Saturday, 19 November 2016

"Little Games" by YARDBIRDS [Jimmy Page, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf & Together] (1991 EMI CD Remasters - 18-Tracks in Stereo and Mono) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Puzzles In My Mind..."

The Yardbirds last official album "Little Games" US-released July 1967 on Epic Records in Mono and Stereo has delighted and bewildered fans of this extraordinary British band for decades. What could have been...should have been...etc.

The first official British vinyl release for "Little Games" came on EMI's budget label Fame as late as May 1985 (Cassette too) when they took the original 10 Stereo tracks and bumped up the track-count to 16 (catalogue number Fame 4131241). Then came this October 1991 official EMI CD with 18 tracks and there's been a subsequent expanding of that again in 2003 along with many Japanese repro issues along the way. For this review we'll concentrate on the 1991 reissue because I love the Audio on it...

UK released October 1991 - "Little Games" by THE YARDBIRDS on EMI CD EMS 1389/CDP 7 96064 2 (Barcode 0077779606429) is an 18-track British released CD compilation of Stereo and Mono Remasters that plays out as follows (51:50 minutes):

1. Little Games
2. Smile On Me [Mono]
3. White Summer
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor [Mono]
5. Glimpses
6. Drinking Muddy Water [Side 2]
7. No Excess Baggage
8. Stealing Stealing
9. Only The Black Rose
10. Little Soldier Boy
Tracks 1 to 10 are their fourth and final studio album "Little Games" - released July 1967 in the USA on Epic LN 24313 (Mono) and Epic BN 26313 (Stereo) - the Stereo mix is used for this 1991 CD reissue except Tracks 2 and 4 which are in MONO. Produced by MICKIE MOST - the LP peaked at No. 80 on the US LP charts.

11. Goodnight Sweet Josephine (UK Version) - withdrawn UK 7" single from March 1968 on Columbia DB 8368, MONO A-side (Tony Hazzard song)
12. Puzzles - UK and US 7" single from April 1967 on Columbia DB 8165 (UK) and Epic 10156 (USA), MONO B-side of "Little Games"
13. Ha Ha Said The Clown - US 7" single from June 1967 on Epic 10204, MONO A-side
14. I Remember The Night - a STEREO album outtake unavailable until the May 1985 UK reissue of the "Little Games" LP on Fame 4131241
15. Ten Little Indians - US 7" single from October 1967 on Epic 10248, MONO-A-side
16. Think About It - withdrawn UK 7" single from March 1968 on Columbia DB 8368, MONO B-side to "Goodnight Sweet Josephine"
17. Goodnight Sweet Josephine (USA Version) - withdrawn US 7" single from March 1968 on Epic 10303, MONO A-side (Tony Hazzard song)
18. Together Now (by TOGETHER) - Previously Unreleased STEREO version of a Jim McCarty and Keith Relf song recorded Spring 1968

For the "Little Games" sessions and thereabouts – THE YARDBIRDS consisted of Jimmy Page (Guitar), Keith Relf (Vocals), Chris Dreja (Bass) and Jim McCarty (Drums).

Co-ordinated by TIM CHACKSFIELD (a name that's still gracing many prestigious reissues - Jethro Tull's "Stand Up: The Elevated Edition" from November 2016 is one - see review) - the 8-page booklet has decent informative liner notes from BRIAN HOGG and a photo of the "Ha Ha Said The Clown" advert as well as a colour photo of our young innovative heroes. But as was typical with these early CD reissues - EMI doesn't state who mastered what from what or where. 10-tracks of the 18 are in STEREO – eight of the ten-track LP (Tracks 2 and 4 are Mono) plus the outtake "I Remember The Night" and the unreleased TOGETHER song "Together Now" (Keith Relf and Jim McCarty). The remaining six are the MONO single mixes - "Goodnight Sweet Josephine" being represented twice - in its 'phased' and 'unphased' versions (the band was dissatisfied with the sound of the original phased take and had it withdrawn).

English songwriters and hit-makers Harold Spiro and Phil Wainman trumped up the saucy title track "Little Games" where you can hear that Rock guitar trying to take over the Pop-ness of the song throughout. Things go full-on Chess R&B with the wickedly good "Smile On Me" - and again that wild electric guitar making it a highlight. The long-fingers of Bert Jansch, Davey Graham and John Renbourn seep through the wonderful Acoustic jaunt that is "White Summer". This Jimmy Page penned instrumental would turn up in Led Zeppelin sessions and concerts and here it's given the ultimate hippy accolade of Indian Tabla and Oboe accompaniment - love this track. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor" again has innovative guitar sounds as Relf goes through the Doctor Baker and Shoemaker lyrics. But that’s soundly trumped by everyone’s fave Psych track – the brilliant 'aah aah aah' of "Glimpses". Using sampled sounds from train stations, children's playgrounds and wah-wah pedals on his guitars while Relf almost chants 'aah' throughout the song - you get a Psych groove that some have quite rightly compared to the early droning of Hawkwind. I absolutely love this track and I can remember Psych collectors being frustrated when I worked in Reckless Records as they came looking for a US Stereo original on Epic Records (no chance pal).

Side 2 opens up with another Chess knock-off - "Drinking Water Blues" - the piano plinking of future Rolling Stone stalwart Ian Stewart in the background as the Paul Butterfield type harmonica wails over Rocking Blues - another bloody good track. Future Zeppelite John Paul Jones plays Bass on the excellent dancer "No Excess Baggage". Mississippi Jug music pioneer Gus Cannon did the original of "Stealing Stealing" back in the previous century - here the English boys ham it up with washboard, kazoo and harmonica. Surely another fave for fans is the lovely acoustic "Only The Black Rose" - a Keith Relf original in the vein of a Donovan ballad. "...I long to find someone that reminds me of you..." Relf sings while Jimmy Page backwards the guitars as the song reaches its final stages. The drummer-boy rat-a-tat-tat of "Little Soldier Boy" is probably another attempt at a hit single but I hate it.

The singles have great punch in MONO - especially the pair of American A-sides "Ha Ha Said The Clown" and "Ten Little Indians". I've always thought 'Clown' was more dismissible pap and the countdown drumming mess that is "Ten Little Indians" isn't much better (too much melodrama). But I'm digging the vaudeville "I Remember The Night" outtake which sounds like a 1969 Kevin Ayers outtake where he camps up some fairground voice over a rollicking piano amble (apples and pairs). But I love the TOGETHER track - very nice and an indication of Renaissance to come. And it’s criminal that something as good as "Puzzles" didn’t make the album – relegated to a B-side when frankly it could have broken the band if it had been given a chance as the A (and dig that fabulous guitar solo). Hardly wonder its so sought after a Psych Freakbeat 7” single...

After The Yardbirds Keith Relf and Jim McCarty formed Renaissance - Relf would later join Medicine Head and Armageddon – McCarty went to Shoot and both were reunited in the process of forming Illusion when Relf was killed in a horrible accident at home in May 1976. Beck would of course blaze a trail with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood on the "Truth" and "Beck-Ola" LPs in the late Sixties then go Fusion for the Seventies - while out of the ashes of The New Yardbirds Jimmy Page would form some no-mark no-chance bunch of English hard rockers called Led Zeppelin (Led who says you).

When you think of it now in the winter of 2016 – it’s hard to imagine all that talent flying around in one group – but of course therein lay the seeds of destruction for The Yardbirds. The market demanded hit singles when they just wanted to innovate and takes things to the next level - which all eventually ended up doing thank God.

But it started here – bit Pop – bit Rock – bit witty – bit Psych in places and even at three and half stars out of five - much of it is a bit bloody brilliant frankly. The US would issue a 2-disc version of "Little Games" in 1992 and there have been other weightier reissues subsequently as I mentioned earlier – but I like the Audio on this British version.

Early CD reissues like this are to be cherished...

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