I give up. If this, the group’s first consciously assembled LP, strikes me as being weaker than their first two U.S. albums—Five Live Yardbirds pilfering and all—there seems to be no hope for me enjoying these chaps as much as so many others. All the dazzling guitar heroics in the world can’t compensate for repetitive songs that lean too heavily on monotonous hooks (“Turn Into Earth”) and Keith Relf. Whether he’s trying for a bluesy sneer (“Rack My Mind”) or doom-and-gloom (“Ever Since the World Began”), he falls totally thin and flat. Same goes for “Hot House of Omagarashid”, which operates under the silly premise that undulating sheets of metal can make a lazy instrumental “psychedelic”.
Of course I, after finding their bluesier (most would say better) work rather middling, would latch onto the Yardbirds’ final LP of the 60s as my clear favorite. Now that producer Mickie Most has steered them into proper pop waters, my past complaints of flimsy songwriting and flimsier vocals have vanished. Or maybe I simply prefer Page’s songwriting input more than Beck’s. Regardless, Relf has never sounded this good, whether grounding the opener’s considerable whimsy or matching “Only the Black Rose”‘s poignancy with an equally vulnerable performance.
Yet another reunion album I’m kicking myself for even entertaining the possibility of being worthwhile. Featuring only two original members (drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja), a slew of try-hard guests (that usually just spam Heavy Harmonics), and an intolerable running time (nearly an hour), Birdland continues the Yardbirds tradition of monotonous melodies with songs new and old packaged as dollar-store blues-rock.