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Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Concert Review: Madison Square Garden, July 16, 1998

SignFrom Rolling Stone

No disrespect to the musical legacy of Led Zeppelin, but nothing at tonight’s show better evoked the golden age of stadium rock than the sight of Robert Plant’s golden mane blowing around his head. Sure, he can still wail like a banshee and compatriot Jimmy Page can still make his guitar roar like a venerable lion, but it was Plant’s hair blowing in the AC gales that truly made you remember laughter and the indelible stage presence of Zeppelin.

Yes, Zeppelin. Let’s call a spade a spade. When Page and Plant snubbed Zep bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones on their “No Quarter” tour four years ago, they stressed that they were determined not to trade in nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Hence the “Page and Plant” tag and the accompanying orchestra of middle eastern musicians to help give warhorses like “Kashmir” and “The Battle of Evermore” a unique spin. It was a tenuous excuse in theory, but the results were interesting enough to distinguish the duo from countless other re-heat-the-hits reunion tours, ranging from the Eagles to shed-acts like REO Speedwagon and The Doobie Brothers.

But with this current tour, supporting Walking Into Clarksdale, Page and Plant’s studio “debut”, all those concessions to originality have been thrown right out the window. Plant admitted as much himself tonight: “We’ve got no Egyptians, we’ve got no hurdy gurdy; we’ve just us and a few bright ideas”. The bright ideas in question consisted of three new songs and a whole lotta straight-up, ungussied Led. There was drummer Michael Lee in the John Bonham seat, and bassist Charlie Jones and keyboardist Phil Andrews filling in for the still-absent John Paul Jones, but the songs remained the same and Page and Plant made no apologies for it.

It was a strategy that kept the crowd standing for ninety-seven percent of the show and inspired deafening hoots and hollers of “Zeppelin!” in the Garden’s hallways after the show. Page alone probably could have inspired such an afterglow had he merely played the riff to “Whole Lotta Love” for two hours straight. Indeed, for the first six songs he might as well have been by himself given what a chore it was to hear Plant through the muddy thunder of a mix that rendered stompers like “Heartbreaker” and “Ramble On” indistinguishable from the new “Walking Into Clarksdale”. For all the visual majesty of his billowing mane of golden locks, Plant could have been replaced by a cardboard-cutout — or former Page one-night-stander David Coverdale, for that matter.

Thankfully, by the time “No Quarter” came to a slow boil, the levels were evened out and Plant’s voice was brought into proportion with Page’s Les Paul. With it too came the opportunity for Jones, Lee and Anderson to spread out and express their own strengths. Soon after, the stools and chairs were broughtout for pseudo-acoustic fare like “Going to California,” “Tangerine” and a propulsive, harrowing “Gallows Pole”, all of which proved to be much more impressive outlets for Page’s talent than his trademark marriage of violin bow to guitar neck — a gimmick that looks cool but is a genuine bitch on the ears.

The evening’s best moments were “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and the new “Most High.” “Babe,” clocking in at well over ten minutes, was like a concert inminiature, a rock opera which found Page and Plant working off each other’s every nuance. As for “Most High,” it played like a condensed “Kashmir” withoutall the dull bits — a direct descendent of their finest work in Zeppelin that was infinitely more exciting than the following “Whole Lotta Love” and the encore’s rote run-throughs of “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll.”

As for “Kashmir,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Dazed and Confused,” well, they didn’t play any of them. Fine, but shouldn’t their omission have left rooms omewhere in the set for such undervalued Zep classics as “The Ocean,” “Overthe Hills and Far Away” or “In My Time of Dying”? Apparently not, although the whole of Physical Graffitti could have been played in the time it took the band to leave the stage after their extended display of waving and bowing to the crowd. Such stadium rock indulgence is their due, though — and mor epower to them — but it was hard not to feel short changed by the time they finally left and the house lights came on. Without a more committed effort to producing more *new* music on par with “Most High,” Page and Plant would do well to take in a Doobies shed show before touring again: for there but for the grace of their vaulted names go they.

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April 7, 2013 Posted by | Jimmy Page & Robert Plant MSG 1998 | | Leave a comment

The Who Danger! Over Head Live Wires (Lyceum, November 1973)

who-dangerFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Lyceum, London, England – November 12th, 1973

Disc 1 (61:34): I Can’t Explain, Summertime Blues, My Generation, I Am The Sea, The Real Me, The Punk And The Godfather, I’m One, Helpless Dancer, 5.15, Sea And Sand, Drowned, Bell Boy

Disc 2 (62:35): Doctor Jimmy, The Rock, Love Reign O’er Me, My Generation, Won’t Get Fooled Again, See Me Feel Me, Magic Bus, Spoonful

Quadrophenia is considered one of greatest rock concept albums. And what better way to hear it than performed live in front of a London audience at the piece’s inception? After playing several concerts in northern England and a short US tour, the band played seven concerts at the end of 1973 to promote this most English of albums.

This new release on Mainstream documents the November 12th concert in the small venue The Lyceum. (The band had not played there since 1968 and it was obvious it was inadequate for their latest stage show). Despite that the show is delivered with the usual fire and fury inherent in the material. After beginning the set with three “oldie but goodies”, they launch upon the Quadrophenia set with “I Am The Sea”.

Townshend plays the role of mc explaining the story between the songs to present a coherent narrative. One of the characteristics of this show is the constant yelling and heckling towards the stage.

After “Punk & The Godfather”, for example, Townshend tells the audience: “That song was all about when the hero goes to a rock concert. He queues up, pays his money, and he decides he’s gonna go and see the stars backstage as they come out the stage door. And one of them comes up and says ‘fuck off’. And he suddenly realizes that there’s nothing really happening in rock and roll. It’s just another cross on his list. But he thinks a lot about the other side.”

Again, shouting from the audience interrupts Townshend: “Why don’t you fucking shut up?” he continues. “Go and f***ing see someone else, man. Or come up here and rock yourself. I’m talking, aren’t I?”

The middle third of the show reaches an exciting climax with “The Rock” and “Love Reign O’er Me” that leaves the crowd breathless! The latter third of the set list consists of older crowd pleasers (except “Pinball Wizard”, dropped this evening).

Townshend extends “My Generation” with a furious solo. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is another classic that gets a wild crowd reaction, and an improv based around “Spoonful” that brings the show to a riotous close.

Danger! Over Head Live Wires contains the complete concert. The quality is about the same as a previous release on Mainstream Can Anyone Out There Play The Drums? It is clear and listenable but taped a distance from the stage. It sounds much better under headphones where you can hear the stage announcements between songs. This release is definitely aimed for the Who collector who wants to hear this rare show.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | The Who Danger! Over Head Live Wires | , | Leave a comment

Memories Of Lynyrd Skynyrd And Peter Rudge

794683-peter-rudgeBy Chris Charlesworth

Lynyrd Skynyrd was managed by my friend Peter Rudge from late 1973. Rudge’s main pre-occupation at this time was The Who, for whom he’d worked in a quasi-managerial capacity since 1969.

As Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp shirked their responsibilities and fell out of favour, Rudge became The Who’s day-to-day manager in 1971, then set up in business in New York to look after their US affairs. His company was called Sir Productions and their offices were located on 57th Street, not far from Carnegie Hall. In October, 1973 Lynyrd Skynyrd supported The Who on their US Quadrophenia tour and Rudge took over their management around this time. In due course he would also manage .38 Special, whose singer Donnie Van Zant was the younger brother of Ronnie, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s charismatic singer and principal songwriter, and two other bands – The Dingoes, from Australia, and LeBlanc & Carr, from Muscle Shoals.

Peter Rudge was a smart, fast-talking, street-wise Cambridge University graduate who loved sport and could handle himself well if things became physical. At Cambridge he’d booked bands for college events and on one occasion in 1966 booked The Who for a college ball. According to his account, he’d received a telegram from The Who’s management 24 hours before the gig cancelling but instead of accepting the situation he’d got on a train to London and marched uninvited into Kit Lambert’s offices at Track Records in Old Compton Street demanding the group perform and threatening to sue them if they didn’t. Lambert was impressed by this show of bravado and offered him a job on the spot. In the event he graduated first, then turned up at Track where he was given the onerous task of ‘looking after’ The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. It was only a matter of time before his business acumen led to him ‘looking after’ Track’s main attraction, The Who. His speciality was organising US tours and he became so good at it that Pete Townshend recommended him to Mick Jagger when The Rolling Stones were looking for someone to run their international tours after the death of Brian Jones. Rudge’s ultimate ambition was to build up a stable of successful acts and Sir Productions was the umbrella under which this goal was to be achieved. It had eight employees, including a girl on the west coast, an accountant and a travel agent.

I worked for Sir from March 1977 until the end of that year, at which point Rudge drastically reduced the size of the company, a decision brought about as a direct result of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. The reason I worked there in the first place was because of my long-standing friendship with Peter which came about through my fondness for The Who. During my years on Melody Maker Rudge had told me that if I ever felt like leaving MM, he’d give me a job, and he was as good as his word. At Sir I worked on promoting his bands and getting them publicity, but I also went out on the road with both The Dingoes and LeBlanc & Carr as their tour manager, dealing with day to day events on the road, collecting and disbursing cash, making sure the rest of the crew did what they were supposed to do and everyone got from place to place and to the gigs on time. By the time I got to Sir, Rudge’s relationship with The Who was fast deteriorating, largely because he’d been devoting a disproportionate amount of time to The Rolling Stones, and The Who felt he’d somehow betrayed them by shifting his loyalty. Also Bill Curbishley, strongly supported by Roger Daltrey, had emerged as a formidable rival for The Who’s management.

During 1977 I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd perform about half a dozen times, arranged various press and radio interviews for them and helped produce the press kit that accompanied the ill-fated Street Survivors album. By this time Skynyrd were at a peak of popularity, their previous (double live) album One More From The Road having sold over a million copies. Much of their popularity could be put down to Rudge’s hard work ethic – they played something like 200 gigs a year under his management, and just got better and better at it. Now the top prize of a headlining show at Madison Square Garden was within their grasp.

The seven individual members of Lynyrd Skynyrd all drank like fishes, took all known illegal drugs, fucked anything female on two legs and liked nothing better than to fight with their fists, either against others or amongst themselves. Singer Ronnie Van Zant, who sang barefoot because, he said, he liked to feel the stage burn beneath his feet, was the toughest of the lot and he could more or less silence any of the others with the threat of a beating. Before their shows Skynyrd liked to psyche themselves up in their dressing room, winding themselves up by breathing deeply together like US football players, passing the Jack Daniels around in a ritual drink, willing each other on to perform as if their lives depended on it. Rudge, a sports fanatic, encouraged this. It worked, too.

Group meetings in Rudge’s big office were all day and night affairs at which bottle after bottle of Jack Daniels was consumed, piles of coke snorted, and carton after carton of cigarettes smoked. Voices were often raised and the language was as bad as you could hear anywhere. Anyone who’d crossed them was dead meat. MCA Records threw a party for them that summer at a bar near Nathan’s Restaurant which almost got out of hand when someone made a loose remark to one of Skynyrd’s women. Keith Moon, then living in LA, turned up in a loud pinstripe suit, drunk as a kite, and Rudge told me to keep Moon away from him as he’d probably beg for money. It was my first intimation that Moon, of all people, was broke – and sick with booze too. He was very podgy, glassy eyed and mournful.

I took particular pleasure that same summer when Skynyrd appeared as the penultimate act on an all day show at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium and half the audience of 100,000+ walked out during Peter Frampton’s very limp closing set. They’d played an hour’s set – short for them – and restricted themselves to their best known songs, performed back-to-back with a minimum of fuss and maximum of swagger. The closing ‘Freebird’, their best known song, brought that huge crowd to their feet and as I watched from the side of the stage, just behind their amplifiers, it seemed to me that all 100,000 of them were stomping and cheering as the band played faster and faster, running away down the tracks to the song’s stupendous finale. Perfect. Philly conquered. Rudge and the band were laughing all the way to the bank, or so we all thought.

Unfortunately all the graft – and, believe me, Skynyrd grafted – came to nought as a result of the events of October 20. I was actually due to fly to Baton Rouge in Louisiana the following morning, pick up the Street Survivors tour which was three days old and co-ordinate various interviews I’d set up for them along the way, mostly at Texas radio stations, and I was looking forward to it as I’d never been to Texas before and a visit to the Lone Star State alongside Lynyrd Skynrd was likely to be an interesting experience. I would, of course, have travelled on the same private plane as the group and had the crash occurred 24 hours later I might not have been here to tell this tale.

d0f5e82b85949956bbb7bcc7f494c168My first intimation that anything was amiss came when a girlfriend of mine in St Louis called Debbie Moore rang me at home in New York. She told me she’d just heard on the local news that a private plane had come down in Mississippi and that it was ‘believed’ that the rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd was aboard. Did I know? Of course I didn’t. I then called UPI who confirmed that a small plane had indeed come down near a place called McComb. I then tried to call Rudge at home. His wife Frankie answered. Peter had just heard too. He was on his way to the office. I grabbed a cab and went straight there. I was the first to arrive and the phones – all five or six lines – were all ringing at once. It was pointless to try and answer them. I called UPI back and explained who I was and how I would be prepared to help them with regard to accurate information on Lynyrd Skynyrd if they could keep me up to date with developments from McComb. We agreed to help each other and stayed in touch all night.

Then Rudge arrived. He’d been to pick up a carton of cigarettes because he knew it would be a long night. I told him everything I knew and what I’d done. He looked distraught and opened a bottle of red wine but he somehow maintained his composure until, eventually, around 1 am, we heard that Ronnie was dead. Then he went alone into the office kitchen and wept. In the meantime all the office staff had arrived. The girls who worked at Sir manned the phones all night, crying as they did.

The various wives and girlfriends of the guys in the band and the road crew, almost all of whom lived in and around Jacksonville, were on the lines permanently, wanting to know the latest news from McComb. Eventually they all gathered at the home of Ronnie’s wife Judy and what dreadful scenes of hysteria and grief that house must have witnessed that night I can barely imagine. We relayed the news, almost all of it bad, as best we could to the girls in that house, every one of them unsure whether their men were dead or alive. The job of telling Judy that Ronnie was dead fell to Rudge. Radio stations were calling, wanting statements from me; reporters were calling. I believe my choked-up voice was heard on over 30 stations across the USA that night. Friends of Rudge and the band called offering help; private planes were put at our disposal. It went on all night and I got home dazed at around 9 or 10 am the next day. A night like that is not something you forget easily.

Six people died – Ronnie, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister Cassie (who sang back up), their tour manager Dean Kilpatrick, and both pilots. All the band sustained bad injuries, as did some of the roadies and lighting crew. Those at the front of the plane came off worst, those at the back were less badly injured. Inevitably the group and those closest to them were at the front, with the part-timers at the back. The word was that Ronnnie was flat out drunk, lying in the aisle, when the plane went down. No one could move him to a seat, let alone strap him in. He and the rest of the band had been drinking hard all day in a hotel in Greenville, South Carolina, waiting while the plane was got ready. Someone said something about the pilots having been drinking too.

All sorts of stories came out at the inquest: how the band, and Ronnie in particular, had complained to Rudge that the plane was dodgy and he’d complained to Ron Eckermann, their tour manager and told him to get it fixed. Someone said they saw flames coming from the engine on their flight from Miami to South Carolina the previous day. Eckerman was due to get the plane serviced in Baton Rouge. In the event, it seemed that the plane had ran out of fuel – there being no fire when it crashed – but it was obviously burning up fuel faster than it should have done.

Nothing was ever the same again at Sir Productions. The whole company seemed to go into a kind of stupor. All the plans we’d had for Skynyrd and the other bands were dashed. In two weeks time they would have headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time. It really did look like the were about to be elevated to the top bracket of touring rock bands, though how they would have dealt with it God only knows as they were such a wild bunch, eternally drunk, drugged up and fighting amongst themselves. Skynyrd were bringing in plenty of money and without them the funds dried up, so it was obvious Sir wouldn’t last. Rudge told me I’d have to go just before Christmas, 1977, and gave me a cheque for $2,000 which he didn’t have to do.

Later, after the funeral, the grief turned to anger, and there were terrible recriminations: lawsuits, bad vibes, fights with Rudge, deep shit. At least one surviving roadie committed suicide and another went mad and was institutionalised. Guitarist Allen Collins never really recovered and died from pneumonia several years later. In the meantime he’d crashed a car in which his girlfriend was killed. Rudge himself went into a terrible tailspin, almost killing himself with booze and coke. It cost him his marriage. When I walked out of Sir Productions I didn’t see him again for 22 years, but now he’s remarried, dry and clean after a cancer scare (he’s even given up cigarettes and he was once a 60-a-day man) and evidently happy. His son Joe, whom I remember as a baby, now works for MTV. At one time Peter was on the brink of controlling the fortunes of two of the three biggest British rock acts in the world. Ironically, the remains of the third – Led Zeppelin – is now controlled by Bill Curbishley, who took over The Who from Peter.

Lynyrd Skynyrd ultimately reformed as a kind of tribute act to themselves with Ronnie’s youngest brother Johnnie on vocals. ‘Freebird’, forever associated with Van Zant, was played as a closing instrumental while a single spotlight picked out Ronnie’s old black cowboy hat sitting atop a central mike stand. ‘If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?’ went the words. I do, anyway.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Lynyrd Skynyrd Memories Of Lynyrd Skynyrd And Peter Rudge | | Leave a comment

Joe Walsh So What (1975)

61IxVq5cEmLFrom dailyvault.com

Joe Walsh got his start at a guitarist for the James Gang, which he left for a solo career in 1971. Known best for his efforts with the Eagles, it was Walsh’s 1974 album, So What, that secured him a place with the Eagles after Bernie Leadon departed. Walsh is still credited as the guy that gave The Eagles’s laid-back sound a swift kick in the ass.

First and foremost, Walsh is an unbelievably solid guitar player. Walsh belongs to a class of guitar player that hasn’t surfaced in the 90’s alternative rock scene. It’s almost sad really. Walsh is really a master of his instrument, while recently formed groups can barely play (i.e. Veruca Salt, seen 3/15/97 on Saturday Night Live).

So What has a sound that is firmly rooted in the 70’s. Today, the 70’s feel is very refreshing. When you listen to So What, you feel like you’ve jumped back to the mid-70’s again, which is a nice feeling. You catch all of the harmonized backing vocals that was a 70’s staple, while listening to guitar work that is creative in any era.

“Welcome To The Club” has a enough rhythm changes to keep you hooked for hours, with signature Walsh guitars that build and fade meticulously. Lyrically, Walsh is a bit more subtle here than he’s famous for, spinning a yarn about crazy situations on the road.

“Falling Down” has a soulful, western feel to it. The rhythm work is done on a 12-string, with most of the leads added delicately with a 6-string electric. Present again are the 70’s vocal harmonies, which are layered so that they’re almost ghost like.

On “Time Out”, Walsh returns the style that made him famous on “Rocky Mountain Way.” The song features a combination of standard and slide lead guitar that Walsh does so well. To date, I can’t think of anyone who so perfectly combines these two styles. The drumming and bass are very prominent on this track. Walsh seems to let the rhythm guys hold the song while he paints over it. This isn’t anything new, it’s the standard Rx for rock and roll. It’s just that when you listen to this album, you notice all of the ridiculously simple things that many bands don’t do anymore.

“Help Me Through The Night” was the doorway into the Eagles and beyond. This was the first song that Henley, Frey and Walsh worked on together. With Henley and Frey on backing vocals, it sounds like the song is from Hotel California. While the presence of the Eagles is noticeable, the song still preserves the feel of the rest of the album.

While So What lacks any mega hits, it’s probably his most beautiful album. With it’s firmly rooted 70’s style, it will show some signs of age on the turntable today. But its strengths, great guitar work, great vocal harmonies, and peaceful demeanor are timeless in any era. With So What in the background, a nice drink and a loved one nearby, the album promotes a wonderful “time out” to unwind.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Joe Walsh So What | | Leave a comment

The Mahavishnu Orchestra Apocalypse (1974)

5706294615_b13c5f1a6b_bFrom amazon.com

Ever the restless experimenter, John McLaughlin decided to soldier on after the acrimonious breakup of the first Mahavishnu Orchestra. He had an even grander musical vision in mind. First he put together a larger version of the band, and not being content to stop there, bought in the heavy artillery, known as the London Symphony Orchestra, tapped one Michael Gibbs to do the orchestral arrangements, enlisted the services of a young up and coming conductor in Michael Tilson Thomas, who had a taste for the adventurous and unconventional. And to cap it off, Johnny Mac enlisted the services of Beatles producer George Martin to capture this grand experiment on tape.

Did the bold experiment work? For the most part, it did.

We begin with “Power of Love”, where the orchestra plays a quiet and somber understated theme as Jean Luc Ponty spins forth a haunting melody on his electric violin and McLaughlin adds poignant acoutsic guitar. But this is just a prelude to something very unsettling.

That unsettling something being “Vision Is A Naked Sword”. Beginning with a rumbling gong, both the band and the Symphony unleash an ominous “Wrath of God” reworking of the main theme of “Dance of The Maya” and in doing so, nearly scaring the crap out of you, with Johnny Mac peeking out with his trademark scary dissonant arpeggios. From there things get even more jarring and intense, as J Mac and Ponty trade off phrases, Narada Michael Walden interjects and the band plays a fine game of volleying riffs back and forth before things draw to a terrifying orchestral close. WOW!!!!

Next up, “Smile Of The Beyond” is a attempt to lighten the mood after having the fear of God put in you. As the strings come in, Gayle Moran (the future Mrs. Chick Corea) does the wailing diva thing, howling at the moon with some rather preposterous pseudo-cosmic lyrics over a fairly saccharine string arrangement, then the band kicks in with the guys singing the song’s signature line over a fairly active fusion groove, but somehow, this one just doesn’t quite add up or succeed at what it attempted.

“Wings of Karma” is a nice orchestral interlude leading to a sort of gospel-inflected fusion groove, paving the way for “Hymn to Him”, a multi-part epic that has more than the minimum USDA daily requirements of instrumental fireworks, that reaches a fiery climax as Johnny Mac and the band trade riffs with the whole London Symphony, quite fun to listen to actually and then it winds down to a beautiful, serene ending.

This is not what one would call easy listening by any stretch.

The overall recording quality is spacious and crisp, thanks to George Martin’s finely tuned ears and ace Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick manning the faders. The recording of this album was a pretty complicated affair according to the participants, having to stay in synch by way of a closed circuit TV system in the studio.

Quibbles? I have some.

First, Johnny Mac’s guitar is uncharacteristically low in the mix and doesn’t come across with quite the fullness that it normally did on previous recordings. In fact, it sounds downright thin and overly metallic in a lot of places, almost hurting the ears sometimes.

Second, Gayle Moran. Her keyboard work here is adequate but not really anything outstanding or special in any manner. And yes, she can sing, but that wailing diva howling at the moon thing is more of a distraction than an asset, it sticks out like really bad Broadway/pseudo-operatic schlock, truth be told. Those dippy pseudo-cosmic lyrics weren’t much of a help either.

The new band overall kicked butt, especially Ralphe Armstrong and Narada Michael Walden, even if he does overplay a little now and then. I heard that MO Mark II were actually great on stage with just the 3 strings and 2 horns. It had to be a monumental challenge to capture the essence of the dense orchestral sections and be able to convey it with a much smaller (relatively speaking) ensemble.

John McLaughlin could certainly not be faulted for being exploratory and wildly ambitious, and he is in fact to be commended, even when it didn’t always fly. At least he learned from the mistakes.

In spite of the flaws, this is a disc definitely worth having, just to see how orchestral and electric textures can work together, and how one such as Johnny Mac always followed his musical heart wherever it took him, not having the least bit of concern for commerciality.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | The Mahavishnu Orchestra Apocalypse | , | Leave a comment

Al Di Meola Land Of The Midnight Sun (1976)

aldimeolalandFrom amazon.com

This is a good (1976) debut by electric/acoustic guitar virtuoso Al Di Meola, who originally came to my attention through his work with jazz rock outfit Return to Forever. Al is truly a musician’s musician, which is why my orchestra/jazz band cronies and I would pore over every note of this album in high school.

The lineup on Land of the Midnight Sun (1976) brought together some of the finest musicians in the jazz rock realm and Al (6 and 12 string acoustic guitars, electric guitar, synthesizer, and percussion) is joined by several electric bass guitarists: Anthony Jackson (1, 2), Jaco Pastorius (5), Stanley Clarke (4); and drummers: Steve Gadd (1), Lenny White (2), and Alphonse Mouzon (5). Rounding out the core lineup are keyboardists Chick Corea (6) and Barry Miles (2, 5); percussionist Mingo Lewis (1, 2, 4, and 5); and female vocalist Patty Buyukas (4).

I think it goes without saying that these folks are all first chair performers and the playing is simply jaw-dropping. Al in particular dazzles throughout with his rapid fire scalar runs on both the acoustic and electric guitars. He also demonstrates that he is reasonably adept at composition/arrangement too, including some of the longer jazz rock/prog pieces such as Land of the Midnight Sun, Suite-Golden Dawn, and the delicate, shorter piece Love Theme from “Pictures of the Sea”.

At the heart of this album are three riff-heavy tracks that boast warp-speed ensemble playing and impossibly difficult time signatures – The Wizard, Land of the Midnight Sun, and Suite – Golden Dawn. Fortunately however, the album is also fairly diverse and ranges from the three, highly electric jazz rock/progressive rock rave-ups to a pleasantly subdued adaptation of a Bach piece played on acoustic guitar. Other quiet pieces include the duet between Chick Corea (acoustic piano) and Al (acoustic 6 and 12 string guitar) on Short Tales of the Black Forest.

Additional splashes of variety in timbre/texture include the Latin-flavoured percussion playing of Mingo Lewis; the combination of the female vocalist and Stanley Clarke’s vocals on “Pictures of the Sea”; and the breathtaking interplay between the mind-blowing and intricate (yet funky) bass lines of Jaco Pastorius and Al’s precise, staccato bursts of notes on the electric guitar (Suite – Golden Dawn). Unfortunately (for this keyboard lover), the use of keyboards on the album is somewhat subdued – Al may have wanted to focus on more a guitar-based sound, although the few instances of electric piano and synthesizer use are impressive, as is the acoustic piano playing of Chick Corea.

Although this album has not been remastered, the sound quality is actually fairly good. The liner notes are very skimpy however.

All in all, this is a good album of proggy jazz rock with enough spice and variety that it kept my interest throughout. Land of the Midnight Sun is recommended along with the excellent follow-up album Elegant Gypsy (1977) to those fans of both progressive rock and jazz rock.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Al Di Meola Land Of The Midnight Sun | | Leave a comment

Lynyrd Skynyrd Second Helping (1974)

imagesCAK4FI8VFrom dailyvault.com

The phrase “sophomore slump” is tossed around here at “The Daily Vault” more often than a football at training camp. Usually, whenever an artist or band experiences any kind of success with their debut album, they always feel some kind of pressure to outdo that success – and in turn, release an album that disappoints critically and/or commercially.

In the case of Lynyrd Skynyrd, their dictionary must have left that phrase out, because Second Helping, their 1974 release, could well be one of their best albums, sitting on the shelf next to Street Survivors for that honor. Bringing back bassist Leon Wilkeson into the fold after Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd was recorded, the group was firing on all cylinders and had learned many lessons, both from that first album and the accalim that followed. (Note: I’m reviewing my ancient vinyl copy; the album has since been re-issued on CD with three bonus tracks.)bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

You can sum up Second Helping in three words: “Sweet Home Alabama”. Quite possibly the most recognized song in Skynyrd’s catalog (next to “Free Bird”), this song captures the band’s Southern roots while holding onto their rock sensibility the best. It’s been 27 years since this song was recorded, and with the exception of the Watergate references, this track doesn’t seem to have aged at all. It still crackles with energy, and the wrong-key solo from guitarist Ed King (he admitted later down the road he played it in “G”, when the song was in the key of “D”) is still an amazing slice of six-string work.

But Second Helping is so much more. Continuing on the “mind altering substances are bad” theme started by “Poison Whiskey,” “The Needle And The Spoon” delivers a powerful anti-drug message that is still meaningful today. “Workin’ For MCA” could be seen as a bitch-slap against their label at the time or as a partial praise for someone taking a chance on them; either way, it’s a fun song to listen to, even today when the band is long removed from those days.

Lynyrd Skynyrd even dares to use a song written outside of the band – thus giving J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze” new life, and calling attention to a songwriter you might not have otherwise heard about, Eric Clapton’s covers notwithstanding. Billy Powell’s piano work helps to seal the deal, both on this song and “Sweet Home Alabama”‘s outro.

The lessons concerning the blues from Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd are well learned on Second Helping, from their cover of “Call Me The Breeze” to the funky down-home style of “Swamp Music”. Two words: well done! “I Need You” isn’t strictly a blues song, but it definitely has soulful moments which suck the listener in. It might not be the band’s best-known song, but it’s still a powerful piece of work.

Yes, I could still talk about the two songs we haven’t mentioned, “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” (dealing with fame when the boys came home) and “The Ballad Of Curtis Loew” (detailing how the love of music was instilled in our heroes), but I think you get the point. Second Helping is a solid album from note one to the last drum fill that closes the disc.

If I could only have one Lynyrd Skynyrd album in my collection, I’d have a very hard time choosing between Street Survivors and Second Helping. In fact, I don’t want to choose. I want them both. Bury me with them. Is this album that good? Oh, yeah.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Lynyrd Skynyrd Second Helping | | Leave a comment

Al Di Meola Splendido Hotel (1980)

41b1dQPD6dLFrom amazon.com

A lot has been said about Al Di Meola and his music outside of Return To Forever. Overall he tends to be viewed as a musician of extremes. He either embodies what are viewed as fusion’s best or most unflattering qualities. And there’s a lot of truth on both ends. He is a master musician with an ability and playing dexterity, from mild to wild that you could believe. On the other hand his music could be overly technical and sometimes presented him more as a musicians musician than anyone out to entertain or be intensely creative.

Debates aside he entered the 80’s at a time where even in fusion poppier, more compressed musical sounds such as the type Bob James and Quincy Jones were starting to pioneer became the acceptable standard. The question was would Di Meola, one of the purveyors of the most pyrotechnical variety of fusion be able to adapt to the change. Actually he did an excellent job and delivered one of the strongest albums of his career.

This albums eleven songs find Di Meola moving through a series of songs in many different styles, mostly showcasing his more flamenco style of guitar playing as opposed to the rockier variety and, by and large avoiding anything too melodramatic. “Alien Chase On The Arabian Desert”, “Dinner Music Of The Gods” and the slower “Isfahan”, all between 8 and 11 minutes a piece all have a strong late 70’s/early 80’s latin rock flavour similar to the kind of music you’d find on Santana’s Marathon or Zebop from the same era.

“Two Ta Tango” and “Splendido Sundance” both almost qualify as solo numbers, the former built largely on rhythmic plucking and the latter more on a fast paced flamenco based melody. “Al Di’s Dream Theme” is an elaborate three section tune-starting out more in a jazz-funk vein and into more latin fusion and back to a latin rock style again it could be described as a mini suite, of sorts. “Silent Story In Her Eyes” and “Spanish Eyes” both have kind of a latin jazz-funk shuffle to them as are considerably more crafted than the loose instrumental oriented sound of Di Meola’s earlier music.

Two songs on the album may not satisfy some people but are right up my alley. “Roller Jubilee” and “I Can Tell” both fall more into the jazz/funk vein with the first of these songs have a slight latin style disco flavour (especially in Anthony Jackson’s bass lines” and the later featuring a Michael McDonald-like keyboard melodic line and Al himself singing the lyrics. Much the same as with Larry Carlton and other guitarists in this genre who’ve attempted vocals it will likely never be counted as one of Di Meola’s strongest talents.

But despite what I hear on this he actually survives it without utterly embarrassing himself the way people like Stanley Clarke sometimes have when they first tried to sing. The album ends with “Bianca’s Midnight Lullaby”, another flamenco type number with musical references from all over the Mediterranean region-from Italy to Greece. So this album manages to be a clever combination between melodic jazz-funk/fusion and early world fusion sounds. In a way it bridges the sounds of jazz fusion from one decade to another and therefore has a strong influence on what other musicians in the genre would do for the coming decade.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Al Di Meola Splendido Hotel | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Complete Rock Pile Tapes (Toronto, February & August 1969)

090119215647From collectorsmusicreviews.com

The influence of the rock press is very much apparent on Led Zeppelin’s early tours. The most famous example is the promotion of disc jockey JJ Jackson in Boston and the story is similar in Toronto. With the early and enthusiastic reports and promotion of journalist Ritchie Yorke Toronto became an early pocket of support for the band.

They played six shows in the city during their first year with four of them being taped. The first four Toronto shows were played at The Rock Pile, a venue for progressive rock in the late sixties and early seventies and fortunately three of them exist on tape including the very first on February 2nd.

The Complete Rock Pile Tapes on TCOLZ presents tapes for the three Rock Pile shows that exists on tape including the never before released alternate tape source for the second show on August 18th.

The Rock Pile, Toronto, ON, Canada – February 2nd, 1969

Disc 1 (45:37): Introduction, The Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, You Shook Me, Killing Floor, How Many More Times

The tape for the first set on February 2nd surfaced in the mid nineties on a high generation copy and was pressed on The Rockpile Canada 2-2-69 (Totanka CDPRO-22). “Killing Floor” was cut from the tape and it contains bonus material from the Led Zeppelin recording sessions in September 1969. A better sounding low generation tape was used for two subsequent releases, Absolutely Gems (Sanctuary TMOS-69818A/B/C) and The Rockpile Tapes (Badgeholders BH005-01-02-03) both with “Killing Floor.”

Both labels remastered the tape to sound much louder and, in the case of the Badgeholders release, sounds a bit tinny. TCOLZ didn’t master the tape at all so it sounds lower in volume but much more natural than the others and is complete save for cuts at the beginning of “You Shook Me” which eliminates the opening notes and at 6:08 which cuts the ending of the guitar solo.

Yorke introduces the band at the beginning, already calling them stars, and reviews the set the following day by writing: “Of all the memorable things which happened during Toronto’s two heavy shows last night (Led Zeppelin at the Rock Pile and the Turtles and Iron Butterfly at Massey Hall), one visual image easily stood out. It was the sight of Led Zeppelin’s hero-worshipped lead guitarist, Jimmy Page – resplendent in avocado velvet suit, bent over as if in agony to the audience, his fingers working like a touch typist’s, his foot thumping like a kangaroo’s tail, the sounds as clear and as piercing as a bedside phone in the stillness of 3 a.m. Above all else and there were highlights aplenty, it was Page’s night. He arrived in Toronto, without a record on the market but with a reputation that long ago preceded him. Singer Plant is from the English blues school – hard, angry, defiant, gutsy. He could well develop into tone of the big name group singers of the year.” (“Led Zeppelin: Fast Becoming Cream of the Crop,” R. Yorke / G&M ‘Pop Scene’, Feb. ’69)

The first set is very short and compact. “White Summer,” ”Pat’s Delight,” “As Long As I Have You,” “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and the encore “Communication Breakdown,” all mainstays of the early set are all dropped. Left instead are the intense electric attack of the heavier numbers.

What is particularly interesting is how much aggression grows during the forty-five minutes they are on stage. “You Shook Me,” at seven minutes almost as long as “Dazed And Confused,” contains moments of such unbearable tension that even Plant has to react.

“Killing Floor” follows and in this early stage is more another free flow improvisation like “As Long As I Have You” than the recorded “Lemon Song” on Led Zeppelin II. They throw in references to Walter Davis’ “I Think You Need A Shot,” “Travelling Riverside Blues” and “Needle Blues” among other classic blues phrases. The final song of the set “How Many More Times” is one of the heaviest played in the first tour. It includes the slow violin bow solo and includes references to “Fever” and “Money” as well as “The Hunter.”

The Rock Pile, Toronto, ON, Canada – August 18th, 1969 (early show)

Disc 2 (52:39): Introduction / The Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, You Shook Me, How Many More Times

Six months later Led Zeppelin returned to The Rock Pile for two shows. The early show on August 18th exists in a poor to fair audience recording. There are horrible volume fluctuations throughout the middle part of the show partly due to a faulty PA system. This tape was first pressed on silver on Complete Rockpile Shows (The Symbols YU-13/14) and subsequently used on Absolutely Gems(Sanctuary TMOS-69818A/B/C) and The Rockpile Tapes (Badgeholders BH005-01-02-03). It is a tape that is included in collections for completeness, but appeals only to the diehard collector which is a shame because the concert itself is really enjoyable.

Yorke again promoted these two and wrote a laudatory review the next day where he observes: “With the exception of the Toronto Pop Festival, last night’s Led Zeppelin concert at the Rock Pile was the most significant pop event this year. Not only were the two shows completely sold out in advance, but at least 2,000 were turned away, the management reported. They missed out on one of the finest shows ever to pour sweat onto the Rock Pile stage. Led Zeppelin proved itself not only to be one conceivable replacement for Cream, but at times I doubt if even Clapton, Bruce and baker could have topped what Zeppelin offered. Six months ago, this four-piece band was unknown, save for lead guitarist Jimmy Page, who had gained an impressive reputation with the Yardbirds. Two concert tours later, the band has become the most popular English group on the scene, with the exception of Beatles and possibly Rolling Stones. But it’s not surprising. When the Zeppelin plays blues, it plays them as few white men ever have. Judging by last night’s concert, I’d even go as far as to say that very few colored bands could touch it. Certainly there are better individual musicians then the members of Led Zeppelin but, together it’s difficult to imagine a more cohesive and colorful team. The most amazing thing was the improvement in the group since its first appearance here last February, when it was a fledgling blues band. It had the ideas and the dynamics, but the expertise was yet to develop.” (Led Zeppelin Soars to the Pop Stratosphere, G&M ‘Pop Scene’, Aug. ’69)

Although the actual selection of songs is scaled down compared to the February 2nd early show (“Killing Floor” was dropped from the set by this time), the performance is much longer. After the opening two songs Plant greets the audience by saying, “We’d like to sort of apologize for being late but we had a lot of trouble with the visas and that sort of thing, and we’d like to say it’s nice to be back. Last time we came here you had a P.A. system that was about a quarter this size and all those people would get blown in their face not hear a word of it. So it’s nice to be back. We’d like to carry on. This is John here whose making all the noise. Let me just tell you, he has just about all the noise, all the time, everytime, and we’d like to carry on with something off the first long playing record that we made on the Atlantic label.” A fifteen minute version of “Dazed And Confused” follows with a greatly expanded guitar solo in the middle.

After a twelve minute version of “You Shook Me” they close with “How Many More Times” where Plant cryptically says, “we can’t really ask you to go along to the airport and say to all those people we want half our money back, so we’re not gonna ask you to.” During the band introduction he refers to John Paul Jones as “The King, King John the Second” which will be a running gag in the second show. “How Many More Times” has by this time dropped the violin bow solo which is on the studio recording and on the first tour.

Instead it is replaced by a long, intense solo with references to “Bolero,” “Smokestack Lightening,” and many other blues riffs from the stream on consciousness of Jimmy Page’s memory. Plant get into a long monologue singing “Eyesight To The Blind,” claiming that Heineken just won’t do but only some lemon squeezing!

The Rock Pile, Toronto, ON, Canada – August 18th, 1969 (late show) (source 1)

Disc 3 (53:05): Introduction, The Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, You Shook Me

Disc 4 (29:03): How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown

The Rock Pile, Toronto, ON, Canada – August 18th, 1969 (late show) (source 2)

Disc 5 (79:22) The Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, You Shook Me, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown

The first tape source for the second August 18th show is the best sounding of the four included in this set. It was first pressed on Hideaway (Nienerwald 17-15-1002) in 1992 and was followed by Long Tall Sally (Tarantura T2CD-3-5,6) which has the tape complete along with bonus material from the Newport Jazz Festival and Buffalo from the same year. And both Absolutely Gems (Sanctuary TMOS-69818A/B/C) and The Rockpile Tapes (Badgeholders BH005-01-02-03) also feature this tape promimently.

TCOLZ didn’t remaster the tape so it isn’t as loud as the others but it does have nice natural sound to it. The second tape source on disc five is a good but less complete and distorted audience recording, missing about three minutes of tape between songs. It is good to for completeness’s sake, but the first tape is still preferred.

Yorke is audible introducing the band before overpowering and aggressive versions of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” and “I Can’t Quit You” and the proceed to play one of the longest an most loose sets of the entire year. Plant babbles to the crowd afterwards, saying, “believe it or not, it is really nice to be back, but we got a lot of problems, right? We just come from San Antonio in Texas where all the geezers thought we should get our hair cut and all that, and you know, we been through all that, and everybody’s been feeling rather ban and things. So we’re very pleased to be here one way or another. So it’s nice to be back. We’d like to say hello to anybody from the British isles, including Scotland…this is a thing from the first album ah, dedicated to the geezer who’s got a whistle in his throat somewhere down there.”

After “Dazed And Confused” Plant complains about the hot weather that summer, “Don’t you feel alright? Hallelujah. We’d like to feature, before things get so hot that we have to take all our things off ah, we’d like to feature Jimmy Page, alright? Jimmy Page. This is a combination of two numbers really, using a different guitar that requires a special tuning which isn’t really helped by the atmospheric conditions in here. It’s so, it’s so bloody hot that everything seems to go out of tune. So when it’s all together, we’d like to um, I’d like to have a quick cigarette. Last time we came here, I think it must have been about ten degrees below, Oh nice turn out. I didn’t really mean a cigarette, you know? Thank you. From ten degrees below zero to about a hundred and ten above. We’d like to, we’d like to bring you White Summer, Jimmy Page, please.”

The loose this is most apparent during the set closer “How Many More Times.” While the band play the opening melody Plant tries to introduce the audience, say, “We’d like to draw to a conclusion to what’s been a very hectic day. We’d like to tell you that Texas is still as it was when you last read about it, and that England is still what it always will be, and that we’d like to see you very shortly again, and if not, you can all move to the Bahamas or somewhere.”

While introducing the band Plant singles out Jones “on Hammond organ, throne” continuing the king references and Page is introduced as being on guitar and “as many chicks as he can find.” Instead of introducing himself John Bonham takes the microphone and introduces Plant as “straight from the labour club at Cradley Heath.”

The twenty minute long improvisation includes snatches again of “Bolero,” “Smokestack Lightening” and “Over Under Sideways Down.” Plant get into a very long narrative rap in the middle based upon “Eyesight To The Blind” which leads the band into one of the earliest references to Lonnie Donegan’s bluegrass skiffle “Cumberland Gap,” “two old ladies sitting in the sand / each one wishing the other was a man.” The band run almost out of control and Plant has to confess “I don’t even know what key I’m in…”

A long narration about being tied up for the deeds to your ranch is reminiscent of Jim Morrison’s explicit raps in “Gloria” and makes one wonder if there is any influence there. When they return to the stage Plant exclaims, “well, what a turnout” before introducing “Communication Breakdown” as a thing from Bing Crosby.

The Complete Rock Pile Tapes is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with very tasteful artwork with a set of amateur photos from the August 18th late show in both color and black and white.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Complete Rock Pile Tapes | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Presence (1976)

az_6666_Presence_Led%20ZeppelinFrom classicrockreview.com

In late 1975, Led Zeppelin had planned a world tour to capitalize of the phenomenal success of their latest album Physical Graffiti. the band was at the absolute zenith of their popularity with a string on top-selling albums going back to 1969. However, a serious car accident involving lead singer Robert Plant while he was vacationing on the island of Rhodes with his wife, made the tour impossible. Plant was confined to a wheelchair for nearly six months and this tilted the band towards writing and recording a new “unplanned” album. The result was Presence, the least successful album in the Zeppelin catalog commercially and one with very mixed reviews critically. However, Presence is the album that the band themselves consider to be their “most important”.

During his recovery period in Malibu, CA following the accident, Plant began to write some lyrics. He was soon joined by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page to further work on these compositions. When enough material had been written, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham were summoned to rehearsals in California. The band then migrated to Munich, Germany for recording, all with Plant still in a wheelchair. The studio was small, in a basement, and very difficult for Plant to work in. Further, the band found out that they had just 18 days for the entire production as the Rolling Stones had the very same studio booked for their next album, Black and Blue. As producer, Page pretty much stayed awake for the entire 18 days in order to complete the album in Munich.

The result is, perhaps, the most unusual Led Zeppelin album (although each of their albums are quite distinct). Page developed a cleaner, “twang-ier” guitar sound in contrast to his signature “crunch” riffs of earlier days. Bonham’s drumming is furious and strong with a sound extended from that on Physical Graffiti, while Jones continued his migration from a dynamic blues to that of a more standard rock bass player. As Plant himself admits, his vocals dynamics suffered a bit due to his confinement. Further, he was a bit upset with the band’s management for keeping him from his wife, who was also seriously injured in the car wreck and recovering back in England, mainly due to tax reasons. Still, Robert Plant at 50% is superior to most rock singers and his performance on Presence is far from embarrassing.

The album was completed on November 26th, the day before Thanksgiving, which was a suggested title for the album. This title was rejected in favor of “Presence”, a representative force surrounding the band. The cover artwork features various images of random people interacting with a black obelisk-shaped “object”, a sort of play on the space object in the film 2001.

Presence is the only Led Zeppelin album with neither acoustic or keyboard tracks, as the band made a concerted effort to forge and updated version of their earliest “raw” sound. This strategy succeeds well on the first side but is less successful on the second side as the three songs on the first side are far superior to the four on the second. Still, it is refreshing that the band never lost their capacity for experimentation even with this quickly rushed album.

Unlike most albums which tend to build towards an epic song late on either sides this album kicks off right away with “Achilles Last Stand”, the tour de force of Presence. The song starts with dreamy, flanged guitar intro by Page which gives way to a rapid trigger-like riff that gets variated throughout. It is a true journey of a song lead by Plant’s lyric and vocal telling of his misfortune in the land of the Greek heroes. One flaw with the song is that it lasts just a bit too long and becomes a little repetitive towards the end. It perhaps would have worked better as a 7-minute song than this 10½ minute goliath.

This last point is magnified with the album’s closer “Tea For One”, another extended cut but with alot less action. The truth is, the best part of this 9-plus-minute song is the first 21 seconds when the band does a riff completely out of context with the rest of the song, which is a slow and depressing diddy that wallows in misery and desperately cries for a kick into a higher gear at some point. Some have pointed to the shorter songs on the album as “filler”, but I believe the filler actually lies within the longer compositions themselves by virtue of repetitiveness. Which begs the question – if the band didn’t feel like they had enough material, why not add some older material like they had with Physical Graffiti? We know now that there were some fine, unreleased songs out there like “Travelig Riverside Blues”, “Poor Tom”, and “Hey, Hey What Can I Do?”

Royal Orleans by Led ZeppelinRounding out side one is a couple of unique Zeppelin gems. “For Your Life” is the quintessential Led Zeppelin song, filled with bluesy licks over a catchy riff and dynamic, much-improvised vocals by Plant belting out lyrics that are hard to decipher completely, but with a vibe “felt” to the bone. The song contains nice changes, an interesting bridge, and a precise, simple, and strong beat throughout by Bonham. “Royal Orleans” is a fun and funky tune alledgedly retelling a story involving John Paul Jones and a transvestite.

Launching the second side, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, Plant’s guilt-ridden song about bad things befalling him (presumably the car wreck) due to his own actions. The song contains an excellent blues harp solo, unlike anything he had done since “When the Levee Breaks” on Led Zeppelin IV, five years earlier. It is the first of two distinct leads, followed by Page’s own bluesy guitar lead, combined these make up the best part of the song. Much like “Achilles”, this composition would be better if more succinct and less repetitive, but it is still a fine track.

The heart of the second side contains two fine sounding throwback songs. “Candy Store Rock” is an Elvis tribute, which uses the candy store as an analogy for sex in the same fashion that “Trampled Underfoot” used the car on the previous album. It is not a terrible listen but just a little disappointing in the minimalist approach of Page and Jones. Bonham, on the other hand plays a very interesting beat with entertaining variations throughout. “Hots On for Nowhere” is one of the forgotten gems of the Zeppelin catalog, a stop-start rockabilly riff and beat with some nice changes. It is a song with a very upbeat vibe despite the mainly depressing lyrics.

Presence did initially rush to #1 on the Billboard charts (probably due to the band’s popularity alone) but quickly fell and tracks from this album have rarely received airplay. Also, because of it being completely built in the studio, few songs from the album were played live on subsequent tours. Still, despite this initial subdued reception, Presence is an excellent listen that has held up well over the decades and cannot be overlooked by any true fans of Led Zeppelin today.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Presence | | Leave a comment