Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Donald Fagen The Nightfly (1982)

29007From sputnikmusic.com

If you’ve ever sat down and listened to more than one Steely Dan record, you’ll probably have noticed their inescapable hurtling toward studio sterility. From 1972’s jam-band-esque Can’t Buy a Thrill to 1977’s high-art, jazz-based masterpiece Aja, they had lost members, stopped touring and unashamedly, Becker and Fagen (with the help of producer Gary Katz) had dragged their sonority into territory so sleek and crisp, it was a wonder any of the instruments were performed live. Whether for good or bad, the captious duo would relentlessly use the studio as their most powerful weapon – any sound required is possible if you have the time. Well, that was the case, until the ‘band’ collapsed in on themselves and hit a wall. Hard. That wall was Gaucho.

Both 1979 and ‘80 came down on the pair like a ton of bricks. First, their label, ABC, was bought out by MCA, who thwarted their previous plans to move to Warner Bros., leaving them in a bitter legal battle over ownership. Next, Becker, in his darkest phases of drug addiction, was struck down and seriously injured by a taxi in NYC, and soon after his then-girlfriend was found dead in his apartment of a drug overdose, landing the bassist in a costing lawsuit.

Fagen too was not without woe; with all hell breaking loose around him, with his increasingly paranoid perfectionism in the studio, he dug himself a massive hole at the same time as leaving himself with a mountain to climb. In the end, an accidental deletion of an entire track, uncooperative musicians and unrelenting personal issues amongst the two led to what can only be described as on of the most offensively clinical, toothless records ever put to vinyl. Sure, it had its moments, and it set a new standard for record cleanliness, but it had no soul.

It had no edge. All in all, it was almost a concept album centred on seedy people of the night; pretentious hipsters with faux-Chinese pastimes, who listen to late-nite musak and dabble in Class-A drugs for the f*** of it. The irony is that Steely Dan hadn’t realised that they’d accidentally made an album for those people, not about them.

Perhaps then, one of the more fascinating feature of Fagen’s 1982 solo debut The Nightfly is that it sounds more like Gaucho than Gaucho does, but in all its super-cleanliness and focussed virtuosity, it managed to set itself apart for two crucial reasons. One is that Fagen had no distractions. The studio was his to really open his mind, with no outside input, and it never got self-indulgent either; while Becker was away getting clean in Hawaii and generally taking life a bit easier, Katz and Nichols headed back into the studio again for this outing – this record wasn’t going to be a far leap from the sound of late Steely Dan. The other reason is that the refined subject matter, the subtle nuances and prosody Fagen uses are so charismatic and charming from start to finish that one can’t help but pull a wry smile or two.

For the duration of the record, relentless chimes of the Cold War, the Space Race and general 1950s blind-optimism weave in and out, some highly subtle, some not so, delving head-first into the imaginative nature of the era and capturing it absolutely spot-on. Powerfully and purposefully penned with that same naïvety that swept the house of every little boy, every bored housewife and every dead-end businessman in the US, the album creates a mirage of fantastical imagery and ludicrous impossibilities that then seemed oh-so-real. Not to say that any track has so much as a hint of remorse, regret or shame, one of the most appealing factors of the LP; it plays out like those dreams are all still in the pipeline, anything and everything is still possible, and… wait, what do you mean there’s no undersea tunnel from New York to Paris?!

On the other hand, the ‘Dan gang were never ones to stray too far from the mordant sides of society, and no song highlights the subtlety with which Fagen handles these matters better than the seemingly-one-dimensional The Goodbye Look; on first skim it’s merely a simple song about being cast aside by a callous lover on an exotic Caribbean beach. Listen again. You see? It’s about a careless, ill-informed American holidaymaker risking his life by outstaying his welcome on an island that has just undergone an overnight revolution. Cuba, anyone? It seems a running theme of The Nightfly is that within every context there are malicious subcontexts, and buried within every line are sunken, sadistic hidden meanings.

New Frontier encapsulates the joy of spending time with models whilst listening to Dave Brubeck, but every once in a while also reminds us that this is all supposed to be occurring inside a nuclear bunker. Walk Between the Raindrops has a melody so bright and radiant and a swing-band rhythm that could make Sinatra swoon, but is merely the musings of a man fondly remembering time spent with his recently-departed lover, rushing through a downpour and people-watching on a glorious Florida beach, only to cave in during the final verse and wistfully wish those moments would return.

The title track, however, is something quite special. Ironically, it has no meaning outside the existential plight of a radio DJ broadcasting through the early hours from some deserted corner of Mississippi, but its impact is so striking and sharp; amongst transcripts of listener calls discussing mysterious men residing in foliage are harsh, staccato keyboard stabs that punctuate the piece in an almost Talking Heads-esque manner, and quite honestly, it rocks. Reciting the same hitches and technicalities that he probably heard as a child, Fagen casually opens with ”I’m Lester the Nightfly, hello Baton Rouge; would you turn your radio down? Respect the seven-second delay we use.”. Already, within the first few moments, the song bursts into bloom as a remarkably nuanced reliving of an almost-expired tradition, complete with the limitations and liberations it brought for so many years.

Essentially, The Nightfly as an LP pops along from A to Z with expert craftsmanship and complexity whilst never losing its intricate, unexpected accessibility. Even to we who are not accustomed to the era mentioned are sucked in by its charm, its melancholy pseudo-credulousness. A cult classic, maybe; but this doesn’t award it with due credit. As the Wall Street Journal so efficiently dubbed it, the album truly is ”one of pop music’s sneakiest masterpieces”, and much like the protagonists of the stories and spinners of these sceptical yarns, the album itself remains sheltered firmly underground.

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March 24, 2013 Posted by | Donald Fagen The Nightfly | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Newport Jazz Festival 1969

zep_newportFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, RI – July 6th, 1969

(62:13) Intro., Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, You Shook Me, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown, Long Tall Sally

Newport Jazz Festival 1969 is the first release of a new Led Zeppelin dedicated label Graf Zeppelin. Utilizng and edit of the two audience recordings, their work is identical to what Tarantura released last summer as Jazz But Rock (Tarantura TCD-79).

The second audience recording is used for the basis while the first tape is used for the introduction, the cut after “You Shook Me” and for the second encore “Long Tall Sally.” The editing job is handled very well between the two tapes. Graf Zeppelin sounds a bit louder than the Tarantura.

Zeppelin play their “festival” set, which compared to the prior two tours is scaled back to about an hour with the long improvisation “As Long As I Have You” and the drum solo “Pat’s Delight” dropped. The show begins with a minute of tunes ups and Plant testing the PA by lowing the harmonica before “Train Kept A-Rollin’” explodes on stage.

During “I Can’ Quit You” Plant’s vocals are hard to hear and there are shouts for the PA to be turned up. Plant mentions the controversy after the song, saying, “There was nothing wrong with us at all and we all intended on coming. That’s what we come to America for. So we hope that you will enjoy everything we do, and that we were coming in the first place, so don’t get any hassles about what we were gonna do and what we weren’t.” ”Dazed And Confused” is a compact twelve minutes long still close to the first album’s arrangement.

Plant asks the engineers to adjust the PA before “You Shook Me” and it takes them two minutes into the song before any results are audible. “That’s better” Plant says through the harmonica, but the change is more audible on the first tape and not so much on the one used on this release.

The set closer “How Many More Times” is fifteen minutes long and lacks the violin bow interlude. Rather very hot, sexually suggestive guitar solos and orgiastic moans by Plant make up the song’s climax. “I come to Newport / gonna have a ball!” Plant sings during “The Hunter” part.

“Communication Breakdown” is segued directly with a long and chaotic version of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.” There are only five recorded versions of Zeppelin playing the classic and this the first.

Newport Jazz Festival 1969 is packaged in a standard jewel case with quality paper for the inserts. The cover design is very dark, however, making the picture dark and reading the information on the back very difficult to read. It is a good way to obtain one of Zeppelin’s early historic shows from their first year playing together.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Newport Jazz Festival | , | Leave a comment

Lynyrd Skynyrd The Complete Muscle Shoals Album (1998)

615bQbISI7LFrom sfloman.com

This posthumous album was originally released as Skynyrd’s First and…Last in 1978 and was bulked up considerably and released as Skynyrd’s First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album in 1998. The original album was comprised of recordings that pre-dated their debut and featured future Blackfoot members Greg T. Walker and Rickey Medlocke among their ranks.

Most of these songs are of a surprisingly high quality, if not up to the standards of their more famous later albums. “Down South Jukin'” may be their most prototypical song title along with “Whiskey Rock-A Roller,” but though it came first to me it sounds like a prelude to “What’s Your Name?” That’s the problem with a lot of the later additions, as songs such as “Free Bird,” “Gimme Three Steps,” and “Simple Man” are good but sound like inferior test runs for the more famous versions that came later.

I do prefer some of these versions, however, such as “Trust” which I already mentioned, while I’m pretty sure that “One More Time” is pretty much the same version as the one on Street Survivors. Back to the original album, “Preacher’s Daughter” is a fast groover with harmonized guitars, “White Dove” is a lovely and atypical soft rocker sung by Medlocke, and the intense “Was I Right Or Wrong” I also mentioned previously as it surfaced as a bonus track on Second Helping.

Still, it’s nice to have worthy tracks such as “Lend a Helpin’ Hand,” “Wino” (maybe this is their quintessential song title!), and “Things Goin’ On” all in one place. My favorite tracks are probably “The Seasons,” a melodic, soulful, groovy ballad, the melancholic part ballad/part rocker “Comin’ Home,” which is not only the best song here but is among the ten best Skynyrd songs ever, and (on the reissue) “You Run Around,” an explosive hard rocker that’s more like Blackfoot than Skynyrd (no surprise as it’s one of four songs sung by Medlocke, who also at least co-writes five tracks total, which needless to say gives the Complete Muscle Shoals Album a different feel than your typical Skynyrd album).

Anyway, the band certainly went on to bigger and better things, but their beginnings were plenty good too, so fans of the band are advised to pick up this one, albeit only after checking out their classic later albums. Note: Skynyrd have TONS of “best of” compilations, many of which are very worthwhile, so if you want to begin investigating the band, or if you’re a casual fan who wants some Skynyrd but you don’t want to splurge for the original albums, you might want to start with one of those, especially since I’ve always considered them to be more of a song band than an album band.

Their first compilation, 1979’s 2-cd set Gold & Platinum, is probably still the best, and for hardcore fans I’d highly recommend the 3-cd box set Lynyrd Skynyrd, a model set that has all their big hits in addition to many choice rarities. As for the post-1987 “comeback” version of the band with Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny on vocals (and later Medlocke and The Outlaws’ Hughie Thomasson on guitars), I don’t really know enough about them to comment, though someone I greatly respect dismisses them as being “a retread cover band.”

Regardless, it is the Ronnie-led version of the band who are deservedly legendary – forget the silly Confederate flag waving and their redneck image, Lynyrd Skynyrd was a great band – though drugs and overwork took their toll somewhat during their middle period – who could’ve become even greater had one of rock music’s greatest tragedies not befallen them right after recording one of their best albums.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Lynyrd Skynyrd The Complete Muscle Shoals Album | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin II (1969)

LED%20ZEPPELIN%20II%20CDFrom sfloman.com

By now Zep were something of a sensation, if not with clueless critics than at least with fans, especially in the U.S. where their phenomenal live shows (famously blowing the likes of Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge off the stage) and outrageous offstage antics were becoming the stuff of legend. This second album was written and recorded in between touring commitments, and it’s the album on which Robert Plant started to assert himself as a songwriter; from here on out the Page-Plant partnership would write the bulk of the band’s songs.

Above all else, Led Zeppelin II is one of the greatest riff albums ever, as Zep was still primarily Page’s vision and he was the dominant instrumentalist, though again each member shines and their impeccable chemistry is omnipresent. The band’s first #1 album, Led Zeppelin II fittingly toppled Abbey Road from its lofty perch, thereby signally a changing of the guard within the rock hierarchy.

Unfortunately, for all the album’s plentiful virtues, it is not without its fair share of flaws, perhaps chief among them being the band’s laziness when it came to writing their own stuff (especially their own lyrics). Let’s face it, the ill-informed nitwits who think that “all Zep did was rip off the blues” are mostly referring to their first two albums, and this is the album that got them in the most trouble, with Willie Dixon successfully suing the band for writing credits for not one but two songs (“Whole Lotta Love” and “Bring It On Home”).

These were unfortunate lapses in judgment by the band that brought them much grief, all the more regrettable because again the main strength of this album lies in the mighty playing of a powerhouse band, plus some terrific original compositions, some of which (“What Is And What Should Never Be,” “Thank You,” “Ramble On”) had little to do with the blues. A menacing riff for the ages begins “Whole Lotta Love,” easily one of Led Zeppelin’s greatest songs (despite its borrowed lyrics) and a heavy metal prototype.

Among the song’s most notable attributes are its inspired mid-section, which features some difficult to describe, ahead of its time studio experimentation (much credit there goes to engineer Eddie Kramer, who not coincidentally also worked with Jimi Hendrix, one of the few other artists to create such otherworldly sounds in the service of accessible songs), a devastating Page/Bonham guitar/drum volley, Plant’s sexually charged vocals highlighted by his “way down inside, woman, you need LOOOVVVEEE!!!” scream, and a fantastic fadeout ending, which was quickly becoming a band trademark.

An edited single actually cracked the U.S. top 5, though curiously enough the band never released a single in their U.K. homeland, preferring to be looked upon as an album act instead (such a strategy being one of many innovations by manager Peter Grant, who was integral to the band’s enormous success).

Anyway, next up is the excellent “What Is And What Should Never Be,” which features dreamy, jazzy verses and catchy, hard-hitting choruses, not to mention superbly understated playing by the whole band. “The Lemon Song” is a long blues that borrows from both Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues,” though on the latter (which the band would cover brilliantly; more about that later) only its controversial, blatantly sexual lyrics. “Stealing” or not, the song is only partially successful, anyway, highlighted by some great playing from Page and Jones but somewhat undone by Plant’s cartoonish, none too subtle ad-libbing.

“Thank You” closes out what used to be side one with a gorgeous ballad with wedding song worthy lyrics (an area that was becoming Plant’s domain) that must have shocked some of the band’s critics, as Plant gives one of his finest vocal performances and Jones again plays beautifully on his Hammond organ. Then again, critics who continued to suggest that Zep lacked depth and subtlety surely missed this number; for one thing, the fact that Bonham could shine so brightly even on a slow ballad was a true testament to his greatness. Side 2 begins with the classic “Heartbreaker,” a bluesy riff rocker famous for Page’s unaccompanied guitar solo; then the rest of the band joins in and Page adds another great guitar solo for good measure, while Plant chips in with a notable “evil woman” lyric.

Like “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends,” among others, on the radio (like on this album) “Heartbreaker” is always followed by the short, catchy, but overly repetitive “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid,” while “Ramble On” again shows the band’s ability to be both beautifully understated (the verses) and incredibly powerful (the choruses). This classic is also notable for being their first of several songs with Tolkien inspired lyrics, for Bonham’s unique bongo-like drum sound (supposedly achieved by hitting a plastic garbage can), for Plant’s vintage vocal performance, and for featuring another creative fadeout ending, as Plant powerfully fades in and out of the left and right speakers.

Closing things out are “Moby Dick,” an impressive (if not all that it could’ve been) showcase for Bonham’s drumming whose best feature is actually Page’s great riffs, and “Bring It On Home,” which overcomes its slow Sonny Boy Williamson-inspired start to become another memorably amped up take on the blues. Many critics call this the first “heavy metal album,” but that (as usual) undersells Zeppelin’s eclecticism, and II really isn’t any heavier than I. However, it is another classic, though II is a little less consistent than I overall.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin II | | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers (1971)

the_rolling_stones_-_sticky_fingersFrom sfloman.com

With Mick Taylor’s muscular yet fluid guitar tone now firmly entrenched as an essential part of their sound, and with the Jagger/Richards axis writing an outstanding set of varied songs, Sticky Fingers stands as arguably the band’s finest hour.

Despite being recorded with the band in turmoil – people were pissed at them for Altamont, Jagger was dumped by Faithfull and subsequently replaced her with the polarizing Bianca, Keith was clearly a junkie, and they were trying to extricate themselves from Klein’s clutches – the drug addled, death obsessed end result somehow still turned out to be one of their signature works.

The band’s first U.S./U.K. #1 album, the first album on their own Rolling Stones Records label, and the first album on which their signature lapping tongue band logo appeared, Sticky Fingers was as famous for its Andy Warhol designed zipper cover (which has to be obtained on vinyl to get the full effect) as its great music.

But consistently great music it does contain, both hard rocking and more often laid back. Increasingly, r&b elements were being seamlessly interwoven within the Stones’ sound (the album was partially recorded in Muscle Shoals and the Stax-y horn section of saxophonist Bobby Keyes and trumpeter Jim Price are all over the record), and the album also included a pair of classic country numbers.

Perhaps no song better epitomizes the classic Stones sound than “Brown Sugar,” the lewd, lustful party anthem that leads off the album, and the next track, “Sway,” a great guitar showcase for Taylor (Keith doesn’t even play on it), is definitely one of the great “overlooked gems” in the Stones catalogue. “Wild Horses,” a beautiful country ballad containing one of Jagger’s most affecting vocal performances, is easily one of the greatest Stones songs ever (I’d rank it #4, with “Paint It Black” rounding out the top 5 for those who are curious), and it’s followed by “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” one of the band’s longest (7:16) and most ambitious songs.

Starting with those memorable stuttering riffs and moving onto a soaring Keith-led chorus, the song controversially morphs into an extended, jazzy jam, with moody organ from Billy Preston (a significant contributor to the album), Santana-styled Latin percussion from Rocky Dijon, and some groovy soloing from Keyes and Taylor that’s either “inspired improvisation” or “pretentious noodling,” depending on your perspective (I definitely vote for the former though this is far from a unanimous opinion).

“You Gotta Move,” a Fred McDowell cover that’s by far the weakest of the blues covers on their last three albums, is the albums weak link in that is seems almost like a blues parody rather than the real thing, but the ship then gets righted on “Bitch,” a tough, attitude soaked hard rocker that’s a veritable feast of memorable riffs (Keith’s imprint is all over this baby), punchy horns, and sneering vocals.

Though not a standout considering the competition, the self-explanatory “I Got The Blues,” presumably about Faithfull, features a heartfelt, impassioned vocal from Jagger and some soulful accompaniment from Preston/Keyes/Price, and the bummer portion of the album then continues with “Sister Morphine,” a haunting drug tale whose lyrics were at least partially co-written by Faithfull, who recorded it in 1969.

So did the Stones, even if it wasn’t released then, and the song’s sparse yet effective instrumentation, including some stellar bottleneck guitar work from Ry Cooder, yielded another terrific album track, on which Mick’s ghostly vocals are most memorable. Fortunately, things then briefly brighten on “Dead Flowers,” a catchy, lighthearted (despite being another obvious drug song) country number on which Stewart plays boogie piano and Richards chimes in with some flavorful backing vocals. Finally, “Moonlight Mile,” also recorded without Keith, provides a grand finale that stands as one of the Stones’ most evocative efforts, in no small part due to Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangements (which had also appeared on “Sway”).

Thus ends the classic Sticky Fingers, the album on which the band’s loose, ramshackle sound was arguably at its most perfect, as the best Stones lineup settled into its unstoppable prime.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers | | Leave a comment

The Who Odds & Sods (1974)

zap_who9From sfloman.com

Looking to both release an album in 1974 and again beat the bootleggers (a la Live At Leeds) who were distributing crappy versions of songs not yet officially released, John Entwisle pored through tapes of unreleased songs. In some cases the band fixed up songs here and there, others were good to go but simply hadn’t fit whatever album they were working on at the time, and the end result was Odds & Sods, one of the better “rarities” collections out there.

Of course, with many of these songs now appearing as bonus tracks on other reissues, albeit often in different versions, this album isn’t quite as special as it once was. Then again, the remastered/reissued version of this album added 12 songs to the original version, and as per usual with these albums that’s the one I’d recommend getting. Among the original eleven songs, some such as “Postcard” and “Now I’m A Farmer” are very atypical and not in a good way, while others are overly generic (“Put The Money Down”), are included purely for historical purposes (“I’m The Face,” the band’s first song recorded back when they were The High Numbers), or are good (“Glow Girl”) but also appear elsewhere (in this case on The Who Sell Out).

So that’s nearly half the album that’s pretty forgettable, but the rest of the material is grade-A stuff, including “Too Much Of Anything,” a catchy, melodic, country-ish sing along, and “Faith In Something Bigger,” another catchy pop nugget on which their harmonies are the highlight. Even better is “Little Billy,” recorded for an anti-smoking ad that was never used, but best of all are “Pure And Easy” (one of several Lighthouse outtakes), “Naked Eye,” and “Long Live Rock,” which actually became a minor hit and perennial radio favorite.

As with many of the songs on Who’s Next, “Pure And Easy” (which would’ve fit perfectly on that album; in fact, its melody shows up at the end of “The Song Is Over”) is part ballad, part rocker, and it contains a lovely flowing melody and poetic lyrics, while “Naked Eye” features some of Pete’s best studio guitar work ever. As for “Long Live Rock,” it’s The Who in full on anthem mode, though this one is notable for being influenced by ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, for its enjoyably ironic lyrics, and for Roger/Pete’s throat-shredding vocals.

Among the bonus tracks, most were unreleased for a reason, particularly the ones recorded in the mid-to-late ’60s, including a couple of Motown covers (“Leaving Here,” “Baby, Don’t You Do It”), a pair of tracks that pale compared to their definitive Live At Leeds renditions (“Summertime Blues,” “Young Man Blues”), a humorous but minor Eddie Cochran cover (“My Way”), and their famous “save Keith and Mick” cover of “Under My Thumb,” which also pales next to the Stones original (also, where’s “Out Of Time”?). Fortunately, there are several keepers as well.

The exceptionally pretty keyboard-heavy version of “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand” (guesting Al Kooper) and the rocking, Leslie West assisted “Love Ain’t For Keeping” may be my favorite versions of those songs, for example (the latter is worlds better than the version on Who’s Next, largely due to Leslie’s soaring guitar work). “Time Is Passing” is utterly gorgeous, surpassing the version on Pete’s first solo album Who Came First since it sounds more fully fleshed out and has that lovely harmonium sound going for it. Also included is the short, odd Tommy discard “Cousin Kevin Model Child,” the forgettable “We Close Tonight,” and a studio version of “Water,” a stage favorite from the early ’70s that sounds much better live, alas.

Still, excessive filler aside, it’s hard to fault the suits at MCA for being overly generous, as Odds & Sods remains an extremely interesting album (albeit one designed for hardcore fans) in the way that it shows off so many different sides of the band. Besides, there are a handful of essential Who songs, or essential versions of Who songs, that can’t be found anywhere else, so if you’re a big fan of the band you’d do well to pick this album up.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | The Who Odds And Sods | | Leave a comment

Supertramp Even In The Quietest Moments… (1977)

26377From prognaut.com

Supertramp’s past was interesting, two albums of little note with a different band before they took a couple of years off to reform after picking up a crack rhythm section and a wind player/backup vocalist. They then met studio wonderkid Ken Scott and released their magnum opus Crime of the Century to worldwide and critical success. A slight hiccup on the followup Crisis? What Crisis? leads to 1977’s Even In the Quietest Moments, another critical and even more commercial success.

It begins with Supertramp’s first top 20 hit, “Give a Little Bit.” This song has a great acoustic guitar hook and the high pitched vocal of Rodger Hodgson singing a catchy melody. I enjoy the method in which each Supertramp record alternate tracks between the two singers. The more baritone pitched Rick Davies sings the clever & fun “Lover Boy,” the bluesy/breezy “Downstream,” and the outstanding “From Now On.” This song features inspired piano work as always from Davies and a jazzy saxaphone solo from John Anthony Helliwell.

Although the hits were usually by Hodgson, Davies voice and songwriting is still a highlight on every Supertramp album. Hodgson’s voice on title track “Even In the Quietest Moments” is at its most fragile towards the beginning, but dynamically builds to show what range and power the man has.

The piece that is of most interest to us prog fans is the over ten minute epic, “Fool’s Overture.” It begins with a quiet piano backed with orchestral instruments and Hodgson’s fragile and tender vocal. Then a pulsating synth line comes in like it skipped to another record, something by Tangerine Dream.

The segues sustaining these extra minutes are ably provided (as on the past two albums) by rhythm section Dougie Thomson and Bob C. Benberg. Hodgson comes in again with his fragile voicework bringing back that unmistakable Supertramp quality to insure that you are indeed on the right CD. It again breaks into a reprise of the electronica section while overlaying harmony vocals to bring it all to a glorious climax.

Even In the Quietest Moments is one of Supertramp’s best works, right behind Crime of the Century and 1979’s Breakfast In America. A great record from the more mainstream side of prog, it comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Supertramp Even In The Quietest Moments... | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Intimate (Almost Mysterious) (Berlin, July 1970)

intimate_almost_mysterious_fFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany – July 19th, 1970

Disc 1 (58:47): Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, Bring It On Home, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Thank You, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be

Disc 2 (67:24): Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown. Bonus tracks, Montreux, Switzerland – March 7th, 1970: We’re Gonna Groove, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, White Summer

Led Zeppelin’s short, four date tour in Germany in July 1970 is both well and a poorly documented. John Bonham published a diary for these dates, and journalist Chris Welch accompanied the band, writing about his experiences and even filming the band as they traveled through the country (footage which is posted on their official site and used on the DVD). But the only tape to surface is the final show in Berlin on July 19th. In a show that had manager Peter Grant in fits because of all the microphones at the end of broomsticks recording the concert, one of them thankfully survived. The tape is fragmented since it cuts in at the end of “Immigrant Song,” cut at the end of “Thank You,” cuts out fifty-one seconds into the encore “Communication Breakdown” and between all of the songs. It is however a very rich, full and enjoyable recording.

Its first appearance on a silver pressed release was in the early nineties when “Dazed And Confused” and “Bring It On Home” were featured on Air Raids Over Germany (Tecumseh Records TRC-005) with tracks from Berlin 1973 and Nuremberg 1980. A more complete tape was used for Checkpoint Charlie (Immigrant IM-050-51) in 1996 but is missing “That’s The Way” and the “Communication Breakdown” fragment. Equinox released Intimate (Almost Mysterious) in the summer of 2000 with all of their other titles and represents a dramatic improvement, sounding much better and being more complete.

Missing the beginning of the show is a shame because what is left of “Immigrant Song” reveals it to be played with sheer guts and excitement as is “Heartbreaker.” Seventeen minutes of “Dazed And Confused” show Page trying to take the song in several different directions. After the eerie violin bow episode, played to full effect in the venue, the improvisation includes several unique ideas which weren’t developed fully but are intriguing. The “Think About It” solo is run through several variations before Page slows down a bit and scratches the strings in a syncopated rhythm before the call and response section. He sustains a high-pitched squeal leading into the third verse of the song and then plays a slowing moving heavier-than-granite in the coda.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is the second new song played (after “Immigrant Song”) and sounds close to the final commercially released version on Led Zeppelin III. The third and final new song is the only acoustic number in the set. Plant hushes the audience before introducing it, saying “a thing from Led Zeppelin III and it’s called ‘That’s The Way.’” It was premiered the previous month at the Bath Festival in England but under the working title “The Boy Next Door.”

The set closes with a long medley in “Whole Lotta Love.” This is the earliest tape to document this, since they had just dropped “How Many More Times.” The medley is very primitive with the song references blending into one another. After the theremin section they play ”Boogie Chillun’” and get into very broad sounding blues rhythms in unique arrangements. After Page boogies on the guitar Plant sings “I’ve got a girl / she lives upon the hill / She says she doesn’t love me but I know her sister will.” He will sing these words in the medley in the middle of the next US tour (and appear on the famous Blueberry Hill), but their origin remain a mystery. Some sources claim this is “Red House” but is thought to be original. Plant thrown in a “squeeze my lemon” before singing the first verse to Freddie King’s “See See Baby.”

There are many other quotes including Jimmy Reed’s “Down In Virgina” before the medley closes with a downright frightening version of “Honey Bee” mixed with another Muddy Waters classic, “Long Distance Call Blues.” Led Zeppelin liked to close their medleys with a majestic, slow-paced blues and is obvious from the earliest recorded version. Plant thanks Berlin before they start the encore. “Good Times Bad Times” was normally included in ”Communication Breakdown” at this time, but is unfortunately cut. Equinox include as a bonus the four song good to very good mono soundboard recording from Montreux earlier in the year. This was included on the hard to find Sunshine Woman (Flagge). They restored the songs to the proper running order. Intimate (Almost Mysterious) is packaged in a glossy cardboard gatefold sleeve and given the tape’s rarity is a good addition to the collection.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Intimate (Almost Mysterious) | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin How’ve Ya Been? (Madison Square Garden, September 1971)

lz_howbeenFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – September 3rd, 1971

Disc 1 (58:30): Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 2 (36:56): Celebration Day, That’s The Way, Going To California, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick

Disc 3 (55:14): Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, organ solo – Thank You, Rock And Roll

Close to a year after their Madison Square Garden debut, Led Zeppelin returned for the big New York show on September 3rd on their seventh North American tour. With a sell out in three hours, playing to a packed Garden insured a legendary performance and in addition to performance, this show is legendary in other ways as well. Three tape sources exist for this concert.

The first is the so-called “noisy Artie” tapes, named after the loquacious taper who recorded many of Zeppelin’s shows in New York between 1971 and 1975 and is the source of the three silver pressed editions. The second tape source runs from the beginning to “What Is And What Should Never Be” and the third tape from beginning and cuts out during “Moby Dick.”

Despite the constant talking and comments made by the taper and his friends, this is clear and enjoyable recording which captures the insanity in the venue that night. Previous releases of the tape include the no label Hard Company and Mad Screaming Gallery (Lemon Song LS-7203/4/5), both of which offer the complete concert.

There are numerous cuts on the tape including at 2:34 in “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” 13:31 in “Dazed And Confused,” three seconds into “That’s The Way,” and the very end of “Going To California” which also elimates the opening of “What Is And What Should Never Be.”

The announcer begins the show by stating that Led Zeppelin won the Melody Makerpoll in England for most popular group as the band comes on stage and before they even play a note Plant greets the audience with “how’ve ya been?” several times.

The torrent of notes of “The Immigrant Song” drives the sellout audience nuts and before “Since I’ve Been Loving You” Plant has to do some crowd control, saying, “Listen, the one thing we don’t want tonight is a lot of rapping when we’re trying to play. So if everybody, if you respect the people behind you then we’re gonna stop a lot of shouting. So try to move into the aisles, and sit down a bit, otherwise it’s gonna be us that are going to suffer.” The first new song of the evening is “Black Dog,” which the taper has trouble hearing the song title and needs help from his girlfriend.

“Dazed And Confused” is one from a long time ago and features the Bouree in the violin bow episode. Jimmy Page invents several unique riffs during the song’s twenty-two minute duration. The paradigm for all versions on this tour is from the BBC recording the previous spring, where the arrangement still has a solid foot in psychedelia (an aesthetic which would be dropped by the time they tour Japan).

Plant expresses surprise at the audience afterwards, saying “we didn’t even imagine it was gonna be like this.” He tells the audience to be quiet for “Stairway To Heaven,” saying “if you’re gonna talk, whisper.” Unlike the Los Angeles performances, Plant doesn’t make any mistakes in the words and the song comes off without a hitch. The audience (near the recorder at least) don’t seem to pay too much attention to the song until it speeds up with Bonzo’s entrance.

“Celebration Day” is a “tribute…to New York” and makes its New York debut. The acoustic set is only two songs long. “Last time we were here, when we sat down, we didn’t have much success doing what we were doing cause there was so much noise” Plant remembers, referring to the 1970 shows were there was much talking. Things haven’t changed much since. In “That’s The Way” Plant sings “and yesterday I saw you walking by the Hudson” to add some New York flavor.

“Whole Lotta Love” is tremendously exciting.

During ”Boogie Chillun’” Page and Bonham spontaneously break out into CCR’s “Suzie Q.” An example of Led Zeppelin humor which leads into improvisation segueing to ”My Baby Left,” one of Page’s first sessions back in the early sixties and “Mess O’ Blues,” one of the constants in the medley in 1971. The medley ends with a Garden shattering, seven and a half minute version of “You Shook Me.”

When the come out for the encores Plant scolds the crowd, “Just one thing wrong. That person who did that. There’s been no police trouble. There’s been nothing at all, and everybody was grooving, right? One thing. We’re gonna do some more, so put the lights off. We’ll dedicate it to that guy who threw that thing.” “Communication Breakdown” contains a Jones bass solo with Plant shouting “Mr Bass Man!”

After they come back for the second, Page plays the opening riff to “Train Kept A Rollin’” as Plant again tells the audience to be quiet. But when Jones begins the organ solo people begin to climb onto the stage. Eyewitness say the band stood on the monitors to be seen by the audience. People by the taper keep shouting “get off the stage!!” By the time “Thank You” starts so many had climbed onto the stage that it cracks. The noise is very loud.

“Yuo’ve gotta move back!!! Move back or we can’t go n” Plant shouts when the band stop playing. After a short delay order is restored and the band pick up again where they left off in the song. Before the final encore Plant exasperatedly says, “I can’t hear. I gotta tell you, I can’t hear a thing I’m saying cause all the equipment’s falling off. This is a track off the fourth album. It’s called ‘It’s Been a Long Time.’”

How’ve Ya Been?: Riot In The Garden 1971 is an early TDOLZ release which sold out soon after its release and is extremely rare, commanding high prices when it does occasionally surface. The sound quality and completeness is much improved over the older titles. TDOLZ released this in 1996 and the tape has not been pressed to silver since making this by default the definitive version.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin How've Ya Been? | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Any Port In A Storm (Southampton, January 1973)

zep_anyportFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

The Old Refectory, Southampton University, Southampton, England – January 22nd, 1973

Disc 1 (76:26): Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused

Disc 2 (73:46): Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love (including Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Let’s Have A Party), Heartbreaker, Thank You, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown

Any Port In A Storm is among the releases with the Southampton tape that surfaced in 2007. Upon its release it has quickly ascended into the “must have” list of Led Zeppelin shows because of the professional recording and the set list that includes the only 1973 version of “How Many More Times” and the pristine recording of John Paul Jones’ mellotron symphony before “Thank You.” Like the others this has really nice sound and the label did not try to improve it with excessive remastering. They did however elimte the drum tuning in the introduction before “Rock And Roll” and cut out some tape around the glitches found throught the show.

“Rock And Roll” sounds a bit sluggish, but the following song “Over The Hills And Far Away” is very good with an animated solo by Page in the middle. Before “Black Dog” Plant says, “And it’s a good evening. I believe we came here before. I don’t know if it was as warm then. We’re going to have a good time tonight. This is about a Labrador who became rather – rather dodgy with lumbago. The only thing he could do was boogie. He was a black dog. Black Dog!” The “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” pairing follows immediately afterwards. Before “Dancing Days” Plant explains, “This is a bastard actually. This is a track from the new album. It’s a track that was written in the height of last year’s summer on July 6th. It’s a song about school days and little boys that never grow up. It’s called ‘Dancing Days’.” This is usually a great live piece but this version sounds tired with Page playing a bland solo at the song’s conclusion.

“Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” which normally follows “Dancing Days,” is dropped: “we don’t know it to be honest,” Plant explains. “Besides we can’t maneuver about.” The band play another new song, “The Song Remains The Same” instead. The right channel of the stereo flickers at eleven seconds into the track and becomes a bit weak at twenty-two seconds, but improves soon afterwards with another flicker at 2:51. at the end of “The Rain Song” Plant says, “That was John Paul Jones, ably assisted by the Haleigh Orchestra which we managed to press into this small 3 X 26 box.” A power surge can be heard on the tape and there is a short delay while the roadies work on wiring onstage. Page plays a bit of the Tarantella while Plant caution “you can get a shock you know, Cerano.” Plant jokes with the audience about the show the previous evening at the Gaumont Theater before the band play a twenty-eight minute version of “Dazed And Confused.”

The recording preserves the dynamics of the piece and the song is very enjoyable in this show. Plant is out of tempo during the “San Francisco” section and Page takes his time finding his violin bow. Bonham plays the cymbals under Plant’s moans in the interim before the violin bow section begins. The sounds are soft, reminiscent of the Liverpool tape, but also very creepy. “Whole Lotta Love” lasts for a half hour and the medley is typical for this tour with no surprises. There is a small cut on the tape at 19:47. They play the longest set of encores of the tour. “Heartbreaker” is first followed by the John Paul Jones mellotron arrangement of “Thank You,” This is an experiment he first introduced in Nagoya the previous October and played it several times since, but this is the best recording we have of this unusual piece.

At the song’s end Page plays some pretty figures on the guitar before Plant introduces the next number. “This is one of our early tunes and God knows if we can remember it.” They play an eight minute version of “How Many More Times” for the first time in two year and this segues directly with the final encore of the night “Communication Breakdown.” Any Port In A Storm is packaged in a tri-fold gatefold sleeve and is a nice edition to have.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Any Port In A Storm | , | Leave a comment