Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Jeff Beck Wired (1976)

jeff%20beck%20wiredFrom Rolling Stone

Jazz-rock fusion music has had no greater exponent than Jeff Beck, whose latest album, Wired, demonstrates how vital this genre can be. Even more important, Wired presents Beck in a context that finally satisfies both his uncompromising musical standards and commercial necessity.

Beck’s first group, the Yardbirds, was the most inventive of the early Sixties British blues bands and is now credited with producing three of the most important electric guitarists of the past ten years — Eric Clapton, Beck and Jimmy Page. Both Clapton (with Cream) and Page (with Led Zeppelin) became famous after leaving the Yardbirds.

But Beck remained a relatively obscure figure. This despite the fact that the hits following “I’m a Man” — “For Your Love,” “Shapes of Things,” “Over Under Sideways Down,” “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” — were all powered by his brilliantly manic lead guitar. In comparison, Clapton was an extremely conservative stylist and Page, merely a technician. But Beck’s guitar work was visionary: “Shapes of Things” shows his mastery over raga-style guitar solos and multitracking, ideas which were in their infancy at the time.

Beck experimented with blues progressions, using feedback and other distortion techniques to push the electric guitar’s expressive capabilities into new areas, as well as developing rock and R&B styles along the same lines.

After leaving the Yardbirds, Beck made a classic solo album, Truth, with a band which included Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. Page, meanwhile, formed his own band, Led Zeppelin, whose music was a variation on Beck’s concept (compare the versions of “You Shook Me” on Truth and the first Zeppelin album). He returned two years later with a jazz-accented R&B outfit based around keyboardist Max Middleton and singer Bob Tench.

Their two albums featured a lighter, more progressive guitar style. But Beck was still not satisfied and tried a brief, disastrous fling into heavy metal with the ex-Vanilla Fudge/Cactus rhythm section of bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice.

Last year, producer George Martin reunited Beck and Middleton for their greatest collaboration, Blow by Blow, which became Beck’s best-selling solo album and established him firmly in the jazz-rock hierarchy. But Beck was only developing ideas he’d been playing with for years.

On Wired, Beck invites a direct and favorable comparison with John McLaughlin (with whom he toured last year) by collaborating with ex-Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer and his band. Martin didn’t score any of the horn arrangements because Hammer’s synthesizer fills all those spaces, but the album is better recorded and has a much fuller sound than Blow by Blow. Middleton’s contribution is still essential — his one song, “Led Boots,” opens the album at its hottest pace and it’s definitely enhanced by the interplay with Hammer’s keyboards and Beck’s guitar. Hammer’s synthesizers work from Middleton’s clavinet base, and Beck stitches runs in between.

Beck wrote no songs for this record in order to concentrate on his playing, but he dominates the album conceptually. You can tell “Head for Backstage Pass” is bassist Wilbur Bascomb’s song from the bass solo that kicks it off, but from there it’s all that Beck/Middleton Metal Motown Machine. Drummer Narada Michael Walden contributed four songs, three of which sound like they could have easily come from the Blow by Blow sessions. “Sophie” shows the distance between McLaughlin’s cerebral meandering and Beck’s incisive, witty compositional ability as the song moves from an introspective theme to an incredibly hard-edged exposition.

Hammer swings here in a sweating, unself-conscious ride of pure joy that needs no guru for inspiration. Hammer’s “duet” with Beck, “Blue Wind,” builds phased rhythm guitars against the tension of those slogging, perfectly imprecise drums into an anthem pitch with furious guitar-synthesizer solo duels overhead. Beck’s cover of the Charles Mingus ode to Lester Young, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” is an unlikely if not unappreciated inclusion that seems too understated to clock in as more than a tentative exploration of an already well-covered tune, but Beck’s soloing, as usual, carries it off with some bizarre phrasing and adventurous distortion.

Many of Beck’s older fans claim he’s toned down to play this music, but listening closely, you can hear all the fire and imagination that has characterized every phase of his career. Wired is the realization of a style Beck has been working toward for years, and should finally attract the recognition he deserves.

Fortunately, that just makes Beck hit back harder. On the stuttering “Stop, Look and Listen,” he rips into Rodgers’ grooves with violently distorted blues flourishes and air-raid-siren vibrato work. Beck clears the decks with a firestorm solo right at the start of “Gets Us All in the End,” then repeatedly butts into Baker’s dense arrangement with vengeful ingenuity. If there were a bit more Stewart-like grit in Jimmy Hall’s strong but anonymous lead vocals, the result could have been a real funk-metal Beck-Ola.

Nevertheless, Flash ranks as one of Beck’s best ever, a record of awesome guitar prowess and startling commercial daring. It is also irrefutable proof that his kind of flash never goes out of fashion.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Jeff Beck Wired | | Leave a comment

Genesis Archives Vol. 2: 1976-1992

Genesis Archive 2 - 1976-92 - 3 CD Longbox 1From dailyvault.com

Picking up where the first Genesis Archive set left off, this box set covers the pop-oriented years of the band, the period where Phil Collins took over as lead singer and the band moved away from its art rock roots and into platinum success.

Much like the first set, this one includes live tracks, B-sides, and rarities; unlike the first, it includes remixes and is shortened to three discs. This release rounds up most of the stray tracks from this era, such as most of the studio songs on the original version of Three Sides Live (sans “Me And Virgil”) and two of the three songs from the Spot The Pigeon EP (leaving off “Match Of The Day”), plus pretty much every studio song recorded in this time frame but never released.

Most, if not all, of these studio rarities have since been released on the 2007 box sets that remastered every Genesis album and added a bonus disc. For those unwilling to upgrade their entire CD library to those sets, or who want all of these tracks in one convenient place plus some live souvenirs and dance remixes, this set fits the bill.

Many people discovered Genesis in the ‘80s through pop hits like “Invisible Touch,” “Misunderstanding,” “Abacab,” and “That’s All,” as well as 1992’s “I Can’t Dance” and “No Son Of Mine,” and much of the music is in the same style and spirit as those songs, a sort of art pop hybrid nearly devoid of guitars, lyrical depth, or the sense of adventure that characterized the Peter Gabriel era of the band. Those devoted to the Collins era will find something to love here, those devoted to Foxtrot will not be interested, and those who love all Genesis will probably find a few gems buried across these discs.

Disc one opens with “On The Shoreline” and “Hearts On Fire,” both of which should have appeared on We Can’t Dance and which would have strengthened that album (the latter was the B-side to “Jesus He Knows Me”). “You Might Recall” and “Paperlate” are leftovers from the
Abacab era that don’t go anywhere, while “Evidence Of Autumn” is a melancholy tune that would have fit in nicely with anything on Wind & Wuthering. The instrumentals “Submarine” and “Naminanu” are fine, if inconsequential.

A few wince-worthy reminders of how far Genesis fell from the days of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway are present on this disc, such as the banal “I’d Rather Be You,” the overlong instrumental “Do The Neurotic,” and “Feeding The Fire,” the latter two of which originally appeared on the “Land Of Confusion” single. Skip those and go to the forgotten gem “Inside And Out,” a story song about a freed prisoner trying to fit into society, told through lyrics and Steve Hackett’s acoustic guitar on the first half and through keyboard solos in the second half. This is one of Hackett’s few appearances on this set, and it is wonderful.

Disc two is a collection of live tracks that add little to the studio versions save for three exceptions, although this is pretty much universal among all Genesis live albums, as the band tends to play as close to the studio versions as possible (being songwriters first, this is understandable). As it would have been redundant to present the hits (which already appeared on Three Sides Live and both The Way We Walk sets), the selections here are album tracks like “Dreaming While You Sleep,” “Entangled,” “Deep In The Motherlode,” and “Duke’s Travels.”

The take on “Ripples” slows the tempo and accentuates the moody guitar solo, retaining its status as one of the best post-Gabriel Genesis songs, while “Your Own Special Way” is remade as a torch song, complete with a string section, lack of drums under the first chorus, and some of Collins’ best singing. The drummer also gets to have some fun with “Duke’s Travels,” which is an improvement on the studio version and a reminder of the band’s art-rock past, despite the synthesizer overkill.

Disc three starts with remixes of three big pop hits; if extended dance versions of “Land Of Confusion,” “Tonight Tonight Tonight,” and “Invisible Touch” sound appealing, you’re all set. A few more needless live tracks come next (although “The Lady Lies” is redeemed in this setting), and then things come full circle with stray studio tracks, although they are all pretty dull (save for the loopy “Pigeons”). The project closes with “Mama” presented as a work in progress, which is 11 minutes of the song’s electronic drum beat with various words, keyboard effects and such on top of it, obviously meant to show the different ideas that were created before the band picked their favorites and cut a final version. It’s interesting but hardly necessary.

The same can be said for Vol. 2 as a whole. The band’s songwriting took a turn for the simplistic and inessential during this time period, so hearing the songs that did not make the albums and live versions of those that did, plus the remixes, renders most of this pretty bland and unnecessary. If you love all Genesis and the Collins era in particular, or are looking to pick up the stray B-sides and rarities, this is for you, but for everyone else this can be skipped.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Genesis Archives Vol 2 1976-1992 | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971

Neil-Young-Live-At-Massey-Ha-491993From sfloman.com

The second live album released in Neil’s ongoing archive series, Live At Massey Hall 1971 is as excellent and essential as Live At The Fillmore East, and is that album’s polar opposite because this solo acoustic and piano performance shows Neil at his very best as a sensitive singer-songwriter whereas the prior full band effort focused on Neil the rampaging rocker.

Recorded in Toronto during his Journey Through The Past tour in between two of his most important and successful studio albums, Neil is treated by his enraptured audience like the hometown hero he is, though in truth the crowd applause probably should’ve been mixed down a bit since the hysteria seems oddly inappropriate given the intimacy of the performance. This is a nitpick, however, because on the whole the sound quality is superb, as Neil’s fragile high-pitched voice comes through crystal clear; I’m not sure if his voice has ever sounded better.

I can take or leave some of the between song banter, and I do miss the fuller fledged harmonies on some of the songs here, but the majority of these performances are first rate, and the song selection hits on most of his major songs (the biggest omissions are probably “Cinnamon Girl” and “Southern Man”) while being idiosyncratic enough (unsurprising for such a mercurial artist) to interest both casual and hardcore Neil Young fans (the latter of whom this release is more geared towards, naturally).

At the time of this performance, 8 out of the 18 songs here had yet to be released on a Neil Young album, including five from Harvest, which truth be told is somewhat diminished by this release, as the string-less versions of “A Man Needs A Maid” (with different lyrics here and done as a medley with “Heart Of Gold”) and “There’s a World” seem more fitting and are definite improvements. Elsewhere, Buffalo Springfield songs (“On The Way Home,” “I am a Child”) open and close the show, CSN&Y is represented by “Helpless” and “Ohio,” and less obvious selections come in the form of “Journey Through the Past,” “Love In Mind” (both later to appear on Time Fades Away), “See the Sky About to Rain” (later to appear on On The Beach), “Dance, Dance, Dance” (which had previously appeared on the self-titled Crazy Horse album), and “Bad Fog Of Loneliness,” which makes its first appearance on a Neil Young album here, though truth be told I can see why it hadn’t seen the light of day previously.

Elsewhere, stripped down acoustic renditions of “Cowgirl In the Sand” and “Down By The River” can’t compare to their electrified counterparts (that goes likewise for “Ohio”), but these are still good songs and these performances fit in naturally with the rest of the album. On the whole, though maybe it doesn’t offer anything new to the seasoned Neil Young fan, this was still a much welcome release because it reinforces what a terrific singer, songwriter, and performer Neil is, as the minimalist solo only approach works extremely well here.

Neil himself interestingly commented as follows: “This is the album that should have come out between After the Gold Rush and Harvest. David Briggs, my producer, was adamant that this should be the record, but I was very excited about the takes we got on Harvest, and wanted Harvest out. David disagreed. As I listen to this today, I can see why.”

Note: This album is also included as part of his The Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972 9-cd box set released in 2009.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Live At Massey Hall 1971 | | Leave a comment

Genesis Archives Vol. 1: 1967-1975

28qqeqxFrom progreviews.com

The announcement of the first volume of the ‘Genesis Archive’ box-sets was received with something approaching euphoria by many old-school Genesis fans, as it promised much unreleased live material from the hallowed Peter Gabriel era of the band. It seems bizarre that such a massively popular period had only one live release- 1973′s ‘Genesis Live’, released at the time as a budget album in the first place- when a lot of the reputation the band had was due to their live performances. As such, it’s easy to understand why so many fans went mad for this release.

‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ is often regarded by the rock media as being the finest album that the band recorded. However, this reputation doesn’t seem to have been based on the reception it got on its original release. Its length and the fact that the band played the whole thing through every night of the live tour meant that it got a frosty reception at the time.

The first 2 discs present a full live performance of this magnum opus recorded at the LA Shrine on the 24th January 1975. Thankfully, it seems to be a terrific night, with the band firing on all cylinders musically speaking. The biggest problem, though, is that Peter Gabriel overdubbed almost all of the vocals on this set. The casual listener may not notice but to the die-hard fan, there is a clear difference between his vocals of 1975 and his vocals in the 1990s, as you would expect. Somewhat bafflingly, the final track ‘It’ is sourced from the original studio version with new vocals as it is claimed that this track was not recorded. This will come as a surprise to those fans who, um, are ‘aware’ of the untreated recordings from this show that do feature ‘It’. Still, the other overdubs are not intrusive and there is obviously a massive difference in quality when you compare this to the murky bootlegs.

The first 5 tracks of 3rd disc provide a suitable bridge between ‘Genesis Live’ and the live recording of ‘The Lamb Lies on Broadway’ – recorded at The Rainbow Theatre in London about 6 months after ‘Live’ had been recorded in Leeds, and featuring tracks from the then new ‘Selling England’ album, they showcase Genesis at their most confident and powerful; these tracks also show Genesis’s lighter side, with the humorous banter between Gabriel & Collins – and finally, we have a live version of ‘Supper’s Ready’ with Gabriel at the helm!

The last 4 tracks on disc 3 are alternate takes of old favorites, and very welcome to hear – especially the version of ‘Twilight Alehouse’, formerly (I believe) only available as the B side of ‘I know what I like’, yet it had been a staple of the live set since the very early days.

Then there’s the 4th disc. For reasons unknown, this set was arranged so that the discs go gradually backwards chronologically. So, you remember that first Genesis album? The one no one ever talks about, and only the really fanatical band devotees claim to like? This disc is jam packed with live and demo versions of the songs from that album, plus other long-lost songs from early in the band’s career. There are also some songs from that album in rough mixes without the orchestral arrangements. The band sounds still very “inmature”, but with some good quality. Some songs are naive, really, but still good. The BBC recordings from 1970: some of them are very good, like “Sheperd” (with Banks sharing lead vocals with Gabriel; Banks sang very well) and “Pacidy”.

If you are a Gabriel-era Genesis freak, here’s your ultimate chance to expand your collection even further with this fantastic and unique box-set.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Genesis Archives Vol 1 1967-1975 | | Leave a comment

Neil Young After The Goldrush (1970)

image_813From Rolling Stone

Neil Young devotees will probably spend the next few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that After The Gold Rush is good music. But they’ll be kidding themselves. For despite the fact that the album contains some potentially first rate material, none of the songs here rise above the uniformly dull surface.

In my listening, the problem appears to be that most of this music was simply not ready to be recorded at the time of the sessions. It needed time to mature. On the album the band never really gets behind the songs and Young himself has trouble singing many of them. Set before the buying public before it was done, this pie is only half-baked.

“Southern Man” is a good example. As a composition, it is possibly one of the best things Neil Young has ever written. In recent appearances with Crosby, Stills and Nash, the piece has had an overwhelmingly powerful impact on audiences. But the recording of “Southern Man” on After The Gold Rush fulfills very little of this promise. By today’s standards, the ensemble playing is sloppy and disconnected.

The piano, bass and drums search for each other like lovers lost in the sand dunes, but although they see each others’ footprints now and then, they never really come together. Young tries to recover the dynamics of the piece with his voice alone, but can’t quite make it: On this and the other really interesting tunes on the album — “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” and “I Believe In You” — the listener hears only a faint whisper of what the song will become.

Another disturbing characteristic of the record, oddly enough, is Young’s voice. In his best work Young’s singing contains genuine elements of pathos, darkness and mystery. If Kafka’s story “The Hunger Artist” could be made into an opera, I would want Neil Young to sing the title role. But on this album this intonation often sounds like pre-adolescent whining. The song “After The Gold Rush,” for instance, reminds one of nothing so much as Mrs. Miller moaning and wheezing her way through “I’m A Lonely Little Petunia In An Onion Patch.”

Apparently no one bothered to tell Neil Young that he was singing a half octave above his highest acceptable range. At that point his pathos becomes an irritating bathos. I can’t listen to it at all.

There are thousands of persons in this country who will buy and enjoy this record. More power to them, I suppose. But for me the test of an album is whether or not its quality is such that it allows you to grow into it a little more with each subsequent listening. And I find none of that quality here.

To the 70 or 80 people who wrote to Rolling Stone in total rage that I could be anything but 100% delighted with Deja Vu, I will simply say: this record picks up where Deja Vu leaves off.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young After The Goldrush | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Live At The Fillmore East (1970)

neil-young-crazy-horse-live-at-the-fillmore-east-200g-vinyl-lp-122-pFrom sputnikmusic.com

While 1970 was a busy year for Neil Young, he found the time to squeeze in two dates at the Fillmore East with hard rock/country outfit Crazyhorse between touring and recording with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

His appearance at the Fillmore was divided into two segments. One night he played solo, accompanying himself with only an acoustic guitar but don’t look for that here. In this album, he straps on the Les Paul and joins Crazyhorse onstage for a night of hard-rocking, twelve minute songs. Dueling distorted guitar solos with Crazyhorse guitarist Danny Whitten, Young cranks up the gain and let’s loose some of his best material. From the brief “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” to the sixteen-minute “Cowgirl in the Sand,” Young shows that one note never sounded so good.

The album kicks off with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, a catchy song about escaping the norm of everyday life and boredom. Whitten and Young share vocals on this song, the guitar work is great, no solo, but there will be plenty to come. Overall, a solid opener to a great album.

Next up is Winterlong, which features great lyrics, like the last song, if just a little sappy. The solo, which mainly follows the vocal melody, isn’t all that spectacular, but still sounds good. At about the 2:20 mark in the song, there’s a little chord progression that sounds out of place, but that’s about as sloppy as they get on this album, even with all the improvisational solos on Cowgirl in the Sand. A good song, if a little repetitive.

Down by the River follows, the crowd cheers after the first chord as this is one of Young’s best, and most recognizable songs. Already a lengthy song in the first place, Down by the River is extended by a couple of minutes as Young and Whitten both add extra improvisations to their solos. While it doesn’t feature Young’s most imaginative lyrics, around the two minute mark, Young embarks on one of his trademark idiosyncratic solos, unintentionally giving birth to grunge in the process. After a couple of minutes, Whitten joins him for a bit then the band kicks into another verse. After the song’s signature refrain: Down by the River/I shot my baby, Young and Whitten embark on a journey into the far reaches of one-note solo paradise. The guitar interplay is fantastic on this song. Probably the second best song on this album and one of the best in Young’s repertoire.

The band turns down the distortion on Wonderin’, a new song (at the time.) The guitar is repetitive but the lyrics are catchy. If anything, the song is too short. It’s listed as over three and a half minutes but about a minute and a half of that is Neil Young talking about the next song and introducing Crazyhorse. From there they go into their next song Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown, which is the weakest song on the album. The guitar work is good but I’m not that huge of a fan of Danny Whitten’s voice, as Young only does background vocals on this song. But it also took me a while to listen to Neil Young’s voice so this could be my favorite song next week.

Cowgirl in the Sand is by far the best song on the album. Extended six minutes past its original length, this song literally kicks ass. The guitar interplay is phenomenal. It begins with a dueling guitar intro, before Young begins singing. After the first verse, Whitten provides the song’s signature riff and from there it’s solos galore, with Young and Whitten trading solos, doubling each others solos, and throwing down the dueling leads reminiscent of many southern rock bands to come. This song is a great closer to one of the best albums of the year.

In my opinion, Neil Young was at his best with Crazyhorse. No matter how many albums he makes solo or with different groups, I will always think his material with Crazyhorse will be his best and this album proves that. There’s two Neil Young’s, I like to call them Electric Neil and Acoustic Neil, if you’re a fan of Electric Neil, this album is essential, if you prefer Acoustic Neil, you still might want to buy this album, but don’t look for Heart of Gold or anything on here.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Live At The Fillmore East | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

EverybodyKnowsThisIsNowhereFrom sfloman.com

This classic second album was Neil Young’s first outing featuring his legendary backup band Crazy Horse (Danny Whitten; guitar, Billy Talbot; bass, John Molina; drums), who would appear sporadically throughout his long career, generally (and not coincidentally) on his finest albums.

This great album was a big step up in class that featured raw, ragged playing, particularly on the extended showpieces “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand,” two all-time great guitar epics that feature Young’s emotive voice and hypnotic, repetitively grinding guitars that have all the subtlety of a chainsaw. “Cinnamon Girl” is another instant classic (and perennial concert favorite) whose surreal, romantic lyrics are helped by fine harmony singing and more memorable riffs, while “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (one of Neil’s most underrated songs) features unforgettable “sha la las” come chorus time and typically crude guitar thrusts. The rest of the album features slower but still fine country styled songs showcasing Young’s world-weary voice and sincere lyrics.

Neil is aided by ex-girlfriend Robin Lane’s backing vocals on the slow, sad “Round And Round” (which drags a bit) and Bobby Notkoff’s mournful violin on the spare “Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets),” while the loping country folk of “The Losing End (When You’re On)” provides a pessimistic sing along. These songs proved that, more than just one of the all-time great guitar albums (which this certainly is), Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere was a winner all the way around.

That said, it is the two long songs that make this album so essential. “Down By The River” is a dark, violent song (“down by the river, I shot my baby!”), with evocative verses and an explosive sing along chorus that showcases the group’s underrated harmonies. I love the drum rolls in the chorus as well, but this song is all about its wild, distorted guitar. Neil uses repetition to build the intensity, and the band (who were not technically proficient musicians) play “by feel” rather than worrying about hitting all the right notes, as the album’s live, hard rocking ambiance was as far away from his debut as you could get.

Me, I’ll take raw, inspired primitivism over professional competence any day, and the legions of garage bands who later emulated this hugely influential album would likely agree. In fact, you could argue that Neil earned his “Godfather Of Grunge” nickname (not coined until after Nirvana broke in the early ’90s) right here, especially on “Cowgirl In The Sand,” whose brooding guitar magic and length (10:30) exceeded even “Down By The River” (9:13) (hmm, “Cinnamon Girl” and “Cowgirl In The Sand”…any wonder why Neil’s first marriage didn’t last long?). More evocative lyrics and a catchy chorus add to the experience, and you can almost feel Neil’s increasing confidence as a vocalist.

I can totally picture Neil and his mates losing themselves during this song’s incendiary instrumental breaks, which are awesome in their simple yet incredibly intense construction. Amazingly, legend has it that “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down By The River,” and “Cowgirl In The Sand” were written in a single day during which Neil was bedridden with a 103 degree fever (!), and Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere was the breakthrough album (top 30 U.S.) that established Neil as a first class composer and guitar hero.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Listen To This Eddie (LA Forum, June 21st 1977)

3ed1960fFrom themachinelist.blogspot.co.uk

First of six sold out nights at the Forum, and a great show. The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Kashmir and Achilles Last Stand are devastating and No Quarter is just the greatest version ever heard! John Bonham was introduced by Plant as “…the man who fought food poisoning and drunk Heineken…”.

A great show and not merely an opening night, but a great show in its own right. It also comes from the best audience recording ever! In fact the Millard tape sound so great Jimmy used the fragment on the official DVD!

The first show of the band’s six night stand at The Forum begins with a brief soundcheck as the crowd’s excitement builds to a frenzied peak. Following a shaky performance two nights earlier, Bonzo is back with a vengeance, thrashing at his drums in a frantic explosion of energy as The Song Remains the Same crashes into motion. The intense sonic assault doesn’t let up as the band launches into a ferocious Sick Again.

Page’s guitar cuts out briefly during the intro, causing a moment of confused hesitation at the beginning of the first verse. He shreds wildly through the guitar solos as Bonzo continues to pummel the crowd with his thunderous attack. A brutal performance, one of the best thus far. Nobody’s Fault But Mine is devastatingly heavy. Plant exclaims “oh Jimmy, excuse me!” as Page begins a blistering guitar solo. As the song ends, Plant tells the crowd “it is indeed a great pleasure to be back in California… it’s very hard to see the sun in a basement in New York.”

Page blazes through an excellent guitar solo during Over the Hills and Far Away. Since I’ve Been Loving You is an intense emotional drama. Plant is in top form, belting out each line with power and conviction. As the song ends, he announces “we’d like to welcome back to the world John Bonham, who had a terrible fit of food poisoning,” joking “he ate far too many rhinestones.” No Quarter is an epic journey.

A series of haunting theramin howls introduce Jones’s ominous piano solo, which includes hints of Your Time is Gonna Come. Page and Bonzo join in for an outstanding blues improvisation. The band is absolutely on fire during the fantastic guitar solo section, slowly building tension until everything erupts in an explosive climax, crashing down on the crowd in thunderous waves. Page shreds wildly during the song’s violent outro. An utterly devastating performance, one of the best ever.

Page blazes through the guitar solos during an excellent Ten Years Gone. Someone near the taper can be heard shouting “bring on Neil Young!” as the band prepares for the acoustic set. Going to California is beautiful. Plant hints at Gallows Pole before Black Country Woman. Page’s fingers dance across the fretboard during White Summer/Black Mountain Side. Kashmir is incredibly powerful. Jones’s droning keyboard symphony washes over the crowd as the band defiantly marches into battle. A crushing performance.

There is a long pause before Over the Top, during which Plant pokes fun at Bonzo as he tries to fix a problem with his drum kit. The crowd goes wild as Page begins Heartbreaker. His fingers tear across the fretboard in a furious cascade of notes during the blistering guitar solo.

Shouts of “hey asshole, play some music!” and “we’ve had the guitar lessons!” can be heard coming from the crowd during a particularly lengthy experimental guitar solo. The band hammers through a violently aggressive Achilles Last Stand at a frantic pace. Plant tells the crowd “it’s sort of a high point of the whole tour to be back here” before Stairway to Heaven. Bonzo thrashes wildly at anything within reach as Page shreds through an explosive guitar solo. Plant pushes his voice to the limit during the final verse. Whole Lotta Love is preceded by a heavy a cappella intro from Page with hints of Communication Breakdown thrown in.

The band closes the show with a riotous Rock and Roll. As the song ends, Plant announces “it’s like a good woman, goodnight!” An unbelievable performance, one of the best ever. Must hear.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Listen To This Eddie | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door (1979)

In+Through+the+Out+Door+HQ+png+imageFrom sfloman.com

The three year lapse between releases was caused in large part because Robert Plant received the call that no father should ever get: his young son Karac had died suddenly from a respiratory infection while he was away on tour. Released after Plant had taken the required time to regroup, In Through The Out Door was a significant departure from anything that had come before it. More than any other Zeppelin album this one belongs to John Paul Jones, who co-wrote all but one song here (the worst one), and whose synthesizer/piano parts are all over the place (if Presence could’ve used more keyboards for variety’s sake, this album could’ve used less).

Part of the reason for that was that Page was hooked on heroin and not as his best, so Jones stepped up to fill that void. The album begins with the eerie effects and powerful guitar swirls of “In The Evening,” the album’s best song which brings back the droning Eastern mysticism (Page breaking out his violin bow again) of past triumphs and contains a cocksure, strutting Plant vocal that confidently told the punk pretenders – who had cropped up in the band’s absence and who were supposed to render older rockers such as Led Zeppelin irrelevant – who was still boss. This fact was reinforced when not only this album went straight to #1, but when the band’s entire back catalog was simultaneously in the U.S. top 200, such was the renewed interest in Zep after the long layoff.

Anyway, “South Bound Suarez” is an upbeat piano rocker that’s highlighted by Page’s great guitar solo and some sunny “sha la la” harmonies; this song always makes me think of the album cover, another artistic triumph in itself. Continuing, the somewhat overrated “Fool In The Rain” presented more catchy piano pop while also creatively making use of the studio. I most enjoy the mid-section when Bonham’s successfully tries his hand at a samba beat, but Page’s guitar solo lacks its customary juice, and on the whole I find it to be a good song but one that’s a bit overplayed and boring.

Unfortunately, things don’t get any better on “Hot Dog,” an unsatisfyingly slight Elvis-styled ‘50s country rocker (or was this simply another unsuccessful joke?), and the 10+ minute “Carousalambra” is rather low-key compared to past multi-sectioned epics. It’s still another good song, one that’s dominated by it’s bright synthesizer melody (which hasn’t aged all that well), but it definitely doesn’t completely warrant its long running time; my favorite part is the middle of the song when it slows down and gets moodier and mellower.

“All Of My Love,” the album’s best known (and second best) song, is another keyboard dominated track, this one a pretty if somewhat schmaltzy love song that registers due to the band’s beautifully understated, almost classical playing and Plant’s heartfelt vocals (about Karac), while “I’m Gonna Crawl” closes the album with what I’d call an “ambient blues” that again features modern synthesizers most prominently.

Again, the song has a good melody and a strong Plant vocal, but like too much of the rest of album it lacks anything resembling an edge and is a bit on the boring side. Still, despite its faults the band’s poppiest album was a largely enjoyable affair, one that saw the veteran band keeping pace with the snarling young punk upstarts (dwindling by ’79) by, ironically enough, toning things down. Yet Zep’s slicker new sound was notably less powerful than on previous albums, and though the band was still very relevant they were no longer revelatory.

Ironically, John Bonham’s death by asphyxiation and Led Zeppelin’s subsequent breakup prevented the band from hanging around past their prime, leaving behind a largely untarnished musical legacy.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (1997)

28103416_700x700min_1From sfloman.com

We can only guess what Jimi would’ve officially released had he not died, but with the help of the Hendrix estate, who in the 1990s got the rights to his back catalogue and sought to rectify past wrongs with regards to the many dubious posthumous releases bearing his name (most spearheaded by producer Alan Douglas), this is as close as we’re likely to get to what Jimi envisioned his next album being at the time of his passing.

Most of the material here was previously on The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge, both originally released in 1971 but now out of print, but by most accounts this remastered 17-track edition is closer to what he had intended, which was to release another ambitious double album a la Electric Ladyland. At the time, Jimi was beset by a myriad of problems, including the previously remarked upon legal hassles with Chalpin, the stress of building his own Electric Lady studio (for which he incurred the wrath of the local Mafia!), pressure from the black power movement to make his music more black (which he was gradually doing) and political, and of course the drug problem that killed him.

He was also unsure of his musical direction (you can only totally reinvent music once, after all), so he surrounded himself with the people he felt most comfortable with – Mitchell who he had a phenomenal musical rapport with, Cox who was a serviceable bassist but more importantly was his old Army buddy from before he even hit the chitlin’ circuit, and Eddie Kramer, who again engineered – and worked on what was for him comparatively straightforward songs for the most part.

Of course, the songs released on this album are far more straightforward than what the actual release likely would’ve been after Jimi the weirdo producer got through with them, but what we have here is generally earthier and more r&b/funk-based than usual, with shorter songs and Jimi’s voice sounding more melodic and further up in the mix than usual.

And while some of the material here is unremarkable, sounds promising but is clearly unfinished, or is flat-out forgettable (“Stepping Stone,” “Astro Man”), I find the majority of this album to be extremely enjoyable for what it is, even if it’s a far cry from the three classic Experience albums. That said, the album would’ve benefited from being briefer, and when I play it I often program the 12 or so tracks that I really like rather than listen to all of it.

As for highlights, “Freedom” is a funky, rocking anthem with lashing guitars, and “Izabella” contains worldly rhythms, catchy chants, and more cutting guitar. Indeed, he may not be breaking any barriers here, but Hendrix remains one heckuva guitar player, as evidenced on funky hard rockers with fiery fretworks such as “Dolly Dagger” and “Ezy Rider,” the former inspired by groupie girlfriend Devon White, the latter by the cult movie.

“Room Full Of Mirrors” is a propulsive hard rocker with a liquidy, luminous guitar tone (Ernie Isley was likely taking notes), the obviously unfinished but still worthy “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” likewise hits hard and has an impressive guitar solo, “Earth Blues” is loose, funky, fast-paced, and explosive and is enhanced by catchy female backing chants (in addition to Jimi’s guitar exploits, naturally), and “In From The Storm,” despite its blatant rip-off of the Jeff Beck Group’s “Rice Pudding” at the very end, invents a seemingly new genre, metallic soul. On the mellower front, the dreamy ballad “Angel,” the most famous song here, is a legitimate radio classic on which it’s hard not to think of Jimi’s sad passing, and “Drifting” is another pretty Curtis Mayfield styled soft soul ballad.

I also find myself enjoying admittedly minor efforts such as “Night Bird Flying,” which is decidedly different but has some great groovy playing, and the loose, off the cuff “My Friend,” which I also have an odd affinity for due to its atypical nature. Generally speaking, when compared to his Experience albums these songs are far less “far out” and are therefore less interesting, even if the Black Panther Party was likely to be more pleased with them.

Still, though I’d rank few of these songs as classic Hendrix, on the whole I’m very pleased with this album as well; in fact, I’d say that any Jimi Hendrix collection isn’t quite complete without it.

March 4, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix First Rays Of The New Rising Sun | | Leave a comment