Last Rave-Up In L.A. (Tarantura TCDYB-1,2)
Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, CA – May 31 & June 1, 1968
The latest mini box set from the Tarantura label features two concerts from the last days of the original run of the seminal English Blues Rock band The Yardbirds. Most know the bands last days, long gone were Clapton and Beck, Jimmy Page had been the lone guitar player since late 1966 and interest was waning from the music charts and critics, the band seemed tired of life in a touring rock band. Jimmy Page was taking the education in, he could see there was beginning interest in the Hard Rock musings of Jimi Hendrix and Cream as well as the flourishing touring market in North America. He pushed the Yardbirds into a harder edged group and began flavouring it with psychedelia, with only moderate success. With the band’s demise in the summer of 1968, Page would go on to use what he learned and form Led Zeppelin, the rest would be history. The popularity of Led Zeppelin would intrigue some fans to re examine Page’s time in The Yardbirds and would soon find the beginnings of Zeppelin were actually in his previous band. Songs like White Summer, Tangerine, and Dazed And Confused were all pieces Page has played during his tenure with the ‘Birds. Fans would seek out the sole Page led LP Little Games as well as the Live At The Anderson Theater record, or counterfeit copies of it.
It seems like there was precious little material from the Page days in the collectors market, Stockholm 1967 seemed to be a very popular recording as was the Anderson Theater recording. In 1979 a Yardbirds bootleg title entitled Last Rave Up In L.A. (Glimpses GR001) appeared on the Glimpses Records label featuring recordings of the last two concerts the Yardbirds played at Los Angeles’ famed Shrine Auditorium. The concerts were recorded by David Cole who captured the first night May 31 and only a portion of the second June 1 date. These recordings were pressed onto three LPs, the title was popular enough that it would be reissued the same year, the difference being the first edition had blue labels, the second had yellow labels. This record would get a sole compact disc release in the late 90’s as Last Rave Up In L.A. (Goldtone GTD-017). These recordings were proof that even in the final days, The Yardbirds were a force to be reckoned with, the band was tight and a powerful live act playing music from the entire catalog tinged with Page’s bristling energy.
This new box set is comprised of four compact discs, the first two being the complete David Cole recordings taken from low generation copies, the third and fourth discs are a transfer of the Glimpses LP, all mastered by Enigma. There are two gatefold sleeves that house the CDs, two booklets, one in English, the other Japanese that tell the story of the Page era Yardbirds, the tour and the recordings that make up this set. David recorded the concert with the help of his girlfriend who concealed the RCA tape machine under her dress running wires to the microphones mounted on Coles’ Levi jacket. Cole and a few friends were actually the ones responsible for the vinyl release, he even wrote the liner notes for the record, the budding bootleggers didn’t make any money on the release and did it for the love of the music. If I read the notes correctly, his partner in crime was in possession of the actual master tapes and their location is not known and probably lost. The inclusion of relevant liner notes is an excellent addition to this set. The outer packaging is a hinged box with magnet closure and a singular OBI, there are two versions of the cover, Glimpses and Psychedelic edition both limited to 68 numbered copies as well as a few promo editions as well. The box, sleeves, and CDs are all beautifully adorned with pictures from the Page era of the Yardbirds and is a stunningly beautiful presentation.
The Original Tapes – May 31, 1968 (Tarantura TCDYB-1)
Disc 1 (78:58) Introduction, The Train Kept A Rollin’, Mr Your A Better Man Than I, Heartful Of Soul, Dazed And Confused, Shapes Of Things, I’m A Man, Tune Ups, White Summer, Smokestack Lightning / Waiting For My Man, Bye Bye Bird, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, Drinking Muddy Water, New York City Blues (Become My Friend) Aborted, Intermission, I Wish You Would / Hey Gyp
The sound quality on these tapes is solidly in the good range, the guitar, bass, and vocals are clear in the mix while the drums are a bit in the background, typical for tapes of the era. There is an intimate sound to the tapes, the Shrine is a 6,400 seat venue that was built with music in mind, its natural acoustics helping in making the recording sound good. The taper sounds like he is fairly close to the stage and captured a very listenable and enjoyable document of the event. As one would expect with tapes of this age, there is a small amount of hiss present but does not in anyway interfere with ones listening pleasure, in fact the original tapes have that warm analog feel to them.
The Train Kept A Rollin’ was the standard opener, Page would use this version for the first few Zeppelin tours of 1969 and 1980. Page gets heavy into his Wah pedal for Your A Better Man Than I giving it an almost Hendrix feel to the piece, the song segues directly into the excellent Heartful Of Soul, the audience responds with a nice round of applause. Keith Relf introduces the band as well as the next song Dazed And Confused, a very interesting version, the structure is all there. Relf certainly did not have the vocal range and used his harmonica to accent some parts while responding to Page at other times. Page, as usual, plays an incredible embryonic bow solo, again much of what would be the basis for the Zeppelin versions is all here. Poor Jim McCarty cannot keep up with Page and is just trying to hang on!
Shapes Of Things is well received by the audience, the band play an aggressive version of the song after which they are bombarded with shouts of “Happenings…Happenings”, what they get is a Psychedelic meets the Blues version of an early Yardbirds rave up I’m A Man that gets the audience clapping along. The blues jam leads into Jimmy ripping into a solo that has him getting into a snippet of Over Under Sideways Down in a mad fury, this evolves into a bow interlude with Relf reciting either a poem or song lyrics. I cannot make out the whole interlude, it is very ambient and similar to Glimpses from Little Games. They head back into what sounds like it will become a part of How Many More Times before coming back to the original riff and another bit of Over Under Sideways Down. This 12 and a half minutes are some of the most interesting on this tape and must be considered essential listening.
Keith introduces White Summer while Jimmy begins the tuning for the piece, the song itself is the arrangement Page would use with Zeppelin, this version is obviously without Black Mountain Side. Smokestack Lightning will sound familiar to Zeppelin fans, Page would use it as a basis for How Many More Times, even his solo features snippets of what he plays just before Rosie on the first Led Zep record. What makes this version even better is that it segues into The Velvet Undergrounds Waiting For The Man that is simply incredible with very high energy and quite heavy to boot. Not surprising that Page has to change a guitar string after that workout so Relf, McCarty and Dreja get into a Bye Bye Bird blues jam and clap along.
The fan who was shouting “Happenings” earlier get his wish and the band play a superb version of Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, one of the few songs the Yardbirds recorded with both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page playing lead guitar together, Page has no problems recreating the song live, loved this song since I heard it via a Jimmy Page radio special circa 1984. The then recent Drinking Muddy Water sees the band playing in the older rave up style and is pure high energy. The band play a brief bit of the Shapes Of Things b-side with New York City Blues but this is just to kill a few minutes of time while Jimmy tunes up. The recording ends with a seven plus minute take of the first Yardbirds single, their version of Billy Boy Arnold’s I Wish You Would played similar to their original version save for Page’s ending wind up.
The Original Tapes – June 1, 1968 (Tarantura TCDYB-2)
Disc 2 (47:15) Introduction, The Train Kept A Rollin’, Mr Your A Better Man Than I, Heartful Of Soul, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, I Wish You Would / Hey Gyp, Drinking Muddy Water, New York City Blues (Become My Friend), I Ain’t Done Wrong, Over Under Sideways Down
The second night at The Shrine finds our hero, David Cole, in a similar location as the previous evening and getting ready for night two with The Yardbirds. The sound quality is near identical to the previous evening, if anything the drums are better defined on this recording, as with the previous night, the atmosphere of the event is well captured. Sadly there is only 47 minutes of this performance, there is nothing in the liner notes that give any idea on the incomplete second night but if one looks at the length I would assume perhaps he only had one side of a tape left to use, nonetheless I am certainly glad to have what is here.
The Train Kept A Rollin’ is the opening and again is followed by an excellent version of Your A Better Man Than I, very heavy with the band playing quite forceful. Jimmy’s solo is superb, again conjuring up images of Jimi Hendrix tinged with vibrato. Interestingly they move some songs around, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago is now early in the set, this song is very well received, certainly played on underground radio. I Wish You Would is really good, very tight, the drums being better defined in the soundscape show how the rhythm section laid the foundation and how quickly they adapted to the changes in the music. Jimmy goes from heavy to melancholy quickly, something he would master with his next group, and the song gives the listener the feel that this band was loose enough for excellent improvisation.
Tonight we get a more focused version of New York City Blues, Jimmy really adds a more dramatic flair to the piece, he solos with lead runs in similar structure to what he would use latter in the year on the heavy blues of I Can’t Quit You and You Shook Me. The middle workout during I Ain’t Done Wrong gives an idea of what Zeppelin would do a year or so later during live version of Bring It On Home, a riff based jam with harmonica interlude. Jimmy adds an echo laden series of notes again reminiscent of Glimpses, very ambient but much shorter than the similar section during I’m A Man. Page teased the hell out of Over Under Sideways Down the previous evening, they play it proper on this night. There is a small cut at the 1:28 mark and the last bit of the song has Keith saying goodnight. A furious 47 minutes of music, not a wasted note or beat.
The Glimpses Records GR001 – May 31, 1968 (Tarantura TCDGR-001-1)
Disc 1 (61:10) The Train Kept A Rollin’, Mr Your A Better Man Than I, Heartful Of Soul, Dazed And Confused, Shapes Of Things, I’m A Man, Tune Ups, White Summer, Smokestack Lightning / Waiting For My Man, Bye Bye Bird
The Glimpses Records GR001 – June 1, 1968 (Tarantura TCDGR-001-2)
Disc 2 (34:54) Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, I Wish You Would / Hey Gyp, Drinking Muddy Water, New York City Blues (Become My Friend), I Ain’t Done Wrong, Over Under Sideways Down
The second part of this set features a vinyl transfer of a mint copy of Last Rave Up In L.A. (Glimpses GR001), the reason is that the LP was made directly from the master tapes and the sound quality is just a bit better, when I compare the sound of the Original Vinyl to the Original Tapes this is definitely confirmed, the sound is clearer with better definition of the instruments, the clarity is so much better, you can hear the stage banter better as well. If I would rate the original tapes as both good, this upgrade pushes the sound to the very good range, it makes you yearn to hear a transfer from the original tapes. The mastering on these two discs is again excellent, the vinyl must have been in incredible shape and the cleanup job is tremendous, there is nothing that you hear that says this came from vinyl. To again pay homage to the Last Rave Up In L.A. (Glimpses GR001), Tarantura uses the LP center label art for these two discs, a very nice touch I may add.
The packaging as described in the opening of this review is excellent, the boxes with the magnetic closure is a bit nicer than the standard style that is used by Tarantura as well. The cover picture is brilliant, Page is wearing beautiful stage attire, his red or pink velvet trouser would carry over to the Zeppelin days. While there are many well known professional photos throughout the artwork, there are also lesser known shots taken by audience members giving a contrast of views from this era of the Yardbirds. I have to admit I had not heard these recordings before and only have the Anderson Theater gig in my collection but never was really impressed with it. While the Los Angeles recordings are lesser quality, the performances captured here better represent the Yardbirds in 1968. I am really blown away with how Jimmy’s vision of a band was being focused here, I always thought it was the chemistry of Jones, Bonham, and Plant but now understand that much of the brilliance of the first Led Zeppelin album was more Jimmy Page than I have previously thought. The sound of this set, while not great, is very listenable and easy on the ears. The mastering is excellent and I feel the best was brought out in these tapes. Audience recordings that fall merely in the good category can be tough for some to get into, but for those who can look past average sound, the performances on these CDs will drawn you in and upon examination are incredible. I can only give this Yardbirds set a rating of excellent, it just nails it on every mark.