Leave it to Rhino to finally set the record straight on arguably England’s most influential Brit-invasion blues/rock combo. The Yardbirds’ skimpy catalog of albums, EPs, and previous compilations has been in disrepair almost since they were released 35 years ago, so this double set which gathers all the band’s major hits, interesting B-sides and important album tracks is a Godsend to those who are looking for a compact summary of the roots of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, the band’s insanely talented and influential trio of guitarists.
Although one could quibble about tacking on three solo recordings from lead singer Keith Relf that close out disc two in deference to including some more band tracks, this is still everything most casual fans or interested listeners could hope for. With 52 songs spanning the years March of 1966 through March of ’68, all of the six-string highlights from Clapton, Beck, and Page are present and accounted for along with a handful of rarities. It’s fascinating to hear the band who started out performing straight blues covers of Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, and Muddy Waters morph into the pop stars of “For Your Love” and finally the psychedelic rockers responsible for such inspired nuggets as “Hot House of Omagararshid,” “He’s Always There” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” over their short two year lifespan.
The 53-page book meets and exceeds Rhino’s usual standards with detailed track information, an essay from the late Cub Koda, and loads of rare pictures. Additionally, these songs have seldom sounded better due to crisp remastering from the original tapes.
Even if you’re not a devotee of any of the three guitarists, the musical history of The Yardbirds, a band that was so extraordinarily influential on the British music scene (although far less so in America where they never received the recognition they deserved), is essential to anyone’s understanding of ’60s rock and roll. This then becomes an indispensable addition to any serious music buff’s library.