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Through The Past, Brightly

December 12, 2017

Yardbirds ’68 2CD ( jimmypage.com )

The Rolling Stones On Air 2CD (Polydor)

Two stunning double CD sets to end the year, both great examples of how familiar material can be sonically upgraded to allow the richness of the performances to shine through.

Yardbirds ‘68 is a live/studio set and represents the culmination of many years work by Jimmy Page. The live set has in the past been released officially but controversially by Epic as The Yardbirds Live At The Andersen Theatre Featuring Jimmy Page. Page sued successfully to get the LP withdrawn, considering it a desparate record company ploy to get some final product out of a rapidly disintegrating group. Previous releases have been marred by a poor mix with overdubbed bullfight-type cheers at random intervals. Page has completely remixed the original tapes to reveal a tough, exciting gig by the final Yardbirds line-up in which he plays a prominent part. Gone are the extraneous crowd noises, replaced by the sturdy and flexible rhythm section of McCarty and Dreja, Keith Relf in fine form on vocals and harp and Page himself sounding suspiciously good – if he really got this guitar tone in March 1968 he really was, in the words of The Third Bardo,  Five Years Ahead Of His Time. You get a real sense of what was coming next –the first Led Zeppelin live dates were played under the name of the New Yardbirds – with fine versions of Dazed and Confused and White Summer. The companion CD ‘Studio Sketches’, recorded in New York around the same time, features an instrumental version of Knowing That I’m Losing You, later to emerge on Led Zeppelin III as Tangerine.

Also featured on the studio CD are a fierce alternate Drinking Muddy Water and a cover of Garnet Mimm’s My Baby plus some atmospheric works in progress such as Spanish Blood and Avron’s Eyes. Sound quality is improved from when these tracks appeared on the NMC Cumular Limit CD. Taken together with the Little Games Sessions set, Yardbirds ‘68 makes a convincing case for the Page-era Yardbirds being much more than unsuccessful pop playthings for Mickie Most. Please note that there is a minor drop out in the live Over Under Sideways Down and corrected CDs are being sent out to all who have bought the set direct from jimmypage.com.

The Stones set is available in various formats but the Deluxe 2CD set delivers maximum bang for your bucks with 32 tracks recorded for the BBC as part of their “needle-time” allowance. Recorded from 1963 to 1965 the tracks are presented in non-chronological order so as lead with the hits. The booklet provided has key recording details in white reversed out of pale pink making them mostly illegible. However everything else about this set is terrific. Careful  ‘de-mixing’ of the tapes at Abbey Road has brought a clarity and level of detail unimaginable from the myriad bootlegs we have listened to over the last fifty years. And what treasure! A version of Come On that eclipses the stiff studio single. A delicate, calypso style Crackin’ Up which would not be played again until the El Mocambo gig in 1977. A version of Everybody Needs Somebody To Love which starts with some lovely piano (played by who?). I Can’t Be Satisfied with a stunning Brian Jones slide part. A driving 2120 South Michigan Avenue that really motors. And loads of covers never officially recorded like High Heel Sneakers, Cops And Robbers and Memphis. The long-lost  Jagger/Richards harmonies feature strongly, sometimes slightly askew  but more often ragged but right. A fuzz-box driven, stomping Satisfaction from September ‘65 is the most recent recording and points the way ahead, leaving behind beat group staples and moving towards Nanker Phelge world domination.

Get on the hotline to Santa. You need both these stuffed in your stocking.

 

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