Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Live At The Big Hall Budokan Oct 2 1972 (Tokyo)


Budokan Hall, Tokyo, Japan – October 2nd, 1972

Disc 1 (52:22): Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2 (71:16): Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Immigrant Song, Communication Breakdown

Over the years five unique tape sources have surfaced for Led Zeppelin’s first show in Japan on their short 1972 tour. The first, and probably still best sounding, is found on such titles as Presentation 1972 (Patriot 002), No Use Greco (Tarantura GRECO-1) and most recently on Led Zeppelin Is My Brother (Empress Valley EVSD 319/320). The second source is poor sounding and is found only as bonus discs in the tour collections The Campaign (Tarantura) and Complete Live In Japan (Last Stand Disc).

Live At The Big Hall Budokan Oct 2 1972 was released in 1998 by The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin and is the debut of a third unique tape source. It’s a bit distant from the stage but still very clear and enjoyable and except for a few minor cuts between songs is complete.

Gone is the devastating set opener of “Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker,” that served them well since the Bath Festival, and in is “Rock And Roll” and any number of tunes segued right behind it. In this show “Over The Hills And Far Away” serves as the second number although “Black Dog” would also serve in that capacity.

The most interesting part of this concert is the stage debut of “The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” played back to back as on the official release Houses Of The Holy. It’s very apparent on this excellent audience recording the band’s apprehension in approaching and playing the songs, and this is perhaps the only time one can hear arrangements almost identical to the studio release.

They would drop some of the melodic augmentation in future performances for a more solid attack. But it’s interesting to hear and the entire tour would reveal further experiments with the songs. Another introduction is the bizarre “Misty Mountain Hop/Since I’ve Been Loving You” medley which will be played until the summer tour in 1973.

The energy and confidence picks up in more well known numbers like “Dazed & Confused” and the “Whole Lotta Love” medley. It’s interesting to note that “My Baby Left Me” was one of Jimmy Page’s earliest sessions back in the sixties and he duplicates the famous solo very well. Also a standout in the medley is “The Lemon Song.” Plant flirts with “Killing Floor” and at first strum along, but as he continues singing they come in full force with the Led Zeppelin II arrangement.

And the band includes “Immigrant Song”, one of their most popular songs in Japan, in the encores. Overall this is a milestone performance by the band which is at times devastating but also is very nervous. Normally the song segues into “Heartbreaker,” but instead Page doodles a bit before hitting the “Communication Breakdown” riff.

Live At The Big Hall Budokan Oct 2 1972 is packaged in a thinner cardboard gatefold sleeve than is usually used by TDOLZ. The cover makes good use of the concert poster for the event.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Live At The Big Hall Budokan Oct 1972 | , | 1 Comment

Led Zeppelin Milwaukee In The Bonanza (July 1973)


Milwaukee Arena, Milwaukee, WI – July 10th, 1973

Disc 1 (49:29): Rock and Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (66:24): The Song Remains The Same, Rain Song, Dazed and Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick

At the start of the second leg of the massive 1973 tour Led Zeppelin, and in particular Robert Plant, really took a couple of shows to truly get going. July 6th in Chicago was miserable, but the second show in Chicago and Minneapolis on July 9th were an improvement.

The July 10th show is even better and is a worthy prelude to the legendary July 12th show in Detroit. Plant is a bit tentative in the opening numbers, but warms up by “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and joins the band in one of the better performances from the era.

The tape is a distant, somewhat distorted but listenable recording of about three quarters of the entire show. Missing is the ending of the drum solo, “Heartbreaker,” “Whole Lotta Love” and whatever was played as an encore (probably “Communication Breakdown” since it was the encore for the preceding three shows).

The tape first surfaced in the mid-nineties and was pressed on One More For The Road (Red Hot RH-012/013). Rock And Roll Bonanza (Electric Magic EMC-027 A/B SS) came out almost a decade later. Electric Magic boosted the gain and corrected the speed to run closer to pitch.

Tarantura isn’t a dramatic improvement. It’s still a bit rough, but is noticeably cleaner and louder than the Electric Magic. It has the same cuts after “No Quarter” and 3:44 in “The Rain Song” as well as the latter part of the concert.

The press review was very positive. The most famous review comes from “Zeppelin Flying High” by D. Jaques and published in the Milwaukee Journal. He writes: “The Led Zeppelin soared high over Milwaukee Tuesday night. One of the granddaddies of hard rock groups, the Zep thoroughly entertained about 11,000 at the Arena. It had been three years since the group was in Milwaukee and rock music has taken some strange twists and turns since then. Some very good rock groups have compromised their musical integrity by selling their souls to gimmicks, gadgets and the foibles of a few loud and abusive fans. But Zeppelin was as true to its music as it was the last time around. The group had stage smoke drifting out over the audience, apparently a necessity for all rock bands that consider themselves superstars.”

After the opening Plant greets the audience, saying, ”very nice to be back and…when did we come here last? 1969 was it?. Remember that festival where it rained all day? Well things have changed since then.” (Plant is referring to the July 25th, 1969 Midwest Rock Festival, captured in a beautiful audience tape and most recently pressed on I’ve Got You…Under My Skin (Tarantura TCD-118). He forgot their visit to Milwaukee on August 31st, 1970).

There are some firecrackers early on and Plant tells the audience “methinks we’re gonna have a good night. On one condition. No more firecrackers, alright?” He continues to introduces ”Misty Mountain Hop” as a song ”not about firecrackers except the ones you put into cigarette papers.”

Also like the previous show in Minneapolis, “No Quarter” is extremely heavy and is showing progress in its on-stage improvisation in the middle. So good is it that afterwards Plant says, “Nice solo there from Jimmy and John. John Paul Jones synthesized piano. Mr. Bonham would like to be mentioned for his drumming too

“Dazed And Confused” also is showing more development with Page experimenting with a bizarre, majestic riff about six minutes in. It is unfortunate the tape cuts out during “Moby Dick” because it would have been interesting to hear what kind of improvisations would have occurred in “Whole Lotta Love.”

The packaging is quite simple. The discs are in sleeves and are housed in a single pocket sleeve with the title stenciled on the front and a picture on the back. There are “A” and “B” designs, depending upon the picture used on the back. Milwaukee In The Bonanza is another Led Zeppelin remaster from Tarantura which is a definite upgrade over what has come out before and can be considered to be definitive.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Milwaukee In The Bonanza | , | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Live At Woburn (2009)


On July 28th, the official Jimi Hendrix bootleg label Dagger Records will release ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience : Live At Woburn’. Recorded live at the Woburn Music Festival, Bedfordshire, England on July 6th, 1968, this previously unreleased 7 track recording was captured in front of an enthusiastic crowd some 14,000 strong who turned out for the performance.

By July 1968, Axis: Bold As Love was still a top selling album but Jimi had long since moved on to new challenges. To Hendrix, performances such as Woburn were unique, shared experiences and not simply personal appearances intended to help shift units of albums or singles.

At Woburn, Jimi skipped songs from Axis: Bold As Love altogether, electing instead to ‘jam’ as he called it—kicking off his set with a spirited “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The trio followed with “Fire,” and despite beset with buzzing, crackles and otherwise unwanted noises throughout their set, The Experience continued to persevere doing their best to surmount the technical problems that hampered an otherwise animated set.

Although opting to bypass music from Axis: Bold As Love, Hendrix did foreshadow his next album at Woburn, stretching out a marvelous 10+ minute version of “Tax Free;” an early contender for Electric Ladyland and a favorite Experience vehicle for improvisation. Hendrix followed up with another extended improvisational rendition of “Red House” before closing the show with a trio of live concert stalwarts “Foxey Lady,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Purple Haze.”

In launching into “Purple Haze,” Jimi kicked off a boisterous feedback opening, buttressed by Mitchell and Redding and complete with tremolo bar swoops, wah-wah pedal shadings and soaring dive bomb styled bursts that transitioned seamlessly into the song’s unmistakable opening notes. At its conclusion, the audience roared with approval. While no microphones were positioned to fully capture the intensity of their reaction, their enthusiasm and calls for more can be easily heard through Jimi and Noel’s stage microphones.

The Experience’s performance at Woburn Music Festival would mark the trio’s last performance in England until the two celebrated concerts in February 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Live At Woburn | | Comments Off on Jimi Hendrix Live At Woburn (2009)

Genesis Selling England By The Pound (1973)


You might not have noticed it, but although I certainly have a healthy dose of respect and love for well-done progressive rock, not ONCE have I given a prog rock album a perfect score – atmosphere and cool instrumentation can take you to the top of the mountain overlooking the land, but they won’t let you into Canaan, so to speak. But this album is a different story entirely. NEVER before and never again in the history of progressive rock can one find such a perfect confluence of atmospherics, bombastic and yet clever lyrics, catchy melodies, complicated song structures, and in a wonderous first for Genesis, constantly entertaining and often GORGEOUS arrangements (this album is Genesis’ peak in both quality of keyboard playing AND quality of guitar playing, which should tell you something right away) as can be found in this incredible 53 minute piece of British lore.

The arrangements, in particular, are what ultimately set this album above Foxtrot and The Lamb. You may not believe it, but not only do I have absolutely no complaints about Tony’s playing on this album, on more than a few occasions I truly believe in the title of genius that many fans have foisted upon him. This is made all the more incredible by the fact that it is on this album that he uses synthesizers for the first time, and while they would be incredibly annoying within 5 years time, here his use of them is always, dare I say it, tasteful, not to mention that he achieves some incredible stretches of cathartic beauty with them. But even with his newfound toys, he still manages to incorporate more piano on this album than any other in Genesis’ catalogue, and those passages are usually even more entertaining than his synth playing – bombastic, but sounding like they deserve all their bombast.

Even with all that, though, the full emergence of Steve Hackett is what distinguishes this album the most, as this album is easily the most guitar-heavy in Genesis’ catalogue, and given my attitude of “more Hackett is better Hackett,” that’s so much the better. With very few exceptions, he is ALWAYS playing a major role in the sound, whether it be an incredibly intelligent solo or just plain old solid riffing.

And finally, we have Gabriel reaching the absolute pinnacle of his “medieval British herald” shtick – only 3 of the songs have lyrics by him (well, 4 if you count the closing reprise Aisle of Plenty, which brings back the best parts of the opening track), but as far as his mix of bombast, incredibly British humor and unfettered whackiness go, those three songs are certainly among his peaks. Not to mention that he takes full advantage of the chance to play up to them with his singing – if you thought he was taking on some strange roles and offering weird interpretations before, well, you’d be right, but somehow he managed to outdo even himself.

Another thing that strikes me about the album in general is that, as bombastic as it may be in most cases, it also does an incredible job of deflating itself at the proper intervals so that you never feel overwhelmed by the album. I mean, examine the track order by genre – prog, pop, prog, pop, prog, soothing instrumental, prog, reprise. It’s simple, really, yet utterly ingenious (not to mention that the reprise is of just the right themes so that you truly feel complete at album’s end).

Ok, NOW for the specific songs. In case you aren’t aware of it, the opening Dancing with the Moonlit Knight is probably Genesis’ finest song ever, as the lyrics and music mix in such a way that is incredible even for this group. Gabriel probably puts forth his best singing effort yet, and he even gets the chance to sing a capella at the very beginning as he begins the process of magically transporting you back to the England that never was. But other instruments are slowly added, layer upon layer – some keys here, a light touch of acoustic guitar, as we build to the bombastic “the captain leads his dance right on through the night” passage before he launches us into a fabulous instrumental break with the cry “knights of the green shield stamp and shout!” And oh what a passage it is, filled with speedy solos and triumphant calls from Steve’s guitar, eventually leading to Tony’s mellotron imitating a heavenly choir as Peter begins his “There’s a fat old lady outside the saloon” spiel.

Eventually, the sung passages come to an end, and this time, the instrumental parts are driven forward by an utterly brilliant combination of dissonant pounding from Tony and weird tones coming from Steve’s guitar that sound like synths the first 20 times you hear them (only seeing live footage of the band doing the song is enough to confirm it otherwise), before it gradually slows down into a peaceful section with Mike playing 4 notes on his acoustic again and again. Tony plays a beautiful sequence of chords while Steve plays his own ambient selection and Peter throws in some lines on the flute, and it fades out nothing like it began, but seeming all the better for it.

And, of course, it is then followed by one of the greatest pop songs of all time, I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), about a crossdresser who mows lawns for a living. The lyrics are insane yet memorable, the melody is incredibly complex yet catchy, and there are even lawnmower imitations on the bass guitar. But what amazes me most of all, though, is the drumming. It’s not even that the part is necessarily very complex – it’s that TONE that Phil pulls out of thin air. Never ever ever have I heard a song where the drums sound even remotely like that – how did he DO THAT??!! Inquiriing minds want to know, so impart thy knowledge please. (PS: A year later, I’ve finally figured out that that the coolest parts of the drumming are actually Mike making that upwards *DOY* noise off of Phil’s strike. I feel like an idiot for not figuring that out earlier, but whatever.)

Now, what comes next, the epic Firth of Fifth, is a whee bit controversial for me. You see, from a purely musical perspective, I could have easily dubbed this song as Genesis’ best ever, and thus the best on the album. Unfortunately, Tony writes the lyrics here, and they’re some of his worst to date. Not enough to hurt the album as a whole, of course, but enough to remove a whee bit of shine that the song would otherwise have. No matter, though. As far as melody, arrangements, and especially structure go, it is practically the perfect progressive composition. Tony’s opening piano line is incredible both in its beauty and its difficulty, the main melody is terrific, and then we have the mid-section. Oh boy, DO we have the mid-section. Peter contributes a pretty flute passage, in comes a relaxing piano section, then a bouncy synth reprise of the opening piano line, and to top it all off, Steve comes in and plays his best known solo. It’s not fast at all, but that doesn’t hurt it in the least – it’s a slow, winding, meticulous passage, with repeated climaxes building up the piece until it all releases itself and the main melody shows up again, followed by a wonderful piano fadeout. Can you say “symmetry” boys and girls? I knew you could.

The next track is probably the biggest surprise of all, actually. More Fool Me is a Collins song (both in composition and singing), but the scary thing is that not only does it not suck, it is an incredibly pretty acoustic-driven ballad. The melody is distinct and memorable, the lyrics aren’t too saccharine, and it’s pretty much the perfect way to catch your breath after the bombast of Firth of Fifth. In other words, lay off of it people – even Phil could write a good song on occasion.

Side two rolls around, and we get Peter’s fictional take on a gang battle in the 12 minute The Battle of Epping Forest. As far as Peter the “psychotic theatrical weirdo” goes, this piece was never topped by Gabriel, as Gabriel pulls out a legion of gangster voices (especially funny is hearing him go, “I’m breaking the legs of the bastard that got me framed!”). And musically, it’s fabulous, and honestly never seems overlong to my ears. Tony and Steve are each playing interesting riffs in counterpoint to each other, and Tony comes up with a REALLY good idea with his little trick after each “here comes the cavalry” line, as he makes it easy to see a bunch of ‘reinforcments’ storming in on horseback to help out.

And don’t forget the mid-section, the hilarious nonsensical tale of a reverend who is forced to become a karmamechanic! If you thought there were lots of funny voices in the rest of the song, this passage will absolutely astound you, not to mention that the lyrics are the absolutely whackiest that Gabriel would ever come up with.

Following Forest is a nice instrumental called, appropriately, After The Ordeal. Tony’s piano parts in the first half are grand and gorgeous, while the second half relies mostly on various Hackett passages of his usual quality. Overall, while not spectacular by any means, it’s still a fully acceptable and even beautiful inclusion onto the album (although I swear that I can hear some quotes of Can-Utility and the Coastliners on there …). But no matter, because Cinema Show is up as the grand finale. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with those who point out that the opening passage is just a whee bit too similar to the opening of Supper’s Ready (in fact, when the band reaches the “na na na na” parts in the middle, it’s all I can do to not start singing “I know a farmer who looks after the farm …”). The lyrics also come from Mike and Tony, so they can’t help but be slightly inferior (though the idea of incorporating Romeo and Juliet rather than two incognitos came from Peter). Still, the melody is quite beautiful, and the beauty is sufficient to save the main part of the song on its own.

But that’s not the part that everybody adores, now is it? No, it’s the lengthy conclusion to the song, which doesn’t seem quite right as an end to the song as an individual track, but is DEFINITELY the perfect ending climax for the album as a whole. For the longest time, I was convinced that it was a duet between Tony and Steve, as several of the notes sounded as if they were *plucked* rather than just pressed, but further information has proved me wrong about that. No matter – all that means is that the final stretch of the album is easily Tony Banks’ finest moment with the band. EVERYTHING about these keyboard solos exudes a beauty from deep inside – the main theme is incredible, the tones are lovely, the counterpoint near the end is astounding, and, well, I can’t begin to express what a well-placed mellotron part does for me. And then the keys slowly fade into the background, as the acoustic line from Moonlit Knight rears its head again, before we say goodbye via Aisle of Plenty.

I don’t what else I can say. In writing this, I expended energy and time that probably should have been better used back in 2001 in studying for my Advanced Calculus final, or my Investment Analysis final, or cramming my brain full of 20th Century Russian history and literature (menya zovoot “Reniassance Man”!). But I don’t care. This album deserves my best, and while it may take a while to understand why (again, I was mostly unimpressed when I first heard this), you will someday understand as well.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Genesis Selling England By The Pound | | Leave a comment

Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)


There are two basic ways to follow up perfection – one is to continue to milk the style in which said perfect album was done for all it’s worth, the other is to veer in a new direction all together. Genesis, smart band that they were, chose the second route. The result was a double-length rock opera and an album proclaimed by many fans as the absolute pinnacle and culmination of Gabriel-era Genesis. And it is great, don’t get me wrong. But the fact remains that in many, many ways, it is a giant abberration in Genesis’ development, one only tangentially resembling the style in which they had shown the greatest mastery. In other words, choosing this as Genesis’ best album is a lot like choosing Relayer as Yes’ best – I mean, it’s definitely possible, and I would never condemn either statement (not to mention that I adore both albums), but … ehn.

Ok, first things first, I won’t go over the story in too much detail here (except when I have to) – there are plenty of lengthy essays of interpretation and explanation of The Lamb to be found on the net (I would highly recommend going here – my interpretation mostly matches with this one, though I have a few additional insights, like the symbolism behind the hairy heart). Suffice it to say that it rules, both on the surface (as one of the trippiest tales ever told) and deep below (as a powerfully religious modern-day story loosely reminiscient of Dante’s Inferno). And although many have said that Gabriel went overboard with it as far as complexity goes (in fact, all of the lyrics, with the exception of those to The Light Dies Down on Broadway, come from Peter), I’ve never bought that – after a couple of readings through the booklet and one listen to the album, I understood the basic plot just fine, thank you.

But what about the music? Like I said, there is a great amount of distance between the stylistics here and on England. The bulk of the music was written by Tony and Mike, with Steve only helping to arrange it, and as a result there is an enormous dropoff in the fundamental importance of Steve to the sound. It’s not like he’s made invisible or anything, and he does have a few passages where he is more-or-less emphasized, but even then there are very few instances of “vintage Hackett” – he’s playing his slow meticulous passages, but only on a few occasions do they have the power and bite that he had shown on the previous album (the very end of his Supernatural Anaesthetist solo is the most notable one – view the contrast between the last chunk and the rest of the solo). His playing is mostly reduced to texture and atmospherics, and while he does a very good job in these regards, his presence as a featured player is kinda missed.

The main focus of the album, then, is on the Banksynths. But, and this is a big but, for the most part they work. Large chunks of the story are very dark, murky and often take place in sub-earthly realms, and Banks’ keyboards do a mostly impeccable job of scene-setting (I actually thought for a long time this was due to the presence of Brian Eno, who is credited with “Enossification” on the album, but as a reader below points out, the instrumentals have nothing to do with Eno). But regardless of who came up with most of these ideas, although the abundance of keys squeezes out Steve to a far greater extent than had yet happened, it’s hard to complain here when the ominous mellotrons and moody pianos work so well.

Now, as far as the actual songs go, my main problem with the album lies with the instrumentals: there are four of them on this album, and only one of them manages to hold my attention throughout (side 2’s Hairless Heart, which has a sick, perverse beauty glistening off of every note). The thing is, the remaining three all fit in well with the general flow of the story, but I don’t think anybody would want to argue that they couldn’t have each been cut to a minute and a half or so (especially the total cacophony of The Waiting Room, which is supposed to reflect Rael’s paranoia in the dark cave but is probably 4 or 5 times too long). Same goes for the pretty Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats and the ominous, “windy” Ravine. Good plot-setters and mood-setters, to be sure, but not much else.

But the rest, well, the rest is just great. The uber-classic, of course, is the opening title track – from the fabulous opening piano line to the incredible vocal delivery by Peter (dig especially the way he sings “RAEL IMPERIAL AEROSOL KID”) and the catchy melody of the song, it does a terrific job of hooking in the listener right away, preparing him for the arduous journey ahead. The next track, Fly on a Windshield, is also amazing, particularly the way the music actually makes the strange story in the booklet come to life; in particular, I’m referring to the way we have “and I’m hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freewaaay” … and then *SPLAT* as Phil begins pounding a simple but intense rhythm (driving a jam underpinned with fantastic synth chords and Hackett at his best). And, of course, don’t forget the trippy Broadway Melody of 1974 that follows it, or the cute little ditty Cuckoo Cocoon.

Closing out side one is In The Cage, found ugly by some but just wonderful by me. The opening is quiet and gentle, with Rael (the main character) feeling queazy and unable to move, while the rest of it builds and becomes more menacing (especially after the Thick as a Brick style bassline for a couple of measures that pops up to launch us into the rest of the song) until you have overwhelmingly disturbing and intensely real images of things like his dead brother John slowly turning his head towards him while crying blood. BUT, BUT, the part of the song that I love the most comes at the very end, and maybe I’m just imagining it, because nobody else has ever mentioned it, but here goes anyways. You will recall that the end of this song ends in very quiet instrumental noodling that doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the song. Now, when was the last time we had passages specifically like that? Anybody? Anybody? The answer is … From Genesis to Revelation. Now, given that, even if the album wasn’t meant as a real religious metaphor, the band probably would have realized that it would be taken as such, and if so, what a NEAT self-reference (especially since FGTR was their first big religious spiel). Of course, maybe I’m just looking for meta that isn’t there, but whatever – I think it’s cool.

Side two is slightly weaker, but still thoroughly entertaining. The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging is a cute little pop song with a neat chorus hook, while the following Back in NYC (which is Rael watching a “viewing” of his own life) has a bit of ‘ugliness’ to it, but dagnabit, it conveys the hopelessness and ugliness of his former life perfectly (not to mention that the experiences of his life are essential for understanding why he needs to go through what he goes through). And, of course, following Hairless Heart comes the hilarious pop song Counting Out Time, which describes Rael’s preparation for his first sexual encounter by buying a textbook on the subject but still striking out in the end. I mean, how on EARTH can anybody resist a song whose chorus is “erogenous zones I love you, without you what would a poor boy do?” Well, unless you’re as much of a prude as I’m probably supposed to be, but no matter … The melody is catchy as a cold, not to mention that Peter’s vocalizations are beyond hilarious.

Up next is an absolute classic in Carpet Crawlers. The melody is pretty, with a nice soft organ washing underneath it, but what truly makes the song is the harmonies (well, and Steve’s quiet pretty textures weaving in and out). Peter and Phil work in perfect compliment with each other, as Phil hits all sorts of wonderful high notes while Peter’s dark, expressive singing drives the song forward and inevitably brings tears to your eyes, even though the song itself only bears a very small place of importance in the plot. Not so with the last song on the disc, though, The Chamber of 32 Doors. Basically, Rael keeps trying door after door, but each one of them leads him straight back into the chamber, and Peter does an impeccable job of conveying his tearful frustration with the situation, as well as with the fact that everybody is calling out different directions for him to go but that he can’t bring himself to trust any of them. He can’t even bring himself to trust his own parents, which should tell you something.

After the melancholy of 32 Doors, side two opens with a blast thanks to the pop-rocker Lilywhite Lilith. Granted, it’s only great for the first two-thirds of it or so, but HOO what a bunch of hooks! Which is a good thing, because hooks aren’t coming again for a good while. After the agony of The Waiting Room, we come upon Anyway, which is Rael philosophizing about his wretched fate and about waiting for the reaper to show. I disliked this a little at first, but it makes for incredible gloomy atmosphere, and I love it to pieces now. Here Comes The Supernatural Anaesthetist, on the other hand, is at least funny, not to mention that it has some more wonderful backing harmonies from Phil and the aforementioned solo from Steve.

The centerpiece and most beautiful song on this side, however, is The Lamia. The melody is complicated but even more gorgeous than anything on England (just a lot more mellow), while the lyrics, describing Rael’s experiences with these half-women-half-snakes, are sickening in a powerful sort of way. How else can I describe a song in which the women begin to nibble his flesh, shrivel up and die at the first taste of his blood, and then where Rael eats them because he’s hungry??!! Plus, there’s another very nice Steve solo here (at the end).

Following the instrumental Silent Sorrow … we hit The Colony of Slippermen, and the story goes from strange to totally messed up. Essentially, Rael’s pleasure from the Lamia was so intense that his body is going into a horrible withdrawl from its absence, and he has come across a whole colony of people who are suffering the same fate. He learns from one of these people that in order to get his body back to normal, he must remove the source of his problem – his “love rocket.” And so, he and his brother John, whom he has just met again, go to the doctor and get castrated (this part features the beautiful line, “don’t delay, dock the dick! I watch his countdown timer tick …”,) with their shlongs placed in a tube that they can wear for posterity. Alas, a raven comes down and grabs the tube from Rael (with Tony’s keyboards doing a fine job of displaying the chaos surrounding this event). Rael then tries to catch up with the raven, though John declines to help him, only to watch the raven drop his tube into the river far below.

After the instrumental Ravine, we come to The Light Dies Down on Broadway, incorporating melodies from both the title track and The Lamia (so, of course, it just can’t fail to rule). At this point, Rael sees an opening to take him back to his home, but as he runs towards it, he hears John crying for help in the gorge below him. He has to choose at this time to either save his brother’s life or go back home – Rael chooses to save his brother’s life. Which leads us to the funny and jolly Riding The Scree. Tony’s keyboards are terrific here, from the wonderful sparks that fly from his hands in the beginning to the corny-but-better-for-it pseudo-heroic self-mockery at the end. And of course, it has another one of Gabriel’s most memorable vocalizations, “Evil Knievel you got nothing on me” (it should be noted also Knievel was not yet a household name in ’74; this is another impressive sign of cultural awareness on Peter’s part).

And, last but certainly not least, we have the last two tracks on the album. In The Rapids has a beautiful, subdued melody, and even with the purposeful muffling of his vocals, Gabriel does yet another terrific job of moving you deep inside. And, of course, it contains one final and totally strange plot twist – as Rael drags his brother onto the shore, he looks into John’s face … and sees his own. He and his brother then fade away into the mist, into it, which happens to be the name of the last track. Featuring more energy in this one track than can be found on the rest of the disc, it would be difficult to think of a better ending to the album than it, from the great guitar runs to the simple-but-ingenious main riff, and especially the clever allusions to all that which is good and pleasurable in the universe (I especially love the line, “it is chicken, it is eggs, it is in between your legs”).

And that’s it – that wasn’t so complicated was it? Er, maybe it was, as I think I wrote even more for this album than for England. No matter – point is, it’s a really really really great album. But England is better.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Pigeon Blood (Tampa, May 1973)


Tampa Stadium, Tampa, FL – May 5th, 1973

Disc 1 (36:28): Rock and Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You

Disc 2 (65:11): No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed and Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 3 (41:47): Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean, Communication Breakdown

If attendance and sales records are an indication of a band’s success, then Led Zeppelin’s Tampa show on May 5th, 1973 is one of their greatest achievements. With a paid attendance of 56,800, they surpassed the record previously held by The Beatles’ August 15th 1965 show at Shea Stadium in Flushing, where they drew about 55,000. This was the second show of the tour and the first with tape sources for documentation (it is claimed that the first show in Atlanta was taped but remains with a hoarder). A very good audience recording was pressed on vinyl on The Beat Goes On: Inedits Volume 4 (Beat 1-2) which has ”Rock And Roll” to “No Quarter” on one disc. The tape also runs slightly fast. The complete show can be found on Quantient (Sad Songs SS 7319 A-F).

This tape was used for the earliest compact disc releases of this show including 56,700 Fans Together and Boogie (Rock Calendar RC 2127/2128), First Day (ARMS 03/04PR), Quantient (Cobra 023), and most recently on Top Of The World (Badgeholders BH011-02-02). The first six tracks can be found on First Choice (Sugar Cane SC52001/2) as a bonus with the April 9th, 1970 Tampa show. A second tape surfaced and was used on two releases from the mid-nineties, 56,800 In the Ocean (Silver Rarities SIRA 166/167) & Tampa Stadium (Tarantura TAMP-1,2). This source is more distant but still listenable. Flagge released Pigeon Blood in 1999 and is an edit of the two sources. Mainly used is the first, but the second is used to fill several gaps in “No Quarter” from 5:28 to 6:48, “The Song Remains The Same” from fifty-three seconds to 1:30,and one in “The Ocean” from 3:20 to 3:32. Because on the tape “Over The Hills And Far Away” follows immediately after “Black Dog” with no comments by Plant, some have suggested there could be a cut there as well. Since there is no obvious cut there it sounds as if they were experimenting with an opening four song segue instead of the three that would be normal for this tour. Plant’s comments after “Over The Hills And Far Away” seem to suggest this.

The band are very much aware of the significance of the event and before they even play a note Robert Plant says, “Hello. It seems between us, we’ve done something nobody’s done before and that’s fantastic. We should have had one of those big satellites, you know?” They rip into the set and play the first four songs, “Rock And Roll,” “Celebration Day,” “Black Dog” and “Over The Hills And Far Away” at a furious pace with no break. “So now it’s time to say good evening. Is anybody, did anybody ever make the Orlando gig we did last time? So, we’re in the same country, yeah? Now this is the second gig that we’ve done this time since we’ve been to the States, and…I can’t believe it. I can’t believe this. It’s really great, but anyway, that’s up to us too. This is a song about what happens in England if you go walking in the park, and maybe some nice guy passes you some cigarette papers, and then it takes on from there. It’s called ‘Misty Mountain Hop.’”

The Zeppelin four track runs into “Since I’ve Been Loving You” in an arrangement they’ve been playing since Japan the previous October. There is a tremendous amount of discord in the audience during the song and afterwards Plant has to restore order, saying, “Now listen. Listen. Dare I ask you that, as we’ve achieved something between us that’s never been done before, that you could just cool it on these barriers here because otherwise there’s gonna be a lot might get poorly, right? So if you have a little respect for the person who’s standing next to you, which is really what it’s all about, then possibly we can have no problems, right? Cause we don’t want no problems, do we? I mean it’s bad enough with the balance of payments isn’t it?

“No Quarter” was introduced to the stage and was premiered the previous night in Atlanta. Tampa is the second ever live performance and they stick close to the studio arrangement, clocking in about eight minutes. It would soon be stretched out to twice that length. Two new songs, “The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” follow. The crowd become restless during the mellow ballad and Plant has to say something again. “Listen, we want this to be a really joyous occasion, and I got to tell you this because three people have been taken to hospital, and if you keep pushing on that barrier there’s gonna be stacks and stacks of people going. So, for goodness sake, we are animals, but we can move back a little bit because it’s the only way. If you can’t do that then you can’t really live with yourself, just for this evening anyway. Can you cooperate? Seems a shame to talk about things like cooperation when there’s so many of us. Anyway, you people sitting up the sides there are doing a great job, but these poor people here are being pushed by somebody. So cool it for a bit cause it’s, it’s not very nice.”

He then reminiscences a bit, saying, ”I’ve forgotten the first place we ever played in Florida. I know we played the convention center in Miami, which is really bad. The gig was good, but there was some men walking around all the time making such a silly scene, and we got nobody’s this time. So we’ve got to please ourselves have it, right. This is a number that was around then, and it’s still around, and it takes John Paul Jones to take us there.” “Dazed And Confused” is again very compact and Page rushes through the sections. This is especially noticeable in the beginning and Plant struggles to keep up. “Moby Dick” lasts only twelve minutes and segues directly into “Heartbreaker” with no return to the final theme. This is the only time they employed this arrangement. Plant mentions the record again during the “Boogie Chillun’” section in “Whole Lotta Love” and they reward the audience with two encores. The tape continues between the two numbers so two and a half minutes of cheering is present.

Overall this is a good but nervous and tentative show brought on by being the second show of what was their biggest US tour to date and the breaking of a record that stood for eight years by The Beatles who by that time had been apotheosized into the collective consciousness of pop culture. This is a very good sounding document of the show and a nice edit job between the two tapes for a complete show. Flagge stretched it over three discs when it could have easily fit onto two. It is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with the artwork printed on only one side of the inserts. Good action shots are used for the front and back covers and they print a review from The Concert File on the back. When Pigeon Blood was first released the price charged was prohibitive, but almost a decade since it could be found reasonably and is a good addition to the collection.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Pigeon Blood | , | Leave a comment

Stanley Clarke Journey To Love (1975)


This is going to sound sort of funny since I’m saying that Journey to Love is an essential work, but there are songs on this release that aren’t all that great. Concerto for Jazz, which is over 14 minutes long, is kind of uneven in quality, even if it is ambitious in scope.

I find the title track charming, in an airy-fairy kind of 70s way, but I could see where some people might be annoyed by the whispy vocals by Stanley Clarke and the dated synthesizer work. Silly Putty, the opening track, is fun and funky, with Clarke’s slap happy bass work and cheerful horn section, but there’s that synthesizer again.

In fact, a good half of this release is smothered in a thick layer of 70s cheese. Now, that doesn’t really bother me, but it might bother a lot of people.

Where Journey to Love really redeems itself in a big way is with Stanley Clarke’s tributes to two musicians he obviously admires: John Coltrane and Jeff Beck.

Song to John Part 1, as played by the trio of Clarke on upright bass, Return to Forever bandmate Chick Corea on piano, and John McLaughlin on guitar, is a rubato wonder–it’s just rapturously beautiful. Song to John Part 2, uses the exact same theme, but now played as a sprightly jazz samba, with each member of the trio taking gorgeous, fleet-fingered solos.

The tribute to Jeff Beck, Hello Jeff, is Clarke’s version of rock, which has a healthy component of R&B to it. Jeff Beck just kills in this. He gets this monster tone here that he never duplicated anywhere else and his solo completely rocks. It’s just exhilarating beyond words.

And that’s really the story here. The highs are so high that they push this release up to classic status, in spite of its very real flaws.

In fact, you might just want to pick up some mp3s instead of springing for the whole CD.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Stanley Clarke Journey To Love | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Boston Tea Party 1970


Tea Party, Boston, MA – March 1, 1970

Disc 1: On The Way Home, Broken Arrow, I Am A Child, Helpless, Sugar Mountain, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Winterlong, Down By The River

Disc 2: Wonderin’, The Loner, Cinnamon Girl, Cowgirl In The Sand, Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown. Soundboard: Sugar Mountain, Helpless, Cinnamon Girl, Cowgirl In The Sand

Boston Tea Party 1970 was released by Screamer with Another Osaka. For this release the label utilized a fair to good audience recording of the complete set, both solo and with Crazy Horse. The tape is distant and sounds compressed. The beginning acoustic set sounds much more up front and better than the electric set with the band.

“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” sounds especially rough here. The final four tracks on the second disc are listed on the cover as “audience recording from radio broadcast”. I’m not sure what that means exactly. It wasn’t taped from the radio, but is rather an acetate recording from the soundboard.

It sounds great although there are cuts between the tracks and obvious surface noise. 1970 was a very busy year for Neil Young. He finished a tour with CSN&Y on January 11th, began this tour with Crazy Horse a month later, toured again with CSN&Y in the summer, and then toured solo at the end of the year.

All the while recording and releasing After The Goldrush. This tour saw the debut of songs like “Helpless” and “Cinnamon Girl”. “Down By The River” lasts close to fifteen minutes and whose guitar solo sounds very similar to the future “Like A Hurricane” and “Southern Man”. “Wonderin’” is played in Country & Western style and would receive a rockabilly make over more than a decade later. “Cowgirl In The Sand” is another epic spanning more than fifteen minutes with very long jamming in the middle with Young and Whitten.

The show ends with “Come On Baby Let’s Go Down” sung by the late Dan Whitten. This version of this song that appears on Tonight’s The Night was recording at the Fillmore East in New York right after this show. Another good title by the new Screamer label. I don’t think the audience recording has been released before (although it has circulated), and the soundboard fragment I think is brand new. The label mixed up the set order in the liner notes. “Broken Arrow” was played second with “I Am A Child” next.

This is worth checking out if you like the early Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Boston Tea Party 1970 | , | Leave a comment