Classic Rock Review

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Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Concert Review: San Diego Sports Arena, May 13, 1995

SignFrom vintagerock.com

It had been a while since I’d seen Jimmy Page and Robert Plant together, but not as long as one may think. In 1988, I went to New York City to attend the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. The concert was a 13-hour marathon, showcasing new talents Debbie Gibson and Nu Shooz — denizens of the ‘where are they now’ file — perennial favorites Phil Collins and Crosby, Stills & Nash, and several of Atlantic’s early R&B artists like LaVerne Baker, Ruth Brown and Ben E. King.

The most anticipated acts were, however, a handful of special groups reuniting for the event. This included Vanilla Fudge, Average White Band and The Rascals, to name a few. It was the closing act of the evening, the coup de grace of the entire day, the 20-year old proverbial drawing card and cash cow for Atlantic Records that seemed to have the Garden buzzing. I can still remember the excitement as Ahmet Ertegan, the Chairman of The Board for Atlantic Records, stepped up to the podium on the side of the stage and uttered those two highly anticipated words: “Led Zeppelin.”

At the time, I thought this was about as close as it was going to get to the real thing. All the important elements were there: Page, Plant, Jones and…Bonham? Well, actually, it was Jason Bonham who sat in for his deceased father. It became achingly obvious that young Jason was the only one who bothered to rehearse for the show. Needless to say, the band’s ponderous one-two punch of old was conspicuously absent. And any ideas for future reunions were firmly put to rest, although the four did reunite briefly when Zeppelin were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. They were joined by Neil Young who gave the entire ensemble a run for their money.

Just as Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart had done in previous years, the principle players of Zeppelin decided to take their trip down memory lane, a la MTV’s Unplugged series. Ever the iconoclasts, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant dubbed their performance UnLedded, and in the grand tradition of the might Zep, blew away the competition, making the show the most widely viewed episode in the history of the Unplugged series.

Let’s face it: without discounting the contributions of John Paul Jones or the late John Bonham, the reunion of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant is a Led Zeppelin fan’s dream come true. The mystique that dwelled over the 70’s supergroup may be missing, but for all intents and purposes, Page and Plant were the band’s front line and principal songwriters. Purists may liken the combination to a strain of diet Zep, but with this outfit there’s an extra shot of caffeine.

For their appearance at the San Diego Sports Arena, the capacity crowd greeted the legendary duo just as enthusiastically as they did for Zeppelin’s last appearance in Southern California 18 years before. From the opening notes of “Thank You” to the final crescendo of “Kashmir,” Page, Plant and a consortium of support musicians that backed them, kept the pace alive and exciting, yet never predictable. The inclusion of Page’s “Shake My Tree” (a stand-out track from the ill-fated Coverdale/Page album) and Plant’s “Calling To You” (the opening guitar cut from his solo album, Fate Of Nations) were significant in showing how the guitarist and singer have come to grips with each other’s post-Zeppelin material. The lack of any of the new Middle Eastern/World flavored tunes from the duo’s No Quarter album aroused a bit of curiosity over the future of the project. This meant, of course, that the bulk of the music was drawn from the Zeppelin songbook. And that’s apparently what the 14,000 fans crowing into the San Diego Sports Arena came to hear.

For fans lucky enough to have seen Led Zeppelin in their hey day, there were several surprises. “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” the infamous B-side that never made it onto an album, received a swift and smooth treatment. A medley of “In The Evening/Carouselambra” was especially intriguing as they appeared on the band’s final studio album, In Through The Out Door and had never been played live in the states.

What is most interesting about this “reunion” is that the songs are not being recycled for purposes of easy satisfaction. A song like “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” a start-and-stop hard rocker from 1976, has been completely stripped down and reconfigured with an acoustic guitar, a banjo, a hurdy-gurdy and a minimal amount of Bonzo’s signature drum fills. It’s almost as if some of the Zep classics have been injected with new life. Best of all, the new arrangements don’t seem to spoil the true essence of the material. In San Diego, the fans would have been just as receptive had the songs remained the same.

Avoiding the clichés and hit parade roll-out of past glories is a commendable attribute. It would have been easy for these guys to whip out “Stairway To Heaven” — arguably the most overplayed and overrated song in history — and many of the fans in attendance were disappointed in its omission. But Page and Plant understand the song and the band that played it had its time and place. And if these two have any expectations of taking this project any further, they must stay committed to moving ahead and staying fresh, especially under the pressure of rehashing a colorful and decadent past.

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April 8, 2013 Posted by | Jimmy Page & Robert Plant San Diego 1995 | | Leave a comment

Oasis Time Flies…1994 – 2009

Oasis-Time_Flies_1994-2009-frontal-saltez-salvador-altez-palominoFrom dailyvault.com

The second double-disc compilation of Oasis music to arrive in four years, Time Flies was released shortly after the Gallagher brothers vowed to never work together again, breaking up the band in the process. As four years have gone by and both brothers have moved on to other projects, it’s safe to say Oasis is done, which makes Time Flies the only full-career overview of this great band.

That’s not to say it is comprehensive. The first attempt at an Oasis collection (Stop The Clocks) was compiled by Noel Gallagher and focused almost exclusively on the band’s 1994-96 heyday, allowing space for only four songs after that time. Nevertheless, this included pretty much all of the band’s best songs. Time Flies collects all of the band’s singles (the A-sides), which provides a balanced overview of all seven albums plus a couple of essential non-album singles to complete the set.

Both approaches present a problem; emphasizing two discs on a two-disc collection leads to redundancy and paints an incomplete picture, while selecting only singles leaves out some key album tracks and B-sides that were on par with Oasis’ best work. Plus, not every single deserves to be compiled, particularly from the middle period of the band’s career.

That said, Time Flies is probably the best place for complete neophytes to start, as it gives them all of the band’s biggest songs and provides enough glimpses of each album to warrant further investigation. Make no mistake, the music here is some of the best of the ‘90s and only gets better with each passing year, while the newer tracks certainly hold their own with the classics.

Oasis updated the sounds of ‘60s British rock with a punk sneer and cock-rock ambition, lending a sweeping majesty and working-class attitude to their songs while finding a little room for emotional resonance. The swagger of “Supersonic,” the party anthem “Cigarettes & Alcohol,” and the melodic grandeur of “Champagne Supernova” and “Live Forever” all showcase different sides of the band, while “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” rewrote the template for what a rock ballad can be. These six are among the band’s best works, and they are all here.

Unlike Stop The Clocks, this compilation finds space for a couple of songs from Be Here Now, both overblown epics, and includes the excellent acoustic buzz of “Go Let It Out” from Standing On The Shoulder of Giants. Although Heathen Chemistry was not a great album, “The Hindu Times” and “Songbird” are probably the two best songs from it, while the tracks from Don’t Believe The Truth are fine, if hardly up to the high standards set by everything else.

As far as career-closing albums go, Dig Out Your Soul is one of the best, a melancholy yet alluring rush that replaces the snotty party-‘til-you-puke approach with a world-weary journeyman rock approach. “The Shock Of The Lightning,” “I’m Outta Time,” and “Falling Down” are not only three of the best songs from that disc, but three of the best since 1997’s Be Here Now.

The single-only “Whatever” and “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” make an appearance here; the former has never been available on a compilation until now and is a pretty good song, if a bit of a dry run for the more majestic “Champagne Supernova.”

For casual fans, this is all the Oasis they need, and it is a better introduction to the band’s catalog as a whole, although Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory are masterworks that deserve to be owned, end of story. Sure, there are a few album tracks missing (“Morning Glory” and “Rock And Roll Star” come to mind), as well as a couple of the classic B-sides (“The Masterplan,” “Acquiesce”), and including them in place of a couple of the dull singles like “Lyla” would have made this a perfect overview. As it is, Time Flies is merely a near-flawless collection of songs from one of the great rock bands of the last 20 years.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Time Flies...1994 - 2009 | | Leave a comment

When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall (2010)

LedZepWhenGiantsWalkedTheEarthFrom amazon.com

To say that “When Giants Walked the Earth” is the best available biography of Led Zeppelin actually is not saying much. The book’s only real competition, not including lavish illustration-based books, is Stephen Davis’ “Hammer of the Gods,” and that book, though well written, is flawed by its obsession with the band’s violent excesses during tours and its overreliance on oral testimony from people like Richard Cole and aggrieved groupies and journalists, who were all too willing to feed that obsession. In many instances, “Giants” beats “Hammer” in terms of detail and breadth of research (the number of people interviewed is very impressive). In other instances, “Hammer” is the winner. For instance, if you want to get a traditional narrative sense of the build-up of the band from Page and Jones’ time as session musicians, Page’s Yardbird days, and Plant and Bonham’s days in Birmingham-based bands, “Hammer” is the book that provides it.

“Giants” author Mick Wall, on the other hand, decided to intersperse most of this history throughout the book in the form of italicized “flashback” sequences written directly to the protagonists in the second person (“It all changed for you the night you went out after a Bo Diddley shown in Newcastle…”). I found these passages not only boring to read, but irritating because they interrupted the flow of the book, and often you have to read through half a page of one before figuring out which person is being referred to. Be warned that nearly all of the pre-Zeppelin history of the band members is imparted in these “flashback” passages, so that if you want to learn about the protagonists’ childhoods, teenaged years, and early bands, the only way to do so is to force your way through them. I tried at first, but decided it wasn’t worth it and gave up.

Otherwise, the book has many good points. Wall really did his homework as far as the research goes. He tracked down and interviewed all kinds of people, including not only the band members themselves and their musical colleagues and confidants, but also more obscure people like festival promoters, studio engineers, album-cover artists, and even Jimmy Page’s rare-book dealer. I was particularly excited to read the lengthy testimony of Jake Holmes, the largely unsung original composer of “Dazed and Confused.” It is gratifying that, in a book about such great megastars, Wall devoted so much time and space to honoring the enthusiasm, creativity and hard work of dozens upon dozens of ordinary people.

That said, I feel Wall was too eager to use every bit of information and testimony that he gathered. His quotations are too long and often include platitudes that needn’t have been repeated (how great a particular concert was, how hard Jimmy Page worked in the studio, how crazy the guys got in a hotel room one night, and so on). Sometimes the quotations include information that is just irrelevant. A quotation from Robert Plant about John Bonham’s declining health in 1980 (p. 409) includes Plant’s revelation that he now takes Omega 3 oil to improve his tennis game. When the subject of Jimmy Page’s occult interests comes up, Wall gives several turgid pages of background on occultism throughout Rock `n’ Roll history (pp. 208-214). Then comes eleven pages of thorough, but unnecessary, biography of Aleister Crowley (pp. 217-228), which a writer with better judgment would have condensed and left it to the reader to find more on his or her own. (That is what bibliographies are for.) The description of the famous theft of $200,000 during one of the band’s U.S. tours includes a long paragraph discussing whether Richard Cole might have been the culprit (p. 296); but as Cole passed a lie-detector test and the band never pressed charges, it’s hard to see the point of lingering on the question. The amount of space given to accusations of Satan-worship leveled at the band, is far more than the accusers deserve; Wall should not have given them the satisfaction.

The result of such unwillingness to sacrifice information is that the book lacks a sense of smooth narrative movement. I really started to enjoy the book only once I decided to allow myself to skim major passages. Unfortunately, this ended up including the disappointing ending: The last chapter is an “epilogue” consisting of seventeen mind-numbing pages cataloging every hint dropped since 2008 about whether Zeppelin might or might not reform. Cutting this epilogue (which the editor of a more serious book would have insisted upon) would have ended the book on a climactic note and given it a tighter narrative structure. Instead, it just fizzles out. (Come to think of it, not unlike the career of Led Zeppelin.)

Many moments in the book, though, are brilliant and make great reading. Wall’s critique of several of the albums, such as “Physical Graffiti” and “In Through the Out Door,” is spot on, as is his recounting of the O2 concert in 2007. In general, he did a great job by beginning the book focusing on Page, but ending it with the spotlight on Plant, which is suggestive of how the two men’s roles reversed over the course of the story.

Finally, the title is a great choice. Taken from Genesis 6:4 (“In those days the Nephilim [giants] walked the earth”), it suggests a time that was profoundly different from our own and is unlikely to come back. The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s of rock was an age that supported giant figures and great cultural ambitions. Our time, though, is an age of niche artists who pursue individualized and obsessional work, and have narrow, frenetic followings. It’s a more confusing, complex and lonelier time. Figures of massive, lasting appeal and significance like Elvis, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin simply are not born, and cannot thrive, in it. Even when the survivors of that time continue to work today, we listeners feel lucky if we can consider the resulting material satisfying; we don’t even hope for it to be monumental or ground breaking. In a way, Wall’s book is a paean not just to a band but to a lost era.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Book When Giants Walked The Earth The Biography Of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall | , , | Leave a comment

Al Di Meola Casino (1978)

Al_Di_Meola_casinoFrom amazon.com

Well what all else can be said that has not already been said about Al Di Meola? The man is hands down the greatest Guitarist to ever live and he is a 1,000 times better than Jimi Hendrix. So the next time you hear that Hendrix is the greatest guitarist of all time, they either do not know what they are talking about or are lying to you. Speaking of which in my personal opinion people were too messed up on drugs back then and that is my theory of why Hendrix and The Grateful Dead are so overrated to name a few. Until proven otherwise Al Di Meola is the most devastating guitarist in the whole world. No one is better. No one!

Now as for the cd, here we have one of the best instrumental solo albums ever released in Di Meola’s musical career. This album is a masterpiece and is clearly a jem. Al’s mind boggling guitar picking, finger tapping, and musical fusions are all here. Just sit back and listen to the Teacher show you a thing or two about how to play the guitar.

1. Egyptian Danza:
This first song has a very exotic melody as per the title. Beautifully genius guitar licks and riffs that showcase Al Di Meola at his finger picking/finger licking good. Most guitarists will wish they could only play half as good as he does on this song. Like to point out how Mr. Di Meola always has a lot of depth, emotion, and soul in his songs. This song proves how this guitarist can make his guitar go through all types of various musical mood changes. And to think there was a time that people claimed he had no soul in his early playing days.

2. Chasin’ The Voodoo:
This song is really good especially the drumming, beats, loops, and synthesizers that enhance the guitar playing. The main riff is just awesome! One thing like to point out about Al Di Meola that differentiates him from the rest of the pack is that he makes albums that are not just great guitar chop records, but rather albums that are musical records. Artists should always make sure to surround themselves with other talented people to enhance the vibe of their recordings. Too many instrumentals albums have great guitars, but not enough of the other parts. In essence most solo/instrumental albums are not as good as they could of or should have been. Remember Di Meola’s albums are not just great guitar chop records, they are great musical records. So expect a lot of fusions of various genres in his songs.

3. Dark Eye Tango:
On this one the mood is slowed down to give the album a shift from a progressive fast pace from the previous songs to a smoothing, relaxing, and very romantic vibe. While this is a slower ballad type of song, it is still good, with a hooking upbeat. I.E. you will not fall asleep and you will not want to skip this song.

4. Senor Mouse:
Here we have a song with a lot of Latin flavour. This song has a vibe along the lines of a Santana type of song with Latin dance vibes, some flamenco, and other genres as well thrown in the mix. This song is not a very fast song, but it not a slow one either and is just another example of how this man loves to take his music to the next level by mixing things up and avoiding the musical norm.

5. Fantasia Suite For Two Guitars
a. Viva La Danzarina
b. Guitars of The Exotic Isle
c. Rhapsody Italia
d. Bravoto Fantasia
Well here we have a “Suite” themed song that is divided in to 4 parts. Part A has a beautiful intro guitar lick that resembles some of the licks that Eddie Van Halen did in the early days with the acoustic guitar. I wonder if Al Di Meola or this album influenced him in those songs. Then the song shift to some exotic classical licks reminiscent of something the locals in Hawaii would play. Next shift in the song goes to some classical old Italian guitar techniques that may seem out of place in this up-tempo song, yet still fit. The final part of the song changes back to the similar moods of the way the song began with the acoustic guitar licks that sound very up-tempo with a flamenco/bolero guitar styles that are flying all over the place. This song is just vintage Di Meola.

6. Casino:
Finally, the title cut. Al Di Meola saves the best for last. A song that has a lot of texture, progression, melody, and of course fusion which is signifies the skills of the guitarist godly talent. The vintage Di Meola-esque guitar shredding is here (Di Meola always had a knack of being able to play super fast while keeping his sound super clean) and as expected the sound is very unique. The song is very progressive with lots of notes coming at you from all directions.

Well there you go. Al Di Meola is Guitar God and will go down with the best of them. Like to point out that this cd also helped put socks in the mouths of his early critics that claimed he did not have his own signature style….did they ever take into consideration how young he was back then in reference to his musical career? Well no one these doubts Al’s guitar playing and this cd set the stage for his brilliant solo career that kept evolving.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Al Di Meola Casino | | Leave a comment

Van Der Graaf Generator Pawn Hearts (1971)

Pawn-Hearts-Van-der-Graaf-GeneratorFrom amazon.com

Released in 1971, this album is regarded by many fans as the finest material VDGG ever recorded. I certainly share this enthusiasm and Pawn Hearts ranks right up there with my top ten prog albums of all time. Ever. This is difficult listening however, and themes of despair and paranoia abound, which are wonderfully brought to life in all of their twisted glory with Peter Hamill’s anguished lyrics.

The members of the band at this point included the classic VDGG lineup: Hugh Banton (Hammond E&C organs, Farfisa professional organ, piano, mellotron, ARP synthesizer, bass pedals, bass guitar, and vocals); Peter Hammill (lead vocals, acoustic and slide guitar, electric piano, and acoustic piano); superb drummer Guy Evans; and David Jackson (flute, tenor/alto/soprano saxophones). All of the musicians are very good with Guy being an exceptional drummer – just like all of the other remastered VDGG albums, the subtle intricacies of his drumming really come across. The ensemble work is also pretty good too. Before I forget, Robert Fripp (of King Crimson) contributed a tiny bit of electric guitar here and there – it’s barely noticeable though.

Now for my favourite part – the music. The album is comprised of two longer pieces (11’39” and 10’22”) with the massive 23’05 multimovement suite A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers as the centrepiece. The music is, for the most part, harsh and unyielding with only the briefest moments of reprieve. Hugh’s alternately twisted and churchy organ work really drives each piece along, with Dave’s angular and jagged sax work slashing through each piece like so many shards of broken glass. OK, maybe that last bit is a little over the top, but it is not far from the truth. Although the music is very heavy, there are a few quieter and haunting moments. The introduction to Man Erg comes to mind as the best example, although those moments (albeit fleeting moments) are pretty much scattered across the album. Last but not least, is Peter Hammill’s incredible and very distinctive vocal delivery. He had developed a vocal style over the course of three albums that ranged from a heavy metal rasp to a high pitched falsetto “choir boy” vocal style and it is brought to perfection on this album. He also screams/rants during certain frenzied passages on the feverish closing track, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. Although some people feel that his vocal style is overly theatrical I have to admit that I absolutely love it – In fact, I am of the opinion that VDGG would not be VDGG without Peter Hammill.

The EMI remastered album is incredible and features restored cover art and band publicity photos/live shots along with an extraordinary improvement in the sound quality. The improvement is so great that it is like listening to a completely different recording – every nuance is brought out and you can even hear subtle synthesizer effects and percussion parts that had previously gone unheard. The liner notes include all of the lyrics along with a ton of informative liner notes. The bonus tracks are also really good too (well, maybe the dinner time jazz of Ponker’s Theme is not so great) and are outtakes from the 1971 Pawn Hearts sessions. I think that of all the bonus tracks, Diminutions is the most interesting because it is so unlike VDGG. It is very spacey and consists simply of long, drawn out passages on synthesizers and organ over a period of six minutes or so – in fact it sounds more like electronic artists such as Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze.

Well I have gushed over this incredible album long enough, although I could easily go on for another 20 pages. Suffice it to say that this is VDGG’s finest recorded moment and is very highly recommended along with H to He, He who am the Only One (1970) and Still Life (1976).

One more thing – this was the last album VDGG released before regrouping and releasing Godbluff in 1975.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Van Der Graaf Generator Pawn Hearts | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Chatenay-Malabry 1969 (Paris, December 1969)

led-zeppelin-chatenay-malabry-1969From collectorsmusicreviews.com

L’Ecole Centrale, Chatenay-Malabry, Paris, France – December 6th, 1969

Disc 1: (52:48) Remaster – Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, White Summer/Black Mountain Side

Disc 2: (51:37) Remaster – You Shook Me, Moby Dick, How Many More Times

Disc 3: (52:48) Original Master – Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, White Summer/Black Mountain Side

Disc 4: (51:37) Original Master – You Shook Me, Moby Dick, How Many More Times

For the final live appearance of 1969, Led Zeppelin played a special one-off show in Paris for students of the engineering school Centrale that was not announced to the press. The event also included The Pretty Things and French bands Variations and Triangle on the bill.

An eyewitness commented on the LedZeppelin.com website: “The funniest thing is that there were 2 categories of people in the place. The first category was made of all the officials, and student parents all wearing tuxedo, suits, long dresses and fancy clothes, the other part was a bunch of young hippies/beatnick dressed people. It was a surprising combination. I’m not sure the organisation was expecting this gap but it worked fine even if we could feel some tension here and there.”

The “recently discovered” tape comes from a good to very good audience source. The drums are unfortunately pushed to the back of the mix while the vocals, guitars and bass are equally up front. There is some distortion present but it remains a very listenable and exciting document to hear. This is one of those wild out of control early Zeppelin shows that makes collecting fun. They are adding more songs from LZII now and their development as a band over the past year is really starting to show.

The intro of “Good Times, Bad Times” is used as a lead in to “Communication Breakdown”. They are definitely fired up as evident in Robert Plant’s wails and Page’s searing solos prove. A smooth transition into “I Can’t Quit You” gets into some slow but heavy blues. Jimmy is playing with a high level of intensity tonight and gets a big ovation when Plant introduces him after his amazing solo. Plant is apologizing for the delay (something we hear on a lot of tapes) and introduces “Heartbreaker”. Jimmy’s solo in the middle section is very wild even throwing his guitar out of tune for the remainder of the track. He includes a bit of Bach’s “Bouree” in the solo.

John Paul Jones gets right into “Dazed And Confused” forcing Robert to introduce the song over the bass intro. A near train wreck is averted when Jimmy misses a cue going into the middle section catching everyone off guard but entices some brilliantly quick thinking. At just a little over a year old the track is already reaching epic lengths at twenty minutes tonight and is great to hear these early versions like this.

Robert introduces “Jimmy Page on guitar” and asks for a chair before “White Summer/Black Mountain Side”. Jimmy’s finger picking is immaculate and he plays a beautiful version.

Robert says “This is written by Willie Dixon and many people have performed it, this is a thing called “You Shook Me”. Led Zeppelin performs a strange version of the track tonight. John Paul Jones starts the track on bass and switches over to organ about four minutes in. It’s is unclear whether or not he may have been having some trouble with his rig but he is back on bass at the 8:30 mark so it is possible he just decided to switch to organ for the solo in the middle. An interesting version to say the least with Plant and Page adding great solos on harmonica and guitar respectively.

John Bonham displays his extraordinary drum chops in the recently added “Moby Dick”. John’s solo sounds a bit disjointed in a few spots so perhaps he was still working out his live arrangement but he has, however, already incorporated his hand solo into the fold. The recorder has an easier job picking up the drums without all the surrounding instruments and captures an exceptional version.

Shouts of disapproval interrupt Robert telling the audience ‘”We’re gonna conclude with a thing …” and he reassures them “this goes on for some time”. “How Many More Times” is the star of the show with a lot of loose improv between Robert and Jimmy. The song will stretch to over 20 minutes with a long medley including Steal Away, The Hunter, Whole Lotta Love, and Boogie Chillun’. “Whole Lotta Love” has Page attempting to emulate the slides and after the second chorus they get into a bit of “Good Times Bad Times” again and eventually into a few more blues classics with some great bottleneck from Jimmy. This is one of the more exciting versions of the song from this era. Robert says goodnight as the tape cuts out and we are left not knowing what or if the audience was treated to an encore.

Chatenay-Malabry 1969 is a 4CD set that features a remaster of the tape on the first two discs and the original master on discs three and four. In comparison, the remaster is louder with more top end while the original master is a bit duller sounding but doesn’t accent the tape distortions as much as the remaster does. I honestly enjoyed listening to both but I would lean more toward the original master as my favorite.

According to the Bootledz site, both Centralian on Wendy and Les Rendezvous De Paris on Empress Valley have hints of the metallic sound in the background which I did not detect on this “no label” release. With Graf Zeppelin, Tarantura, Akashic, Boleskine House Records, all coming out with their versions, there will no doubt be a dozen different versions of this soon enough to choose from. With that being said, Chatenay-Malabry 1969 is packaged in a quad fatboy jewel case with actual photos from the show and despite having two versions of the tape in one package is a worthwhile version to own.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Chatenay-Malabry 1969 | , | Leave a comment

Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday (1973)

36299317From amazon.com

Alright, perhaps I did make one too many comparisons to other artists in my original review of Robin Trower’s Twice Removed From Yesterday, which explains all the negativity in the comments section. I should have explained the album in detail like I normally do. I’m not sure why I didn’t do that originally.

Anyway, here’s a better review of Twice Removed from Yesterday.

What instantly strikes me about this album is the mood. It’s dreamy yes, but underneath the beautiful guitar playing and vocal melodies I sense a fairly melancholy and depressing vibe. It’s like being in heaven alone.

“Daydream” contains shades of Jimi Hendrix in the guitar solos and atmosphere, but what blows me away is how HUGE the music sounds. This is definitely different from most 70’s hard rock bands. When I say “huge” I mean it sounds like some important grand statement, like this is how a beautiful song is supposed to be written. Hendrix never quite reached a level *this* awesome.

One key difference between Trower and Hendrix is that Robin Trower tends to really dig into your emotions with his guitar playing, whereas Hendrix occasionally goes for emotion, but also had his moments of showing off. I also feel that Hendrix’s music is more immediately enjoyable whereas Trower’s guitar skills take time to absorb.

I can imagine how magical this song must have sounded when it was originally released, and even today it still sounds pretty cool. I believe Rainbow was influenced heavily by this song because “Catch the Rainbow” contains a strikingly similar flow and atmosphere.

“I Can’t Wait Much Longer” has a surprisingly soulful vocal melody. I like the way the verse melody builds with emotional intensity until the incredibly sad “Cuz every day gets stronger, and every day grows and grows, and I can’t wait much longer” lines comes in. The guitar riff even seems to follow with the vocal melody, and it’s a perfect moment of songwriting really. It’s truly amazing. The feeling matches the album cover, too.

“Hannah” features a slow-moving but very powerful guitar riff in the beginning until James Dewar really blows me away with just as much passion here that he illustrated in the two previous songs. I can’t recall another hard rock band that utilized so much soul. The guitar solo seems hard to notice at first since it’s covered in a thick layer of haze, but with repeated listens you can make out most of it.

A song like “Rock Me Baby” would have been in danger of becoming just another attempt at the blues by a 70’s rock band, but luckily some quality guitar licks save what would have otherwise been an average song because the vocal melody fails to make an impression on me. Dewar sounds like he’s disappointed while singing it, like he wants to put some soul into it but forced to restrain himself and sing a simple blues pattern instead.

“Sinner’s Song” starts out innocently enough with a decent verse melody before totally catching me off guard with a fantastic guitar solo. It feels more like a freak out jam, though. It’s *awesome*. Anyone who likes this guitar jam absolutely must hear Santana’s Love, Devotion & Surrender album. It contains the same kind of guitar intensity but stretched out much much longer.

What an eerie way to end the album with “Ballerina”. Is it pretty? Yeah. Is it dreamy? Yes it is. Does it feel unsettling? Absolutely!

Anyway here’s my older review and you know, I still stand by most of it, but an album of this quality definitely deserved a more detailed review.

People keep comparing Robin Trower’s guitar playing to Jimi Hendrix, but to me, his first album closely resembles the classic period of Cream. He doesn’t necessarily have Eric Clapton’s guitar style, but the mood is similar to the psychedelic period of Cream.

I’d say Trower’s guitar playing reminds me of a slower, and more atmospheric Ritchie Blackmore with a vocalist that isn’t much different from the singer of Bad Company.

The songwriting on Twice Removed From Yesterday is pretty strong. Back in the 70’s hard rock bands didn’t just rock out- they could also back it up with strong songwriting, and that’s exactly what this album delivers. I really like it. The way the album was recorded is really cool too, because it feels like everything’s a dream. I recommend it.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday | | Leave a comment

Paul McCartney RAM (1971)

paulmccartneyramFrom dailyvault.com

There’s an exchange between Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins in the movie Bull Durham that has always stuck with me. In the scene, Robbin’s character prevails on Crash Davis to answer why “You don’t like me.” Costner’s response goes as follows: “You got a gift. When you were a baby, the Gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt. You got a Hall-Of-Fame arm, but you’re pissing it away.”

Let’s face it, don’t we have that same perception of Paul McCartney? Today, his writing partner of the Glory Years is practically a deity. It was Lennon who was the tortured soul, it was Lennon who could define what made us human, it was Lennon who was the true artiste. Paul was the man who wrote the silly love songs with the catchy melodies. Over the years, McCartney has been saddled with such a reputation due to the simple fact he is still present and active. Whereas Lennon’s career represented untapped potential because it was ended prematurely, Paul has been a solo artist three times as long as he was a Beatle. That means there has been a much greater span for people to forget just how good he was capable of being.

Paul was the first to strike in the aftermath of The Beatles with McCartney, a scattershot record that was both charming and bewildering. At the time, there was a general consensus of “Really? Is this the best you could come up with?” But the man had just left the pressure cooker that was The Beatles! Give Macca some time to decompress, relax, smoke some pot with Linda and get back to the business of being a former Beatle.

McCartney had been the work of one man, existing as both an artistic emancipation from The Beatles as well as a sort of musical therapy. With the first step truly encapsulating a “solo” record, the next phase would have to include the use of outside musicians. And so, the McCartneys found themselves on their way to NYC, the site where Paul would recruit some new blood and record the album that would eventually be titled Ram.

While the homespun niceties of bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
McCartney aren’t completely done away with on Ram, it would be a mistake to label the record as McCartney II. There is a definite edge to much of the material on Ram that simply wasn’t there on his debut record. Perhaps the acrimonious breakup of the Fab Four finally had settled in; perhaps Macca simply wanted to rock out. Whatever the case, there is a bitterness and even a hint of rage present on the opening track “Too Many People” that indicated McCartney was pissed off at somebody/something.

The semi-irritating trend that did continue over from McCartney is the handful of vapid mini-tunes. The title track for instance isn’t some terrible slight against rock ‘n’ roll, but it begs the question of just why the hell it is on the album. There’s nothing there that’s interesting or thought-provoking; it would seem to be the very definition of filler. Actually, I take that back; the true definition is the minute-long reprise of “Ram On” tacked on at the end of the record.

But if you’re looking for the perfect encapsulation of McCartney’s solo escapades, it’s the hit single “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” No one can deny the musicianship and the inherently appealing quality of the track. There’s no shame in admitting that I’ve caught myself whistling the “Hands Across The Water” reprise numerous times over the last few weeks. I also can’t deny that the following sounds incredibly snobbish and elitist; but what’s the point?!? Paul McCartney was blessed with the “Hall-Of-Fame arm,” the ability to be one of the greats, a pinnacle he did indeed reach if but for a short time. The man could wake up and write a hit song within five minutes — while making breakfast I’m quite sure. Is “Uncle Albert/Admiral Hasley” really the work of a man trying his absolute hardest?

The maddening, tear-your-hair out moment comes when Ram finishes spinning, and you look back over the entire experience. There is some great music here. The aforementioned “Too Many People” gathers steam quickly before exploding into a series of wailing solos near the end; the track is easily the best rock song McCartney had written since “Get Back.” The remastered edition has added “Another Day” to the tracklist, McCartney’s first hit post-Beatles and a disarmingly cheery tune about the drudgery of everyday life for the modern, working woman. And finally, the melodramatic, Broadway leanings of “Back Seat Of My Car” hit home every single time.

Therein lies the great contradiction in trying to critically look at Paul McCartney post-Beatles. We knew he was capable of greatness. We know because it’s still being played on the radio today. But these ensuing decades have undeniable eroded away at his reputation, if just slightly. How many of the other greats could brilliantly express the young, teenage angst of “Back Seat Of My Car,” but at the same time churn out the inane ramblings of “Monkberry Moon Delight”? It doesn’t matter that The Beatles wrote plenty of terrible songs; in the minds of the public and rock world they are ironclad and untouchable. The solo career of Paul McCartney is a man trying to once again spin straw into gold. Never mind the fact that when he was on, he was as good – if not better – than anyone else. McCartney stood no chance of following The Beatles. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Paul McCartney Ram | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Jamming With Mick Ralphs !!! (Fort Worth, May 1977)

zep_jammingFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – May 22nd, 1977

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

Disc 2: Ten Years Gone, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur-Stomp, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Kashmir

Disc 3: Moby Dick, guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love/ Rock And Roll, It’ll Be Me

Jamming With Mick Ralphs!!! is Empress Valley’s version of Zeppelin’s May 22nd Fort Worth concert. Like Complete Tarrant County Concert on Wendy and It’ll Be Zep on Silver Rarities, this is a mixture of the three common audience recordings edited to present as much of the show as possible. It begins with the first audience source that is fair, distant, and dominated by the shouting audience but clear enough to hear the music.

This runs from the beginning until about 4:45 into “In My Time Of Dying” where the second audience source is used. This source is still distant and noise but somewhat more dynamic and enjoyable than the first. This runs through until the “Ten Years Gone” fragment. The first source picks up again with “Going To California” and runs through the first thirty seconds of “Black Country Woman” where the second source is again used.

The second source is used until about thirteen minutes into “Moby Dick” where the third, amazing quality stereo audience source is edited in and runs pretty much until the end of the show. The first audience source is used for some shorter segments like the introduction to the encores, but mostly the Duck Walks And Lasers tape source is used. Generally speaking the sound quality of Empress Valley is an upgrade over Wendy.

The first two sources are still far from perfect but the label increased the volume without any attendant hiss making the show very enjoyable. It is a shame the gap with most of “Ten Years Gone” and “Battle Of Evermore” is still present, but for what we do have left this release is an excellent record of a truly enjoyable show. The previous evening in Houston was a very good show, but this one is much more loose and exciting and a good prelude to the Maryland shows that follow.

John Paul Jones’ dirty bass sound is very audible in the opening numbers and adds much needed bite. “In My Time Of Dying” has a miscue which causes a halt but the band start again and deliver an effective version. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is one of the most dramatic versions on tape and is among the greatest versions from the eleventh tour.

“No Quarter” is introduced as “a piano piece” and contains a tentative version of “Nutrocker”. It sounds like Bonham was caught off guard as Jones bands out the opening notes but it sounds like great fun. The band suggested to Jones that he keep it in for all versions but he wanted to keep his improvs open. Only in the opening night in New York do they play the piece before it disappears forever (unless future tapes surface from later in the tour confirming it was played again).

The acoustic set is also great fun and Plant sings about a yellow rose (of Texas?) in “Going To California”. “Moby Dick” is twenty-seven minutes long and is great with interesting drum patterns after Bonham bashed the “Whole Lotta Love” riff. The guitar solo is just over ten minutes and contains “Dixie” (aka “I Wish I Was In Dixie” and “Dixie’s Land”) followed by the “Star Spangled Banner”.

The final two songs “Achillies Last Stand” and “Stairway To Heaven” are very strong and the first encore is the tour debut of “Whole Lotta Love”. It is very short leading directly into “Rock And Roll” and this version will be featured on the majority of the rest of the concerts. Mick Ralphs of Bad Company joins the band on stage for a version of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “It’ll Be Me”, the first of two known times it was played as an encore.

Jamming With Mick Ralphs!!! comes packaged in the Empress Valley big cardboard block sleeve with the Rolling Stone cover on front featuring a photo from Madison Square Garden and a very dower looking Bonham on the back. It does seem to serve as a piece of catalogue filler (i.e., it musically isn’t an advancement over previous releases), but compared to the earlier compilations this probably deserves definitive status and is worth having.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Jamming With Mick Ralphs!!! | , | Leave a comment

Oasis Stop The Clocks (2006)

093624981893From dailyvault.com

Stop The Clocks turns out to be an apt title for the first Oasis compilation, as it pretty much halts the band’s career at the 1996 mark, just after the release of the landmark masterpiece (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?.

This was the band’s heyday, commercially and musically, so it makes sense for a collection to focus on this peak…except that a) this is two discs and b) Oasis had four albums and a B-sides/rarities compilation between 1997 and 2006, the year of this release. Also, there are only 18 songs here, nine per disc, which is a bit skimpy and questionable in the CD era (each CD is about 40 minutes, or the length of an LP).

If this sounds like nit picking, it is, because the music here is without question fantastic throughout. There is nary a bad song to be found. Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory are two of the best albums of the ‘90s, hands down, and the assorted singles and B-sides from the era are good enough to have been included on those records. Of the remaining tracks, “Go Let It Out” and “Songbird” are excellent and “The Importance Of Being Idle” is one of the few highlights of the dull Don’t Believe The Truth disc. Only “Lyla” fails to excite; it could have been replaced with “The Hindu Times,” “F—ing In The Bushes” or anything from Be Here Now, which is unjustly ignored on this compilation.

If you already own the two aforementioned albums, there’s little here that you will need, and if you don’t, you should pick them tout suite. If you are an Oasis newbie, this is a fine introduction, although be warned it is not a comprehensive or balanced overview of the band’s career (that honor belongs mostly to 2010’s Time Flies).

Nearly all of the best songs from Morning Glory are here, from the acoustic ballad “Wonderwall” and the majestic “Imagine” rewrite “Don’t Look Back In Anger” to the classicist noise of “Some Might Say” and the epic one-two punch of the title track and “Champagne Supernova.” Only “Hello” is missing, but the B-sides “Acquiesce” and “The Masterplan” make up for it.

From Definitely Maybe we get the swagger of “Rock And Roll Star” (as clear a mission statement as any band has ever written, lyrically and musically), the giddy sparkle of “Supersonic,” the mini-masterworks “Live Forever” and “Slide Away,” and the T-Rex update “Cigarettes & Alcohol.”

All of these songs, as well as the B-sides and the three other songs mentioned above, are among the best of the decade and the best Oasis had to offer, and time has only cemented their status as classics, which is what the guys were aiming for. It’s not a perfect collection or a balanced overview, but it’s a solid collection of damn fine music.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Stop The Clocks | | Leave a comment