Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Yellow Zeppelin (Miami, February 1969)

jh2From thefrodisroomrockblog.co.uk

Today’s edition of “Put the Boot In” is looking at a pivotal and albeit amazing performance from Led Zeppelin’s first American tour in early 1969. This performance is from Thee Image Club in North Miami beach Florida on Valentines Day 1969. The show comes from an audience recorded bootleg and released on the Tarantula label under the monicker “Yellow Zeppelin” After listening to this show I think a more apt title would be “A Saint Valentines Day Massacre”, based on the way this early flight of Led Zeppelin bombards the unsuspecting crowd. The recording itself sounds great for an late 1960’s recorded audience recording. The bass is slightly muffled at points and there is the obvious distortion issues based on the loudness of the band. But all in all, Jimmy is amped and Robert’s vocals cut through the din. Bonzo’s drums are gonna be audible no matter what! If you’re looking for letter ratings this show gets a “B” for sound, but an “A” for performance. Just tune in, turn on, and crank up this recording and you will find it is a very enjoyable way to spend ninety minutes. In less that two years Zeppelin’s popularity would know no bounds, and its recordings like this that show the band in its infancy, taking chances, and blowing minds.

The recording starts with John Bonham hammering out the tempo to the era specific opener, “Train Kept A Rollin”. While the recording echoes slightly, once Jimmy’s Yardbird’s Telecaster slices through the electric air like an aerodynamic missile, any sound issues are forgiven. I can’t comprehend what the crowd in attendance was thinking when this fire breathing beast walked on the stage. Led Zeppelin I had only been out since January, and while it was starting to move on the charts, the band was still relatively unknown. “Train” blasts down the tracks at a furious rate until it slams head on into the back of “I Can’t Quit You Baby”. Robert Plant absolutely howls the lyrics to this blues classic in such a way, that the thought crosses my mind that he may be the greatest vocalist ever! The show starts off that intensely! Jimmy Page’s spry fingers scurry across the the fretboard like a spider searching for a dark corner. The detail and natural vibrato in this fingers is fascinating to hear even on this distant field recording. After the exhaustive opening Robert introduces the next song as being from their new LP that is ‘currently doing pretty well, apparently”. John Paul Jones plays the opening figure of “Dazed and Confused to light applause. “Dazed” is a song that underwent numerous changes over the course of its life, and was one of Zeppelin’s main vehicles for improvisation. These early first LP era versions are boiling over with energy and always contain a mystery or two. The Page bow sequence is very dark and very psychedelic, and has yet to fall into the “themes” that would become standard in later versions. Robert echoes Page’s riffs with erotic groans and quotes some “Sugar Time” lyrics. When the band comes back together the rhythm section takes off from the starting gate like a shot. John Paul and Bonham so in the pocket that you couldn’t get a drum machine to replicate their tightness. Jimmy surfs along the top with riff after riff, some familiar and some not so much, but all effective. Jimmy’s guitar is so loud at this point in the recording I have to chuckle to myself. The music is vibrating with beautiful chaos at this point. The call and response between Robert and Jimmy is right on, its hard to believe the band has been together for less that six months, and are this good. During this era I have always thought there is something other worldly about the sound of Jimmy’s 1959/60 Dragon Telecaster. There is an indescribable knife edge quality to Jimmy’s attack that guitar players have been trying to replicate for years. This performance is full of consummate examples of that classic sound.

“Dazed and Confused” climaxes and concludes, but special notice must go to Jimmy’s hallucinatory muted guitar lines after the return to the song, and before the final chord. Slippery and understated, Page’s riffs are euphoric in their statement, a stand out moment of the song. The crowd reciprocates in generous applause as Zeppelin continues the show with “The Lemon Song/Killing Floor”. This in my humble opinion is the best performance of the first half of the show thus far. The band rips into the double time segment of this song with such abandon that I play this part back three different times to gain a full appreciation. At this point all of the instrumentalist’s are clear on the recording, and the band is cooking like a pasty tourist in the steamy Florida sunshine. Jimmy plays with a slightly clean tone that makes his riffs ring with a bell like quality. The true magic cast during this performance occurs when the band hits the “squeeze my lemon” breakdown. Page kicks his “crybaby” on and lays down a series of thick milky leads as Plant scats and quotes lyrics from the tune, “I Think You Need A Shot”. Page’s guitar continues to peel kaleidoscopic notes as the band picks up momentum. Suddenly we are back into the double time jam as the band rings all of the juice from this lemon, and crashes to a satisfying conclusion. Hats off to the entire band for a priceless and special jam.

Unfortunately after such a intense first half of the show the band enters into a slightly out of tune and ragged, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”. This can be forgiven based on the music that proceeded it, but the song pails in contrast to the proceeding jams. The track is much better suited to an acoustic reading, but still an A for effort.It’s easy to understand why the song was eventually dropped from future set lists. The final track on my disc one is “How Many More Times” and it shakes the windows and rattles the walls with no other than John Henry Bonham leading the charge. At one point during the improv Bohnam and Page enter a call and response that is devastating in its accuracy and concentrated energy. Page goes into duets with every member of the band at some point who then bounce back every idea that he throws out. A perfectly played game of rock tennis. Eventually Page hits on a quintessential Zep riff and the band locks into a thunderous jam with all hands on deck. As soon as the band locks onto an idea, Page starts to lead them on another journey toward Mordor. Page gets so far out with his licks before the Bolero segment that John Paul lets go with a series of sliding bass lines that may induce dizziness. It’s a shame that this version of “How Many More Times” cuts shortly after the concerts second “bow” interlude. I am of the opinion that this is one of the finest early Zeppelin shows I have heard, and if a soundboard ever surfaced it would yield amazing treasures. The second bow interlude is as euphoric and dark as the earlier “Dazed” breakdown, but quietly fades just as the band is ready to turn another corner. Damn! Oh well, I must be thankful for the bit that circulates and that we can all enjoy.

The second disc starts with Page on stage solo for his spotlight, playing “White Summer/Black Mountainside”. This version, like all of them contains unique improvisations within the basic structure of the song cycle. While nothing jumps out at me for being completely special, this is a well played version with Jimmy playing concisely. This Page spotlight acts as the “whisper to the thunder” that follows. I am barely prepared for the following “As Long as I Have You” that startles me out of my seat with a crashing guitar strike by Jimmy. Unbridled power is all that comes to mind as the band roughs up the crowd with this naked display of brute strength and musical ability. At this point in the band’s career they were lacking original compositions, so songs like “As Long As I Have You” were their main improvisational vehicles until tunes like ‘Whole Lotta Love” came into the rotation. There are a few versions of this song available on other Zep boots such as 4/24/69 and 4/27/69 which contain soundboard sound quality and arguably more mature performances. But this in no way dampens the astonishing intensity of this audience recording. Intensity may be too broad a term for this jam, as it is full of dynamics, light, shade, and careful instrumental placement. But it is played with such enthusiasm and strength that intensity seems an apt description.

At around five minutes into the song things really heat up as Bonham and Page start to churn a delicious groove that just rumbles quietly until igniting into a “Mockingbird” jam. Jimmy has his “Wah Wah” emanating a slippery whine behind Robert’s bellowing vocals. The jam suddenly drives into a heavy syncopated rock and roll swing with Page laying down his most impressive “Yardbird” riffs which are marinated in a psychedelic sauce. Riff after riff is shot out like machine gun ordnance until they climax into a long sound wave of guitar feedback that segues into a wordless Robert Plant scream recital. Led Zeppelin is now a tight and smoking R&B band strutting their stuff across the darkened stage. “As Long As I Have You” epitomizes the early Led Zeppelin ideal, and gives fans a glimpse into the band’s influences, and a peek at the “nuts and bolts” of the group. This is Led Zeppelin broken into their primal elements. At one moment the band is a sharp toothed beast clawing its way toward your throat, at another a dancing gazelle gliding across the landscape.

Taking a brief pause Robert Plant speaks to the breathless audience, “In spite of the high spirits we are going to do a blues”. What follows is a clinic in “white boy blues” put on display by the band. “You Shook Me” was a staple of the band’s early sets, and it never failed to ignite the band into a lumbering blues swing. Plant channels all of his blues idols and regurgitates their influence in a primitive and ancient scream. It’s amazing how tied into each others performances Page and Plant are even at this early stage of the band’s career. There are numerous versions of “You Shook Me” available in the Zeppelin bootleg world, but its versions like this that make me shutter. I have to say I believe that the other British blues/rock bands at the time (Cream, Stones, Fleetwood Mac) paled in comparison to the “Zep” interpretations of the blues during their early career.

The concert recording ends with what Zeppelin fans know as an early version of “Moby Dick”, lovingly named “Pat’s Delight” after John Bonham’s wife. I am not aware if this is indeed the true end of the concert, but it does end the recording I have and my review. Book ended by an instrumental passage to set the stage, “Pat’s Delight is thirteen minutes of recognizable and thundering John Bohnam drumming. Double and triple paradiddles scream by the audience at speeds unknown to modern drummers except maybe Buddy Rich. I love that during Bonham’s spotlight people near the recording gear can be heard letting out hoots and hollers as they watch Bonham unleash on his kit with superhuman strength. A highlight of hundreds of Zeppelin concerts this segment is another chance to listen in awe to the natural wonder which is John Henry Bonham.

This early field recording of of a young and hungry Led Zeppelin illustrates the four distinct, yet still developing personalities beginning the construction of their empire. The defiant Robert Plant, the magical Jimmy Page, the stoic John Paul Jones, and the animal John Bonham, learning to listen to one another and to develop a rapport that has been unequaled in rock and roll. The future after this concert will be filled with legendary and incredible performances by an older and more mature band. In contrast, these early concerts demonstrate a band learning on the fly, experimenting, and having fun traveling into the unknown. By developing medieval science’s and myth, the band will create a mystical stew that will metamorphosis into something the four musician’s could only fathom in their dreams. Sit down with this recording and witness Led Zeppelin in their infancy, hear musical giants change the landscape of rock, and be a part of a magical ritual that continues to this very day.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Yellow Zeppelin | , | Leave a comment

The Faces First Step (1970)

FacesFrom coolalbumreview.com

Being married to, or even dating a super model may give you a lot of bragging rights with the boys down at the local watering hole, and it certainly gives you a “checkmate” in the game of one-upmanship when you and your buddies are on your fifth pint and trading war stories about the hottest girlfriend you ever dated. But if you are a rock star, and history tells us anything, it’s that that Super Models are responsible for ruining more careers than drugs, alcohol and Yoko combined, and that maintaining a relationship with one or more of these long legged vixens may be on the list of bad career moves right along-side Abraham Lincoln’s decision to attend the play at Ford’s Theatre instead of staying home and watching a chick flick with the wife.

The gold standard of a career derailed by the scent of a woman is Billy Joel. Coming off a string of some pretty strong efforts that yielded the concert staples “Pressure”, “You May be Right”, “My Life”, and “Big Shot” he documented his relationship with Super Model Christie Brinkley with an album noted only for its mediocrity, it’s use of 50’s doo-wop music that was so gimmicky it made Sha-Na- Na cringe, and one smokin’ hot video. Three sub-par albums followed in short order and then kapow! He essentially fell off the new release map. Since 1993, there have been more rumored sightings of Jim Morrison and D.B. Cooper than talked about fresh music from the Joel camp. Is it all Christie’s fault? Probably not, remember for the last 10 years Billy’s BFF has been Elton John.

David Bowie is famous for being the husband of Iman, the stunningly beautiful Somali-American Super Model. Bowie is also famous for reincarnating himself by rising from the ashes and taking on various eclectic personas such as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. Since his marriage to Iman he has once again reinvented himself, this time as a New Caledonian rail, a smallish bird indigenous to New Caledonia, Melanesia. The New Caledonian rail, much like David Bowies career, has been essentially extinct since 1990. In the interest of full disclosure, there is no evidence to support the rumors that Iman once vacationed in New Caledonia in 1989.

Rod Stewart is the “Dexter” of Super Model relationships with his “dark passenger” being an unavoidable attraction to long-legged beautiful blondes rather than the dismemberment of human bodies. The partial list of his bevy of model conquests includes wives Alana Hamilton, Rachel Hunter, and Penny Lancaster along with girlfriends Britt Eckland, Kelly Emberg, and Dee Harrington. In other words, he has dated more models than he has written new songs in the last 10+ years. Six to zero if you are scoring at home. Fortunately Lois Lane was not a supermodel since this particular race of females seems to have kryptonite-like effects on Rod Stewart’s songwriting skills and his ability to generate any new music. Super Models have single handedly turned “Randy Rod” from Ronnie James Dio to Michael Bolton.

But I digress.

The album First Step was either the last Small Faces album as the name on the album cover implies or the first Faces album. On this recording the embryo of the classic Faces line-up was being formed with the brilliant Steve Marriott out, and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood in, to complete the classic Faces line-up of Wood, Stewart, Ian Mcglagan, Kenney Jones, and Ronnie Lane.

Ronnie Lane

Released in 1970, the album features the scarf wearing, soccer playing, Freddie Mercury like stage presence version of “Rod the Mod” and not the model chasing, cover song stealing, standard ruining Rod Stewart that we know and don’t so much love today. Providing a glimpse of the party band this group of blokes was to become, this eponymous album also shows some of the ballad like subtleties that Rod would brilliantly put on display once he went solo and recorded such classics as “Maggie May”, “You Wear it Well”, and “Handbags & Glad Rags”.

Considering that Wood and Stewart had just come off a series of recordings with Jeff Beck it is understandable that their first effort with a “proper” band might sound a bit messy, and that is exactly what this album sounds like. Not that messy is a bad thing and in this case the band is simply trying to perfect that raunch & roll sound while still taking full advantage of Rod’s soulful singing style and Ron Woods dirty blues guitar approach. The experiment works quite nicely with the aching ballad “Devotion”, the upbeat “Shudder”, and the brilliant “Around the Plynth” that features some downright swampy Ron Wood slide guitar soloing.

The future Faces classics are here with the mostly Ronnie Lane penned “Flying” and “Three Button Hand Me Down” with a delicious Hammond organ riffing in the background. “Stone” is a classic Ronnie Lane style good time song with some tuneful harmonica blowing.

This album is a perfect time capsule of what will be become of the Faces as the hardest partying bar band in the business and what should have been with Rod Stewart.

At the end of the day, someone much wiser than me said it best………Women…..Powerful medicine.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Faces First Step | | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2011)

MI0003236269From prog-sphere.com

Steve Hackett, with a solo career of well over 30 years behind him is certainly not resting on his laurels with this album of both literal and metaphorical travellin’ tales. Backed by his usual electric band Steve takes us on an Odyssey from Loch Lomond, the band marching over the hills on the back of an almost metal riff, to end with the epic symphonic tale of Turn This Island Earth, on the way visiting many exotic corners of the globe and indeed beyond and inward. Make of that what you will!

On the way we encounter all sorts of styles melded together to make an involving and cohesive whole, and without any of the tempo and mood changes sounding forced. A great blues-rock riff that puts me in mind of early Uriah Heep crashes into the almost sedate introduction to Prairie Angel, and throughout the album classical touches abound as do various world music influences. Possibly a balalaika on Waking To Life is later complimented by a distinct middle eastern feel, leading into some Kashmir-like sounds on the intro to Two Faces Of Cairo, so far one of my favourite moments on the album.

Throughout Steve’s guitar sounds more energised than ever, when one would expect a mellowing over time, and he even verges on heavy in places, especially on blues shouter Catwalk. Some of the songs are bridged with short acoustic pieces which add to the overall cinematic atmosphere.

The longest song on the album is the closer Turn This Island Earth, clocking in at just under 12 minutes. As befitting such a mini-epic, everything is thrown at this, the orchestra and the treated vocals at the start lending it an almost ethereal presence until a rock riff from Steve takes the song down another alley, but the theme is never lost even in the more chaotic Sorcerer’s Apprentice sounding moments. A classical symphony in miniature, this is an unexpected but great way to end a fine album, which, at just short of an hour long has not made the mistake of many over-ambitious projects where bands feel they have to get as close to filling eighty minutes as possible. In Steve’s case never mind the width, feel the quality.

The second CD has, we assume, a few items recorded at the same time as the main album but not necessarily fitting in with the theme. This CD at just under half an hour starts with the Four Winds mini-suite featuring some fine classical piano and classical guitar, as well as some restrained electric soloing from Steve.

Classical piece Pieds En L’Air conjures visions of costume dramas in the grounds of stately homes, electric instrumental She Said Maybe is pleasant if unassuming, and there’s a stunning cover of Focus song segment Eruption:Tommy, not bad for a bonus disc, but you should be more than sated with the main course anyway.

There’s no doubting the love and enthusiasm Steve and the band have put into the making of this well produced album, and Steve along with Roger King and wife Jo have written some gorgeous stuff here that sounds at times like the soundtrack to an epic film, and it sure is a journey well worth taking.

…..and I didn’t even mention the “G” word!

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon | , | Leave a comment

The Faces A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…To A Blind Horse (1972)

A-Nod-Is-As-Good-As-A-Wink___-To-A-Blind-HorseFrom Rolling Stone

Well, now this doesn’t make any sense at all. Rod Stewart has three solo albums out, all of them excellent. With the release of A Nod Is As Good As A Wink … the Faces, with Stewart singing lead, have three albums out, each of them duller than the one that preceded it, and with the first one having been none too great to begin with.

It is apparent that when Stewart takes charge of his music he elevates the musicianship of everyone around him; when he submerges himself in the artistic group democracy of this particular band he only succeeds in bringing himself down to the level of the group’s lowest common denominator. Thus, at the same time he is riding the success of an intensely personal and beautifully crafted solo album, Every Picture Tells A Story, he participates in the making of another almost completely devoid of personality, character, depth, or vision.

The Faces do not, as some have recently alleged, play badly. They are more than competent, especially at creating a mid-Sixties Rolling Stones-styled groove, as their excellent version of “Memphis” proves.

But like most rockers who just barely miss their mark, they can’t sustain ideas, so their music tends to be filled with bits and pieces — a bright 30 seconds there, an exciting riff here — and then back into a basic track that is usually melodically undistinguished, unimaginatively arranged, and sounds as much of a bore to listen to as it must have been to record.

“Miss Judy’s Farm” starts off strong enough with some Ron Wood guitar and then the whole band riffing behind him. But as soon as the vocal commences, the song emerges as the dog that it is, and what started off sounding funky now just sounds like rock band hacking. “Stay With Me” is a better example of a riff song, but isn’t all that exciting either — the ending is an obvious cop from Stewart’s own arrangement (performed with the Faces) of “It’s All Over Now,” from Gasoline Alley.

“That’s All You Need” contains something of the groove heard on “Cut Across Shorty” and “Every Picture Tells A Story,” but there is absolutely no song present here. Ron Wood plays some great slide guitar, especially on “Memphis,” but his bashing about on this cut is just plain awful.

Perhaps the Faces recognize that their days with Stewart are numbered. For on this album Ron Lane makes his debut as a regular lead singer with the band, taking his turn on, “You’re So Rude,” “Last Orders Please,” and “Debris.” And not badly either. He has plenty of charm, some real wit, and considerable style, if not a great lead voice, and he certainly bears watching in the future. In some perverse way, it occasionally seemed to me that his efforts were at least more natural and less forced than Stewart’s on this particular album. His best number is “Last Orders Please.”

I admit being a sucker for revived oldies, but the only thing that is going to keep me coming back to this album is the beautifully structured and excellently pérformed rendition of “Memphis.” It is only here that the band creates a fully satisfying groove and sustains it for any length of time. Stewart does his bit and is gone and Wood carries it very nicely with plenty of help from the rhythm section and Ian McLagan on keyboards.

The gap in achievement between Stewart’s albums and the Faces is too great for it to go on. Glyn Johns was added as this album’s co-producer in an attempt to break the mold of the last two albums. As a result, the new record certainly sounds good enough, but that seems to be about all that he was able to add to it.

For the present, First Step remains the Faces’ best album and I am left wondering how they intend to deal with that fact.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Faces A Nod Is As Good As A Wink... | | Leave a comment

The Faces Long Player (1971)

653da93a341fbd74f4f88a33bbf54447b6638a0fFrom Rolling Stone

Being one of the few English bands left willing (nay, all too happy) to flaunt their Englishness, and moreover ranking no lower than third on the current faverave list of such heavy critics as John Mendelsohn, Faces should be just a shout away from becoming very enormous indeed, and, in the opinion of such heavy critics as John Mendelsohn, perhaps saving rock and roll from taking itself seriously to death in the process. In view of which we all have reason to be a trifle disappointed with Faces’ new Long Player, for, consistently good casual fun and occasionally splendid though it may be, it’s by no stretch of the imagination going to save anybody’s soul (as an album by someone very enormous indeed ought) or even rescue the FM airwaves from the clutches of such increasingly cloying items as Elton John.

Simply, Faces seem to lack a clearly-defined sense of direction. Since the departure of the incredible Steve Marriott, they have been unable (or indisposed) to create more of the magic and wonderful R&B-derived English fantasy-rock like that on Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake; consequently, they are obliged (or disposed) to look, aside from infrequent contributions in the grand old style by bassist Ronnie Lane, to late additions Ron Wood and that chap with the haystack haircut for direction. Wood, most frequently fancying pleasant, if dispensable, bottleneck-laden variations on De Blooze, is not the Face to provide that direction. And his friend with the haystack haircut doesn’t seem nearly so intent on so providing as deferring to the other chaps’ tastes for purposes of saving the group from becoming Rod Stewart (with Faces). But so intimidating is Stewart’s presence apparently (in what should, of course, but hasn’t thus far, been a mutually beneficial way) that the other chaps are all too eager to defer to Stewart’s tastes. The present result being that, instead of getting both Faces albums and Stewart albums, Long Player being nothing more than a grab-bag of tidbits good enough only to tide us over until Stewart’s third “solo” album.

Thus, the undisputed star cut on Player is that one on which Rod and the band work most distinctly in the same relation to one another as on his solo albums, with his voice and words commanding most of the attention. Leaving the matter of Faces’ current inability to be more than Stewart’s back-up band aside for a moment, what a cut it is!, it comprising an immediately attractive Wood tune, lovely Garth Hudson-ish organ by Ian McLagan, a beautiful pedal steel guitar solo, and magnificent Stewart singing and lyrics about becoming resigned to irreconcilability with a former lover:

Her Spanish habits are so hard to forget
The lady lied with every breath, I accept
It was a matter of time before my face did not fit
I knew all along I’d have to quit
Anyway I’d better not waste any more of your time
I’ll just steal away

Dig here and elsewhere his use of images from American geography, like: “I think I’ll go back home and start all over again/Where the Gulf-stream waters tend to ease the pain.”

In the same vein but somehow lacking “Sweet Lady Mary”‘s charisma is “Tell Everyone,” a gospel-style ballad with occasionally superb Stewart words (that deal with what for him is an infrequent theme, a two-sided working love affair) and very nice guitar ornamentation from Wood.

But for the horrendous production, Lane’s “On The Beach,” a delightful tale about a young fellow who succeeds in hustling a beach honey in spite of his emaciation, would be a worthy successor to The First Step’s “Three Button Hand-Me-Down” as a great Faces drinking song. On his other entry, “Richmond,” the tiny bass-thumper delivers an unutterably charming shy vocal, but the track has an unfinished feel about it owing to an insufficiently developed arrangement.

“Bad ‘N’ Ruin” and “Had Me A Real Good Time” both rely a little too heavily on Larry Williams-ish riffs and Stax-ish rhythmic insistence and as a consequence wear poorly, impressing as rather tedious and perhaps even a trifle leaden by about tenth hearing. I personally am of the mind that both are insufficiently frenzied — both give the impression of intending to blow the roof off, but if so why do Faces jog when they should be sprinting in terms of tempo? Marriott, superman that he is, could have pulled it off at these relatively sedate speeds (the dubious are encouraged to examine many of the tracks on the last Small Faces album. The Autumn Stone, which just might be the definitive English rock and roll album). Stewart, whose voice (and range of expression) become increasingly thin when he pushes too hard, cannot.

The two live cuts, “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Feel So Good,” both compare less than terrifically well with the unspeakably dynamite live stuff on Autumn Stone (not to worry the point to death, but to emphasize that the work of Faces when they were The Small richly deserves your attention). On the former the group is content to faithfully recite the original arrangement, which act, in these dark days of Blood, Sweat & Tears, Keith Emerson, and every last punk teenage garage band having its Own Original Approach, is awfully refreshing. Here a monstro climax seems to be forewarned by the group’s stopping three-quarters of the way through only to pick up again, but it thankfully never materializes.

As for “Feel So Good,” its presence on the album indicates either that Faces are having trouble finding material or that they’ve got a wide self-indulgent streak, ’cause this here is almost nine minutes of stupifying bellowed De Blooze which, however good it made the live audience that had the pleasure of watching them swagger all over the stage and embracing one another like long-separated lovers in their characteristic way as they were playing it feel, it makes the listener feel bored and annoyed after about 30 seconds of appreciative amusement. Not only does Rod scream the ultimate wrong on-stage question, “Are you with me?” not once, but four times, but it’s also a shabby recording, with mostly only the crash cymbal audible from Kenny Jones’ drumkit.

OK, a couple of incidental comments that will hopefully put my feelings about this album and Faces Small and otherwise into some vague semblance of perspective: Magnificent musically (extra-musically he’s always magnificent) as he is most of the time, Stewart is not quite a match for the memory of Steve Marriott in the context of this particular band — it was definitely a major tragedy in the rock and roll cosmos when Marriott left Lane, Jones, and McLagan to join Humble Pie, who are notable only in their amazing ability to remain deathly horrid even with him in the group. Buy yourself Long Player for “Sweet Lady Mary” if you simply can’t wait for the forthcoming Rod Stewart album, but doncha dare go calling yourself a Faces fan on the strength of LP if you haven’t first experienced the unsurpassable ecstasy of The Autumn Stone.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Long Player | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix :Blues (1994)

zap_hendrix6From starling.rinet.ru

This is one of the more recent releases, but before the Hendrix family managed to wrestle control over his legacy from Alan Douglas and his company of greedy cash-craving sharks. Due to this sad state of affairs, most of these ‘releases’ over the years have been fairly unlistenable (poor live performances, lousy outtakes, mix-ups of previously released and unreleased stuff, etc.), and I’m pretty sure ninety-nine percent of this stuff will disappear over the next few years. So, while it still hasn’t, better go ahead and acquire this record with such a fairly modest title, ’cause it might be one of the few worthy items in the 1971-1996 Hendrix catalogue, with a solid track listing and at least a sense of unity.

Basically it’s just what the title says: a load of tracks with Jimi playin’ and singin’ the blues at various periods of his short career. Many of them have been available earlier on various rip-offs, but the album’s value lies in that it has no overlaps with the ‘standard’ catalogue reviewed above, so I felt free to treat it as a regular archive release rather than a compilation (which, frankly speaking, it is). I don’t have the re-issued booklet version, so I don’t know about the exact source of most of these performances, but then again, who really cares?

Not that the songs are really spectacular, of course: fans will love this for the incredible solos and further displaying of the man’s technique (as if they didn’t have enough proof already), but average Jimi lovers will probably just yawn and scratch their back. This record just isn’t able to disclose any surprises, if you know what I mean: one lengthy wankfest after another. Some are more inspired, some less, but it’s really hard to tell without sitting in and giving this a hard, hard listen. Blues is blues, and even if I’m not one hundred percent sure about Jimi’s songwriting genius, it’s obvious that an album like Blues can’t even come close to reveal it; neither does it reveal his talents as arranger or gimmick-producer. This is strictly Jimi the guitar player, Jimi the soloist. You’ve been warned.

Nevertheless, the performances certainly could have been worse; many of the long jams are played at the utmost level of inspiration, some even achieving that inhumane brilliancy Jimi displayed at Woodstock. The standout tracks for me are as follows. First, there’s a great acoustic version of ‘Hear My Train A-Comin” which is a rare thing by itself, because, you get me, you don’t often hear Jimi plucking an acoustic. I mean, his playing on here is anything but spectacular, but, on the other side, it’s typically Hendrix, and he does feel at home with the instrument, and of course nobody played that guitar like that. The strange improvisatory piece ‘Jelly 292’ is memorable for its peculiar boogie-woogie riff, and the solos on the instrumental ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and ‘Catfish Blues’ are terrific. Likewise, a major highlight is ‘Voodoo Chile Blues’ – for me, this version is far, far more crunchy and ecstatic than the rather boring original fourteen-minute version of the song on Electric Ladyland. Jimi sounds far less restrained here, playing at full volume and speed – turn your volume up loud and cover your ears as the walls crumble into dust all around you and the voodoo chile steps up to the skies! It really is hard for me to understand how come nobody, not a single guitar player on Earth, not Robin Trower, not Eddie Van Halen, nobody could play like that after Hendrix. It’s so simple! Only thing you have to do is to imagine your guitar is a vital organ of your body, not an alien ‘musical instrument’. Turns out it’s not so simple after all.

The rest of the album, though, just falls into background music category. If you already know what to expect from Hendrix, you won’t be shocked. Personally, I even find it problematic to sit through two versions of ‘Red House’ and the electric, twelve-minute jam on the same ‘Hear My Train A-Comin’. If you don’t have that problem, good for you; but for me, if I hear a long Hendrix jam, I know that it must be of the utmost quality to be satisfying – considering how many superior Hendrix jams there are in existence. The darn album is seventy minutes long! And it’s, just, well, you know… bluesy guitar solos. You should be careful with that kind of things. On the other hand, I can’t accuse the record of inadequacy: it says Blues, and basically you get what you pay for.

I mean, I do admit that the man’s playing is awesome, he’s a friggin’ genius indeed. I do envy people who get carried away with every single solo he ever put out, but me, I can only follow their example in exceptional cases. For me, a lot of Jimi’s playing still lacks emotion. He’s certainly more on the technical side, and I’m not the one who says that it all depends on how fast and fluently you can play. But maybe I’m just a dumbass. Whatever. Anyway, the record is a must for you if you really want to test your love for Jimi. Here he won’t even bug you with crazy feedback experiments or psychedelic motives. He just stands and wails on his guitar for a bloody seventy plus minutes. If, after having listened to this all the way through, you’ll prefer putting it on again immediately, call yourself a true Hendrix aficionado and prepare for a visit to your local psychoanalyst.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix :Blues | | Leave a comment

The Faces Ooh La La (1973)

zap_faces1From starling.rinet.ru

This was the Faces’ fourth and last studio album, and there’s not even a single sign of artistic growth or anything like that. Like, you know, it’s just a standard Faces record: a bunch of clumsy, erratic, homemade rockers and a bunch of similar-style ballads, and all of this sounds as if they wrote, arranged, recorded and produced the whole record in a pub between endless mugs ‘o beer and more serious stuff. No drugs, though. Definitely no signs of drug addiction here. Just booze.

Personally, I would prefer listening to contemporary Rod Stewart albums – they’re just a wee bit more sensitive, and certainly more carefully arranged. On Ooh La La, you’ll never find no pretty mandolins or weird congo beats, and, what’s more important, you won’t find such a diversity of style or such heartfelt confessions as can be found on the best Stewart albums. On the other hand, one thing that can be said in favour of the Faces is that this album rocks the house down. Well, at least in parts. The record seems to be strangely divided into a ‘harder’ and a ‘softer’ side (a trick that Stewart later employed on his post-Wood solo albums, though with far lesser efficiency), and the first side boogies along with much more crunch than ninety-nie percent of anything Rod ever recorded solo: from the ridiculous, exciting power chords of ‘Silicone Grown’ to the aggressive thunderstorm of ‘Borstal Boys’, you’re just gonna get it.

However, it is not the hard rock of the Zeppelin-ish type, nor is it hard rock of the Stones-ish type. The Faces, and their notorious guitarist Ronnie Wood in particular, were far worse trained to match the technical precision of Led Zep, and they were far less inspired songwriters to ever hope to match the impeccable riffs of Keith Richards. Instead, they just put their hopes on spontaneity – you know, stuff a riff here, cross it with another riff there, deafen the audience by booming, crashing drums (Kenney Jones shines throughout, particularly on ‘Borstal Boys’), toss off a smutty lyric now and then, and boogie on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the question here is really whether you might enjoy music made-on-the-spot or prefer a more accurate approach to songwriting. Me, I have nothing against both approaches, so I’m just as happy with Ooh La La as with my trusty Sticky Fingers.

No, no, of course, I’m joking. How could you ever believe that I’m really able to throw these two together? Sticky Fingers is, and will always be, an absolute classic, a cult favourite, while Ooh La La is just a stupid throwaway. But it is an exciting throwaway, at least. First of all, the boys really give it their all: Rod Stewart shouts at the top of his lungs, Ronnie neglects careful playing in favour of loudness, aggression, and distortion on some tracks and in favour of simplistic, but catchy riffing on the others, and Kenney thumps and bashes just as well as Mick Waller thumped and bashed on Stewart solo albums. And Ian McLagan adds some delicious boogie piano chords in the best traditions of Ian Stewart. Anyway, the first side here is all a massive load of fun. ‘Silicone Grown’ tackles delicate matters of teenage pregnancy and, well, silicone, and the driving guitar is so powerful and enthralling that you end up not noticing the song’s total lack of melody.

Then there’s the folk-rocker ‘Cindy Incidentally’ where the guys innocently steal the melody of Dylan’s ‘I Don’t Believe You’. Which actually means that you could be angry at them for ripping off Dylan, but which also means the song is thoroughly enjoyable. Just forget the insincere ‘Wood/Stewart/McLagan’ credits and pretend they’re doing a cover of Dylan, and things will be all right: we all know, don’t we, that Rod Stewart is one of the best Dylan imitators? ‘Flags And Banners’ is somewhat short and strangely confessional. It’s also sung by Ronnie Lane, but that’s okay, he doesn’t ruin this particular number, their most Byrds-ey tune on the album. ‘My Fault’ has an amusing, chugging melody emphasized by Kenney’s war-style drumming, and do not forget, repeat, do not forget, that the song contains the lines that pretty much summarize the entire Faces career: ‘If I have to fall on my head/Every night on the week/It’s gonna be my fault, no one else’.

Of course, the honour of being the fastest, the most pumpin’, most energetic, aggressive, spit-fire garage rocker on the album falls to the Faces’ copyright version of ‘Jailhouse Rock’, the wonderful ‘Borstal Boys’. Lyrically, it’s somewhat more philosophic and certainly much more social-critique-oriented than ‘Jailhouse Rock’, but who cares? Again, where’s the melody? The verses start out fine, in the finest R’n’B traditions, but the refrain sounds as if Rod just keeps forgetting the words and stutters every bit of nonsense (‘call out your number, who’s a nonconformer, not me babe’) that gets into his head. But why worry when this is some of the best chemistry that good ol’-style rock’n’roll can present you? A rip-off it is, but I wish modern bands could make a rip-off that good.

Now the second side is just not that interesting for me. Apart from one hard-rock instrumental, the pointless ‘Fly In The Ointment’ (starts off fine, with a naggin’ little riff and some good guitarwork, but soon becomes an unbearable noisy mess), it’s all stuffed with Ronnie Lane ballads which are probably okay, but not special. At least the ‘hard’ side is saved by the boys’ drunken, heated-up energy level: these ballads don’t seem to preserve the energy (well, ballads aren’t supposed to, are they), but they don’t compensate with beautiful melodies, either. Okay, ‘If I’m On The Late Side’ at least has some touching lyrics, and there’s a beat that’s supposed to remind us of similar (and superior) Stewart efforts, but ‘Glad And Sorry’ just plain sucks, a bunch of sentimental piano chords backed with feeble vocals. And, of course, there’s the famous title track where Lane tells us about his women problems: it’s good, and I suppose it can even be moving, in a rather perverse way, but a classic it ain’t, just because the melody is so raw and plain unelaborated.

In fact, after listening to this record it’s easy to understand why the Faces seem to have been completely forgotten over the years. It’s good, but it’s so inessential and unsubstantial that I don’t see anybody but crazy collectors (like your humble servant) rushing out fists first to buy it. And yet, there is some definite charm here which can’t be replicated on any other record. Admit it – what other band is able to achieve so much with so few? And don’t forget that, even though most of the (hell, all of the) Rolling Stones Seventies’ albums are superior to this, Ooh La La is at least not just a piece of product – like It’s Only Rock’n’Roll or Some Girls.

It all comes straight from the heart of your average snotty rock’n’roll guy. And man! What am I talking about? It has Rod Stewart singing on it and Ronnie Wood playing on it! Go out, get out of your cozy chair and buy this, buy this now before it goes out of print and into the archives!

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Ooh La La | | Leave a comment

The Who Live At Hull 1970

imagesCAOSK12WFrom thefirenote.blogspot.co.uk

Originally released as part of the Deluxe Edition of Live at Leeds in 2010, The Who-Live at Hull 1970, has finally been given its own standalone release! Recorded the night after Leeds, February 15th 1970, the Hull show stands on its own as a powerful testament to the ferocity of the Who at the absolute peak of their powers.

In fact, if Hull had been released instead of Leeds, this would easily be considered one of the finest live albums of its era. However, due to problems with the recordings, this was never going to happen. John Entwhistle’s bass tracks were somehow not recorded on the first six songs of the night. Thankfully due to the fact that the setlist was virtually the same, and the performances were nearly identical, using modern technology, the producer was able to “airlift” in his bass tracks from the night before, and mesh them perfectly with the rest of the tracks. I never would have known this if it wasn’t in the liner notes, it sounds perfect.

I’m not going to dissect the music too much, odds are good if you’ve gotten this far, you know the songs and are familiar with Live at Leeds enough to be curious about this new Live at Hull. Instead, I want to talk about what makes this different and nearly as essential as Leeds, and why you need it.

The most startling difference between Hull and Leeds is the drum work of the late great Keith Moon. For me personally, his drumming was always the highlight of Leeds. He is up front and center in the mix once again, almost as the lead instrument. What’s really interesting is that the fills he plays are completely different than they were only the night before. He is all over his kit, and at points you can hear his sticks hitting the mics as he is going ballistic. For me, the differences in Moon’s playing alone make this worth owning.

The energy of the crowd is different, they are a bit more low key, and though it doesn’t affect The Who’s playing, it does affect their between song banter. They move from song to song without much dialogue. It’s BAM BAM BAM, hit after hit, whereas on Leeds, Pete Townshend was very talkative with the crowd.

There are two big differences on disc one musically, first, the band didn’t end the set with “Magic Bus”, which by all accounts was rarely played, so many think it was a reward to the wild crowd at Leeds, and two, “Shakin’ All Over” breaks down into the classic blues jam, Spoonful, in the middle, before coming back at the end. Other than that, the highlights are the same, a smoking version of “A Quick One While He’s Away”, The hit trio of “Substitute”, “Happy Jack”, and “I’m a Boy”, and the smoking 16 minute version of “My Generation”. All of disc two is devoted to a live rendition of Tommy. Tommy is where Roger Daltry’s pipes really shine. His voice is in excellent form here, and this is really his showcase.

If you’re as big a fan of that album as I am, you need to hear this. It’s remarkable that these four guys can pull off a piece this complex in a rock concert setting and not lose any of the energy of their live show. They really nail it, particularly with “Overture”, “Amazing Journey”, “Sparks” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

This is a great sounding live album, every bit the equal to Leeds in fidelity, and far superior to the Isle of Wight performance from later in the year in every way imaginable. I can’t recommend this album enough, to both diehard Who fans who are already familiar with this material, and particularly to newcomers, who really have no idea of the transcendent rock experience this set has to offer. Go check this out now!

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Who Live At Hull 1970 | | 1 Comment

The Who Who’s Next [Deluxe Edition]

untitledFrom musicbox-online.com

After decades of work, Pete Townshend independently released The Lifehouse Chronicles through his website in 1999. The package was a six-CD set that documented his efforts to craft a sci-fi rock opera that was intended to outshine Tommy. Over the years Townshend has revealed the amazing scope of this unwieldy project: It was to include a feature film, a concept album, and a concert performance — all tied together via a quadrophonic, audience immersion experience with the ultimate goal of showing how rock ’n‘ roll one day would save the world from ruin. (For more on this, see Who’s Next’s terrific liner notes by John Atkins, which explains the project in great detail).

There were many starts and stops along the way for Townshend, and he’s yet to realize fully his original objective. In the meantime, the songs were incorporated into several albums by The Who, most notably the classic Who’s Next. This legendary set proved to be one of the band’s better outings — some would argue that it’s the best — and as a testament to its endurance, the collection’s nine songs all continue to be staples of classic rock radio, an incredible 32 years after the fact. Since the advent of digital music, Who’s Next has been issued and reissued several times, but at long last, it has been given its proper treatment via a two-CD deluxe package that features the remastered album, selections from the original New York City recording sessions that were eventually scrapped, and a plethora of songs from a invitation-only concert held in April 1971.

The Original Album

Yes, Who’s Next has been remastered before, and that edition was a huge improvement over the original CD release of this legendary album. No matter which rendering of Who’s Next one happens to own, however, it just can’t compare to this latest outing. Unlike the previous versions, the deluxe package was remastered from the original master tapes, and the sound quality is absolutely stunning. Crisp and clean, yet rich and resonant, the album no longer sounds muddled, nor does it sound digitally sterile.

That’s a good thing, too, because Who’s Next is the studio album that best captures The Who’s concert sound. No, it’s not quite as rough and raw as it could be as there is quite a bit of studio polish contained herein. But the sheen tends to augment rather than diminish the potent assault that The Who was able to unleash in a live setting. That’s never been more clear than on this deluxe release. There’s Keith Moon crashing, bashing, and thrashing his drum kit to kingdom come; John Entwistle shooting off brightly bounding bass runs that take the lead rather than offer mere rhythmic support; Pete Townshend churning out windmill chords and blazing guitar licks with wild abandon; and Roger Daltrey singing far better than he ever did before.

For all its ambition, Tommy still found The Who toiling within a British Invasion blend of pop, blues, and psychedelia. Was it good? No doubt. But it was Who’s Next that found the band completely abandoning the styles of the ’60s to develop its own sound. At the time, Townshend had recently discovered synthesizers, and their groundbreaking usage forms the basis for many of the tracks on Who’s Next. Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again are the obvious examples, but the new technology also adorned other tunes such as Bargain and Goin’ Mobile. Add to this the ever-changing song dynamics — the subtleties of which are brought to bear full-force on the remastered deluxe edition — and Who’s Next suddenly springs to life after decades of the mind-numbing slow death bestowed upon it by classic rock radio.

The New York Record Plant Sessions

Tacked onto the end of the first CD in the deluxe edition of Who’s Next are six tracks taken from the original recording sessions held in New York City in mid-March 1971. Four of these were available as bonus tracks elsewhere, but each is given the same magnificent remastering treatment as the original album.

Getting in Tune — one of the two previously unreleased songs — is looser than the more familiar album version. The same is true of Won’t Get Fooled Again (the other previously unavailable track), which boasts a different synth loop. Both are terrific. Pure and Easy is one of those glorious songs penned by The Who that almost didn’t see the light of day. Excised from Who’s Next — one phrase is utilized in The Song Is Over — the tune first appeared on the Odds & Sods collection of outtakes. The version here is equally strong and fits in perfectly with the rest of Who’s Next, and damn, if it doesn’t sound as majestic as its title suggests it should. Baby Don’t You Do It is a monstrous jam on the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic, made famous by Marvin Gaye. Featuring Mountain’s Leslie West on lead guitar, this track positively smokes from start to finish. Love Ain’t for Keeping is the amped-up counterpart to the album version, and it winds up getting fairly raucous. Finally, Behind Blue Eyes finds Al Kooper sitting in on organ, adding a delicate underscoring to Townshend’s gentle acoustic strum and Daltrey’s vulnerably revealing vocals.

The Young Vic Concert

Live at Leeds was the first concert recording to be issued by The Who, and perhaps troubled by the inevitable comparisons — the collection is considered by many to be one of the finest live albums ever made — the band shied away from releasing documents of its performances. In recent years, however, that view has changed slightly: Live at Leeds has been expanded not once, but twice, and a nearly identical set list is featured on the equally strong Live at the Isle of Wight 1970. With its recent reissue, Who’s Next has been expanded to include a second disc of material — all of which was previously unavailable.

Taken from a show held on April 26, 1971 at London’s Young Vic Theatre before an audience that was specially invited to the event, the concert finds the band reveling in its new sound, roaming through country blues (Time Is Passing), introspective ballads (Behind Blue Eyes), and power chord anthems (Bargain). Indeed, the group focused heavily on the then-unfamiliar material, serving up five songs from Who’s Next as well as several that later appeared on theOdds & Sods set, though there were also a handful of already-classic concert staples included for good measure.

The sparks surely flew on Young Man Blues, but the first half of the set was primarily devoted towards building tension rather than releasing it. Song after song seemingly upped the ante, but during Getting in Tune, The Who took the title to heart, detonating a ferocious assault that continued for the duration of the show. Bargain was relentless, Water was savage and fierce, and My Generation was a three-minute meltdown of merciless mayhem. Just when one couldn’t imagine The Who having anything left to give, the group tore into Won’t Get Fooled Again with a vengeance.

In other words, fans seeking additional live material from The Who have reason to rejoice once again. Indeed, this isn’t simply the definitive collection of Who’s Next, it’s also an important document in the history of rock ’n‘ roll.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Who Who's Next | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin DVD (2003)

Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_(video)From blogcritics.org

The seventies had just ended, and being that I was a newly crowned teenager, I was just beginning to formulate my musical tastes. The old standbys on my turntable, such as Kiss, Aerosmith, and Ted Nugent, found themselves being replaced by more “deeper” bands such as Led Zeppelin, Rush, and Kansas. I remember hearing the entire Led Zeppelin II album, for the first time, during a hockey team party at the captain’s house. He had the ultimate stereo system, with the giant floor standing speakers, and when that powerful opening guitar riff from “Heartbreaker” shook the room, this was all it took for me. Zeppelin was now my religion.

When my hometown movie theater showed the just-released The Song Remains The Same concert movie, my best friend and I were the first ones in line. By then, we were already wanna-be guitarists and Jimmy Page disciples, so we were dizzy with anticipation to see our heroes on the big screen. The Song Remains The Same was shown in the “art” movie theater in town, which only had one giant screen and an awesome sound system. When the mighty Zeppelin stormed the Madison Square Garden stage that night, we were completely blown away. We were simply entranced by Jimmy Page’s coolness. The black magic wizard suite, the Gibson Les Paul slung down to his knees, the violin bow playing, the ZOSO symbol– the man was a God. We left that movie so spellbound that we both ran out and bought our first cheap electric guitars, the very next day. Mine was a used Les Paul knock-off, so I could play like Jimmy of course. I still have that guitar.

That was almost a quarter century ago and Led Zeppelin has remained one of my favorite bands. Their demise in 1979, because of John Bonham’s untimely death, was a tragedy. Oh, the things that could have been. As the only official document of the Led Zeppelin concert experience, at the time, The Song Remains The Same was a “must-have” for every fan, but was always somewhat unsatisfying. The Song Remains The Same concerts were not some of Zeppelin’s best performances, the song selections were not the best (and too few), and the concert footage was interrupted with annoying behind the scenes footage and fantasy sequences. I was resigned to the probability that this video was all we would ever get from Led Zeppelin, until a few years ago when the rumors of the new DVD project started to spread throughout the world. Lo-and-behold, the Led Zeppelin DVD was finally born, and thankfully it has exceeded most of our expectations.

Led Zeppelin DVD is a mammoth package featuring over five hours of material on two disks. The primary concert footage is taken from four separate shows at The Royal Albert Hall, Madison Square Garden, Earls Court, and Knebworth, and span nearly ten years. The Royal Albert Hall show is the earliest of the bunch, recorded in 1970, only months after releasing the Led Zeppelin II album, and they were already on their way to reaching superstar status. This show reminded me of when they showed Spinal Tap during their early, pre-heavy-metal-band TV performances when they still had short hair and wore cardigan sweaters. It wasn’t quite that funny though. Jimmy wasn’t yet wearing his trademark black, dragon-embroidered, bellbottoms and matching vest, but was dressed in some gay looking checkered sweater-vest. It was just very un-rock-star looking. He and Plant’s best mutton-chop sideburn contest was also pretty amusing. On the other hand, the music was incredible, and that is what matters the most.

The fantastic restoration of this early film footage is miraculous. The audio quality is better than most new DVDs currently being released. Hearing Jimmy’s bow playing jump from speaker to speaker during the phenomenal performance of “Dazed and Confused”, sent chills down my spine. Some of Zeppelin’s songs take a very different form live, and “How ManyMore Times” turned into an awesome extended jam during this particularshow. Jimmy’s guitar playing is so sloppy at times it made me cringe, butseconds later he would turn around and play something that makes your jaw hitthe floor. The sloppiness is just more noticeable now in the days of Vai,Satriani, and Petrucci, but then again how many of their riffs can you hum offthe top of your head, compared to Jimmy’s guitar riff encyclopedia. “Moby Dick” featured a 21 year old John Bonham performing his incredible drum solo, using both his hands and his drumsticks. The surround mix was especially effective during this song as different drums and cymbals emanated from different speakers and totally enveloped you. John Paul Jones was always the secret weapon for Led Zeppelin. He never received the notoriety or praise as the other three members, but he was probably the most accomplished musician of the three. His bass playing throughout this DVD was staggering, and the later shows will feature more of his keyboard and mandolin prowess as well. The middle section of “Communications Breakdown” had an extended blues jam that featured Jones’ impressive bass playing. Right down to the final smoking version of “How Many More Times”, featuring Plant wailing on the harmonica, the entire show was mesmerizing.

The 1973 Madison Square Garden songs were taken from previously unseen and restored footage from The Song Remains The Same movie. From the opening moments of “Black Dog” you get a sense of how much the band has changed in the three years since The Royal Albert Hall shows. They now exude that swagger of being the number one rock and roll band in the world. Jimmy is all decked out in his trademark concert attire, extra long hair, Les Paul slung way too low, and that constant look of ecstasy on his face as he rips through those legendary solos. The guy couldn’t have weighed more than a buck-o-five, thanks to a steady diet of Jack Daniels, heroin and sexual decadence. It’s miraculous the guy lived through the seventies. There were only four songs featured from this concert and they were all fantastic–finally a complete version of “Black Dog”. John Paul showed off his keyboard skills during one of my favorite Zep IV tunes, “Misty MountainHop”. He and Bonham locked into a monster groove throughout the song,demonstrating why they were the best rhythm section in rock back then. “The Ocean”! Holy shit this song RIPPED. “Laaa Laaa – La La La Laa – Laa La La La La La La La Laaaaaa”. Enough Said!

The 1975 Earls Court footage delved mostly into the acoustic, folk-rock side of Led Zeppelin. This side of the band is what separated them from the other blues-rock supergroups of the day. When they followed up the heavy-metal, riff-rock assault of Led Zeppelin II, with the acoustic-folk dominated Led Zeppelin III, people were dumbfounded. Page finger-picking an acoustic and using weird alternate tunings? Jones playing the mandolin? What the hell was going on? They were showing off their diverse musical influences and shoving them right in our faces, is what they were doing, and Earls Court highlights these moments in glorious detail. The first half of the show featured the band seated in chairs running through excellent versions of “Going To California”, “That’s The Way”, and “Bron Yr Aur Stomp”, which featured Jones on themandolin, and Page on the acoustic guitar. Plant was singing better than everhere. By now, the ultimate double album, “Physical Graffiti”, had been released and Zeppelin paid tribute with rousing performances of “In My Time Of Dying” and “Trampled Underfoot”. What a contrast from the acoustic set! Bonham’s thunderous drumming really shined on these two songs, and Jones carried “Trampled Underfoot” with his unique and powerful organ riffs. This incredible set was fittingly closed with a great performance of “Stairway To Heaven”. Page actually nailed his famous guitar solo, which is kinda rare for him, before following with some nice improvisation. This epic masterpiece just never gets tiring. They must have sold their souls to the devil to get handed that song.

The 1979 Knebworth footage is from the last live concert performance Zeppelin ever did. This makes it the most special part of the DVD for me. They tear through some of their newer material from the Presence and In Through The Out Door albums, which demonstrate how much they have evolved in just a few years. “Achilles Last Stand” was a thunderous rock and roll assault, and Page was notably in the zone during that song. This was his best performance of the entire DVD. (Dream Theater plays a great cover of “Achilles” on their Change Of Seasons CD – check it out). “In the Evening” was powerful. I always wondered how Page got the guitar sound on that song, and now I know. He yanks the shit out of the whammy bar throughout the entire song. Theyclosed with rousing version of “Whole Lotta Love”, which after three sweat-soaked hours, dazzling the 300,000 fans into the wee hours of the morning, had morphed into a funky improvised jam.

Jimmy Page and the people who helped him restore, remaster, and produce this masterpiece deserve an award. The restoration quality of these 1970’s, 16mm film segments is miraculous. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 surround mixes were even more astounding. They literally blow away many of the new DVD concerts, which were recorded and produced THIS CENTURY! I have focused primarily on the four main concert performance in this review, but this DVD package also contains tons of other footage including performances on French, Danish, and British TV shows in 1969. There is also a version of “Immigrant Song” that was a digitized mix of two separate performances in 1972. This should have been left off the DVD. Sure there were a few other things to complain about. Sometimes, the footage goes into still shots, or slow motion shots, or speeds up, and other annoying camera tricks were used, but this was done very sparingly and was not a major distraction. I will definitely not fault them for putting out ALL of the footage they could find on the DVD.

I only wish there were more.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin DVD | , | Leave a comment