Little Games

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Click for availability and more information Little Games, by The Yardbirds
 
Produced by Mickie Most (who performed similar duties for The Animals, Donovan and others) in a hurry during the spring of 1967 and released that July, Little Games would be both the last original album by the Yardbirds for over twenty -five years and the only one with guitarist Jimmy Page on all selections. Sundazed Records recently re-released the original mono version with only two extra songs, the B-side "Puzzles" (with Page doing twin lead guitar) and the parody "I Remember The Night", the latter not actually released until Little Games was first reissued as a CD in 1992 (and again in 1996) by EMI. Unfortunately, aside from the song listing, there are no liner notes detailing the production history of the album.* (And who made the regrettable decision to leave off the band's final, standout single "Goodnight Sweet Josephine/"Think About It" ?!?)

Despite the rushed production, Most's insistence on using session players such as bassist John Paul Jones (yes, him!)and keyboardists Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart alongside Page, bassist Chris Dreja, drummer Jim McCarty and lead singer Keith Relf, and some less than exciting songs, the album has a number of virtues going for it. There's the instrumental "White Summer" which foreshadows Page's work in Led Zeppelin (you'll hear echoes of "Black Mountain Side" and "Over The Hills And Far Away"); the power chords and bowing technique (!) Page brings to the Who-like "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor" and the experimental "Glimpses"; and Relf's melancholic ballad "Only The Black Rose". "Smile On Me", with Page's stop and start solos, is a great blues rocker harkening back to the band's early days. And despite its seemingly unfinished, demo-sounding quality, the anti-war song "One Little Indian" (which got a much better production sheen in the aforementioned 1992 and 1996 reissues) stays with you long after it's over. Sadly, the album tanked sales-wise, and a year later, the Yardbirds broke up. Reif and McCarty would form their own folk-rock group, Dreja left the music business, and Page and Jones got together with Robert Plant and John Bonham to form what was supposed to be "The New Yardbirds" but instead became Led Zeppelin.

Not quite a masterpiece, Little Games is still a vigorous and powerfully sonic-sounding work by the Yardbirds (and friends) who overcome weak material (the songs, several commissioned from pop music writers by Most, sound better than they "read") and is worth a listen!

*(I'm very grateful for Greg Russo's 1997 book Yardbirds: The Ultimate Rave-Up for supplying background information on the making of this album.)
-Ed

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This page contains a single entry published on May 23, 2011 11:26 PM.

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