Now that that long run bullshit it behind me I get onto the more pressing business this afternoon, the sitting around on my ass in my EZ-Boy with Oscar the Cat while the girls are out shoe shopping, finishing my ‘Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life‘ (William Finnegan) library book and listening to records beginning with the ‘Roger the Engineer‘ album by The Yardbirds.
I first heard this album while visiting Uncle Lance and Auntie Amy this past summer and instantly loved it. I looked for it in vain at record fairs for months with no luck. Fortunately, Uncle Lance found this 2011 reissued European copy from the Music on Vinyl label.
Originally released in 1966 and produced by bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and Simon Napier-Bell, it was the only Yardbirds album with all original material. The album was included in Robert Dimery’s ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die‘ and in 2012, the album was ranked No. 349 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Once Jeff Beck joined the Yardbirds, the group began to explore uncharted territory, expanding their blues-rock into wild sonic permutations of psychedelia, Indian music, and avant-garde white noise. Each subsequent single displayed a new direction, one that expanded on the ideas of the previous single, so it would seem that ‘Roger the Engineer‘ – Beck’s first full album with the group – would have offered them the opportunity to fully explore their adventurous inclinations.
There’s a heaping of brilliant moments on this album despite what some critics might tell you. At their best, the band strike a kinetic balance of blues-rock form and explosive psychedelia (‘Lost Woman‘, ‘Over, Under Sideways, Down‘, ‘The Nazz Are Blue‘, ‘He’s Always There‘, and ‘Psycho Daisies‘ – one of only two tracks to feature both Jeff Beck AND Jimmy Page (on bass)), as well as rich Eastern drones (although ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago‘ is a classic piece of menacing psychedelia) in the classic blues tradition (‘Jeff’s Boogie‘). There’s also the slightly trippy ‘I Can’t Make Your Way‘, the mantra-like vocal and stinging lead guitar of ‘Hot House of Omagarashid‘, and the chanting vocal of ‘Turn Into Earth’ to consider as well.
In totality, it represents the Yardbirds’ best individual studio album, offering some of their very best psychedelia, even if some don’t rank among the great albums of its era.
On an interesting note, the album was originally a self-titled album but the now recognized ‘Roger the Engineer‘ title actually stems from the cover drawing of the record’s audio engineer Roger Cameron by band member Chris Dreja who, apparently, had very large ears and a pretty hairy nose.