George Starostin's Reviews



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Carson Duper <> (14.03.2003)

Yardbirds, yes, zowie! Back in junior high school in Northern California when all was Fresh Cream and Pepper and Are You Experienced? and arguing about who's-the-best-guitar-player with your music-head friends, a Yardbirds record just wasn't that easy to come by. I had inherited precisely one Yardbirds 45 from my brother who'd been drafted into the army. It was "I'm a Man," backed I'm pretty sure with "Still I'm Sad," and wow! Is that the perfect set of titles for a boy just hitting puberty or what?

Later I had to get stoned with guys I didn't like and listen to all their dumbass music before getting down to the one or two good old British Invasion records pushed off way in the back, which I just couldn't hear anywhere else. By '72 or 3, this stuff sounded pretty primordial - primitive in a Lester Bangs sorta way - compared to, say, the Mahavishnu Orchestra who were heaviest of the heavy at the time. It took a few more years (or less) for rock music to become so utterly bland and boring that the Yardbirds, Kinks, Animals, et al started to really grab me all over again. Hell, I remember the Animals' "It's My Life" just blistering my stoned brain with it's incredible evil-sounding dramatic buildup and explosion and... well, I digress.

I went out and got that first great Yardbirds Greatest Hits LP, all crackly chewed-up like someone had been serving pizza on it, and stinking of incense from the head shop where it had long been retired. That and Blind Faith on the same day, funnily enough. There was just no contest between these two groups. Yardbirds.

Now, years and decades later, I find Band of Joy: Yardbirds on Air - the BBC Sessions in a used CD store, as well as Volume One of Jeff Beck Beckology on the same day. And goddam this shit sounds sweet! This BBC set is the same as the US release, with one extra track, coming from at least two different broadcasts featuring both Beck and Page, and maybe even together - I don't have the liner notes. It is monumentally exciting. "Too Much Monkey Business" live in the studio is especially thrilling - fast, furious, and incredibly wacked-out with lots of steel-spring reverb, in that inimitable mid-60's English Blues Revival Gods-of-the-Git-tar way. The BBC stuff on the Beck set has more mic breaks with the announcer, including some hilarious interviews. And while some might be annoyed with the announcer talking over song intros, I personally love it. Brings back that sense of the old days - or an Austin Powersy kinda "retro" gear fab fun, for you youngins.

But Roger the Engineer is what I pull out to prove to people just how influential Jeff Beck really was. I only exaggerate a little when I say that everything you're gonna hear on guitar for the next decade or forever is pouring out fresh from Beck's fingers on this one. Um, except for Hendrix.

I can't wait for you or one of your readers to review Little Games and Yardbirds-era Page! Never had it, never heard it, and I'm still looking to find it broken into two scuffed up discs in the used bargain bins, or at a garage sale. Wait long enough and you find anything. Again.


<> (08.11.2003)

Yes. To any Clapton fan or 60's aficionado "A Certain Girl" is a must listen guitar solo! Listen to 18 year old Eric presage the near-future of British blues explosion. A god is born! Feel young Hendrix pissing his pants from across the pond.


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Ronny Olsson <> (01.03.2001)

It makes me happy to see a good review of one of the best 60:s albums. In my opinion, Yardbirds is one of the best bands of all time and Roger The Engineeer is a masterpiece. A very exciting album with a lot of excellent tracks.


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Pat Shipp <> (18.11.2003)

I love BBC albums because bands tend to sound more raw and intense. This one is certainly no exception. This album shows once and for all that The Yardbirds are every bit as stunning a blues band as The Stones or The Animals.

Actually, there was a 1964 session that was recorded with Clapton on lead guitar, but it mysteriously got 'lost'. But perhaps it doesn't even matter, seeing as how The Yardbirds were so much better with Jeff Beck. Take "Too Much Monkey Business" for example. While the version on Five Live Yardbirds was great, this version with Beck totally blows it away. To quote a passage from Guitar World Magazine, "Jeff electrifies the phrases in ways that Chuck Berry never imagined". I couldn't have said it better myself.

I really don't want to take the time to review all 26 songs on here, so I'll only discuss the good ones. And good ones aplenty! This version of "I Ain't Done Wrong" totally obliterates it's studio counterpart with it's raw energy and pounding rhythm section. And check out the middle of the song, when Jeff and the rhythm section take off on a ferocious flight. No other band had the balls to rock that hard in 1965.

"I'm Not Talkin'" is a solid, concise jazz tune with one of the coolest guitar riffs in history. "Still I'm Sad" manages to be even more eerie than the original. The medieval-type chants and those creepy bells make it sound practically evil. No foolin'. "The Sun Is Shining" and "Dust My Broom" both feature some of the most ferocious guitar licks that have ever been recorded. The former features some frightening slide guitar as well. "Baby Scratch My Back" is also a cool little blues tune with a great Beck solo (this one would later resurface as "Rackin' My Mind" on Roger The Engineer).

So we're given 20 songs from the Beck-period, and a mere six for the Page period. But they are all killer. Their cover of Dylan's "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way" is awesome, with Relf actually sounding a lot like Dylan. He plays some great harmonica as well. "Little Games" is a totally shattering tune that I just can't get enough of. And Chris Dreja just pounds away relentlessly on that bass (Dreja was the band's bassist by this point, with Paul Samwell-Smith having left a year earlier). "Drinking Muddy Water" is a cool re-working of "Rollin' And Tumblin'"; "Good Night Sweet Josephine" shows Jimmy to be a fantastic guitarist even at this early stage. "Think About It" has a chorus that I can't get out of my head to save my life, and "My Baby" is basically just average.

But I'll say that at least 90% of these songs are very good. Needless to say that the sessions with Jeff are much better, but I still love Jimmy Page.

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