Last Record Store Day Black Friday, Demon Music Group reissued The Yardbirds’ Roger the Engineer as a 2-LP Expanded Edition. Now, the 1966 rock classic is getting even more expanded – this time, as a 2-LP/3-CD/1-7″ single deluxe box set. Utilizing the original master tapes, the box (announced this morning) features new remastering by Phil Kinrade at Alchemy Mastering at AIR, overseen by original album producer Paul Samwell-Smith.
Despite leaving behind a strong legacy of classic songs, The Yardbirds only recorded one original U.K. studio LP. Originally released in Great Britain as, simply, Yardbirds and in international territories as Over Under Sideways, it’s since become better known under the name Roger the Engineer based on rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja’s cover artwork. Roger represents a landmark for the group, featuring all original material and the incomparable guitar of Jeff Beck on every track. The lead guitarist was joined by Dreja, lead vocalist Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, and bassist Paul Samwell-Smith. While the rock-and-roll-inspired single “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” and flipside “Jeff’s Boogie” were recorded in April 1966, the majority of the LP was cut at sessions held between May 31 and June 4, 1966. As Samwell-Smith recalls in a note penned for this reissue, “Back in 1966, The Yardbirds had been gigging and travelling for ages, so the opportunity to spend a few days in the same location came as a great relief.”
The bandmates’ period of sharp focus resulted in an album that captured the best of The Yardbirds’ musicianship, with all of the members also contributing to the songwriting. Their heavy blues sound hadn’t disappeared but was incorporated along with Eastern influences into a psychedelic and occasionally avant-garde melting pot. Samwell-Smith and Simon Napier-Bell helmed the sessions, with the titular Roger Cameron engineering. (Glyn Johns engineered the final session on June 14, 1966 at which time “I Can’t Make Your Way” Was recorded.)
In addition to “Over Under Sideways Down” and “Beck’s Boogie,” the album boasted such strong rock fusion fare as Beck’s “The Nazz Are Blue” (the title of which would inspire Todd Rundgren and co. in naming their own band), Samwell-Smith and McCarty’s “He’s Always There,” and the group-authored “Lost Women.” The U.S. version of the album used some alternate mixes and dropped both “The Nazz Are Blue” and “Rack My Mind.”
Demon has a long history with Roger the Engineer; even before the 2-LP set last year, the label’s Edsel imprint released it on CD with a couple of bonuses back in 1986, and it’s since seen countless other versions including a 1997 slightly expanded edition CD from Warner Bros., a 2016 mono/stereo CD from Repertoire Records, and a 2019 vinyl edition from Demon of the original album only. The 2020 RSD pressing was one of the more comprehensive, but the upcoming box is going even bigger.
The new set contains:
- Yardbirds (Mono) – Remastered from the original British 1/4″ mono master tapes, and newly transferred for this release at Abbey Road Studios. Pressed on audiophile 180g vinyl, it’s housed in a replica of the original British album sleeve.
- Yardbirds (Stereo) – Considered by producer Paul Samwell-Smith to be the definitive version of the album, the original stereo mix has been remastered from the 1/4″ master tapes which were newly transferred for this release at Alchemy Mastering at AIR. Pressed on audiophile 180g vinyl, it’s housed in a replica of the rare German sleeve.
- Happenings Ten Years Time Ago 7″ single – The psych-rock single featuring both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones has been newly remastered for this release.
- 3 CDs – The mono and stereo mixes of the album appear on CDs 1 and 2, with bonus tracks presented on CD 3. Highlights on CD 3 include newly remastered non-album singles, rare alternative versions, and a previously unreleased early mix of “Turn Into Earth” featuring a Jeff Beck solo.
- 24-page 12″ x 12″ booklet – The booklet includes photos and images of rare memorabilia plus an exclusive introduction by Jeff Beck, testimonials by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and MC5’s Wayne Kramer, a comprehensive essay, and track-by-track liner notes by David French based on new interviews with Jimmy Page, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jim McCarty, and Simon Napier-Bell.
- Fold-out poster inspired by the original single release advertisement for “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.”
This box may well prove to be the definitive chronicle of this oft-reissued album. It’s due in three formats (all currently U.K. exclusives): standard black vinyl; indie-exclusive red, white, and blue vinyl; and a signed edition (by Jim McCarty and Paul Samwell-Smith) exclusive to 500 copies. All editions are due from Demon on June 18 and may be pre-ordered at the links below. (Amazon links should begin accepting orders shortly.) U.S. readers will have to seek out the set as an import; it’s currently a featured item at Popmarket. You’ll also find the complete track listing in the image below.
The Yardbirds, Roger the Engineer (Demon Music Group, 2021)