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C.A.T: Roger the Engineer

The Yardbirds – Roger the Engineer (1966)

Hearing “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” in Observe and Report last weekend got me back into this 60s classic, often considered to be this band’s best work. A unique spin on the blues Roger the Engineer takes basic progressions and adds hints of psychedelia perfected by the excellent experimental guitar work of Jeff Beck.

The Yardbirds have had some great guitar players in their ranks with Eric Clapton and Jimi Page but it’s my opinion that it’s Jeff Beck’s tenure that made the group what they were. Sure you can’t count out the presence and swagger of lead singer Keith Relf or the rest of the band but it was with Beck’s virtuoso guitar playing that the group enjoyed the most commercial success.

“Over, Under Sideways, Down” was the obvious hit off the album and why not? It’s got a great riff, shouting, and overall high energy. Every song here is a frenzy of quick rhythms and tight grooves and truly creative musicianship. Jeff Beck’s dabbling into distortion is always engrossing and his skill here is through the roof. Just check out a song like “Jeff’s Boogie” and you can see how he earned the reputation as one of the great blues/rock guitarists of the 60s and 70s.

Paul Samwell-Smith takes on an ambitious venture producing alongside his usual bass duties. While everyone else nicely fills their roles as well. Roger the Engineer is a definite standout for this band being that it’s their only album with all original material. Unfortunately this would be the last album to feature bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and although the addition of guitarist Jimi Page would give the band an amazing guitar duo in Page and Beck, this would prove to be short lived and with the firing of Beck in late 1966 the group’s “Golden Era” was arguably over.

So if your a fan of the blues but find yourself wanting a different approach to the genre than this is your album. It incorporates a vast amount of influences from all over the world and it’s overall sound is the bee’s knees.

Favorite Tracks: “Jeff’s Boogie”, “Over, Under Sideways, Down”, “Turn Into Earth”

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