The Yardbirds – Yardbirds ’68
Today’s offering is a slight twist on my 50th anniversary theme, as it’s the anniversary of a recording as opposed to an album release. By 1968, The Yardbirds were no longer united in their musical direction. Two of the band’s founders, drummer Jim McCarty and lead vocalist Keith Relf, decided to leave the group to pursue more of a folk sound, while guitarist Jimmy Page wanted to pursue the heavier sounds that the band had begun to explore and which groups such as Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were delivering to great acclaim. In March of 1968, before McCarty and Relf exited, the Yardbirds embarked on their final U.S. tour. They also entered Columbia Recording Studios in April to lay down some demos.
The live tracks on Yardbirds ’68, taken from their show at New York’s Anderson Theatre on March 30, 1968, were originally released by Epic Records in 1971 on an album titled Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page in an effort to cash in on the success of Led Zeppelin, but the release was withdrawn after an injunction was issued by Page’s attorneys. The studio sessions saw a limited release in 2000. In November of 2017, with cooperation among the three surviving members of the band (McCarty, Chris Dreja, and Page), the two-disc Yardbirds ’68, produced by Page, was released and includes the live set from the Anderson Theatre as well as the studio sessions.
While the band continued to include pre-Page standards in their 1968 live sets, The Yardbirds by this time were clearly Jimmy Page’s vehicle. In fact, three of the songs on this release would later be included on Led Zeppelin albums. The clips below from a French TV program are a good example of the group in their final months, although Page’s restoration of the Anderson Theatre performance on Yardbirds ’68 definitely offers a superior listening experience.
Perhaps I should cease to admit this when it happens lest I seem less knowledgeable than I’d like to think I am about music from this era, but Yardbirds ’68 is a bit of a revelation to me. I’ve always taken this band for granted, knowing mainly the hits but having to think hard as to whether or not a particular song is from the Clapton, Beck, or Page era of the group. No more. This is heavy music, and it leaves me wondering what they could’ve achieved had they remained intact with Page as the driving force. Which leads me to a question for fans of Zeppelin, The Yardbirds, or both: How do you compare Yardbirds music from 1968 with Led Zeppelin? Whichever your preference may be, I highly recommend this release.
(**Subsequent edit: The album wasn’t available on youtube when I originally posted this. It’s now there, so it’s now here…)
Disc 1: Live at the Anderson Theatre, March 30, 1968
- The Train Kept A-Rollin’
- Mr., You’re a Better Man Than I
- Heart Full of Soul
- Dazed and Confused
- My Baby
- Over Under Sideways Down
- Drinking Muddy Water
- Shapes of Things
- White Summer
- I’m a Man (contains “Moanin’ and Sobbin'”)
Disc 2: Studio Sketches
- Avron Knows
- Spanish Blood (instrumental with spoken words by McCarty)
- Knowing That I’m Losing You (Tangerine) (Instrumental)
- Taking a Hold On Me
- Drinking Muddy Water (version two)
- My Baby
- Avron’s Eyes (instrumental)
- Spanish Blood (instrumental)