HAPPENINGS TEN YEARS TIME AGO 1964-68 - The Yardbirds (Raven)
Well, sheesh, try "Happenings Forty Years Time Ago", boys (and they're still on the boards today, minus all those famous guitar players and the sadly departed Keith Relf). These guys were the second band I went apeshit over back when I was 13 (after the Who), and I've owned their catalog more times than anybody’s save the Small Faces', in its original form as well as reishes on Sony, Rhino, Charly, and now Raven, the plucky li’l reissue label from Down Under, whose 27-song single disc might just be the pick of the litter.

This compilation first appeared in 1990 with a couple of differences. That one had 28 tracks; here, the early demo "Baby What’s Wrong" and the hyperactive Five Live Yardbirds version of "Got Love If You Want It" have been replaced by the loping inevitability of "Smokestack Lightning" from that estimable Marquee Club sesh, while the disposable Mickie Most pap of "Ten Little Indians" has been supplanted by Jimmy Page’s acoustic party piece, "White Summer". With these modifications, Happenings etc. can truly be said to include all of the essential stuff and none of the dross that’s weighed down all of the multi-disc comps.

But there's more: The material on "Happenings etc." is brilliantly sequenced. While basically chronological, the compilers have grouped together the early R&B phase, pop hits (three Graham Gouldman-penned, one original), innovative/experimental period, and the Page/Most years, allowing the listener to appreciate the band's multifaceted progression.

In the fullness of time, the earliest stuff (with Eric Clapton on guitar) holds up worst, reminding one at times of Spinal Tap essaying "Gimme Some Money" before Ed Begley, Jr., explodes (although "I Wish You Would" is an exciting opener). Things get better once surly, pudding bowl-headed Jeff Beck shows up for "I'm Not Talking". Their social consciousness-protest lyrics are better than lots of stuff from the time, even if they had to rely on Manfred Mann's Mike Hugg to provide "You’re A Better Man Than I" (subsequently covered by seemingly every teen snot garage band in America) and their own, um, philosophical position is inconsistent (from "Soon I hope that I will find / Thoughts deep within my mind / That won’t disgrace my kind" to "When I was young people spoke of immorality / All the things they said were wrong are what I want to be"). And all those fuzztone/feedback/Gregorian chant/Indian scale/guitar bowing experiments remain of interest only because they took place in the context of ear-beguiling music.

It’s great to have tracks like "Shapes of Things", the title tune, and "Stroll On" from the "Blow Up" soundtrack together on a single disc. Nice booklet, too. As St. Lester once wrote of the Doors' "13": "You might even want to throw their others out." - Ken Shimamoto