Album review: THE YARDBIRDS – Making Tracks

 

Wienerworld   [Release date 06.10.13]

Much like their touring stable mates The Zombies with whom they share a 50 year history, The Yardbirds have all but been rediscovered in the American heartland where this album was recorded.

Due to ill health, the 2011 tour was also the last time Chris Dreja played with the band, and while superb guitarist Ben King has been with them for well over a decade, reborn fans might need an introduction to the impossibly young bass player Dave Smale and the harp playing front man Andy Mitchell. Andy does a workman like job on the live world premier of the Jim McCarty/Jimmy Page co-wrote ‘Tinker Taylor Soldier Sailor’ and adds harp on the riff driven ‘Drinking Muddy Water’, on which Ben cuts lose with some fearsome slide.

The sales pitch for this album is that 16 of the 19 tracks have never been recorded before, though a cursory glance the ‘Live at B.B. King Blues Club’ album would suggest otherwise.

The Yardbirds remain a vehicle for an influential back catalogue of music, as well as a band who have housed three of the leading guitarists of their generation. Much like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers they have remained a clearing house for high quality talent, but ‘Making Tracks’ feels like as stop-gap product.

The stop-time ‘Lost Woman’ goes back to the Jeff Beck days. Jim adds a pounding drum pattern track and Andy warms to his task to earn a fine reception, while the timeless riff of Graham Gouldman’s ‘Heart Full of Soul’ and ‘Train Kept A Rollin’ remains live highlights. The latter is sparked by Ben’s buzz tone guitar as the band finally fires on all cylinders despite a muffled sound.

Andy doubtless brought a wry smile to older fans with his intro to ‘Shapes Of Things’ as he boldly announces: ‘We want to take you to 1966’, a time before he was actually born!

Jim’s eastern favoured ‘Mystery of Being’ is a hugely underrated song from the all star ‘Birdland’ album, as is his melodic ‘Crying Out For Love’, which is arguably the band’s best post re-union song and certainly one of the highlights here.

Ben reverts to an incisive and clean tone on a boomy take of Eddie Boyd’s slow blues ‘5 Long Years’, and he rips with a coruscating solo on ‘Think About It’, a song that was popularised by Aerosmith.

The Graham Gouldman penned ‘For Your Love’ remains the straw that broke the camel’s back for Clapton, but it’s still a timeless favourite on which Andy adds percussion. And no American Yardbirds live album would be complete without the Zeppelin linked ‘Dazed & Confused’, though sadly Andy struggles horribly with his range as Ben manfully tries to redress the balance with those timeless riffs.

It’s a blot on the landscape that the band finally manage to counter with some fierce jamming on an otherwise underwhelming cover of ‘I’m A Man’. ***

Review by Pete Feenstra


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