Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
The Yardbirds are back! Sort of. The quintessential R&B-influenced British Invasion band has made a few recent headlines, and any headline from a group that can boast Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page as alums is probably worth checking out.
Last month, the music press was buzzing when Page announced a November 5th release for Yardbirds ’68. The legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist is producing the newly unearthed compilation of live and studio recordings along with outtakes. Rolling Stone has more about it here. Additionally, in early August still-active founding member Jim McCarty and the bands’ current line-up announced a new Yardbirds studio album to be underwritten by a PledgeMusic campaign. The album promises to be “a totally new recording of original songs with a couple of carefully selected covers.” Fans can find out more and get involved here.
We’ll celebrate all this good news with several Yardbirds-related features leading up to the release of Page’s ’68 in November. Today, we’ll pay our respects with a recap of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. The first of countless compilations, this one passed a significant 50th anniversary milestone in March. Arguments abound among aficionados as to which Greatest Hits / Best Of / Retrospective is their “best,” but only one can claim to be their highest charting US album; Greatest Hits peaked at #28 on the Billboard chart in 1967 and arguably gave the band a second wind at the time. The album is no longer commercially available in its original LP configuration and packaging, but nowadays it can be put together with just a few taps on the screen/keys.
Included on Greatest Hits are all six of their singles up to 1967, plus three B-sides and a live track. Five tracks were written by at least one member of the band. Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, and Mose Allison are credited with one R&B cover each. Finally, two were written by Graham Gouldman, about whom we’ll have more to say in the near future.
So… let’s get ready, steady, go!
The Chris Stamey Experience with Yo La Tengo – Shapes of Things (Yardbirds cover)
The dBs’ co-founder keeps the tempo and spirit of the original while significantly extending the running time on his 2004 psychedelic rock version. The album V.O.T.E. was reissued and expanded a year later as A Question of Temperature.
Gregorian – Still I’m Sad (Yardbirds cover)
Somber Gregorian chant fits naturally with the haunting vocals in the original. Add in the lounge/chill rhythm tracks and you’ll enjoy a meeting of the centuries from this 1999 “Enigma”-like release; one of the earliest from the long-running concept group.
Country Weather – New York City Blues (Yardbirds cover)
Legitimate covers of this Keith Relf classic are hard to come by; that is, until these San Francisco-based rockers released some old 1969 demo tracks in 2005. No harmonica here, but guitarist Greg Douglass acquits himself well on Jeff Beck’s licks. Douglass later played in bands with Steve Miller, Greg Kihn, and others.
Graham Gouldman – For Your Love (Graham Gouldman cover)
The first of the two songs on the album credited to Gouldman, the original also featured Eric Clapton on lead guitar. Three years after writing it, Gouldman eventually got around to recording this version for his first solo LP in 1968. Led Zep’s John Paul Jones is credited for the arrangements on the album and single. At best, it’s a closer look at the vision Gouldman had for the song while the Yardbirds’ version became definitive.
tonemeister – Over Under Sideways Down (Yardbirds cover)
Pop rockabilly from Fort Worth, circa 2011. Mostly fun, at times creepy, but all in all an updated toe-tapping good time.
Gerdesits Ferenc – I’m a Man (Bo Diddley cover)
Of course dozens of recordings exist of this Bo Diddley standard. The Hungarian tenor, actor, and rock singer specifically updated the Yardbirds’ version here on his 1989 album Ös-Metal. Likeable… and at times humorous.
The Chesterfield Kings – Happenings Ten Years Time Ago (Yardbirds cover)
The Yardbirds knowingly premiered the song as a greatest hit, potentially to check the box for a Jimmy Page appearance on the album. Here we have Rochester’s venerable CKs showing why they’re often credited for kicking off the ‘80s garage rock revival. Their harder-to-find Where the Action Is, released in 1999, does justice to ten more ‘60s garage classics, including this one.
Graham Gouldman – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
The prolific songwriter Gouldman released his second solo LP in 2000, and included this track… a mere 35 years after writing the Yardbirds’ definitive version. The superior equipment and production capabilities of the era bring out the best in his vocals and arrangement here.
The Morlocks – Smokestack Lightning (Howlin’ Wolf cover)
The San Diego garage rockers are worthy representatives with this full-sounding opening track from their 2010 album. A key difference from the Yardbirds version is the altering tempo, but the swampy updated harmonica sets it in the right direction.
Aerosmith – I’m Not Talking (Mose Allison cover)
Aerosmith’s affinity for their R&B roots is well documented, as are their official releases of other Yardbirds classics. Their studio take on Allison’s R&B rocker appeared only on the Japanese release of 2012’s Music From Another Dimension! But it was this blistering sub-three minute live version from the infamous Mama Kin Music Hall in 1994 that really took the song to another dimension.