On Chuck Berry's ''Too Much Monkey Business'' [Eric Clapton] unleashes a solo of such...
Mick Fitzsimmons 2003-03-20
One of the most influential bands of the 60s, the Yardbirds are best remembered as a breeding ground for three of the UK's finest guitar heroes - Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. This recently unearthed live recording features the first of that vaunted trio, offering a fascinating earful of the sound of hip London clubland in 1964.
What's astonishing about Clapton's playing is how fully formed it is for a player not yet out of his teens. By turns fluid, spiky and occasionally downright crazed, it's a far cry from the more mannered performances of his latter years. On Chuck Berry's ''Too Much Monkey Business'' he unleashes a solo of such ferocity you almost fear for your speaker cones, while closing slow blues ''The Sky Is Crying'' finds him sparring stylishly with Keith Relf's harmonica.
Relf's vocal performance is also remarkably powerful, filled with the kind of snotty white boy attitude which would go on to inspire countless US garage bands. Chris Dreja's bass playing is also worthy of note, skipping nimbly across the breakneck tempos of the Isley Brothers' ''She Is So Respectable''. At one point this bizarrely mutates into a blue beat version of ''Humpty Dumpty'', which serves to underline 60s British rock's debt to black music of all forms.
The set list is little different from the bands original debut, Five Live Yardbirds, but if you fancy a dose of raw, rocking blues, with the added attraction of a nascent Clapton on peak form then check this out.You might not feel like you're there, but you'll probably wish you were.