The Yardbirds Live! Blueswailing July '64
As advice to anyone building a collection of live recordings, one could scarcely go wrong with the acknowledged classicssets by Otis Redding, the Who, the Stones' Get YerYa-Ya's Out! Combined with a few esoteric itemsthe Shadows of Knight at theCellar Club, the Stooges' last show, and Hank Williams' Health and Happiness programs, one can actually span a range of genres and styles, charting how one era, or eras within an era, inform others.
But in cataloging live recording history, what of the compromised set, the performance that for reasons of fidelity, length, or the lack of a certain obvious panache, we might tend to look upon as the spinster sister to the belle of the ball? In the case of the Yardbirds, that outrightly stellar live release was also their debut album, recorded in March of 1964. Much beloved by collectors, blues and garage enthusiasts alike, Five Live Yardbirds might even be, along with Jerry Lee Lewis' "Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, the top live rock and roll album of the first half of the 1960s, nay, until recording technology began to catch up with live performance around the time of Wheels of Fire and Live/Dead. It captures a show both heated and, refreshingly, level-headed, a mixture of rock's careening rhythms and the blues' relative restraint. Having lived with the set's nuances for decades, and given the paucity of authentic British R'n'B field recordings, one might have been skeptical with the news that another Yardbirds recording, from July of the same year, not only existed, but was to be released, and was, both in terms of sound quality and intensity, every bit as rewarding.
No one is quite sure where Live! Blueswailing was recorded, only that it was captured in July of '64, a month in which the Yardbirds had only four days off, a common enough grind as readers of Mark Lewisohn's Beatles' chronicles or Bill Wyman's Rolling With The Stones will attest. The tape features only seven numbers; one is incomplete, and the total length is just over a half hour, or, if you prefer, a couple minutes shorter than descendants the Strokes' sophomore album. History has posited that Eric Clapton was the band's centrifugal force, but his guitar playingclean, unfettered, straight-lacedis put in the shade by Keith Relf's vocals and harmonica work. Chastised as one of the weaker British invasion singers, Relf might have been, after Lennon and McCartney, the most important, a purveyor of voice not as a thing of beauty in and of itself, but of sound coloring and tonal inflection, phrasing and timbre, charting a way for Liam Gallagher, Shane MacGowan, and Ian Brown, the rocker's Bob Dylan even. And so relish the cheery aplomb of "She is so Respectable giving way to "Humpty Dumpty, the rave-ups of "Smokestack Lightning and "Too Much Monkey Business. As befitting one of rock's great underappreciated players, Relf's long, sustained harp notes in "The Sky is Crying might be seen as a kind of memorial to a band far more important than almost any other, and a front man capable of conjuring sounds rarely heard outside the world of Little Walter.
Personnel: Keith Relf (v, hrmn), Eric Clapton (g), Chris Dreja (g), Paul Samwell- Smith (b), Jim McCarty (d)
Track Listing: Someone To Love Me; Too Much Monkey Business; I Got Love If You Want It; Smokestack Lightning; Good Morning Little Schoolgirl; She Is So Respectable/Humpty Dumpty; The Sky Is Crying
Copyright 2005 Goldmine / Krause Publications . Reprinted with permission.