Few bands experienced as many internal revolutions as the Yardbirds, and fewer still revolutionized the music world around them as greatly as this short-lived but long-fused combo. Boasting 50 songs recorded between 1963 and 1968, this two-disc set is the first panoramic view of the Yardbirds' legacy, with spotlight time granted to all three of the guitar legends that pulled stints in the band. Eric Clapton
held down the fort in the band's early days as purveyors of blues-laced pop ("A Certain Girl," the reverb-laden "I Wish You Would") and flat-out blues (represented here by raw demo versions of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" and the slinky original "Honey in Your Hips"). By 1965, with the recruitment of Jeff Beck
, the Yardbirds had taken a more experimental turn, as evidenced here by an off-the-wall version of Mose Allison's "I'm Not Talking" and darker tunes like "The Nazz Are Blue" and "Evil Hearted You." The band reached a brief creative peak when Beck and Jimmy Page
shared six-string duties on sonic mind-blowers such as "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" and "Stroll On" (a shadowy reenactment of "Train Kept A-Rollin' "). Along with a few rarities, Ultimate!
collects tracks from all of the band's original albums (including Five Live Yardbirds
and the Little Games
) -- classics that featured such signature tunes as "For Your Love," "You're a Better Man than I," "Shapes of Things," and "The Train Kept A-Rollin' " -- plus three 1966 solo songs from lead singer/harmonica player Keith Relf
. The beautifully packaged set also includes a 54-page booklet with photos and track-by-track notes and an essay -- both by the late writer Cub Koda -- that reveals little-known bits of info, like the fact that future Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen
played organ on "Ha Ha Said the Clown," a 1967 Yardbirds track.