Monday, April 21, 2003

Yardbirds hatch new album; Jeff Beck returns for guest spot on 'Birdland' CD

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Released today in the United Kingdom and Tuesday in the United States is Birdland, the first studio album by the Yardbirds since 1967's Little Games, when Jimmy Page was the lead guitarist of the group. Two of his former bandmates, founding members Chris Dreja (guitar) and Jim McCarty (drums), remain in the lineup today. Joining them are lead guitarist Gypie Mayo, singer/bassist John Idan, and Alan Glen on harmonica. The group's modern-day live act depends on new versions of the songs made famous by the Yardbirds 1963-1968. For this reason, it's no surprise that remakes of songs including "For Your Love," "Train Kept A Rollin'," "Shapes of Things" and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" grace more than half the album.

Some of the real treasures, however, are heard in seven of the 15 songs on Birdland. These are the moments that prove the Yardbirds is still relevant today, some 40 years since the group's beginnings in London. The new material bears more than a few allusions to the old days. Ex-Yardbird Jeff Beck sits in on one track. Some of the new songs feel like they are sculpted as re-workings of classic tracks. No less than three of them feature the Gregorian chant-style singing that was the trademark of such Yardbirds songs as "Still I'm Sad" and "Heart Full of Soul." The album's brilliant closing track, "An Original Man," is dedicated to Keith Relf, the group's original singer who died in 1976.

If there is anything wrong with the CD, it would be that the revolving door of guest musicians impedes the album's continuity. The guitar work of Gypie Mayo, a name recognizable to fans of Dr. Feelgood, holds up to the expectations being a guitarist for the Yardbirds obviously brings with it. He shines especially on the CD's first original, "Crying Out for Love," with a guitar solo that could be revered and dissected by the guitar students of tomorrow as if it were "Comfortably Numb." But he isn't given the chance to shine when guest guitarists step in. Still, names like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash, Brian May, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Steve Lukather are nothing to sneeze at, and so any distractions they cause can easily be forgiven.

You can catch the Yardbirds on tour. Some dates in Europe and the United Kingdom will be followed in June with a tour of North America. Dates that have been announced can be seen at the group's new official Web site,

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