fri 05/06/2020

Reissue CDs Weekly: Keith Relf - All the Falling Angels | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Keith Relf - All the Falling Angels

Reissue CDs Weekly: Keith Relf - All the Falling Angels

Confirmation that the face of The Yardbirds was a creative force in his own right

Keith Relf caught describing 'silver points of wonder'

“Collector of the Light” is based around what sounds like a treated bass guitar. As the neck is moved up and down, multiple notes are plucked at once. The instrument’s sound is subaquatic, wobbly. Over this, a distant, echoey voice sings of being the “collector of light”, restoring dreams and “silver points of wonder”. Atmospherically and structurally, a parallel is the 1968 13th Floor Elevators’ single “May the Circle Remain Unbroken”.

 “Sunbury Electronics Sequence”, with its obviously after-the-fact title, is a disconcerting nine-minute mélange of speeded-up snatches of voice – “mar-mi-ii-i-te” – clanking percussion, whooshy sounds, manic laughter, wobbly synthesiser and fuzz guitar. It’s a cousin of The Beatles’ “Revolution 9”.

KEITH RELF ALL THE FALLING ANGELS SOLO RECORDINGS & COLLABORATIONS 1965-1976Both tracks feature on the illuminating All the Falling Angels: Solo Recordings & Collaborations 1965–1976, a new, first-ever 24-track collection dedicated to what Yardbirds’ frontman Keith Relf was up to on his own while with the band and later. His oft-compiled pair of 1966 solo singles are included but there is little from his post-Yardbirds band Renaissance, and nothing by Medicine Head (who he produced and played with) and Armageddon, the vaguely proggy, metal-esque blues-rock band he issued an album with in 1975.

Central to what’s heard is demos, home recordings (including “Collector of the Light” and “Sunbury Electronics Sequence”) and five tracks he made as Together in 1968 with Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty immediately after their band folded (they issued one single as Together before getting Renaissance off the ground).

Keith Relf Mr Zero GermanyThe two tracks mentioned above bear no relation to anything issued by Relf, who died in May 1976. The same applies to the more conventional “Try Believing”. A demo recorded with McCarty in 1970 after the original Renaissance fell apart, it’s gospel-style pop which, bizarrely, could have slotted into the repertoire of Blue Mink. “Just Think What You’re Achieving” (undated, but maybe from around 1968) is more relatable to the Relf of record: a demo with acoustic guitar and plaintive vocal.

In 1968 and on the five tracks by Together, Relf and McCarty operate in territory close to Simon & Garfunkel with nods to the Pet Sounds Beach Boys (especially on the wistful “Henry’s Coming Home”). The lightness of Together markedly contrasts with the heaviness and unsublety of the final Yardbirds of earlier in the year. Nonetheless, sketchy, previously unheard demos of late Yardbirds tracks “Glimpses” and “Only the Black Rose” show Relf as an active component of the band while it hurtled towards its dissolution and guitarist Jimmy Page’s formation of Led Zeppelin. Relf was as integral to The Yardbirds’ creativity as any of the band’s ever-lauded guitarists.

Kieth Relf Mr Zero FranceIn essence, All The Falling Angels – the title comes from a 1976 recording first issued in 1989: multiple early try-outs are compiled – testifies to untapped or unfulfilled potential. Why on earth was he in the rock-by-rote Armageddon? Keith Relf, it’s now clear, is thoroughly deserving of such a deep-digging examination. However, the release would be more user friendly if the tracklist had dates and sources for all of what's heard. This oversight means that constant scanning through the liner notes is needed to work out what’s being heard. Even so, fans of Relf and The Yardbirds need this.

Also issued are two Yardbirds archive packages: Live at the BBC Revisited and the confusingly titled Blues Wailing - Five Live Yardbirds 1964, which is not a reissue of the original Five Live Yardbirds album but a remastered, slightly clearer and thinner sounding repackage of the blistering 7 August 1964, Eric Clapton-period Marquee show first released in 2003 as Live! Blueswailing July '64 (the date of the show then was wrongly attributed). This new version eccentrically and pointlessly gives the in-between song stuff its own tracks. Sample title: “Tuning Up (2)”.

Over three CDs, Live at the BBC Revisited is the most extensive Yardbirds BBC release so far. Part of its length is explained by the inclusion of tracks first heard on the 2019 wider-focussed Yardbirds collection Live and Rare. Potential buyers should be aware that: the earliest three tracks do not feature an ill Relf but a guest vocalist instead; the Whole Scene Going TV appearance was of the band miming “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” (it’s rich to include this: it’s what was issued on record) and that the same versions of six tracks are heard twice (in versions with and without the on-air introductions – superfluous completism).

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters