Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Quick Diet (San Diego, May 1973)


Once can say there were two waves of Led Zeppelin 1973 US tour soundboard fragments. The first was during the late eighties and early nineties when tapes from New Orleans, Seattle, New York, et al, surfaced and were quickly pressed and released. A decade later a second spurt of activity yielded fragments from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Denver. San Diego was the last and strangest show to appear.

The first silver pressing for the May 28th San Diego show was on San Diego 1973 (Watch Tower WT 2001045/46) and was followed by Three Days Before (Empress Valley EVSD 153/154) in much improved quality. Quick Diet makes the San Diego soundboard available again after more than a decade in sound quality just as good as Empress Valley and at a very reasonable price.

The soundboard is excellent stereo. It is let down at the beginning by volume and balance fluctuations between the guitar and vocals. It settles down by “Celebration Day” where it becomes very well balanced and enjoyable. ”No Quarter” has a cut omitting the first verse, all but the final ninety seconds of “Dazed And Confused” is cut and several little cuts in Moby Dick. The Watchtower edition has lots of little cuts in “The Rain Song” which basically ruined it, but that is fixed on the Empress Valley and the new Godfather.

The previous show in Salt Lake City was good but degenerated by the end. San Diego is almost the opposite. The first half hour of the show is wrought with tension and lackluster playing but recovers nicely. But the press enjoyed the show. Carol Olten published her review “Led Zeppelin Hits Peak At Sellout” in the San Diego Union.

She writes that, “The culmination of all rock ‘n’ roll of a decade appears to have occurred with Led Zeppelin and the crowning achievement capable of its star instrument, the guitar, seems to be the possession of Jimmy Page, the British group’s leader, if such there be. Appearing Monday night in the Sports Arena before a sold-out house of 16,000 persons who began to gather outside the entrances at noon, Led Zep attested to all praises that have preceded its performance here, namely sold-out concerts all around the country and gold record sales that continue to mount.

“Accompanied by John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant in combinations on vocals, guitar, drums and keyboards, Page shone as the supreme master of the heavy fuzz box guitar riff. His evolution from the early days of British rock with the Yardbirds appears complete. Nobody, but nobody plays guitar like Page. His is the final force, the power of a riff. A few solos Monday night were too excessive, but the sheer driving power of most over-shadowed any inadequacies.

“Essentially, however the set was as powerful as rock ‘n’ roll ever gets. Raunchy, flashy, and full of fuzzy sheet metal noise that brought a musical form to its culmination – or, perhaps just into another dimension. Whatever, Led Zep has the power.”

The opening songs are a bit rough but things warm up nicely with a scorching version of “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” During “No Quarter” John Paul Jones, after the intense spooky part of the solo, plays “weird piano” according to Robert Plant afterwards. It is a happy, jolly sitcom theme out of place with the tenor of the song, but still very interesting to hear.

“Moby Dick is played out of sequence when Jimmy Page’s guitar loses a part. Plant offers a hilarious introduction, saying it is “Something people in China will never see. Something people in Russia and Korea will never see. A man who joined us two weeks after we started, and takes twice our money.” Jones plays the opening riff on bass guitar.

The show ends with the longest version of “Whole Lotta Love” on the tour. Jones and Bonham get into “The Crunge” during the theramin solo, but Page and Plant ignore them. Plant gets into “Honey Bee” before “Boogie Chillun’” and they all get into a great version of “Going Down.”

A firecracker goes off when they return for the encore angering Plant. ”We can be louder that those silly fire crackers, can’t we? Whoever threw that firecracker deserves to be jerked off by an elephant. The show closes with “The Ocean.”

While not on par with the best performances of the tour, it is highly enjoyable as it reaches the end and is recommended for the rarities John Paul Jones brings to the performance

Godfather include the May 16th Houston fragment on the third disc. It was previously released in late 2001 within a week of one another on Going Down (Watchtower WT 2001039/40) and Two Nights (Celebration SOBO-021/22). Both were paired with the May 25th Denver fragment. The former sounded great but the latter was plagued by a awful mastering which ruined the music with a horrible metallic crunch.

Godfather use the best available source, finally offering a good and affordable way to obtain this tape. It contains about the final hour of the show in excellent quality. Houston is singled out as being one of, if not the best, concert from Led Zeppelin’s 1973 US tour and really the only one on par with the hot European dates in March. This fragment does have a brutal version of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Communication Breakdown” as the encore.

Quick Diet (named after Plant’s remark at the start of the San Diego concert) is packaged in a trifold gatefold sleeves with copious amounts of ’73 tour shots and liner notes detailing the two concerts. This is a really nice production all around and a good way to finally have these rare and out of print shows.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Quick Diet | , | Leave a comment

Robert Plant The Principle Of Moments (1983)

download (3)From BBC Music

Robert Plant’s second solo outing shares more than a few things with its predecessor. It was recorded at the famous Welsh studio Rockfield and featured most of the Pictures at Eleven band, including a moonlighting Phil Collins on drums. As with Pictures, its production was as polished and clinical as the early Led Zeppelin sound was primal and thunderous.

But this time Plant managed a big hit – with Big Log – and promoted it with a clip for the now-essential televisual shop window that was MTV. He even performed the song on Top of the Pops, that biggest of Led Zeppelin no-nos.

Big Log was radically un-Zeppelin-like, a piningly slow song of aching love that combined ancient and modern – Roy Orbison with a drum machine. Robbie Blunt’s Spanish-tinged guitar shapes sat somewhere between Ennio Morricone and Mark Knopfler as the drum machine clacked and Jezz Woodroffe’s keyboard hummed sweetly in the distance. John David and Ray Martinez provided warm vocal harmonies.

Similarly low-key though far funkier was second single In the Mood, an invitation to dance and a hypnotic musing on the spell of music itself. Blunt’s flaking fills again provided the track’s melodic hook. Woodroffe’s wafty keyboards were the star on the pretty, slow-dance Thru’ with the Two-Step. On all of these, Plant’s vocals were striking for their mature restraint; but then he probably couldn’t have belted out Immigrant Song in 1983 if he’d wanted to.

More strained and contrived as declarations of post-Zeppelin independence were the Indian-imbued Wreckless Love and the jerky sub-Police semi-reggae of Messin’ with the Mekon. Stranger Here… Than Over Here is clunkily percussive, a melodically limp 80s experiment that fails to take off meaningfully.

The Principle of Moments got Plant back on the road for the first time since Zeppelin. Backed by the band that played on it – including Collins – he toured America on an old propeller plane through the summer and early fall of 83. Come November, he walked on to a British stage, at the Glasgow Apollo, for the first time since Zeppelin’s Knebworth concerts in 1979.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant The Principle Of Moments | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Pictures At Eleven (1982)

download (2)From BBC Music

Emerging from the ashes of Led Zeppelin as a credible solo act cannot have been easy for Robert Plant: so much to prove, so many ghosts in the closet. A year after the death of his old Black Country mucker John Bonham, 33-year-old Percy found himself at large in a musical realm where Zeppelin had become almost irrelevant. Nor was his voice much more than a shadow of the blood-curdling shriek he’d summoned in that biggest of 70s bands.

On his solo debut, smartly, he never tried to emulate the brute power or sophistication of Zeppelin. The songs, mostly written with guitarist Robbie Blunt (formerly of Bronco and Silverhead), moved pointedly beyond the blues and folk roots of 70s Zep. Recorded at Rockfield in Wales, the sound was already identifiably 80s – a kind of techno-rock in the making, with Jezz Woodroffe’s subterranean synths underpinning Blunt’s effects-tweaked session-man licks, the whole thing powered by the big drums of a visiting Phil Collins (on all tracks bar Slow Dancer and Like I’ve Never Been Gone) and Cozy Powell. Plant’s vocals had that distanced, reverby quality so popular with producers from that disowned decade.

In some ways Pictures at Eleven picked up where In Through the Out Door left off, though it’s a better record. There’s a similar variety about its songs. Opener Burning Down One Side is a Stonesy strutter with Keefish riffing and trademark toms-and-cymbals flexing from Collins. Moonlight in Samosa is a seductively Spanish-tinged mid-tempo affair with pretty link sections, draped in lavish keyboards. Nodding a little to the Asiatic might of Zeppelin’s Kashmir, near-eight-minute epic Slow Dancer is an intense and haunting fusion of Pakistan and Kidderminster. And these are all within the first four tracks.

Like late Zeppelin, Pictures at Eleven was guilty of occasional muso showiness. Pledge Pin wanted to be The Police. Worse Than Detroit wanted to be Little Feat – all slide smears and funky bass-drum pushes – but sounds like lame West Coast session rock. Driven by Collins, Mystery Title is a pale echo of Zep’s Trampled Under Foot. But Like I’ve Never Been Gone is a moving and melodically acute song of regret for lost love.

Plant minus Page – let alone minus Bonham and Jones – was never going to amount to much more than iconic status in the 80s. But Pictures at Eleven stands up surprisingly well as a statement of solo independence and intent.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Pictures At Eleven | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Dreamland (2002)


At their best, cover albums have a strange way of galvanizing an artist by returning to the songs that inspired them; the artists can find the reason why they made music in the first place, perhaps finding a new reason to make music. Robert Plant’s Dreamland — his first solo album in nearly ten years and one of the best records he’s ever done, either as a solo artist or as a member of Led Zeppelin — fulfills that simple definition of a covers album and goes beyond it, finding Plant sounding reinvigorated and as restless as a new artist.

Part of the reason why this album works so well is that he has a new band — not a group of supporting musicians, but a real band whose members can challenge him because they tap into the same eerie, post-folk mysticism that fueled Led Zeppelin III, among other haunting moments in the Zep catalog. Another reason why this album works so well is that it finds the band working from a similar aesthetic point as classic Zeppelin, who, at their peak, often reinterpreted and extrapolated their inspirations, piecing them together to create something startlingly original.

That’s the spirit here, most explicitly on the blues medley “Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky),” but also throughout the record, as he offers radical reinventions of such cult favorites as Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee,” Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” and the Youngbloods’ “Darkness, Darkness,” along with such staples as “I Believe I’m Fixin’ to Die” and “Hey Joe.” What’s amazing about this album is that it is as adventurous and forward-thinking — perhaps even more so — as anything he’s ever done. He’s abandoned the synthesizers that distinguished each of his solo albums and replaced them with a restless, searching band that pushes every one of these songs past conventional expectations (and, in the case of the two strong originals, they make the new tunes sound as one with the covers).

Dreamland rarely sounds like Led Zeppelin, but its spirit is pure Zeppelin; this, in a sense, is what he was trying to do with the Page and Plant albums — find a way back into the mystic by blending folk, worldbeat, blues, rock, and experimentalism into music that is at once grounded in the past and ceaselessly moving forward. He might have co-authored only two pieces here, but Dreamland is a fully realized product of his own vision — as unpredictable and idiosyncratic, as fulfilling and full of mystery as anything he’s ever released.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Bruce Springsteen Hammersmith '75, Robert Plant Dreamland | | Leave a comment

Robert Plant Mighty Rearranger (2006)

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Admirers of 2002’s “Dreamland” will be pleased to see Robert Plant’s run of form continue with “Mighty Rearranger,” an earthy album sprinkled with Middle-Eastern influences. Wonderfully, there are moments (such as on the hushed “Another Tribe”) that see Plant’s voice defying age and sounding just as it did thirty years ago, as he re-ignites us with the trance of understated “Morocco’n’roll,” amplifying the Sahara sounds of the badir and lute with a jagged, bluesy edge.

The Strange Sensation, for the most part, provide capable backing for Plant’s modern impetus, but at times are guilty of sounding little more than an assembly of various members of not-so-great bands of the late 90s (which, arguably, they are). The first single, “Shine It All Around” (a song where Plant sings of his regeneration while perhaps owing something lyrically to the Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light”) is one such example, whereas “Tin Pan Valley” sounds like it’s veering a little too close to a Superunknown-era Soundgarden riff.

“Freedom Fries,” meanwhile, storms ahead, running the blues through the dust of the desert before the warbling intro of “Tin Pan Valley” threatens to put the listener right off. Thankfully, the other elements of the song manage to pull it together, with Plant’s near-whispering of his refusal to fall into the traps of his peers meaning that the wrinkles do make an (intentional) brief appearance, after all.

Though carrying a touch of “The Rain Song” to it (in fact, that same falling, open-chord sound can be found in numerous places on “Mighty Rearranger”), the excellent “All The King’s Horses” is a dreamy, acoustic reverie that has Plant at his most sublime. Things continue to come together nicely with the stirring “The Enchanter,” though the guitar interestingly sounds like it belongs to Jack White’s take on the blues. The political “Takamba,” meanwhile, feels as if it’s groping for the same vibe as Plant’s much favoured Moroccan nomads “The Berber Tribesmen”, but instead it closes down that route altogether and wastes no time in rocking things out, resonating Plant’s 21st century sound.

The warm, sifting sound of “Dancing In Heaven,” with its lovely, wordless chorus, helps to further tilt the balance of the album in favour of the good far outweighing the forgettable. There seems to be another shift in guitar sound for both “Let the Four Winds Blow” and the title track, as if, after much honing, Plant and co. have settled for a bluesier feel. Accordingly, these two tracks pull no punches, adding some meaty weight to the fold, straightforward as it may be. The final (listed) number is a quick, endearing jam as Plant reproduces the vowel sounds of Them’s “Gloria” to the sounds of an impromptu honky-tonk piano. The bonus track, however, is a new-age remix of “Shine It All Around” which tries its hand at tame drum’n’bass, and fails to work in any way.

In all, there’s much to like here, and Robert Plant’s die-hard contingent will doubtless feel that he hasn’t put a foot wrong. Though he’s guaranteed to never disappear from the musical map thanks to his achievements with Led Zeppelin, with “Mighty Rearranger,” Plant’s Indian dream-catcher brings together the nuances of Blues and Arabic folk with political commentary, showing that his sound is maturing gracefully, and just as importantly, that he’s still got that fiery roar.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Robert Plant Mighty Rearranger | | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited II (2012)


When considering the history of Genesis, most fans tend to view this band through two distinctly different prisms. For these folks, the “Gabriel” and “Collins” eras exist as polar opposites – light years apart artistically (and certainly commercially).

Two different bands, representing approaches completely independent from one another.

This rear view appraisal, though in some ways unfair, is also dead-on accurate. The eighties pop-rock, MTV video darlings led by drummer/singer Phil Collins that sold albums by the truckloads, bares so little resemblance to the artier, trailblazing prog-rock of the earlier Peter Gabriel model, as to be virtually unrecognizable as the same band.

But where these same two opposing – and equally vociferous – camps of Genesis fans most often miss the point is in identifying just where the division between the “prog” and the “pop” incarnations of Genesis actually took place.

The departure of Peter Gabriel after the tour behind 1975’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is most often cited as the breakaway point. But the truth is, Genesis made at least two recognized prog-rock classics (A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering) during the post-Gabriel years.

Then guitarist Steve Hackett left.

In retrospect, Hackett’s split from the group was what really cleared the decks for Genesis’ subsequent musical shift towards commercial pop – much more so than Gabriel leaving them behind ever did. Hackett’s own post-Genesis career has had its own share of creative missteps of course (GTR, anyone?).

But on the bulk of Hackett’s solo material over the years, his aim has remained mostly true.

Simply put, and even though he is largely unrecognized as such, Steve Hackett is one of the most underrated guitar players on the planet. For proof of this, one need look no further than his work on those original Genesis albums, and on early solo recordings from the same period like Voyage Of The Acolyte and Spectral Mornings.

From the quiet, acoustic understatement of “Blood On The Rooftops,” to the crying sustain heard during the closing section of the epic “Supper’s Ready,” Hackett’s guitar playing with Genesis, though often overlooked at the time, was an integral component of the many elements which made up the band’s densely layered sound.

These songs, along with a few from Hackett’s early solo career, get a long overdue second look on the just released Genesis Revisted II.

But the facelift is mostly a cosmetic one. Unlike its predecessor Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited, on the second volume of Steve Hackett’s re-imagining of his early work with Genesis, the arrangements remain mostly true to the original versions. The biggest differences here are in the vocals – which are taken on by a variety of singers including Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree); Michael Akerfeldt (Opeth); and John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson).

For the most part, the kids all nail their parts in loving, convincing fashion. Old-school prog-rock vet Wetton does a particularly nice job on “Afterglow.” The one minor misstep is when Amanda Lehmann takes on Sally Oldfield’s original vocal part on “Shadow Of The Hierophant,” from Hackett’s first solo album Voyage Of The Acolyte. Some things simply shouldn’t be messed with, and Oldfield’s oddly haunting voice on that track is definitely one of them. The deep thudding drums of the original are also sorely missed.

The results become even more mixed when the originals are matched up with modern-day studio technology. If you grew up with Genesis albums like Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound, it’s hard to miss the comparatively flat sound here on songs like “Return of The Giant Hogweed” and “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” when placed side-by-side against the edgier-sounding originals.

On the other hand, songs like “The Lamia” and especially “Ripples” (which beautifully reproduces the swelling mellotron of the original version), sound pretty great on these new recordings. Hackett’s guitar has also never sounded better than it does here.

In much the same way that the tired arguments about the two incarnations of Genesis are mostly unfair, comparing the updates heard here with the originals is mostly a case of apples and oranges.

But the contrast is at times also impossible to ignore.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited II | , | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited II (2012)


Ever since vocalist Peter Gabriel abandoned Genesis‘ classic quintet line-up in 1975, following the release of the double-album concept-epic ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,’ the band’s ’70s purists have pined for a full-prog reunion.

The closest we’ve come was in 1999, when all five members (Gabriel, drummer-vocalist Phil Collins, bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks, guitarist Steve Hackett) joined forces for a stylish re-interpretation of ‘Lamb’ highlight ‘The Carpet Crawlers,’ released on the compilation ‘Turn it on Again: The Hits.’ But in 2012, it appears that dream is dead: Gabriel’s far too focused on his solo career and humanitarian efforts, while Collins — saddled from drumming by a debilitating spinal injury — announced his retirement last year.

Throughout it all, Hackett has always embraced the material from Genesis’ peak-prog period, reflecting fondly in interviews, constantly expressing his interest in a possible reunion (which is sad considering he was left out of the 2007 trio reunion), and playing the ’70s classics on-stage. His critics (and even his former bandmates) seem to feel Hackett’s stuck in the past — but he clearly still loves interpreting these songs, adding new textures and flourishes as the years go by.

The double-disc ‘Genesis Revisited II’ is Hackett’s second collection of updated Genesis tunes, and it’s a far more cohesive and inventive set than 1996′s ‘Watcher of the Skies.’ Utilizing the same basic format as that album, ‘Revisited II’ is almost entirely comprised of Genesis material, balanced out by a handful of solo Hackett tunes, most of which were originally rehearsed by Genesis in the ’70s.

As with any ‘Revisited’-style album, it’s tough to know where to draw the line. What’s the point of a note-for-note cover (especially since the early albums have been remastered)? On the other hand, is diverging from the source material prog-rock blasphemy? Hackett strikes a mostly successful balance: adding a few new intros, expanding a few Guitar Hero-style solos, and taking some bold liberties with his taste in singers, all-the-while keeping the songs’ core mysticism in-tact.

‘Lamb”s ‘The Chamber of 32 Doors’ is given a glistening classical guitar intro, while vocalist Nad Sylvan nails the nuance of Gabriel’s theatrical vocal; Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson adds warmth and color to ‘Foxtrot”s overlooked ‘Can Utility and the Coastliners,’ which is augmented by live orchestrations; ‘Wind & Wuthering’ highlight ’Blood on the Rooftops’ perked up by some excellent soprano sax. The album’s true highlight is, unsurprisingly, the 23-minute epic ‘Supper’s Ready.’ Hackett utilizes several vocalists, none of whom — at least on paper – -seem logical singing on the same track: Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt belts passionately; Simon Collins echoes the smooth delivery of his dad, and …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s Conrad Keely adds a punk edge to the track’s ripping mid-section. Hackett adds extra guitar flourishes throughout, ending with a furious finger-tapped solo.

There are numerous reasons why Hackett’s ‘Revisited’ project works so well. One is that he joined forces with some of prog-rock’s finest players and singers; another is that he never views the material through a nostalgic lens. ‘Revisited II’ has an urgency most ‘tribute albums’ don’t, mostly because Hackett’s so liberal about letting the songs go to some often strange new places.

Sometimes, though, the risks don’t pay off — mostly due to some awkward vocalist choices: Gary O’Toole is distractingly macho on ‘Broadway Melody of 1974′; Amanda Lehmann’s throaty vibrato is distracting amid the swirl of ‘Ripples” tender acoustics; meanwhile, Nik Kershaw’s more straightforward, sleepy vocal interpretation on ‘The Lamia’ feels out of place given the track’s absurd lyrics.

But without taking a few gambles, the project wouldn’t feel so vital. Warts and all, ‘Revisited II’ is the stuff diehards dream about — and in 2012, it’s about as close to in-the-flesh classic Genesis as it gets.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited II | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Good Times Bad Times (Lyceum & Paris 1969)


In the first year since Led Zeppelin’s formation, they not only toured the US and UK several times, but also saw the release of their initial studio efforts on Led Zeppelin. While touring they would work on their second album whenever they had the chance in Canada, America and in England.

By October Led Zeppelin II was ready for release. “Whole Lotta Love,” “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “The Lemon Song” (a Howlin’ Wolf cover under its original title “Killing Floor”) were already played live, but weeks before its October 22nd release date, the band played several shows to promote the album and introduce more songs such as “Heartbreaker” and “Moby Dick.”

After several gigs in Holland, including one at the famous Concertgebouw in The Hague, they played promotional gigs in Paris and London. Good Times, Bad Times on Scorpio presents these two gigs together in one collection.

L’Olympia, Paris, France – October 10th, 1969
Disc 1 (76:58): Good Times Bad Times / Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, You Shook Me, How Many More Times

The existence of the October 1969 Paris radio broadcast has been the object of speculation until it was finally rebroadcast in October 2007 as a celebration of the O2 reunion. It presented most of the show (“Moby Dick” is rumored to have been omitted) and was marred by DJ comments in French spoken over the music in some places.

Nevertheless silver pressed releases surfaced about a week after the original broadcast. Scorpio use the broadcast tape with the French DJs comments edited out with loss of some music, the same tape found on such releases as L’Olympia (Godfather G.R.248) and N’est Aucun Imbecile (Black Dog Records BDR-003).
(Two releases, One Night Stand In Paris (TCOLZ 029/030) and In The Act Of Invoking The Spirit (Tarantura TCD-94) came out subsequent to the release of Scorpio with the perfect pre-FM tape).

It isn’t known if this is all that was taped or if the rest of the show, which some say includes “Moby Dick” was also taped and are still sitting in the vault. It is said they played for an hour and a half leaving a half hour still unaccounted.

More likely than not they also played ”What Is And What Should Never Be” since that was a regular inclusion in the set. The set list as it appears in the radio broadcast also differs from the list reported in the latest edition of The Concert File, which places “You Shook Me” before “White Summer” followed by “Dazed And Confused.”

The set begins with the devastating opening bars of “Good Times, Bad Times” serving as a prelude to “Communication Breakdown.” Only at these shows was this arrangement used as they were trying to achieve the most overwhelming sound they could muster. This tape includes the earliest reference to “Heartbreaker” introduced by Robert Plant, saying, “We’d like to carry on with something on the new Led Zeppelin II album, which is eventually coming out in England and America. It’s called ‘Heartbreaker.’”

This version sounds close to the studio arrangement and Page uses heavy distortion during the guitar solo. Page’s ”White Summer” was still played at this time and is introduced by Plant saying, “right now we’d like to feature…” Page can be heard behind him saying, “wanking dog.” Plant continues, “wanking dog…Jimmy Page on guitar. This is a combination of several things. It goes under the collective title, as Percy Thrower would say, ‘White Summer,’ Jimmy Page.” What follows is a virtuoso epic crammed into ten minutes.

“You Shook Me” must count among the heaviest versions on record with Bonham keeping time with a sledgehammer on his drums. This sound would remain in the set list, in one form or another, for the next couple of years before being abandoned. But the best is the long improvisation during “How Many More Times.” By this time it had already been expanded into a long, distinct medley of oldies, but they really don’t follow any rules in this concert.

The long improvisation starts off very dark and includes references to Holst’s “Mars, The Bringer Of War” and a very slow version of The Yardbirds’ “Over Under Sideways Down.” Some people shout to Plant while he’s in the middle of “The Hunter” and causes him to say, “shut up!”

There is a long “Boogie Chillun’” part with a reference to Ainsley Dunbar and “Needle Blues” where Plant sings, “I got my needle in you babe, and you seem to think it’s alright. Why don’t you roll over baby, see what it’s like on the other side. I think that was Brownie McGhee.”

Plant is trying hard to shake up the audience with suggestive lyrics and obscure inside jokes. Maybe Plant is seeking revenge for the tepid reaction they received in the summer. It is said that Zeppelin were not as well received in France as in other countries. Maybe this is the reason why it took Zeppelin more than three years before they returned to the capital?
Lyceum Ballroom, London, England – October 12th, 1969

Disc 2 (60:37): Good Times Bad Times / Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Heartbreaker, You Shook Me, What Is And What Should Never Be, Dazed And Confused, How Many More Times

Two days later Zeppelin were home again for this London gig. The intention of this show was to showcase the entire new album, but the band opted to play only two new songs in the same set they they’ve used for the past year. The show is captured in a good to very good audience tape. It has some distance from the stage and is a bit distorted, but captures the atmosphere of the event very well.

This is one of the more popular bootlegs despite the limited sound quality. The tape first appeared on the vinyl Live At The Lyceum (Grant Musik LZ LLL 1-4 ) and copied on London Live (Right Records SX503). Early compact disc editions were copies of the vinyl such as Ballroom Blitz (World Production of Compact Music WPOCM 0989 D 034-2), Pape Satan (WBR CD 9013) and Complete Tapes Vol. 1 (Tintagel) which includes “Good Times Bad Times” and “Heartbreaker.”

Other releases include Lyceum (Cobra Standard Series 016), Lyceum Preview (Immigrant IM-009), UK 10-12-69 (Totanka CDPRO-023) and Triumphant UK Return (Empress Valley EVSD 229).

Scorpio came out with Good Times Bad Times in the summer of 2008. They utilize the same tape copy used by Cobra for Lyceum, which is the best sounding. It isn’t edited and not remastered too much, so it has a natural and enjoyable sound and is the best version for this show. The tape quality dips to fair to good after a cut before “How Many More Times.” It has a few cuts between songs and a tape pause 5:21 in “You Shook Me,” but otherwise contains the complete show.

The New Musical Express, in reviewing the gig, stated that “over 2,000 people at £1 a head packed the famous ballroom to see Led Zeppelin” but called the performance “less than inspiring.” (Among the crowd was a young Freddie Mercury who, just a month before, sang “Communication Breakdown” with his band Ibex in a gig in Liverpool). While there are a few rough edges, it is ultimately a very good gig for the time.

The mc announces the band before the come on stage and play the opening bars of “Good Times, Bad Times” and, instead of playing the song, segue right into “Communication Breakdown” instead. It’s played much like the studio recording except for a short instrumental interlude before it segues right into “I Can’t Quit You.”
The Willie Dixon cover served as the second number of the set since their first show in Copenhagen (and would survive until the spring tour of the US), and it sounds like a sledgehammer attacking the stage.

Plant then says, “I don’t know what to say. It was a long drive down from Birmingham. We’d like to continue with something off the new, the Led Zeppelin II thing that’s been running into a lot of difficulties just lately.” The new song probably had its live premier the previous week in Holland and, much like the Paris performance, closely follows the studio recording (including the solo).
“You Shook Me” is introduced as a song from an old EP called Muddy Waters Twist. The Led Zeppelin track was still one of the main vehicles in the set to showcase Page’s improvisational talent in conjuring the heaviest riffs imaginable. It is one of the songs that really whips the audience into a frenzy.

The second new song is “What Is And What Should Never Be.” Plant’s introduction rambles on a bit, saying that “we fiddled about with in a bar in Vancouver. If you’ve ever been to Vancouver, it’s something like … let’s see, if you ever get lucky, don’t go to Vancouver. I can’t tell you about without a tent whistle. Anyway, this is a thing that John Peel said people were having a lot of trouble getting into, and Liverpool wound up beating the [Wolverhampton] Wolves…”

The set closes with “How Many More Times” which, Plant complains, “they won’t let us do it on the radio.” Like the Paris performance, there is a reference to Holst’s Mars and The Yardbirds’ “Over Under Sideways Down,” among others.

Good Times, Bad Times is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with inserts with various photographs from the gigs. It is a good collection but had the misfortune of being released before the pre-FM Paris tape surfaced on TCOLZ. But, for having the definitive version of the Lyceum gig, this is worth having.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Good Times Bad Times | , | Leave a comment

Neil Young Psychedelic Pill (2012)

neil15-1350681110From Rolling Stone

For Neil Young, the Sixties never ended. The music, memories and changes haunt his best songs and records like bittersweet perfume: vital, endlessly renewing inspirations that are also constant, enraging reminders of promises broken and ideals betrayed. In “Twisted Road,” one of eight new songs sprawled across this turbulent two-CD set, Young recalls, in a brilliantly mixed metaphor, the first time he heard Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”: “Poetry rolling offhis tongue/Like Hank Williams chewing bubble gum.” And Young tells you what he did with the impact. “I felt that magic and took it home/Gave it a twist and made it mine,” he sings over Crazy Horse’s rough-country swagger, as if the marvel of that time and his dreams are still close enough to touch.

So are the mess and his dismay. Psychedelic Pill is Young’s second album of 2012 with the Horse, his perfectly unpolished garage band of 43 years, and it has the roiling honesty and brutal exuberance of their best records together. This one opens with a special perversity: the thumping 27-minute fuzz-box trance of “Driftin’ Back.” Young, on lead guitar, spits feedback and throttles his whammy bar for long, mad stretches over rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro’s trusty two-chord support and the rock-infantry march of bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina. Every six or so minutes, Young’s cracked yelp cuts through the tumult, spiking the flashback in the dreamy chorus with a contemporary disgust for tech-giant greed and the lousy sound of MP3s, whose shitty fidelity is “blockin’ out my anger/Blockin’ out my thoughts.”

There is, in fact, no mistaking Young’s mood. For most of its near-90 minutes, Psychedelic Pill is an infuriated trip: long tracks of barbed-guitar jamming and often surrealistic ire (“Gonna get me a hip-hop haircut,” he sneers, to no apparent sense, in “Driftin’ Back”) interrupted by short bursts of warming bliss. It is a weirdly compelling seesaw. “Psychedelic Pill” is a Day-Glo-angel twist on “Cinnamon Girl” coated, in the first of two versions here, with jet-engine-like phasing. But then comes “Ramada Inn,” 17 minutes of broiling guitars and stressed a ection in which Young examines a love that has somehow stayed alive long after the high times turned into routine and basic daily needs.

Even the sweet stuff is spiked. In the cheerful country funk of “Born in Ontario,” Young admits he writes songs “to make sense of my inner rage.” Yet he keeps finding hope in there. “Me and some of my friends/We were going to save the world. . . . But then the weather changed . . . and it breaks my heart,” Young confesses through black clouds of distortion in “Walk Like a Giant,” dogged by the mocking whistle of the Horse. A big closing chunk of the song’s 16 minutes is Young’s idea of a giant marching through ruin: thunderclap drums and hacking-cough chords. But the real end hints at rebirth: a cleansing coda of wordless acid-choir sunshine. Young may feel like the last hippie standing, but he still sounds like a guy who believes the dreaming is not done.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Psychedelic Pill | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Americana (2012)


Neil Young’s legend has essentially been built through obfuscation; he’s accumulated one of the most celebrated yet byzantine songbooks in rock by impulsively shifting course album to album, whether it means periodically alienating fans, band mates, and record labels alike. But when it comes to covering other people’s songs, he’s an unabashed populist.

“Blowin’ in the Wind”, “All Along the Watchtower”, “A Day in the Life”, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”, “On Broadway”, “Four Strong Winds”– Young is obviously not the sort of artist who selects covers to reveal something new about himself, or to prove how cool his record collection is. Instead, true to his utilitarian ethos, he’s more interested in transforming the mythical into the practical, reclaiming once-vital songs that have essentially been overplayed into Muzak and investing them with a new sense of purpose. In Young’s hands, the most totemic songs in pop history become more flawed and, as a result, more down to Earth.

For this latest studio album– the first with Crazy Horse in nine years– Young applies that logic across an entire record. Americana joins Paul McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom and Iggy Pop’s Après in this year’s aging-rocker covers-album sweepstakes, though it’s less about digging into personal favorites as reclaiming some of the most popular songs ever written. And we’re not talking about mere golden oldies here, but ancient public-domain standards that predate the existence of pop radio and the music industry entirely: “Clementine”, “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain”, “Oh Susannah”, and the like. These aren’t songs anyone really listens to anymore, because we don’t need to.

They’re practically part of our collective DNA: songs that you whistle while you work or use to sing your baby to sleep or to entertain impatient kids sitting around a campfire. Invariably, they’re also songs whose simple, sing-along melodies obscure the real-life maladies– poverty, unemployment, lost love, murder, crises of faith– that originally inspired them over a century ago. As such, Americana isn’t so much a covers collection as a concept album in the vein of Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads: new variations on age-old themes that still resonate loud and clear today.

Alas, it’s also the sort of album where you pretty much know what it’s going to sound like just by reading the record’s spine and tracklist. What you see is what you you get: old-timey tunes subjected to Crazy Horse’s desecrating grungy grind. And given the over-familiarity and brevity of the source material, it’s a novelty that wears itself out quickly. While Young and the Horse effectively tease out the unpleasant undercurrents in songs like “Oh Susanna”, “Wayfaring Stranger”, and “Clementine” (which reinstates the oft-omitted line about macking on the deceased title subject’s sister), Americana doesn’t so much amount to a caustic commentary on the modern-day American condition as capture a bunch of old pals trying to rediscover their chemistry by sloppily jamming on some standards– and in some cases, like the repetitious eight-minute trudge through true-crime tale “Tom Dula”, driving them into the ground.

Compared to his previous state-of-the-nation addresses, Young doesn’t so much attack the material as playfully mess around with it; nearly every track here concludes with some cheerful studio chatter that suggests what we just heard was the Horse’s first-ever pass at the song. This slackness defines Americana more so than its political intent; as the tracklist moves forward to relatively more recent fare like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and the Silhouttes’ late-1950s standard “Get a Job”, you might as well be listening to the Shocking Pinks.

But just as the aforementioned Murder Ballads capped off its orgy of carnage with a surprisingly redemptive cover of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not the End”, Americana boasts a similarly high-concept denouement: Only Young would deign to close out a tribute to the American folkoric tradition with a cover of the British national anthem. Whether it’s a backhanded salute to the country that incited the American Revolution in the first place, or simply a sly nod to his own roots in the Commonwealth, Young’s “God Save the Queen”– with its drunken drummber-boy beat, squealing electric-guitar fanfare, and cheeky choral vocal–proves to be just as blasphemous to Britain’s most sacred song as the namesake number by his one-time muse Johnny Rotten. It ain’t exactly Hendrix doing “The Star-Spangled Banner”, but then that’s precisely the point: It’s Young’s way of saying that– even when you’re dealing with another country’s intellectual property– this song is your song, this song is my song.

February 19, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Americana | | Leave a comment