Artist: The Yardbirds
Album: Roger the Engineer
Genre: Blues Rock
“Sit spellbound by a flickering screen,
Watch the ever changing scenes,
Listen to the rising screams,
Of children of today.
Lock your doors and stay within,
Upon your face the stupid grins,
Penalty for unrealized sins,
Committed on your way.”
Oh boy am I excited. I’ve been waiting anxiously to get to this album. As it quickly approached I grew more and more excited. Every passing album a reminder that I was another album closer to listening to this one. Now, I’ll be honest, I had only listened to Roger the Engineer once before, so my memory of it wasn’t the greatest but I did remember loving it very much so the thought of experiencing it anew a second time was a thrilling one.
Around this time last year was when I had decided I wanted to start listening to as much music as possible. It was around this time that I had made the decision that I would take the challenge of listening to every album on the 1001 albums list. But before I got organized about it and chose to write about each album, I had started in the 80s, listening to only those albums. Before that, I had started listening to band’s complete discographies. That’s where the story truly began. I felt at this point, with my love for music, there were bands I should listen to. This started with the “important” bands that every has heard, so at least I can say I’ve listened to them. This included The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, bands I felt I needed to listen to just because I felt like I had to. I mean these were bands everyone was talking about all the time, at least now I wasn’t in the dark about them.
So, as I was making my way through various bands, I took a look at the big ones that were part of the British Invasion. This led me to discover what I feel is my favourite of them, The Yardbirds. I honestly feel like the Yardbirds is grossly under-rated. Most people I know haven’t heard of them and are shocked to discover how big of a band they really were. I mean, it makes sense. The Yardbirds were eclipsed by the giants that were The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who and although they garnered critical praise, their legacy would only be remembered by music fans. Remember when I made the analogy of the British Invasion being like a family? If the Beatles were the cute younger brothers, the Rolling Stones the sexy, mature older brothers and The Who were the rebellious teenagers then The Yardbirds were like the forgotten fourth child, shadowed by the success of his older brothers. Which is really a shame because I personally think they’re the best of the four.
The Yardbirds were a powerhouse of a band that managed to yield not one, not two but three of guitar playing history’s greatest legends. They are: Eric Clapton, who was part of the original line-up and left to be part of the Bluesbreakers and eventually Cream, Jeff Beck, who is featured on this album and Jimmy Page, who would go on to form Led Zeppelin. That’s right, Led Zeppelin, everyone’s favourite band to put on their top ten list would never have existed if it weren’t for the Yardbirds (especially since Jimmy Page would heavily borrow from The Yardbirds music to create Led Zeppelin songs, but that’s a story for another time). I’m actually surprised at how many people I’ve talked to who loooooove Led Zeppelin yet have never even heard about the Yardbirds (personal experience, I’m sure there are tons who do).
Ok, so I’m rambling about the band itself, what about the album? Well, there’s a few great things to note. This one is a rather special one in their catalogue as it’s their only album to feature only original material. And boy do they really show off their talents with this one. The real hero is definitely Jeff Beck, infusing blues rock riffs with psychedelic effects such as reverb and long sustained notes that whammy their way to your heart and soul. This is in part what makes this album so great. Unlike the previous album, the Yardbirds don’t play straight blues rock but play around with it to create something new and unique by incorporating psychedelic rock elements. It never becomes an actual psychedelic trip and always remains in the blues rock world (with elements of pop) but it’s this small infusion that really makes it memorable.
People who know me know I love a band that knows how to use their bass. This is one of those bands. With songs like “Lost Woman” and “What Do You Want” that have nice, loud and infectious bass lines that pop out and stick with you. You can feel the bass groove leaking through your headphones and into your body, taking it over and getting you lost in it.
Ok, the album isn’t perfect and does have some pop filler, “Farewell” comes to mind, but these lows are contrasted with great tunes like “Over Under Sideways Down”, which was the name of the US release, Jeff’s Boogie, an infectious dance beat that is true to it’s name, “Hot House of Omargashid” and “The Nazz are Blue”, two songs I feel you should just check out for yourself. The flow of the albums makes it easy to get through the slightly poppy tunes as they’re mashed between the great ones. it doesn’t matter if you’re not enjoying one, chances are you’ll love the next.
The album remains an incredibly memorable one and I loved it even more listening to it the second time around. If there’s ever an album I would suggest my readers (all four of you) to listen to, it would be this one.
But then again… that’s just… like… my opinion, man.
Song of Choice: What Do You Want