Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Yardbirds: "Baby, What's Wrong?"

Or, Notes for a Skeptical Deiography of Eric Clapton (i.e., We Don't Believe He's God, but His Story Is Worth Telling Anyway), #1.4.

This Jimmy Reed number was the third track laid down at the December 10, 1963 session that produced "Boom Boom" and "Honey In Your Hips."  To be honest, I'm not sure when it was first released;  I first heard it on Crossroads

The Jimmy Reed version is utterly typical of him.  It stumbles (it actually sounds like it's stumbling) into a shambolic groove that's nevertheless sturdy enough to rock it steady to the end of the record.  The vocals sound phoned in, in that utterly charming, disarming way Reed had. 

The Yardbirds' version is pretty typical of them at this point - meaning it kind of splits the difference between the tentativeness of "Boom Boom" and the assuredness of "Honey In Your Hips."  Rhythmically they tighten up Reed's record predictably but effectively;  this actually cooks pretty nicely.  Clapton's guitar work outshines Reed's - he actually peels off a solo here, while Reed only gestures toward one.  As is often the case on these early records, it's Clapton's chordwork before and after the solo that dazzles more than the single-string picking, but it's all pretty tasty. 

It's not necessarily blues, you know?  Relf sounds like a snotty prep-school boy, but the arrangement is so peppy, yet so unaggressive, that it neuters any aggression his vocal might have contained.  And he doesn't play harp on this one, leaving Clapton's snappy guitar lines to shape the record entirely.

Not a bad trio of recordings for their first time in a studio.

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