The Yardbirds: Roger The Engineer (50th Anniversary Edition)

Unparalleled blues rock.

The Yardbirds Roger The Engineer album cover

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The Yardbirds – the beautiful caterpillar that turned into the lumpy butterfly of Led Zeppelin – are held in regard now for their role as the guitar lab that gave us Clapton, Beck and Page, but their real place in history was earned by the band’s sheer genius in combining pop hits, blues sounds and futuristic guitar brilliance.

They began as yet another London blues boom group, enjoyed chart action with superb 45s like Shapes Of Things and For Your Love (a song which Clapton hated worse than immigration laws), and by 1966 arguably reached their peak with this, their most fully realised album.

It combines every element of The Yardbirds at their best, from the self-explanatory instrumental Jeff’s Boogie (in which Beck manages to pay tribute to both sea shanties and Cilla Black’s Alfie) to the brilliant Elmore James ‘close tribute’ The Nazz Are Blue; from the blues workout of Rack My Mind to the drone pop of Turn To Earth; and from the full-on, year-early psychedelia of Over, Under, Sideways, Down to the droll Hot House Of Omagarashid, which apparently samples someone taking the piss out of the band’s long hair. Throughout there’s a sense of fun, space and experimentation.

This latest edition contains both mono and stereo versions, plus some interesting solo singles by vocalist Keith Relf. There’s also Stroll On, recorded for the movie Blow-Up (and, as Train Kept A-Rollin’, an early Zeppelin highlight), and here featuring the only official recording with both Beck and Page on it. An essential album.

David Quantick is an English novelist, comedy writer and critic, who has worked as a journalist and screenwriter. A former staff writer for the music magazine NME, his writing credits have included On the HourBlue JamTV Burp and Veep; for the latter of these he won an Emmy in 2015.