First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2003, Volume 10, #7
Written by John Metzger
The Yardbirds without Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, or Eric Clapton is akin to Creedence Clearwater Revival without John Fogerty or The Byrds without Roger McGuinn. Given the strange, nostalgic nature of Americans, however, these once formidable groups continue to reconvene and attract audiences, despite the absence of the star personnel that propelled them to greatness. Generally, lawsuits are the end result, and the bands wind up changing their approach to marketing.
The new incarnation of The Yardbirds, however, isn’t quite in this same position for neither Clapton, Beck, nor Page were part of the original line-up. (It was Anthony "Top" Topham who served, however briefly, as The Yardbirds’ first lead guitarist). The latest edition of the band, which follows a 1996 reunion, is centered around two of the group’s founding members — percussionist Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja — with relative unknown Gypie Mayo as well as a series of ringers — Johnny Rzeznik, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Slash, Brian May, Steve Lukather, and even Jeff Beck make appearances — attempting to fill the guitar slot.
The current Yardbirds peddles in the same blues-meets-R&B sound of its beginnings, and its recently recorded Birdland fares reasonably well, considering the history of the band. Not surprisingly, the album is far from a classic effort, though the gaggle of guitarists do a respectable job of keeping the music at least moderately interesting. The funny thing is, it’s Mayo who steals the show, providing solos that are far more tasteful than the flashy exuberance of his better-known counterparts. With the exception of the lame remakes of For Your Love and Shapes of Things — which are puzzlingly included since both undermine the case that the band fashions for respectability throughout the rest of the album — the collection of songs isn’t half-bad. Birdland is not groundbreaking, nor is it The Yardbirds of old. But it is, at least, solid set of groovy, blues-rock that makes one wish the band had chosen to wander exclusively down a new path rather than get sidetracked on an old one. ˝
Birdland is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box