As founding member Chris Dreja tells it, making a new Yardbirds album after 35 years seemed daunting: "That's a long holiday. We've been dormant like some bacteria for all that time. Waiting to unleash itself."
While some might question the worth of a Yardbirds album without Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page (and with Jeff Beck guesting only on one cut), it's good to remember that the non-lead guitarist axis of the band wrote many of its latter hits like "Still I'm Sad" and "Shapes of Things." On Birdland, the band's comeback album, Dreja and original drummer Jim McCarty still have the knack of writing songs that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Roger the Engineer. As for the rookies, new singer John Idan and harp player Alan Glen manage to fill the Keith Relf void without sounding like caricatures while Gypsie Mayo, the most obscure Yardbirds lead axe since Top Topham, proves a worthy addition. And each of the of the half dozen Yardbirds oldies remakes here -- hey, 35 years is a long time, and credibility can be a fleeting thing -- has a guitar legend like Steve Vai, Brian May, Slash or Jeff "Skunk" Baxter sitting in.
Nita's Hideaway, 3300 South Price, Tempe
Scheduled to perform on Thursday, June 26. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18. Call 480-966-7715 for more information.
America, of course, is a lot different than the last time Dreja and McCarty toured here as the Yardbirds."We did a lot of those West Coast shows like the Fillmore and the guys that used to make LSD, Leary, Crowley one of those people and they used to come around with jars of the stuff and hand it out like sweets," says Dreja. "We actually had to have road managers do food tasting cause people thought they were doing you a favor if they spiked your coke."
"It's always amused me that the band has been credited for discovering psychedelic and chemically induced music but in all honesty, we imbibed a bit but not ever to the degree that it was credited in terms of the music. The music was the drug. We discovered adrenaline in its natural form."