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J. Ratcliff "Jess Ratcliff" (Lincoln, UK)

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Joie Aire Travel System - Poppy Red
Joie Aire Travel System - Poppy Red
Offered by Real value
Price: 149.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptionally well built and cleverly designed pushchair, 25 Jan 2014
With my two older children we used a travel system from Graco. Although good and I had few complaints, for my third child my wife and I decided to look elsewhere. Our eyes quickly fell on this travel system by Joie. An eye catching poppy red and black we gave it a try in a local superstore, comparing it with other makes and came to a decision very quickly that this was the pushchair for us.

Firstly it is well built, sturdy but light, it does not feel that bits will fall off or break easily. Even parts that you would expect to be flimsy, such as the hinges on the rain cover, are robust. Every piece that is supposed to move, moves easily with little resistance or sticking. This big selling point was its weight as my wife struggled with our previous pushchair when it was fully loaded to manoeuvre it, for example, on and off buses. There is no comparison with this which is incredibly light and responsive that it can be push quite easily one handed. In fact It is so light and easy to use that my five year old daughter is able to push it easily, even managing to get it up the front step and into our house with no help!

It is fairly basic with little of the additions such as a cup holder or the ability to adjust settings that you can find on other makes. The handle can be lowered or raised depending upon how tall you are and there's a small basket underneath for a few items but that's about it. This though I believe is a strength rather than a negative as I found with the other pushchairs we owned that many of the settings were superfluous and unneeded. It also means that there are fewer things to go wrong on this pushchair, again contributing to the impression of a product that will last. The size it folds down to is quite impressive, We own a small hatchback (Vauxhall Astra) and therefore would struggle with a large pushchair, but this fits neatly into the boot with little fuss.

There are a number of design features that indicate whoever designed this has put plenty of thought into it. For one, it is easy with a little practice to be able to open or close the pushchair one handed; pressing down on the main switch built into the handle whilst moving the safety open and then just flick it open. An absolute boon when I think of how many times when I want to get it in or out of the car quickly when it's raining, or am trying to juggle holding a shopping/changing bag whilst trying to get it open. The hood to the pushchair has a little flap to enable to you peak in and check everything's ok with your child without having to push the hood right back; this is also removable. The back of the pushchair has a small plastic handle which makes it very easy to recline completely flat to get the car seat in quickly, or position at an your child will be comfortably. The arm rest can pivot or is removable to help in putting in or removing your child without their legs getting caught up. When folded up it also balanced upright without needing to lean it against a wall; again a nice touch that makes storing the pushchair a little easier.

The 'Juva' car seat that comes included is like the pushchair, sturdy and well built. The straps can be adjusted easily round the back as your child grows bigger and it isn't fiddly to strap them in, tightening and loosening the straps again using a one pull system to help get your child in and out is very simple and intuitive to use. There are shoulder pads on the straps and a removable pad around the buckle to avoid any rubbing or undue pressure put onto your baby at these points. The carry handle is easy to adjust with a easily identifiable switch on each side and the car seat clips in and out of the pushchair very easily and with minimum fuss. Everything seems to have been designed to be found quickly so that you don't waste time scrabbling round when in a rush. Strapping the car seat into the car can be tricky at first, especially as the seat belt can come trapped around the handle; there is a car base Joie Infant Car Seat Base that you can buy separately from the pushchair but as we haven't bought this I can't comment on how well this works. The travel system also comes with a foot muff for when your child is bigger.

For just over 100 this is a versatile and well built pushchair, admittedly with few frills, bells or whistles, but for a family on a budget is worth the investment.


Stax/Volt: The Complete Singles Vol 5: 1965-1966
Stax/Volt: The Complete Singles Vol 5: 1965-1966

5.0 out of 5 stars "The Year The Label's Sound Finally Coalesced...", 22 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is vol.5 of a 9 CD series that you can buy as a complete box set from Amazon, but it might make sense financially to buy them individually as I did. The series aims to provide exactly what it says on the tin, that is every single (excluding B-sides) released on the Stax/ Volt label, between 1958-1968.

This CD includes all the singles released between 1965-66. Otis Redding ramped up hit after hit, the first of two covers to hit it big was 'Respect', a hit for Aretha Franklin just a year before and then 6 months later, 'Satisfaction'. Both of these were top 10 R&B hits and broke into the top 40 of the Pop chart. The other big R&B hit, along with its B-side, was 'I Can't Turn You Loose' and 'Just One More Day'. The other artists to really make inroads in the charts were Sam & Dave, who achieved success with 'You Don't Know What I Know' before ending this vol. with the sublime 'Hold On, I'm Comin'' (the latter the definition of serendipity in the circumstances how it was written!) These embarrassment of riches alone make this CD a must buy, but they make up less than a 1/4 of the songs here.

Booker T and the MG's slumbered with only one release, which wasn't a hit, 'Be My Lady'. This was a real shame as it's lovely instrumental but considering how busy they were with other artists (including Wilson Pickett, down from New York) is probably the reason why. The resurrected Mar-Keys were more successful, hitting out at first with their release 'Grab This Thing (Part 1) before 'Philly Dog', based on Rufus Thomas' hit from a few years previous, carried them to no.19 on the R&B Chart.

Rufus Thomas' career continued with solo releases as well as duets with his daughter , Carla. His first release was a bit of silly nonsense, (that he hated by all accounts), call 'Willy Nilly' whilst his second of the year 'The World Is Round' certainly was more serious. Neither of these were successful, as were his collaborations with the daughter Carla. She did achieve better success with 'Let Me Be Good To You', although all her releases deserved better. It would be later this year and next that she would finally return to the top of the charts, both as a solo artist, and duetting with Otis Redding.

The Mad-Lad's continued their chart run with great singles, 'Don't Have To Shop Around' and 'I Want Someone', both of which were top 20 R&B hits. The other male vocal group, The Astors, fared less well with their release, 'In The Twilight Zone'; a great pity as this is a great tune, complete with weird sci-fi effects. The arrival of newcomers, Johnny Taylor and Eddie Floyd, (the latter thanks to the arrival of Al Bell), on this vol. hints at additional riches to come.

As ever though it's the one hit wonders and the `also-rans', which make this compilation such a great listen. Top of the pile must be Ruby Johnson with her hit 'I'll Run Your Hurt Away', virtually unknown today it got to no.31 on the R&B chart and is wonderful ballad with an achingly vulnerable vocal. Other wonders include the Four Shells with 'Hot Dog', the Premiers with Make It me' and finally a brilliant instrumental 'Blue Groove' by Sir Isaac & The Do Dads. The last selection was a one off for Isaac Hayes and hinted at what was to be a prolific and highly successful solo career in the future.

The liner notes are detailed and informative, providing a potted history of the label as well as explaining how the songs developed. Well written they have the odd spelling mistake or grammatical error (e.g. 'Mr Pitiful' by Otis Redding is spelt 'Mr Pitful') which could have been picked up with more judicious editing. They also tend to overlap with other CD's in this series so sometimes they mention songs which appear on other vols. or don't mention songs at all, which unless you have the whole set can be a little annoying. They also provide a detailed discography with serial numbers, release dates and chart position at the back of the notes.

This was the year that Stax nailed down it's distinctive sound (as indicated in the quote in the title for this review) which would define them forever. The sheer quality of material on this CD is a very solid argument that this year was the start of a golden era for soul in the deep south. Vol.6 would continue and strengthen that argument.


Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B
Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B
Price: 26.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Standard By Which All Boxsets Should Be Judged By..., 26 May 2012
When this came out in the 1990's, it immediately set a new standard in artist career retrospective box sets. Nearly 20 years later very little has changed, this is how all artist box sets should be compiled and presented. (Take note the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, etc.)

The box set is presented in a cardboard long box with four CD's inside, with a picture of a different member of the Who on the front of each. The pictures reflect the two stages of The Who's career with a shot of each member from their time as a Mod band and then as 70's Rock Superstars. It also comes with a glossy, heavy weight booklet with the front made to look like a wreaked Hiwatt Amp, a great design and homage to the Who's destructive live prowess. Inside, there is a witty and poignant introduction from Pete Townsend, a overview of the Who's early career by Keith Altham (their publicist), a timeline of the Who's Career by Chris Charlesworth (long time fan and editor of a Who Fanzine), an account of how the Who broke America by Dave Marsh and a detailed discography for their singles, albums and compilations, as both The Who but also any solo material released by the members of the band, (anything post 1993 though is not covered re: 'Wire & Glass'). Chris Charleworth concludes with an explanation for their reasons for choosing some tracks over others (thereby explaining why no tracks were included from the Isle of Wight festival). There are also many colour photos from throughout the Who's career making this a fantastic and informative read.

The discs are roughly divided up into the four main stages of the Who's career. CD 1 traces their journey from the time as the High Numbers to their role as style setters for the Mod generation. CD 2 then continues the story as they morph into a Psychedelic/Hard Rock band and rocket into the stratosphere on the back of their rock opera 'Tommy'. CD 3 mainly focusses on their early 70's success upto Quadraphenia and then CD 4 documents their slow decline at the back of the 70's and their pottered output post the tragic death of Keith Moon (thankfully kept to a minimum with only two tracks from 'Face Dances' and 'It's Hard').

What makes this collection such as stunning success is not just the inclusion of all the big hits such as 'My Generation', 'Pinball Wizard' 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and 'Who Are You' but the choices of alternative versions and rare goodies. The set starts off with three tracks they recorded as the High Numbers and then moves onto the early output of the Who from their debut album 'My Generation' and 'A Quick One' including most of their singles, a few B-sides, a version of 'Substitute' from 'Live at Leeds' and 'A Quick One' in a unique mix featuring both the original version and their performance from the 'Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus'. This format is continued across all the CD's and the almost unerring choice of Chris Charlesworth, makes this a pretty infallible summation of the Who.

The music is mostly all the 1993 remastered versions, including the High Numbers stuff, the exception being the tracks from 'My Generation'. This was due to the Who's long running battle with Shel Tamy, producer at the time who owned the rights, and which was only resolved after this box set was released. The inclusion of many live tracks and, (although since this was released some of them have appeared as bonus tracks on the individual Who albums), previously unreleased rarities will have most Who fans salivating. To top it all, interspersed amongst the music is excerpts of dialogue highlighting the wit and humour of the Who, the best being some scripted Keith Moon recordings on CD4, but we also hear about Roger admiring his arse, John's career as professional survivor and how Pete deals with intruders onstage at Woodstock.

If you are looking for an argument why the Who were one of the greatest bands on the planet (and the loudest), and want to hear more than the usual 'best of' then this is the place to go. For bangs for yer bucks, this is a bargain, the best you'll ever have.


Chess Blues
Chess Blues
Price: 26.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Introductions to Chicago Blues Out There... Still., 20 May 2012
This review is from: Chess Blues (Audio CD)
Having purchased this boxset's companion Chess Rhythm & Roll, and being suitably impressed I then bought this. I'm glad to say that I did.

Dedicated to Willie Dixon, bass player, producer and song writer for Chess for nearly 20 years, who sadly passed away the same year that this was released, the set comes housed in a strong cardboard long box in the shape of a crocodile skin guitar case. The music is spread over four CDs, the tracks arranged chronologically, disc 1 1947-1952; disc 2 1952-1954; disc 3 1954-1960 & disc 4 1960-1967. It also comes with a 62 page booklet with detailed discographies of the tracks, intersperced with a short potted history of Chess Records, and quotations from the major players such as Phil & Marshall Chess. Written by Mary Katherine Aldin, the notes are informative and helps to put each track in its context. There are lots of photographs as well of the individual acts and trade advertisements.

Unlike its companion 'Chess Rhythm & Roll' you don't get the breadth of artists. This does not mean though that the quality is any less, in fact the exact opposite is the case. Considering Chess is synonymous with Chicago Blues, the music doesn't disappoint, it is simply brilliant throughout. You have the usual suspects such as Muddy Waters (represented by 11 songs including 'I Can't Be Satisfied' & 'Hoochie Coochie Man'), Howlin' Wolf (10 songs including 'Moanin' At Midnight' and 'Evil', Little Walter (8 songs, 'Juke' & 'Blues With a Feeling') Sonny Boy Wiilliamson (7 songs including 'Your Funeral & My Trial') and Willie Dixon himself on two tracks. But it is the lesser known artists and their songs, some never released on CD before, which, even 20 years later, are difficult to find anywhere else that really make this collection special. Artists such as Sunnyland Slim, Lafayette Leake, Jimmy Rodgers, Otis Span & Walter Horton who were an integral part of the Chess house band are all represented here, as are John Lee Hooker (both his 50's and 60's sessions) & Elmore James from their brief stints at Chess. There are plenty of previously unreleased or alternative mixes to found throughout the set even for the big artists such as Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson & Little Walter; although a few of them have since been released on other sets (such as the Little Walter The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967) from Hip-O Select) the scarce nature of these collections means that this is still the best way to get hold of them.

The sound is excellent, considering the age now of the remasters. The engineer is Erick Labson who has since this set masterminded most if not all the Chess re-releases and even though some rare recordings (Forrest Sykes 'Memory of Sonny Boy' & Dr. Isaiah Ross 'Dr. Ross' Boogie') had to be taken from 78's as the original masters had gone missing, even those have been handled with the care and respect they deserve. As a detailed primer for Chicago Blues there is simply no better set out there for the price, even after 20 years.


The History Of Rhythm & Blues, Volume 1 The Pre-War Years 1925-1942
The History Of Rhythm & Blues, Volume 1 The Pre-War Years 1925-1942
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: 19.97

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction to R&B by an Independent Label, 13 May 2012
[May 2012: This boxset was originally released in 2008 and since been re-released as a 4 CD bargain set. I have posted here my review for the original boxset, I don't believe there have been any changes apart from the packaging but if there has please let me know.]

The brainchild of Nick Duckett of Rhythm & Blues Records, this set is a comprehensive overview of the music scene in America between 1925-1942. From the opening primal blast of Austin Colemans' 'My Soul is a Witness' to the smooth West Coast Blues of 'Mean Old World' by T. Bone Walker, this four CD set takes you through the development of one of the most influential musical forms of the 20th Century, R&B.

Most casual listeners will know something of the usual suspects and songs of this period, so Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bessie Smith & Blind Lemon Jefferson are all here. But what makes this compilation such a joy is the inclusion of artists that are not so well known but were huge back in the day. Pettie Wheatstraw? Leroy Carr? Blind Blake? No, I didn't know much about these artists as well but they were the superstars of their day and this set includes them all to give a truly representative picture of the popular music scene in the 20's & 30's. I found reading Elijah Walds' Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues to be a perfect accompaniment whilst listening as a number of chapters cover this period of musical history and provide a vivid and engrossing picture of what people were listening to at the time.

The set mainly focuses on the development of the Urban Blues in Chicago in the 30's. The first disc entitled `Country Blues, Spirituals, Jug Bands and Hokum' looks at some of the influences, specific songs or artists as well as genres that would eventually coalesce and fuse together into R&B. We are treated to Spirituals in the shape of Blind Willie Johnson & Byrant's Jubilee Quartet, Country's Jimmy Rodgers, The Jug Band of Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, Ragtime of Blind Blake and Hokum of Georgia Tom & Tampa Red.

The second disc focuses on the rise of Boogie-Woogie piano, Low Down Jazz of New Orleans, The Jazz influenced Classic Blues, & Kansas City Style Jazz. In essence what you hear is the transition from Country Blues to the more Urban Blues of the 30's. The breathtaking list of artists stretches from Pinetop Smith, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Leroy Carr & Cab Calloway.

The third disc finally introduces us to the Urban Blues of Chicago, particularly Big Bill Broonzy, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Sonny Boy Williamson & Tampa Red. The fourth disc charts the rise of Gospel, Jive, Swing and the Big Bands of the late 30's-early 40's, particularly the music of The King Cole Trio, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and Louis Jordan which led on the rise of West Coast Blues of T Bone Walker and Jump Blues in the 40's (see The History Of Rhythm And Blues 1942-1952 : The Pre Rocknroll Years).

As is always the case for compilations such as this there are a few niggles with the choice (or absence) of certain artists. Did we really need three tracks by Sonny Boy Williamson? Why is only Bessie Smith included as representative of Classic Blues, why not Ma Rainey or Victoria Spivey who were also incredibly popular? More importantly where's Charley Patton & Son House?! Possibly they were not included as the sound quality of their recordings are pretty poor, but then again Skip James' recordings have the some problem and he is included, (although the track included on this set is probably the best quality one we have).

The booklet is detailed and informative with extensive notes for each track explaining how each track chosen helped influence and shape the future direction of R&B. As some other reviewers have noted the contrast of black lettering on a grey background doesn't make for the easiest read. There were also a few layout issues with lines being repeated and diagrams overlapping text. (Both these issues were addressed for future volumes). The information in the booklet can be accessed and read on the Rhythm & Blues Records website if you still struggle. There appeared to have been a mastering issue with disc three so a replacement is provided, a nice touch and shows that Rhythm & Blues Records listen to comments/ criticism and respond promptly for the benefit of the customer. (How we wish that some of the majors could be bothered!!)

The mastering is superb and really brings out the warmth, complexity, and sometimes rawness of the music. Overall for the price this is an extraordinary labour of love and a great introduction to what has become one of the best series released on R&B. For the price you really can't go wrong and I cannot strongly recommend enough that you purchase this now.


OXO Good Grips Lettuce Knife
OXO Good Grips Lettuce Knife
Offered by Trishas House
Price: 9.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suprisingly versatile..., 20 April 2012
When I purchased this knife and brought it home, my wife's reaction was "why on earth have you brought that!!" Her argument was that it was such a specific utensil that it might get used once or twice and then put in the bottom of a drawer never to be seen again. Contrary to her fears I have used it often with many different foods and found it to be more than capable. Using it to cut lettuce is just one of the vegetables it can cut, it also cuts tomatoes easily (although they will need to be big, not cherry tomatoes), peppers, cucumbers, etc. You name it, it cuts easily and with minimum bruising. As also advertised it cuts baked goods very easily as well, particularly sponge and fruit cakes. As always the oversized handle makes handling and using the knife painless and easy. The plastic is hardwearing and doesn't stain easily when coming into contact with strong foods. This is another winner from Oxo Good Grips, don't hesitate to add it to your collection.


OXO Good Grips Garlic Press
OXO Good Grips Garlic Press
Price: 8.50

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Works a treat..., 14 April 2012
I was somewhat put off purchasing this product by all the negative reviews that have been posted. I was also surprised as having bought a number of Oxo Good Grips products before I held them in very high regard. Seeing that a lot of the reviews were eight years old I took a risk and bought the garlic press and I am glad to report I am very pleased with it so far. The press is large and can contain two large garlic cloves easily without any leakage around the sides (I haven't attempted to overfill it, a possible problem for others). Reversing the press to use the rubber cleaning prongs helps to clean out the press of the remaining garlic very easily. As always the oversized handles make using the press easy and comfortable. I have used this a number of times now and have no hesitation in recommending it alongside all the other Oxo Good Grips products.


Heart & Soul / A Retrospective
Heart & Soul / A Retrospective
Price: 60.65

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A voice, soul and spirit that is immortal", 16 Mar 2012
It is a great shame that Jamesetta Hawkins passed away only a couple of months after this retrospective was released. It now stands as a fitting memorial to one of the great Blues/Pop/Soul singers of the 20th Century.

This 4 CD set comes in a hardwearing cardboard book, the same size as the Muddy Waters collection Hoochie Coochie Man: Complete Chess Masters, Vol. 2: 1952-1958. The CD's sit in sleeves at the back, they are a little fiddly to get out at first but will hold them securely and safely. Disc 1 covers the first part of Etta James career, from her R&B beginnings where she recorded 'The Wallflower' (aka Roll with me Henry) an answer song to Hank Ballard & the Midnighters 'Work with me Annie' which hit #1 on the R&B chart till 1962 when she was signed to Argo, a Chess Records label subsiduary. It was at Chess she had her most famous hits as they positioned her as a Pop singer. The second disc takes us up to the end of the 60's, and the Muscle Shoals sessions, where Etta changes styles again, taking on a number of southern soul standards, her voice as imperious as ever.

Disc 3 mainly documents the 70's Etta James, as she move from Soul to Blaxploitation Funk then to Jazz and Country, a bewildering array of styles and again evidence, if we needed it, of what a versatile and powerful singer she was. It ends by jumping almost 10 years to take in her late 80's work. The last disc covers the 80's/90's/00's, which raises the only small quibble I have with this collection, the running time. At only 18/16 tracks on discs 3/4 respectively, surely there was more than enough room to put on more songs? Considering how prolific Etta James at this time, only one or two tracks from each album is not enough, especially when there is only one track 'The Sky is Crying' from 'Blue to the Bone'. Simply criminal. Oh well, it may just wet your appetite to go and find out these albums, which may just be the point. It does include an unreleased track 'Ashes by Now', recorded shortly before she died.

The mastering was done by Erick Labson, who has remastered most, if not all, Hip-O Selects Chess and Motown releases. Just like his early work, the sound is wonderful, full with colour and tone, nuances are highlighted without becoming obtrusive. The range of genre's that Etta James recorded might have meant some get short changed but I couldn't notice any clangers.

Whereas with other artist compilations that have been produced where the liner notes left a little to be desired, (Little Walter's The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967), Chuck Berry's His Complete '50s Chess Recordings, You Never Can Tell: The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966), Hip-o Select has really outdone itself this time. This collection has a sumptuous 59 page booklet with a detailed discography, including recording dates, personnel and chart positions. The notes are written by Bill Dahl, a free lance journalist who has been writing since the 70's. He was nominated for a Grammy for his contribution to the liner notes to the Ray Charles boxset Genius & Soul: The 50th Anniversary Collection and co-wrote the notes to Hip-O Selects Motown boxsets. He obviously knows what he talking about and loves the music, his overview of Etta James' life is honest but reverent and an absorbing read.

This is a definite must have if you want more than a single 'best of' (if it exists!) of Etta James' output. Buy it and revel in a voice that one of her biggest fans, Keith Richard's said "was from Heaven and Hell,... unique." I couldn't agree more.


Pyrex Classic Non-Stickmetal Bakeware Pizza Pan, 30cm
Pyrex Classic Non-Stickmetal Bakeware Pizza Pan, 30cm
Price: 7.37

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does Exactly What it Says on the Tin..., 16 Mar 2012
I wanted to replace our old cheap supermarket own brand pizza tray as it was increasingly becoming less no-stick and more 'weld it on'. I purchased this pyrex pizza pan as I have previously purchased their Pyrex Classic Non Stick Large Roaster, 35x26cm and Pyrex Classic Non Stick Oven Tray, 33x25cm and been impressed with how hardwearing they were. I wasn't disappointed with this either. Have used numerous times already, (we have pizza usually once a week) and so far pizza cook well as the holes allow the underside of the pizza to cook evenly, it protects our oven from any cheese drips, and pizza's slide off the pan with ease. In fact they are so non-stick that it is impossible to cut them on the pan as they slide around too much!! (I recommend the OXO Good Grips Pizza Wheel for Non-Stick Cookware to cut your pizza's, see my review for that as well). It also has two handles on either side that make it easier to grip to remove from the oven. The only slight downside is that it will only cook 10" pizzas, 14" would overhang the sides. It may be slightly more expensive than some other brands but for value for money and to do exactly what it says, this is your best choice.


Yardbirds Story: 1963-66
Yardbirds Story: 1963-66
Price: 16.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Five Yard-merising, Bird-merising, Blues-wailing Yardbirds...", 6 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very cheap and easy way to pick up all the Yardbirds recorded work from 1963 when they first started to record, to 1967 when they sacked their manager, taking in all the Eric Clapton material and a good majority of Jeff Beck's. Contained in a solid cardboard CD sized case accompanied by a hefty 42 page booklet with track by track comments by Giorgio Gomelsky (their manager) and Phil Cohen (their engineer). The comments are detailed and provide a good insight into the Yardbirds recording process as well as a pottered history of the band. At times, Gomelsky's comments read as an apology for his actions whilst manager and there does appear as if personal acrimony at the time has been airbrushed out, but its refreshing to see an account that's not about settling scores and instead celebrating the music.

The CD's come packaged in cardboard wallets and divide the history of the band into four main parts:
CD 1. 1963 - Early R&B roots
CD 2. 1964 - Early studio recordings
CD 3. 1965/66 - The Hits & touring America
CD 4. 1966/67 - Sessions from unreleased album 'A Yardbirds 'Eye' View of 'Beat

The first CD kicks off with an excellent selection of tracks that provide an eye opening account of what the band sounded like live. Covering songs by artitst such as Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry, the Yardbirds (and Eric 'Slowhand' Clapton) are in imperious form, demonstrating that they were already a formidable unit. Then comes the tracks recorded with Sonny Boy Williamson II which were released in 1967 as the album 'Sonny Boy Williamson with the Yardbirds'. This mouthwatering team-up is a bit of a mixed bag unfortunately as between the rehearsals, (which by all accounts were red hot), and the recording Sonny Boy got paraletically drunk, (to take the edge of a bout of toothache), and half way through the set veered off the setlist leaving the band completely hanging. Although they do a good job of timidly following him as best as they could, it does show. But before that the songs are very good with an excellent guitar solo from Clapton on '23 Hours Too Long'.

The second CD hoovers up their early demos, a couple of live recordings again with Sonny Boy Williamson and their first two singles (A & B sides). Inbetween you get one of the greatest live albums ever 'Five Live Yardbirds', released in 1964. This album was quite a gamble for the band as most other bands focussed on the 45 format, only using the album to compile their singles. That the Yardbirds decided to release a live album showcasing their set, was a statement of intent and quite adventurous, pre-empting the move away from singles towards the album format by a good couple of years. That it was a barnstorming, electrifying performance by the whole band makes this one of the highlights of the collection.

The third CD picks up the Yardbird's story as Eric Clapton leaves (unhappy with the 'Pop' direction the band took in order to get a hit) and Jeff Beck joins. It includes all their well known singles (A & B sides), the EP 'Five Yardbirds' as well as tracks recorded in various studios in America (e.g. Sun Records) as well as an odd single released in Italy. Keith Relf singing in Italian does pale quickly on 'Questa Volta (Jeff Beck was so disgusted he refused to play on the track) and perhaps hints at why Gomelsky was sacked soon after. Also included are two solo Keith Relf recordings that you won't find yourself replaying often.

The last CD contains all the session material recorded by the Yardbirds for an abandoned album 'A Yardbirds 'Eye' View of Beat'. Although most of the tracks are incomplete, Jeff Beck's playing is superb and demonstrates how cutting edge the Yardbirds were in experimenting with fuzztone, distortion and other sonic effects that soon became the tricks of the trade. Some of these tracks were to be resurrected and completed for the Yardbirds next album 'Roger the Engineer' but on their new label.

The sound is very good considering it was remastered in the 90's, and presents these tracks in their best possible light, considering the circumstances a number of them were recorded in. When considering the price, the presentation and that you have all the significant hits, a cracking live album and much more as well, there really is no question whether you should buy this or not. Along with this, all you need is Roger The Engineer 40th Anniversary Special Edition Box Remastered and the Jimmy Page album Little Games and you have all the Yardbirds material you need.


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