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A legendary band reborn

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Prometheus
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« on: October 05, 2007, 03:34:10 am »

A legendary band reborn
Two founding members anchor the rejuvenated Yardbirds
Stage Review | Archives

By Darrell Jónsson
For The Prague Post
October 3rd, 2007
 


John Idan, original drummer Jim McCarty, Billy Boy Misikimmin, Ben King and original rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja. 
The Yardbirds
When: Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 8
Where: Retro Music Hall
Tickets: 370 Kč, through Ticketstream and at the venue

“I’ve been kissed by a Hell’s Angel — he thought the Yardbirds were true legends!” confesses Yardbirds’ founding member/rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja in response to a question about reactions to the band’s reincarnation.Since 1992, when Dreja and original Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty decided to put the band back on the road, they have been building a reputation of keeping, if not improving, the Yardbirds’ original sound. Part of the ongoing velocity is owed to the addition of bassist/lead vocalist John Idan, Billy Boy Miskimmin on harmonica and percussion, and lead guitarist Ben King. These relatively new band members, Dreja says, “are totally on our wavelength; they bring a lot of energy in their own right.” Such youthful energy would be hard-pressed to find a better conduit than with the legendary British blues-rock band, which Dreja says “became a no-rules band and followed many different paths.” If the Beatles and Rolling Stones were the flagship bands of the ’60s British invasion, the Yardbirds were its Trojan horse. Almost unnoticed in their string of transatlantic hits, blues-rock was furthered, psychedelia was born and proto-metal was bubbling to be unleashed. Cream, the Jeff Beck Group, Led Zeppelin and Renaissance would develop directly from the band’s creative impulses and personnel. Nearly as significant were the armies of garage bands spawned by the Yardbirds’ 1965 take on Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man.” That hit single, as MC5’s Wayne Kramer once said, “created more guitar nutcases than any track in the history of recorded music.”Yet to reduce the Yardbirds to their famous guitar breaks is far too simple. Besides an ability to take blues-rock to contagious heights, the Yardbirds produced some of the ’60s most artful pop gems. Original songs such as “Still I’m Sad” (1965) and “Turn to Earth” (1966) had a unique Gothic flavor — a result, Dreja says, of listening to “monastic and early religious singing and chanting.” Blues hardliner Eric Clapton may have left the Yardbirds over such matters. Soon replacing him, though, were Beck and Jimmy Page, whose riffs could shout guitar blues as well as follow the Yardbirds’ proclivity for exploration and innovation. Even with the rotating lead guitarists, the overall effect, Dreja says, “seems to hang together as only coming from that band … some sort of Yardbirds thread.”That may be, as Dreja goes on to explain, because “the Yardbirds’ roots are in the blues music of black American musicians. Their music opened up a whole new exciting and emotional way of creating sounds. It was a revelation to us. … But we were a white band from England, and it became clear and important to us that we needed to express ourselves with our own ideas and sounds.”The band’s groundbreaking hits in the ’60s, combined with their legendary concerts, were finally honored in 1992 when the Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet in the late ’60s the magic had begun to fade. By 1968, for various reasons including tour burnout, the band broke up. Dreja and Page started auditioning new members, but the original lineup had been so potent that some industry observers predicted the new group would go over like a “lead balloon.” In the end Dreja also jumped ship, and the only one left on board was Page. Using some of the material he had road-tested while still a Yardbird, Page reappeared in 1969 with a new crew, appropriately named Led Zeppelin. While that band became one of the most influential rock groups of all time, the Yardbirds existed only as a unique musical thread running through psychedelia, hard rock, garage rock and heavy metal.In some ways, it’s an impossible legacy to resurrect. But for Yardbirds fans, it’s been nothing but good news to hear a contemporary version of the band — with Dreja and McCarty still in the lineup — back on the road. On their latest CDs, Birdland (2003) and Live at BB King Blues Club (2007), both on Stevie Vai’s Favored Nations label, the Yardbirds convincingly reclaim their title as leading blues-rock contenders. Given the favorable response to their recent North American tour, it’s easy to understand why Dreja can confidently recommend, “Stay true to your ideas and ideals. If they are any good, they can stand the test of time.”

Darrell Jónsson can be reached at features@praguepost.com


http://www.praguepost.com/articles/2007/10/03/a-legendary-band-reborn.php
 

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