old blues track which the band reinvent as a complete and utter shambles. Their rendition is a sloppy screw- up in which it's clear nobody has the faintest idea which way the track is going. Nobody knows who is soloing when and to make matters worse Keith Relf double tracked his vocals with completely different words and arrangements. It sounds like his twin brother turned up to the studio and attempted to put him off by singing a different song. It shouldn't work but it does, it really does.

Having a Rave Up is a weird document of two distinct periods in a band's career- commercial success vs blues purism. If you want to contrast these two aspects then the band had conveniently included two versions of the same song. Side one has a studio version of I'm a man recorded with Jeff Beck on guitar while side two has a live version with Eric Clapton. Personally I reccomend you don't bother getting your hands on this album. It's been totally superceded by other releases and is nothing more than an annoying taster of two different bands. Instead I sugest you get your hands on Five Live Yardbirds which contains the full set of Clapton's live show and pick up any of the million other Yardbirds best of's which will give you all their best singles.

Highlight: Train kept a rollin.
Lowlight: Still I'm sad

Influenced by: The Blues and commercialism.
Influenced: Aerosmith and The Black Crowes.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I bought this album (no CDs then!) when it came out."

-I think that exact phrase is one of Amazon's most repeated sentences.

So do you prefer the Yardbirds with Clapton or Beck? Or Page? or Beck and Page? Or Page and the guys he chose to replace them? Let me know below.

2 comments:

  1. I prefer Beck, Clapton, and Page in a super-group together. :)

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  2. Can any other band claim such guitar rock royalty as these guys? Yet no one knows who they are. Thats the kind of blinkered philistne thinking ......

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