The Yardbirds

Shapes of Things: The Best of the Yardbirds

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The Yardbirds only recorded from 1964 to 1967, but during that time they did more than anyone other than the Beatles to create the template that rock & roll would follow for years to come, influencing everything from blues-rock and heavy metal to psychedelia and prog, and giving the world some of its greatest rock guitar virtuosos in Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. The two-disc anthology Shapes of Things: The Best of the Yardbirds is a comprehensive collection that captures the key moments of the band's short but seminal history more authoritatively than anything short of a full-blown box set could. The A- and B-sides of all the Yardbirds' singles are here, as well as plenty of key album cuts, from the celebrated to the underappreciated. The tracks are not in chronological order, and the juxtaposition of the band's early, blues-based cuts with their subsequent, more expansive sonic expeditions strikingly underlines just how much artistic evolution the Yardbirds underwent in a short period of time. It's difficult to believe, for instance, that the gritty group of the lads delivering a scrappy version of Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" is the same bunch who unleashed the groundbreaking, psychedelic firestorm of "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," but in fact, the two tracks were separated by only a single year. The inclusive approach of this collection shows every side of the Yardbirds, be it the raw-boned rockabilly rave-up of their Johnny Burnette cover, "Train Kept A-Rollin'," influential to everyone from Led Zeppelin to Aerosmith, or the ahead-of-it's-time "Still I'm Sad," which sowed the seeds of both psychedelia and prog rock. The addition of little-known gems like frontman Keith Relf's Bob Lind-penned psych-folk solo single "Mr. Zero" and Jeff Beck's slide guitar showcase B-side "Steeled Blues" makes this set a treat for both the novice and the know-it-all.

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