The Yardbirds-Yardbirds: The Most Blueswailing Band (1992) (NTSC)

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Released 7-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 52:57
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Martin Baker
Studio
Distributor
Delilah Music Picts
Warner Vision
Starring Jeff Beck
Eric Clapton
Jimmy Page
Chris Dreja
Paul McCarty
Paul Samwell-Smith
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Yardbirds


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Japanese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Just like Deep Purple - Heavy Metal Pioneers, this is another in the series of rock music documentaries produced by Stephanie Bennett for TV broadcast in the early 1990s, now released by Delilah Music/Warner Vision. It is another well produced documentary providing great insight into an important but largely hitherto unknown chapter in rock history. Like the others in this series, this documentary of necessity draws on archival footage dating back to the 1960s - and in this case, the early 1960s - so video and audio quality for this footage ranges from average to poor accordingly. Still, this archival footage is in most cases extremely rare and it is a joy to see it now. Like the other music documentary releases in this series, the title should plug a much needed information gap for many rock music fans out there and this DVD should find a home in the collection of anyone with a love for the music genre and a desire to understand how it evolved.

    As a quick recap, the Yardbirds were a legendary English r&b/rock group that lasted from October 1963 to July 1968. They changed the direction of rock music by becoming the testing ground and launching pad for three of today's most highly influential rock music guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. The initial line-up from October 1963 included Eric Clapton on lead guitar, and the music was traditionally blues-based, at a time when the English r&b scene was surviving and getting its inspiration almost exclusively from imported US records. Following the recording of the deliberately pop-produced single For Your Love in February 1965, EC became disenchanted with the increasing pop sensibilities of the band's music and walked out to pursue the more purist blues direction that was his calling. For Your Love was, however, to become the Yardbirds' biggest hit to that point (how could it not? - it was produced to hit the mark) and the band needed a replacement lead guitarist immediately to tour on the strength of it - not an enviable task trying to fill EC's shoes. The band originally approached Jimmy Page, by then renowned as the hottest session musician around, but Jimmy was busy in his own work and at that time was not interested in joining a professional band, so he suggested they approach one of his young protégées, Jeff Beck, instead. Jeff jumped at the chance and brought a jazz and rockabilly feel to the band's blues-based music, influencing a new direction for the group. They toured the US and broke there - big; actually becoming much bigger in the US in 1965 than they were in their home country. After eventually tiring of the endless round of session work, Jimmy Page finally became interested in joining the group and in June 1966 joined as a second lead guitarist alongside Jeff Beck, giving the group a whole new sound and much greater possibilities. At this point, the band were undoubtedly the hottest rock group around. They had changed the face of rock music over a relatively short three year period, from a time in 1963 when English music was living vicariously off imported US records, to a period where English music began not only to break bigger into the US market than its home-grown music, but also started taking that music in a whole new and fresh direction. Unfortunately however, this unique band line-up featuring both Page and Beck was to last only a few months, until in November 1966 Jeff Beck left to pursue his own solo interests. With Jimmy Page the most professional of the remaining band members and stepping in naturally as a front man for songwriting and performing, Page's mark was to take The Yardbirds into a much heavier and more experimental sound from late 1966. Indeed, a seminal song called I'm Confused - later to become Dazed and Confused - was worked on and perfected within the Yardbirds line-up, and this documentary shows early live footage of this song - WOW! 

    The Yardbirds finally broke up in July 1968, but the experience had only whetted Jimmy Page's appetite to continue experimenting in a band structure. To put the events in historical context, this was leading into that great period in rock music history when the objective of bands going into the studio to write and record singles as the principal goal was fast dying and instead the wisdom and freedom of setting out to record albums was beginning to prevail. Hence, rock music in the format we know it and love it today finally began to develop. The Yardbirds broke up in July 1968 and Led Zeppelin formed the very next month.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The quality of the video transfer is as may be expected for a 1992 made-for-TV documentary shot on analogue video and featuring older 1960s black and white archival footage. The transfer is acceptable and that's about all you can say.

    The aspect ratio is the source 1.33:1 full frame. Note that this is an NTSC transfer, so if your TV is not NTSC compatible, then you won't be able to watch this DVD.

    In respect of the 1992 interviews footage, sharpness and shadow detail in this transfer is reflective of the analogue video source used. Foreground resolution ranges from decent in some cases (for the Chris Dreja, Peter Grant, Jim McCarty and Paul Samwell-Smith interviews) to average (Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page interviews) to poor (Jeff Beck interview). Background resolution is never great but is acceptable enough for the most part, apart from the Jeff Beck interview footage, which is marred by an excessive amount of noise. Low level noise is present to varying degrees throughout. Luminance in the archival early 1960's footage is of course poor by today's standards, and the various source materials have been preserved to varying degrees of success. Some of the early UK and US television footage is distinctly high-gain and overexposed, so definition is woeful, but in comparison the German TV footage is immaculate for its age (both for sound and vision) - this just goes to show how far ahead the German technology was. All of the archival footage is extremely rare stuff, so a trade-off in quality to be able to see it all is excusable.

     Colouring in the 1992 interviews ranges from being acceptably saturated for the majority (see for best examples the Chris Dreja and Mickie Most interviews), to the odd examples of oversaturation (see Jimmy Page interview). Colouring is never rich and deep though, owing to the amount of noise in the source. The Jeff Back interview is again the culprit example of the worst in the bunch - quite annoying seeing it is this interview that is used the most throughout the documentary.

     The only MPEG artefact apparent is posterization in some of the facial close-ups, but this is simply a source issue due to the excessive level of noise in the original video tape recordings. There are no film-to-video artefacts to note as the source materials are all video. Source artefacts remain the overwhelming problem and they include low level noise, overmodulation and chroma noise throughout.

    English and Japanese subtitle streams are available on this disc. The English subtitles are accurate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The quality of the audio track is as expected - flat stereo and, in the case of most of the archival footage, mono. This is very much a front centre listening experience.

    There is only one audio track on the disc, an English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 track (at 1536Kb/s). It does the job.

    Dialogue quality is perfectly fine and there are no instances of muffled lines - the interviews are well recorded and the documentary well mixed. Audio sync is also fine.

    The music is predominantly source music from the various live performances, rather than music mixed in - although there is a little bit of this, too, over some photo montage sequences. The source recordings are all mono or effectively mono, but the quality is OK. Of course, the recording techniques and technology was pretty pitiful back in the early 60's TV studios, so I'm glad this material has been captured and preserved now before it gets any older. Again, I draw your attention to the difference in quality between the UK and US TV recordings on the one hand and the German TV recordings on the other - they are like chalk and cheese.

    Subwoofer use? - nothing to speak of.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras on this DVD at all.

    The menu screen, should you select it manually with your remote control, is a very basic, static, 1.33:1 single screen to facilitate chapter selection and subtitle selection only. (Note this menu screen is also deficient with respect to subtitle options; it doesn't indicate on this screen, but the disc does also contain a Japanese subtitle stream.)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Very strangely, like the other releases in this series, this DVD is in NTSC, yet is zoned for all regions except Region 1. The DVD is not available in Region 1 at all. It is available in Region 2 and elsewhere in identical format to our local release.

Summary

    Another great rock music documentary in the series of such documentaries released by Delilah Music/Warner Vision. This DVD provides a great insight into the largely unknown story of The Yardbirds, from inception through the various guises right up to the eventual break-up in 1968. The documentary puts into context the early careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, and explains exactly how and why it was that this group become the springboard for Led Zeppelin. The Yardbirds assume an important place in rock music history and this DVD explains why.

    Video and audio quality are naturally limited by the source materials, both archival and the documentary itself, but both are satisfactory for the purpose.

    Highly recommended for rock and blues music fans.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Sunday, June 01, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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