By Patrick Prince
The newest version of The Yardbirds is on tour through North America until the end of July with drummer and original Yardbird Jim McCarty as the only Englishman left. Americans Myke Scavone (harp, percussion, backing vocals), Johnny A (guitar), Kenny Aaronson (bass), Jim McCarty and John Idan (vocals, guitar) complete the rest of the band.
Last year, when Goldmine spoke to McCarty (Issue 862, December 2015), he thought of the new lineup as a sort of experiment in progress, one that was practically Americanizing a historical British band.
It looks like the experiment worked.
“The experiment went really well. I was really happy,” says McCarty. “The guys are so authentic with their playing and their attitude. And they’re so honorable to the history of the group. They had grown up with it, so it’s sort of in their bones somehow. And they’re very good players.”
As many know, The Yardbirds always had “very good players” in the ranks — three of the greatest rock guitarists at one time or another (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page). One has to wonder if it’s intimidating for guitarist Johnny A to compete with such a legacy, but McCarty claims Johnny to be a natural Yardbird.
“I think he fits in,” says McCarty.“He’s more on the Jeff Beck side. He’s a melodic player.”
Even former Yardbirds approve. Original Bassist and co-founder Chris Dreja came to an April show in London and liked the performance very much (Dreja left the band a few years back due to an ongoing illness).
“I’d like get Jimmy (Page) to see it,” adds McCarty. “I think Jimmy would like it. I’ve spoken to him recently and I’ll plan to speak to him soon.”
It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Yardbirds album “Roger the Engineer,” (named after the album’s audio engineer, Roger Cameron) and Repertoire Records label have recently reissued the album as a 2-CD deluxe edition, digitally remastered and expanded to include both the mono and stereo versions of the album, plus 12 bonus tracks. And if you only collect vinyl, there are two separate releases in mono and stereo editions. All editions include the original cover art (Chris Dreja’s design).
Discussing the 2-CD edition, McCarty explains: “There are five Keith Relf solo tracks, like ‘Mr. Zero’ and ‘Shapes in My Mind,’ and it’s very nicely put together.”
“It was at such good and fun time for us,” McCarty goes on to say about the ‘Roger the Engineer’ period, “when things were really quite up for us. We had a few hit records and we were just coming out with “Over Under Sideways Down” as another hit record, and we were in the studio and booked to do an album, so we thought, why not have a bit of fun.”
By fun, McCarty means original songs taken to the limit energy-wise. And, of course, The Yardbirds still play plenty of those songs today.