Classic Rock Review

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Procol Harum Shine On Brightly (1968)

Procol Harum - Shine On Brightly-FrontFrom sputnikmusic.com

The 1960s was a decade in which the Great Britain was dominated by the British Beat Boom, a time which pop music had exploded beyond popularity and reason. This would continue to go on for about seven years while the cultural landscape of England would dramatically change. Then suddenly came 1967. This was the year that two new genres would take root. These genres, commonly known and prog and psychedelic rock, would start not just in the famous concept album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but also in a group by the name of Procol Harum. This group would launch a single that would strike the top of the British charts. That single was A Whiter Shade of Pale.

About a year later, Procol Harum would continue to shape the prog and psychedelic rock foundations when they came out with their second studio album, Shine On Brightly. This album would pioneer the work of longer prog rock pieces; songs that would finally hurdle 10 minutes and longer. It would also continue to reshape the way people look at psychedelic rock and each of the band members.

There is one particular song that dominates Shine On Brightly, which is In Held Twas In I. This song would become one of the first early prog rock songs to go beyond 10 minutes and spanned at about 17, a daring move for a band that first worked with baroque pop and other forms of rock. This song should be considered highly revolutionary, since it inspired and allowed other prog rock artists more freedom with their music. This meant it could be longer in time span. This also introduced classical music elements into the prog rock set, which created a more “profound” form of rock. Finally, this further evolved the concept album idea, by putting part of the story into each movement, or each song on the album. Take for example, In Held Twas In I starts with a highly enigmatic prologue:

“In the darkness of the night, only occasionally relieved by glimpses of Nirvana as seen through other people’s windows, wallowing in a morass of self-despair made only more painful by the knowledge that all I am is of my own making …

When everything around me, even the kitchen ceiling, has collapsed and crumbled without warning. And I am left, standing alive and well, looking up and wondering why and wherefore.

At a time like this, which exists maybe only for me, but is nonetheless real, if I can communicate, and in the telling and the baring of my soul anything is gained, even though the words which I use are pretentious and make you cringe with embarrassment, let me remind you of the pilgrim who asked for an audience with the Dalai Lama.

He was told he must first spend five years in contemplation. After the five years, he was ushered into the Dalai Lama’s presence, who said, ‘Well, my son, what do you wish to know?’ So the pilgrim said, ‘I wish to know the meaning of life, father.’

And the Dalai Lama smiled and said, ‘Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn’t it?”

These lines begin a massive journey from the most treacherous tribulations of torture to the end, where all mends in heaven, according to Gary Brooker. This would become one of many concepts used by many different progressive rock bands throughout the next four decades into present, thus becoming a celebrated tradition. This tradition still lasts to this very day.

It is also easy to notice the elements of psychedelic rock in Shine On Brightly. These elements are most noticeable through the lyrics written by Keith Reid, which are still very drug induced, eccentric, and rather catchy for the 1960s. They seem to most reflect and label the revolution that England had been going through, mostly drugs, government, and even the smallest details in life. This was a job that was well done by Procol Harum, leaving only a few minor flaws that hardly blur the picture.

In the end, what was most important in this album is the major development that went into the prog rock genre, which saw the most success. While the psychedelic rock genre had continued to work well, this would become a time in which prog would change the guard with both pop and psych rock and become the new popular trend of music, living the age of popularity for nearly a half a decade. Much of this was thanks to Procol Harum’s efforts.

March 19, 2013 Posted by | Procol Harum Shine On Brightly | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Rock Saint Louis Roll! (St Louis, February 1975)

gr592From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Missouri Arena, St Louis, MO – February 16th, 1975

Disc 1 (54:44): Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir

Disc 2 (52:19): No Quarter, Trampled Under Foot, Moby Dick

Disc 3 (66:53): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Heartbreaker (inc. Shame, Shame, Shame)

The trials of Zeppelin’s tenth tour of the US are well known. Their first live shows in eighteen months, they chose to begin touring in support of Physical Graffiti in the middle of January in the Midwest amidst snowstorms and Jimmy Page’s damaged finger. Beginning in Minneapolis, Robert Plant contracted a serious flu which put a strain on his voice and the band delivered lackluster concerts.

They were originally scheduled to play in St. Louis on January 26th, but they had to cancel the show to give Plant some time to recuperate. And, as the well-known story goes, the singer stayed in freezing Chicago while the rest of the band and crew flew the Starship to sunny Los Angeles for a short vacation. They later reconvened in Greensboro on the 29th to play one of their all time worst concerts. The canceled concert was made up on February 16th, right after the amazing New York shows.

A poor quality incomplete audience tape was released in 1999 on Oh Dear, I’ve Known Him Since He Was A Child (Led Note LCD 1502) and about five years later the complete soundboard surfaced on St. Louis Blues (Empress Valley EVSD – 316/317/318), St. Louis Blues (Eelgrass EGL 20120/21/22) and an edited version on Hats Of To St. Louis (no label).

Godfather is another release of the complete soundboard recording. It has a bit more liveliness to it, but is quite similar to the other versions of the tape.

The band reached a highpoint in the tour playing New York just before this show and we’d hope that enthusiasm would be maintained. Stephen Davis in LZ -’75, who thought the Valentines Day show in New York was boring praises St. Louis as one of the high points of the tour.

Zeppelin sound very tired at the very beginning of the concert. “Rock & Roll” sounds sluggish and “Sick Again” is awful with Page especially hitting some bum notes, but the show improves quickly after that.

“First thing I must say is, better late then never” Plant explains. ”I was on me back in Chicago… It was pleasant nevertheless” right before his usual talk about the cross section of music they will play. Things begin to improve with “Over The Hills” and by “In My Time of Dying” they really hit their stride. “Oh My Jesus. It’s a Sunday, Oh my Jesus!”

Plant sings in the song and states, ”I think after that one we should say Amen” at the song’s conclusion. There is some guitar trouble before “The Song Remains The Same” with Plant chatting with the audience until stating that the double neck is ready, and this part of the show is also very good with a very moving version of “The Rain Song.”

After this we can begin to hear the show in its true glory at which the audience recording only hinted. The middle third of the show is very powerful. “No Quarter” is very good being the final electric piano only version until the 1979 shows. The second leg of the tour will see John Paul Jones expanding the piece with the grand piano.

“Does anybody remember 1968? Those of you without brain damage can. This is from the first ten minutes from … our rather immaculate conception” is Plant’s intro to “Dazed & Confused” and the concluding third of the show. The piece sounds similar to the New York performances. The encores reveal a surprise that was unfortunately cut in the audience recording: Zeppelin’s only cover of ”Shame, Shame, Shame”, the 1963 Jimmy Reed tune, in the “Heartbreaker” solo.

Godfather utilize a tri-fold cardboard gatefold sleeve with tour shots and liner notes by Paul DeLuxe. The title is a bit clunky, but is a very good and affordable way to obtain this essential concert from Zeppelin’s tenth tour of North America.

March 19, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Rock Saint Louis Roll! | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Fourth Night In The Garden (Madison Square Garden, June 1977)

led_zeppelin_fourth_night_gardenFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Madison Square Garden New York, NY – June 11th, 1977

Disc 1 (77:19): Intro, The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (50:47): Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Kashmir

Disc 3 (53:08): Moby Dick, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Heartbreaker

Disc 4 (46:21) Soundboard: No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore

Led Zeppelin’s six night run at Madison Square Garden is one of the high points of their eleventh US tour.

Appreciation has been sabotaged, however, by lack of excellent recordings and inconsistent silver documentation. The past several years have seen some progress with the release of the soundboard for the opening night on June 7th and the first silver pressing of the first two thirds of the final show on June 14th.

The Fourth Night In The Garden offers the complete June 11th show on silver disc for the very first time. A three song fragment from the soundboard with “No Quarter,” “Ten Years Gone” and “The Battle Of Evermore” has been in circulation for many years and has been pressed many times and is included on the forth disc as a nice bonus.

But this is the first time any of the audience tapes have been used. The first two-thirds of the show, from the beginning to “Kashmir,” are sourced from the excellent audience tape that surfaced about twelve years ago. It was circulated on a fan-produced CDR complete with the taper’s story of his journey from Philadelphia to New York and his excitement attending the show.

Scorpio use and edit of two tapes for the rest of the show. The better of the two, used for a majority of the final hour, is a good but boomy audience tape, and the third is distant and hard to hear. It is a skillful edit of the three tapes to present the full show in the best possible sound quality.

The tape begins with the opening drum beats and guitar chime, played in the darkness to build suspense, before they start off with an aggressive ”The Song Remains The Same.” Robert Plant’s vocals are a bit distant probably due to the sound engineer still adjusting the levels. The segue into “Sick Again” through “The Rover” riff is really exciting.

Afterwards, as the audience are going nuts, Plant playfully shouts “Crazy Eddie can’t be beat,” referring to the New York metropolitan appliance chain Crazy Eddie, mimicking their infamous and ubiquitous television commercials. He further speaks about the upcoming New York Cosmos soccer game and about their lateness, welcoming everyone to “the midnight movie” before they rip into “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

“Over The Hills And Far Away” was played the previous night as the fourth song, but “In My Time Of Dying” returns. Plant refers to it as one that “goes back a little bit before …but it’s in the same mold as a blues that owes a little bit more to your country than ours.” While Page tunes his danelectro guitar some guys by the recorder speculate he’s going to play “White Summer” (since that’s the guitar he uses for that song). But, when they realize the rest of the band aren’t leaving the stage they figure out that he’s going to play something else.

“In My Time Of Dying” sounds extremely heavy in this recording, even Plant’s vocals carry significant amount of weight. They get into “You Shook Me” at the end and, when they finish, Plant even continues to quote the song, saying “You know it feels pretty hot up here.” He also hopes there is no “connotations” in his towel smelling of vinegar and calls “Since I’ve Been Loving You” a “more English rooted song.”

“No Quarter” is stretched to thirty minutes. It’s good to hear the audience recording after hearing the rather dry soundboard for so many years. The improvisation begins slowly, as if Jones were trying to figure out what direction he wanted to take the journey. Page coaxes him in one direction with subtle little notes until it picks up steam. Things work out much better during the solo’s second half, when Bonham comes in and Page can play a more appropriate mood.

Afterwards, as they’re setting up for the next song, Plant makes a big deal about Jones’ new instrument. Speaking about “Ten Years Gone,” he refers to it as “a piece that came after an amount of contemplation when we were rehearsing. It employs Jonesy using a three necked instrument which saves him getting up and having too many Heinekens behind the equipment, you see? It’s a song about a love that could have been good, but went by the wayside.” Always on the verge of disaster, they manage to play a compelling version until they go out of tune at the very end.

“The Battle Of Evermore” is the other never-before-performed-live song in the set. Bonham, “who’s enjoying a Heinekan” and who is “gonna record his heartbeat,” adds tambourine to the song. Someone talks to the taper during the song, asking about bootlegs and telling him to be careful recording the show.

Both “Moby Dick” and the noise guitar solo are both mercifully short. ”Achilles Last Stand” is almost ruined by an out-of-tune string on Page’s guitar. He solders on as best he can, but there are some very painful bum notes and the closing chimes sound sour. Thankfully “Stairway To Heaven” is very powerful and extremely tight, one of the best of the New York shows. ”Heartbreaker” is chosen for the encore instead of “Rock And Roll.” Extremely wild, it unfortunately cuts out in the guitar solo.

The Fourth Night In The Garden is a very welcomed release. It’s great to finally have the complete show pressed onto silver discs. Scorpio use a quad jewel case to house the four discs and utilize a very dramatic photograph for the front cover. This is a great title worth having.

March 19, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Fourth Night In The Garden | , | Leave a comment