Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin Live At Whisky A Go-Go (Los Angeles, January 1969)


Whisky A Go-Go, Los Angeles, CA – January 5th, 1969

(52:13): As Long As I Have You, I Can’t Quit You, The Train Kept A Rollin’, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Dazed And Confused, Killing Floor, For Your Love

At one time Empress Valley, known for packaging, remastering and finding new sources, were at the cutting edge for Led Zeppelin releases. Their most notable releases have been the 1975 soundboards. But since the release of the Nassau Coliseum 1975 show, they have been focusing not upon new releases as much as repacking and reissuing their back catalogue. Deep Throat, Royal Albert Hall and Orlando Magic are a few reissues and their latest are Maple Leaf Gardens and Firecrackers Explosions.

Live At Whisky A Go-Go!!! is perhaps Empress Valley’s most impressive release. Coming out late in 2006, it was a tremendously exciting release at the time and there were rumors that the taper had reel to reels for all of the Whisky shows and that Empress Valley would follow with the other nights. Nothing has surfaced in the intervening three years however.

Empress Valley first released the Whisky tape on both a DVDA and audio disc, but lately they have reissued the audio disc alone in a cheaply packaged, moderately affordable edition. This is good news since the original title is sold out and good news to those who are not wholly impressed with the DVDA format to begin with. The sound quality of the reissue is identical to the older one. And in the spirit of recycling past efforts, at the time my review of the show stated:

Led Zeppelin played their first concerts in Los Angeles right after New Years’ Day in 1969 with four nights at the trendy Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Strip. They shared the bill with Alice Cooper and took turns on succeeding nights as to who would be the headliner. Unlike the San Francisco shows, Zeppelin played one long set instead of two shorter ones. Rumors have circulated for many years that these shows were taped by a member of the audience and stories circulated in 2003 around the one who taped The Yardbirds’ final run of shows at the Shrine Auditorium in March, 1968 but those stories turned out to be false.

On Live At Whisky A Go-Go!!!, Empress Valley have finally found and released one of the tapes from this legendary run of shows. This tape of the final of four nights is a very good complete audience recording taped on reel-to-reel very close to the stage. The audience sounds very small (less than one hundred) and are very quiet and attentive with no obstructions what so ever. Of the 1969 audience recordings in existence this is among the better. Page’s guitar dominates in the mix with the vocals pushed back and there are trace amounts of hiss in quieter passages. Further, there is residue from an earlier recording on the tape that bleeds through in the early parts of the show.

It is imperfect but still a wonderful recording capturing Zeppelin at such an early stage. Jimmy Page mentioned that he had the flu this week and received medication from a physician so he can play and the performance is mind-boggling considering the conditions. The tape begins with some tuning and Plant’s sound check before he says “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Can everybody hear me? This is the last night from Led Zeppelin”. The set begins with the “As Long As I Have You” medley. It was usually played in the middle of the set although it served as the opener for the May 27th Boston show (and also its final recorded appearance).

This version is eleven minutes long and Plant sings Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” over the band playing “Fresh Garbage”. After the “Hush Little Baby” section Jones tries to lead the band into Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack” but the band don’t follow and end the piece as usual. ”I Can’t Quit You” is played second as usual and at the song’s conclusion Plant says, “we’ll do things in a different order. We want to get people to rock and roll…This is called ‘Train’” before “Train Kept A Rollin’”. This is followed by the earliest live version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” which Plant introduces by saying, “It is traditional. You can hear this on the fantastic album coming out on the fifteenth, Herman’s Hermits Live At The Whisky A Go-Go”.

“Dazed & Confused” is introduced as another song from the album coming out and is very close to the studio version including the crescendo at the end. Plant begins the following number by saying, “if anybody was here last night…you know how we were saying we were getting over the flu…well we’ve all got it back again. We’re pleased to be here. We’ll carry on with a thing from Muddy Waters. We got it together anyway, by Howlin’ Wolf. This is a thing called ‘Killing Floor’ and I think that just about sums it up.” This version is very short, contains Page playing some very fast scales and omits Plant’s “squeeze my lemon ’till the juice runs down my leg” part.

“For Your Love” is the final song of the set and is introduced as something written by Keith Relf and was a number one hit for The Yardbirds. “Does anybody remember Keith Relf?…This is written by the bloke who wrote their numbers.” The only other recorded live version is from the Fillmore West five days after this in a fair to good recording, so it is a tremendous blessing to have a version so well recorded. It sounds very similar to the San Francisco version with psychedelic feedback and ending with a very long scream by Plant. There is a small cut around 4:17 omitting a bit of the guitar solo but is otherwise complete and ends with Plant saying good night.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Live At Whisky A Go-Go | , | Leave a comment

Santana Abraxas (1970)


There is an essence of allure that exudes from the content of Abraxas. The music is jubilant, with a mesmerizing melody that entices the listener into a sensation of musical ecstasy. We open with “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts”, immediately it induces a trancing atmosphere to set the mood, a seductive ambience decorated in sensual mysticism. And just as the music has us succumbing to its will, when we give up all restrain and let our senses sink deeper and deeper into the trance, all of its arousing teases reach their purpose. It was all just a build up into the album’s highlight, “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”.

This is Carlos Santana and his band exploring all of the possibilities within musical hypnotism. The music of “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” flourishes with sensuality, delicate in nature yet it induces an irresistible magnetism.

As we progress further into Abraxas, we find that it is very versatile within its mood, containing moments of both delicacy and aggressiveness. The music has a very lively texture, amalgamating the rhythmic grooves of traditional Latin music with the enthusiasm for instrumental improvisations that are found in Jazz. “Oye Como Va” marks the beginning of the more elevated side of the album. It has a Salsa like rhythm that gives it a feeling of looseness, almost encouraging the listener to dance to it’s melody.

“Incident at Neshabur” and “Hope You’re Feeling Better” represent the more aggressive side of Abraxas, displaying instrumental eruptions of passionate dexterity from the musicians. “Incident at Neshabur” is a much more elaborate piece because it is composed of two contrasting sections. The song immediately takes us into an invigorated jam, wasting no precious time in properly introducing us to the piece, Abraxas chooses to instead bombard us with a truly dynamic Jazz Fusion display.

Initially presenting itself as wild and eccentric, the music continues to build up momentum as it deploys solo after solo. And then, all of a sudden, “Incident at Neshabur” relinquishes all aspirations of ferociousness and instead flourishes into a mellifluous bossa nova ending. It’s quite marvelous how flawlessly “Incident at Neshabur” was able to pull-off such a surprise in its change of pace, and it really shows just how suspenseful this album can be.

“Hope You’re Feeling Better” is an entirely different kind of breed. This song is one of the few moments that Abraxas gets to be 100% rock and roll. Carlos Santana’s roaring guitar antics are drenched in distortion for added volume and intensity. Keyboardist and vocalist, Gregg Rolie, does a fantastic job augmenting Carlos Santana with his organ ornaments and his awfully bluesy tone of voice. “Hope You’re Feeling Better” is quite frankly one of the finest moments of the album because while all the other songs frequently stand on the boundary of genres so as to easily transcend into another form at a moment’s notice, “Hope You’re Feeling Better” drops all of the experimental tendencies to deliver a traditional, but still as captivating, rock performance.

Abraxas, as a whole, is a truly impressive album because it unionizes many different musical genres. The intensity of Hard rock, the lengthy instrumental passages of Jazz, the melodious dancing elements of Salsa, and even the decorative surrealism of Psychedelia- It is all coalesced with such confidence and precision that even with all of the constant genre-hopping, the album’s transitions all manage to fluctuate so naturally.

In conclusion, Abraxas is a classic. And it will remain as such, forever to be enjoyed by generations to come.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Santana Abraxas | | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)

886978775023From The Guardian

Released in October 1972, `Caravanserai’ marks one of Santana’s highest and most sublime creative moments and has often been described as “music for musicians”. It’s the last of Santana’s studio recordings to feature founder-member Gregg Rolie on keyboards and second-guitarist (the very young but virtuoso) Neal Schon, both of whom were shortly to depart to form `Journey.’ Rolie features on some tracks and new keyboard player Tom Coster appears on others, the start of a decades-long and highly productive association between Coster and Santana.

Founder-member David Brown is replaced on bass by Doug Rauch (on some of the numbers) and Tom Rutley (on others) and the departure of Mike Carabello as conga-percussionist heralded the entry of veteran Armando Peraza – who, I can tell you from seeing this band live in 1973, had one heck of an onstage presence and added a lot to the sound. Drummer Mike Shrieve and percussionist `Chepito’ are still there, both evident in the music.

Altogether `Caravanserai’ showcases contributions by some 16 different musicians and is a masterpiece of arrangement and production; it marks the beginning of a rich and productive journey into deeper, more complex jazz-fusion territory which continued with `Welcome’ and – especially – `Borboletta.’

The trademark rock-salsa fusion sound which made Santana’s first three studio albums a global commercial success gives way here to more thoughtful, jazz-like compositions, though you can hear the genealogy of the Woodstock-era band still there underneath. Of the 10 numbers on the album, only three have any vocal content and the first six pieces (i.e. the first `side’ of the original vinyl LP) flow together as one, with no real breaks.

`Caravanserai’ though impressive on first listening, is not such an instantly-accessible musical listening experience as the first three albums. The band experiments with different time-signatures and instrumentation in complex compositions to weave an engrossing musical tapestry which wins over the head, the heart and the soul where repeat-listening reveals ever more depth and subtlety.

If you like to seek out great music of any era and especially if you have a penchant for jazz-rock fusion and you’ve never heard `Caravanserai’, then you’re in for a rare treat. This mid-1970s period was the high-point of Carlos Santana’s long creative career: here he is in his prime, a master of his craft with experience and global success behind him, but wanting to explore music a bit deeper, maybe with less popular appeal but ultimately more personally satisfying, more valuable and enduring. Put on the headphones, lie back, crank up the volume and be transported to a land rich, beautiful and sublime.

I am BTW writing this in Hatta, close to the UAE/Oman border. As the Sun rises, a herd of wild camels is visible on a distant hill to the South: a real-life spectacle almost identical to the original cover-art of this: Santana’s great, timeless fourth album.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Lights Go Down (Tulsa, August 1970)


Assembly Center, Tulsa, OK – August 21st, 1970

Disc 1 (66:01): Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, Bring It On Home, That’s The Way, Bron-Yr-Aur, Since I’ve Been Loving You

Disc 2 (60:26): organ solo, Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

The August 21st Tulsa show occurs very early in Zeppelin’s sixth US tour. It was their second night in Oklahoma and a very good audience tape captures the event. It is distant but has a really nice live sound with great dynamics. It surfaced in the early nineties and was pressed first on Bottle Up & Go (Scorpio) where it is missing the introduction. Tarantura followed with Tulsa Hillbilly (Tarantura T2CD-10) which, according to the bootledz site, “It sounds like Tarantura used two different gens of tape to present this show. With that comes a couple extra cuts. The first disc ends 6.5 minutes into the organ solo and then is restarted on the second disc. Tarantura is missing a few seconds before the show and is missing a minute after WLL.” Whole Lotta Live in Europe released an identical copy soon after on You Gotta Be Cool (Whole Lotta Live WLL009/10).

TDOLZ released The Lights Go Down in the autumn of 1999, one of their final releases. It is packaged in a box with the discs housed in sleeves and a deluxe picture booklet with pictures roughly from the era and is limited to two-hundred numbered copies. The sound quality is very nice on Diagrams. There is a cut at 3:20 in “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and at 10:20 in “Moby Dick” which eliminates about two minutes of the drum solo. This defect is unfortunate (if you like drum solos). To those who are not fans of “Moby Dick” the missing two minutes is hardly noticeable. Wendy reissued this title several years ago called Tulsa Symphony: Ode To Joy (WECD – 80/81). Not only does Wendy’s title make no sense, but they took the Diagrams and cranked the volume to painful levels, squeezing the life and joy out of it and leaving nothing but an unlistenable mess.

The tape opens with the promoter introducing the members of the band and as they walk out Plant quips, “It’s a big drop tonight. Right, well you’re going to get very warm instead of very docile. Well we’re going to change that so be prepared to take off you ties. “Immigrant Song” leads straight into “Heartbreaker” which was a new arrangement at the time. Jimmy Page, while playing the solo in “Heartbreaker” stops and says, “Actually you can turn down the house lights now.”

It’s hard to believe why the promoters were concerned enough about trouble in the audience to turn on the house lights since the crowd is very quiet. But apparently there was a rush to the stage in the first song. Plant tells them “Yeah, turn the lights off and every body sit down. Before we carry on the lights go down. Now listen, the thing is, if we’re gonna have a good time and you are then we got to work hand in glove with the so called authorities, right. So in that case you sit down, and they’ll be cool and turn the lights off. So let’s wait for them to turn off the lights.” The lights are finally turned off and there is a bit of cheering, but Plant says,”that’s not a victory, that’s just commons sense so don’t take it as a victory.”

Page picks up where he left off and leads the solo into a mellow riff trying to calm them down. Afterwards Plant continues the discussion saying, “Let’s just hope you, let’s get rid of that, let’s hope we have reached an understanding with, with the electrical supplies up there. That doesn’t mean that you can’t take your ties off.”

From here on out the audience are silent enough to prompt comment from Plant. When they get ready for the acoustic section Plant jokes, “Has everybody gone asleep upstairs? Spotlight over there please. Spotlight, yes, there still awake. Are you alright? You got your popcorn? Right, we can’t very well wake you up with the next number, but if you’re on your way into dreams, maybe this will sort of disillusion you a bit. This is a thing from Led Zeppelin III, which should be in your shops.”

They follow with a beautiful version of “That’s The Way” and before “Bron-Y-Aur” Plant gives a long explanation about it’s meaning, saying: “Jimmy’d like to play a number from the Welsh mountains, or about a place in the Welsh mountains. A little cottage way up there in those films that you see. And this cottage has got a Welsh name which means the Golden Breast, and it’s really, to see it you’d know what we were talking about. It’s on the side of some beautiful hills, and there’s all this spiel coming down the hills, and all that sort of thing. It’s a beautiful, it’s a beautiful, it’s really a beautiful place, there’s no two ways about it.

The medley in “Whole Lotta Love” includes references to ”Boogie Chillun,” “Bottle Up ‘n Go, Matchbox,” “Who’s Loving You Tonight,” and “Heartbeat.” Plant tries to end the song at this point with the “WOMAN” cue. But with the feedback he tells them all to song “PA IS CRAP!!” and leads them into “My Baby Left Me” and “That’s Alright Mama” (which is essentially the same song). Bringing it to an end Plant afterwards sings “WOMAN… you stil asleep up there? Woman! You’re all asleep. Way down inside…” The only encore on the tape is a six minute version of “Communication Breakdown” where John Paul Jones plays a bass solo in the middle. Overall this is a great document from the tour which, although not essential is fun to have. TDOLZ have produced a handsome looking edition which is nice to have provided one isn’t a stickler for the complete drum solo.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Lights Go Down | , | Leave a comment

Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin Love Devotion Surrender (1973)


This recording never attained the lift-off that should have accompanied an effort from two mega-stars. Perhaps it was cultish feel of the album, starting with the title and the images of McLaughlin and Santana on the cover, both dressed all in white and standing meekly in awe of their guru, Sri Chinmoy.

However, the music was not the devotional new-age fare one might expect from the album cover. Instead, there was a jazz nonet with Santana and McLauglin backed by organ, bass and five percussionists playing two John Coltrane standards and other tunes composed by the two leaders.

Take away the album’s title and cover and there is really nothing here that should scare lovers of jazz fusion. The music is some of the best of its type to come out of that period. But there was another reason this record may not have enjoyed the success it deserved, and it’s the sound of the original LP. Most of the fusion released in the 1970s was recorded by Columbia, which was not turning out its finest pressings during that decade.

To make matters worse, the mastering engineer seemed to have a much heavier hand on the controls than a decade earlier. Some of Columbia’s worst 1970s masterings were of jazz-rock fusion recordings, perhaps because the loudness of the music inspired more limiting to keep cartridges from mistracking.

This SACD helps repair the damage. It joins the ranks of several ’70s jazz LPs have come alive on digital and LP remasterings in the 21st century, the products of more sensible mastering. Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters was released on Blu-Spec CD in the last couple years. While the original LP was a massive hit, the improved sound of this CD is equally massive. An album I never quite connected with in 1973 now sounds fresh.

The same can be said for Weather Report’s Heavy Weather, which was released on 45rpm vinyl last year, sounding far better than the original. This newly buffed-up SACD mastering from Rob LoVerde is equally fine and improves upon the original LP in similar ways. You can now turn the music up (and this music calls for it) without having your whole system plunge into a sea of distortion.

If you love hard-driving guitar backed by jazz greats Larry Young on organ and Billy Cobham on drums, playing a memorable version of “A Love Supreme” along with other equally fine tunes, this is the SACD for you. Just close your eyes if you don’t want to see Carlos and John with their heads bowed in prayer.

It’s what’s inside that counts.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin Love Devotion Surrender | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Raleigh 1970


Dorton Auditorium, Raleigh, NC – April 8th, 1970
Disc 1 (51:21): We’re Gonna Groove, Dazed & Confused, Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer/Black Mountain Side

Disc 2 (41:57): Since I’ve Been Loving You, Organ solo/Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick

Raleigh 1970is the latest incarnation of the April 8th show at the Dorton Auditorium. It is a dynamic three dimensional audience recording which unfortunately is incomplete. There is a cut 9:26 in “White Summer” and “Moby Dick” cuts out after 17:36 eliminating the rest, “How Many More Times” and “Whole Lotta Love.”

The earliest versions of the show are found on Fearsome Four Live On Stage (Mandala), Groove (Tarantura), We’re Gonna Rock (Blimp) and American Accents (Baby Face) and two tracks, “Bring It On Home” and “organ solo/Thank You” were lifted from the Mandala release for the famous Cabala box set.

Empress Valley released World Champion Drummer! (EVSD-339-340) several year ago and it was a significant improvement over the older titles. Raleigh 1970is sourced from a first genreation tape and its quality is very similar to Empress Valley’s. It is not as loud but has the same clarity and dynamic edge over the older titles. As such, it isn’t a replacement for the EV, but is a good alternative for those who can’t find or afford the EV.

The new release is the only one to have the correct date printed on the artwork. All the others say this is from April 7th in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was demonstrated several years ago through the discovery of ads and handbills that Zeppelin played in Charlotte on April 7th. The Raleigh show was the following night, April 8th. There is no mention of the location or venue on the tape, but this isn’t the Charlotte show since an eyewitness to that show posted his observations on the Electric Magic website and they do not correspond with this tape. So it’s definitely Raleigh but on April 8th instead of April 7th.

The review in the Raleigh News and Observer made some interesting observations including: “Playing to an audience ranging from babes-in-arms to the ‘over thirty generation,’ Led Zeppelin put wings on Dorton Arena and piloted the audience on a musical tour from blues, to jazz, to boogie, to pure hard rock.” The article also points out Zeppelin needed to play at maximum volume and “because of this, the audience had to adjust to the powerful beat of sound.”

Also, “as in most rock concerts, each performer gave his solo. Unlike most rock concerts, the audience spent a great portion of the show saluting the solos in standing ovations… If this show is an example of how the music of today will be accepted in Raleigh, we can expect to see many more concerts of this type in the future. The reaction of the audience at last night’s performance said so.” (“Zeppelin Is Late, Loud, Good” April 9, 1970, Gerry Ligon)

In general this is one of the best sounding tapes from Zeppelin’s Spring 1970 tour. It has a wonderful powerful percussive feel and great punchiness in the overall sound. The performance is also great too with interesting improvisations in “Dazed And Confused” as usual. Raleigh 1970 uses appropriate photographs on the artwork including a close up of Robert Plant’s naked feet on the back.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Raleigh 1970 | , | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Nine To The Universe (1980)


Seems fitting today, on the 69th anniversary of the birth of Jimi Hendrix, to feature music from the master. Hendrix is a really important artist for me. His guitar playing is almost universally recognized as the best the planet has known, but Jimi for me was so much more than simply a guitarist. Jimi was an artist who broke down barriers and explored sound far beyond what many of his contemporaries were interested in achieving.

I fell into Hendrix’s music at a young age, “borrowing” some of his cassettes from my brother. Hendrix’s music, along with a handful of others, helped me define my own identity and helped me to push for something more than just what was expected me in this society as a young black man.

I originally heard “Jimi/Jimmy Jam” from this album on WREK’s Stonehenge back when I was in high school. I’d always loved just the sound of Hendrix’s guitar and appreciated the limited amount of instrumentals that had come my way up til then. Nine To The Universe is one of the posthumous releases that have proved controversial because of the heavy-handed techinques of producer Alan Douglas.

Unlike Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning, both of which featured a lot of overdubs from musicians that Hendrix never even played with, Nine To Universe features just the original players, with minimal interference from Douglas. Aside from an unnamed tambourine player that he added, this music features the musicians that were in the studio with Jimi when these loose jams were originally performed.

In recent years some of the full takes of these tracks (Young/Hendrix, Jimi/Jimmy Jam & Drone Blues) have been featured on a couple of Hendrix family releases. Having heard them, I actually think this LP is one of the rare instances where Douglas’ production is actually pretty good. Instead of 20 – 25+ jams, we have tracks that are more or less cut in half, but that sound like complete songs and are much more focused.

It gives us a glimpse into Hendrix’s free-wheeling jam sessions (though, almost unbelievably, there is likely STILL more unreleased music, including performances with guitarist John McLaughlin), music that was only made for the musicians benefit, never to be released on record.

That loose nature is one of the things that makes “Nine To The Universe” such an amazing track, with a riff that will later on become “Earth Blues,” the song breaks down part of the way through into a nice Buddy Miles drum solo with Jimi in the background yelling out things like “Lord Have Mercy” and closing up with what sounds like completely improvised lyrics that might have later served as inspiration for “Message to Love” or “Power of Soul”.

“Drone Blues” is one of the fastest & funkiest things Jimi ever laid down and the track that led me to this LP, “Jimi/Jimmy Jam,” with the severely under-rated Jim McCarty (of the equally under-rated Cactus, along with Mitch Ryder & his Detroit Wheels and Buddy Miles’ Express) is just plain epic.

Also intriguing are the liner notes that mention the directions Jimi wanted to take his music, influenced by Miles Davis and my personal hero Rahsaan Roland Kirk. My mind can’t fully comprehend exactly how amazing those collaborations would have sounded. Part of me hopes, against all reason, that somewhere there is some lost jam session between Jimi & Rahsaan.

They would have made beautiful music together, but thankfully they left us with many beautiful bright moments to marvel at years and years after their days on this earth were done. For that I am sincerely thankful…

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Nine To The Universe | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Live At Tear Gassed Place (Baltimore, April 1970)


Civic Center, Baltimore, MD – April 5th, 1970

Disc 1: We’re Gonna Groove, Dazed & Confused, Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer/Black Mountain Side

Disc 2: What Is And What Should Never Be, organ solo, Thank You, Moby Dick, introduction, How Many More Times (Bolero, Boogie Chillun’, Move On, That’s Alright, My Baby Left Me, Honey Bee, Lemon Song), Whole Lotta Love

There are three tape sources for Zeppelin’s show in Baltimore on their spring, 1970 tour. The first is a poor sounding source mentioned by Louis Rey in his book. A second complete source surfaced several years ago and was released on cdr as Some Things Never Pass (Apple AML 2000). Finally a third source surfaced on FBO and was released on the fan produced Sorry ’Bout The Delay.

This third source contains cuts in “Bring It On Home” and in the organ solo. Live At Tear-Gassed Placed, this new release by Tarantura, utilizes the second source exclusively. It sounds like the label boosted the volume making this sound very good. The tape hiss is also louder but it doesn’t distract from the enjoyment of the music.

Their performance in this show is rather mediocre compared to others during this era. After a rather flaccid ”We’re Gonna Groove” Plant apologizes and explains “we’ve only had this PA for three nights”. The PA cuts out again several times in the opening of “Dazed & Confused” but works thereafter. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was dropped from the set list and the organ solo is very short.

“How Many More Times” contains a sharp version of Ravel’s Bolero and “That’s Alright” and “My Baby Left Me” are played together (makes sense since they are the same song). Plant tries all night to get the crowd “loose” and they do when they play their hit “Whole Lotta Love” (probably what most of the audience came to hear).

Tarantura placed a quote by Page in the insert taken from The Concert File to explain the title. The line is spoken by some unnamed girl who wanted to stay backstage with the band because she was afraid of the police, since they tear-gassed the place before. I wonder what concert she is talking about, whether it is an earlier Zeppelin concert or someone else.

Be that as it may, there are not too many good sounding documents from this era and this is very good and enjoyable. It’s also one of the more complete recordings too and is definitely worth having. It is good to see the label give this show the classy treatment it deserves.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Live At Tear Gassed Place | , | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)


After reshuffling their lineup somewhat, Santana entered a new phase. Fully embracing the “fusion” movement first spearheaded by Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, this album has a cleaner sound and pursues a more spiritual, jazz-based direction.

Of course, the Latin percussion and Rollie’s moody keyboards are still important, but Carlos dominates the action more than ever before. This is a good thing, for he’s in spectacular form throughout, though the extensive soloing and unwavering intensity of the album can be a bit draining after awhile. Caravanserai is comprised primarily of instrumentals, and songs segue into one another, making it essential to listen to in one sitting.

This was a bold, uncommercial step for the band to take in 1972, and though perhaps the album’s lack of potential hit singles hurt the band commercially, Caravanserai has proved to be an unjustly overlooked minor classic that Santana connoisseurs generally consider to be among his best. Surprisingly, though the album is more reliant on individual soloing than in the past, where the band relied more on explosive ensemble playing, Caravanserai is nevertheless one of Santana’s most rocking albums.

That said, it gets off to a low-key start with “Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation,” a jazzy mood setter that leads into “Waves Within,” one of several songs that features fantastic fret work from Carlos, again prodded along by Neal Schon. Again, a seamless transition is made into “Look Up (To See What’s Coming Down),” a funky number notable for its wah wah guitar and a standout drum solo from the underrated Michael Shrieve.

“Just In Time To See The Sun” has a hot, simmering groove going for it along with more great guitar, but it is the next two (long) songs, “Song Of The Wind” and “All the Love Of The Universe,” that form the heart of the album. Each is very melodic and includes incredible jamming, but the next three songs are less impressive, though “Future Primitive” does provide a necessary, less substantial break from the unwavering intensity.

“Stone Flower” has more of a pop flavor, though they still find time to jam, while Shrieve is again a standout on “La Fuente del Ritmo” before “Every Step of the Way” finishes the album with a flourish. An at-times jaw droppingly impressive 9+ minute epic, it ends another essential Santana album, arguably the band’s last studio creation that could be labeled as such.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Studio Magik Sessions 1968-1980


Led Zeppelin built their reputation on their live show. Their studio recordings were, as Jimmy Page stated many times in interviews, a springboard for further live improvisation and exploration. Many songs (“The Rover,” “The Song Remains The Same” and “In The Light” among others) began as riffs discovered on the stage.

However, one can’t create a masterpiece with inferior ingredients. Two members of the band, Page and John Paul Jones, began their career as studio session musicians and understood how to write and craft good songs in the studio.

Page himself engineered the science of capturing a good recording in studio on Led Zeppelin.

Fans and collectors are lucky. Except for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, no other band has as much outtake and demo material available for analysis, scrutiny, and enjoyment.

From the initial sessions for the first album in Olympic Studio in late summer of 1968 through to the sessions in Stockholm ten years later for In Through The Outdoor, all of Zeppelin’s albums and eras are represented in one form or another.

The twenty hours of music in this box set extend from extremely primitive cassette demos made in the wilds of Snowdonia to initial rehearsals in Headley Grange to perfectly polished alternate takes and mixes of classic songs.

Several attempts have been made in the past to offer a complete collection.

The first is the classic 11 CD set Studio Sessions on Antrabata. This set collected every piece of tape known at the time and presented them in a chronological, cohesive order. Despite the knock against it for using inferior sounding tapes, it remains a popular and sought after item.

Akashic attempted a comprehensive box set in the winter of 1999 called The Final Option. The project was scrapped after only five discs spread out over three titles, Meet Led Zeppelin, Scorpio Rising and The Smithereens were released. And the Akashic contained spurious Houses Of The Holy outtakes. In 2007 the Scorpio label produced the 12 CD set Studio Sessions Ultimate, an impressive update of the Antrabata set.

In the intervening years, many more tracks surfaced including the legendary Led Zeppelin II sessions and superior sounding versions of already existing tracks. Studio Magik gives a much needed overhaul of Led Zeppelin outtakes.

Not only are the new sessions presented, but all of the older tracks have been given a remastering job from the best available sources and are presented in their definitive form.

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Studio Magik | , | Leave a comment