The Yardbirds

Little Games

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AllMusic Review by

It's a dreadfully unfashionable thing to say, but the day producer Mickie Most moved in on the Yardbirds was the day the Yardbirds' own values moved out. The union was a lousy idea from the start. By 1966-1967, the Yardbirds had developed into quite an excellent experimental rock combo, marred only by an appalling lack of self-belief. Most, on the other hand, was pure pop personified -- marred only by a monumental lack of taste. And when those two attributes collided, listeners got Little Games, the final Yardbirds album. Surprisingly, it really wasn't a bad record. Plentiful outtakes from the sessions have surfaced, both officially and otherwise, theoretically rendering this particular package redundant. Yet if one was to be dreaming of the ultimate alternate version of Little Games, this could be it. Highlights on disc one include a playful "Little Games," a smoldering, acoustic "White Summer," and the masterful reverse tape take of "Tinker Tailor," which so heavily predicts Hawkwind's acid-drone "Paranoia" that it's amazing that no one noticed before. It also blends nicely with "De Lane Lea Lee," which itself employed backward drums (oddly reversed on EMI's Little Games Sessions & More package) and piano. Contrary to the sleeve, incidentally, the two versions of this song are not indexed separately. If disc one is simply a satisfactory roundup of the best of the Little Games outtakes, however, disc two is the trivia-hound's paradise. It opens with 13 attempts at "You Stole My Love," each one proof that the band would never come to grips with one of songwriter Graham Gouldman's least-appreciated masterpieces (Keith Relf's absence from the studio that day ensured they never got around to adding vocals to it either). When EMI came to add this track to the Little Games Sessions album, two separate takes -- eight and 13 -- were combined for the finished product. On this evidence, that was a very smart idea. From the same 1966 session, the piano/drum duet "LSD" is present in all three of the takes attempted. None of them, sadly, live up to the title's promise, suggesting either that the band had some very mundane experiences with drugs, or that the song really was about money; in earlier, more naïve times, LSD was the standard abbreviation for pounds, shillings, and pence. And so on to an extended look at the creation of "Ten Little Indians," a grueling marathon which replays 13 of the 14 generally complete takes which the band attempted, plus a 15th created with overdubs and the like. And is it surprising to learn that the development of what was otherwise a preposterous addition to the Yardbirds' repertoire is, in fact, the most fascinating track on the entire album? Several guitar-heavy versions show Jimmy Page in a considerably more favorable light than his Yardbirds recordings normally allow, while other highlights include take ten, where the echo machine is switched on to devastating effect; take 11, which became the base for the finished version; and takes two and seven, which EMI combined for the Sessions album, but which actually sound better like this. Painfully protracted though it is, it's this final track which makes disc two even worth looking at. But that is to damn it with faint praise. The truth is, combined with the best of disc one, Ten Little Indians, in all its multitudinous guises, offers a healthier picture of the latter-day Yardbirds than any other release on the market. Whoever would have thought it?

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