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Led Zeppelin Casino (Montreux, August 1971)

zeppelin_casinoFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Monteux Casino, Montreux, Switzerland – August 7th, 1971

Disc 1 (54:05): Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 2 (46:33): Going To California, That’s The Way, Celebration Day, What Is And What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love (including Boogie Chillun’, That’s Alright, Ramble On, I’m A Man, Honey Bee), Weekend

Led Zeppelin’s Montreux concerts in 1971 and 1972 were rumoured to exist on tape and it is great that one of these four concerts has finally surfaced. One of the reasons why this tape is so valuable is because the first half of 1971 is so poorly documented for Led Zeppelin. Except for the Ireland tapes and the “BBC In Concert” broadcast, the Back To The Clubs tour is shrouded in almost complete mystery. A tape for a Liverpool performance is said to exist, although I have my doubts. There is the wonderful Copenhagen tape from May, the Milan fragment from July, and that is it until the seventh tour of North America.

The first Montreux concert surfaced several years ago and was quickly pressed first on Casino Royale (Empress Valley Supreme Disc 2005 EVSD378/379) and then on Peter’s PA (Black Dog Records BDR-001-1,2). Empress Valley was ruined by excessive mastering making the tape very hissy and horrible sounding. The Tarantura version was much better with an emphasis upon clarity. In May 2009 a new label released Montreux Casino 1971 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-002) from a low generation tape and was an improvement over the previous titles.

Casinois the latest release of this interesting tape and it shares many of the characteristics of the Graf Zeppelin release. It runs at the correct pitch and is from a low generation. But Tarantura has a slight advantage over Montreux Casino 1971 by being a bit more loud, clear, lively and punchy.

The setlist for Montreux is close to the standard they used for most of the year. The Montreux Concerts by Gilles Chateau and Sam Rapallo claim that “Moby Dick” was played before “Whole Lotta Love,” that “Celebration Day” was played before “Stairway To Heaven,” and that “Communication Breakdown” was played as an encore. As it turns out “Moby Dick” was not played, “Celebration Day” was played after the acoustic set, and “Weekend” is the only encore for August 7th. Further, this is the earliest recorded reference to “Celebration Day” as a stand-alone track. The only previous appearance is the Copenhagen show where it was played inside of “Communication Breakdown.”

After not having played for several months, there is obvious rust on the band. The beginning is very good with “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker,” and Plant thanks Montreux, saying, “it’s very very very very nice to be back in Montreux again… To be working with Claude Nobs, and to be working with everybody who’s helped get everything together here. About two, or maybe three, four weeks ago, we went to Italy, to Milan, and totally different thing altogether. I’ll tell you about that later.”

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is very sloppy at points but the next song “Black Dog” fairs much better. “Dazed And Confused” reaches eighteen minutes and is very lyrical and melodic in its improvisation at certain points. There is a short delay afterwards as they get ready for “Stairway To Heaven since “the equipment’s falling apart.”

The acoustic set is recorded nicely with “That’s The Way” bitterly dedicated to anyone who came from Milan, the site of the disaster in July (“I don’t know how I’m gonna tell you / that I can’t play with you no more!”) Both “Celebration Day” and “What Is And What Should Never Be” are marred by missed cues. The set ends with twenty-three minutes of “Whole Lotta Love” which substitutes “Mess O’ Blues” (a constant in the 1971 medley) with “I’m A Man.” “Honey Bee” not go into “You Shook Me,” which was the custom at that time, but into a free form blues improvisation. “Merci beaucoup et bon soir. We’ll do one more then we’ll be back tomorrow” Plant says before a very fast and heavy version of Eddie Cochrane’s “Weekend.”

Casino is an improvement over the Graf Zeppelin edition of this show released in spring 2009 but it’s not a drastic upgrade. The packaging is a glossy cardboard gatefold sleeve with and interesting period photograph on the front cover and photos of the band on the interior and is a limited editon.

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April 18, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Casino | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Viva Le Zeppelin (Paris, April 1973)

LZ Vive le Zeppelin France 1973 frontFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Centre Sportif, Paris, France – April 2nd, 1973

Disc 1 (53:19): Rock and Roll, Over the Hills and Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains the Same, Rain Song

Disc 2 (49:32): Dazed and Confused (incl. San Francisco), Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love

The audience recording for Zeppelin’s April 2nd Paris show used on Vive Le Zeppelin surfaced and has been pressed exclusively by Empress Valley. A poor sounding complete source exists, but the newer one is in very good to excellent stereo. It has a richness of detail that captures the crunchy timbre of Zeppelin’s sound on this tour.

Unfortunately it isn’t complete. Its in during the opening of “Rock And Roll” and takes a few sections to become stable. It cuts out six minutes into ”The Rain Song” eliminating the song’s final two minutes, cuts in again right at the first verse of “Dazed And Confused,” and cuts out agin eleven minutes into the ”Whole Lotta Love” medley cutting out half of that and the “Heartbreaker” encore. EV were criticized at the time of its release for not editing in the poor sounding tape for completeness and that would be a project that would still be much welcomed among silver collectors.

After touring for months and experiencing conflict in other dates in France, the last show is a devastating yet in some ways reserved performance. It is also the last time they employ the setlist, which opens with “Rock And Roll” and “Over The Hills And Far Away.”

The effects of the violence and poor promotion in France is felt in Plant’s dealing with the Parisian audience. He’s quips are kept to a minimum and he spends most of the time doing crowd control, telling the audience to take it easy and calm down.

“Misty Mountain Hop” is about hashish in this show and is followed by a devastating “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” The Houses Of The Holy track “Dancing Days” is played for one of the final times live by Led Zeppelin. It would appear as a rare encore in Detroit in July and be referenced several times on the 1977 tour, but after this it would never again be part of the regular set. Its omission is a shame because this version shows just how heavy it can be live.

“Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” is played for the final time for four years, until the acoustic set is reintroduced. This version contains the short reference to “That’s The Way” in the solo. “The Rain Song” is sloppy and Page loses his place about five minutes into the song.

“Dazed And Confused” reaches the same heights as other versions on this tour with Page dueling with Bonham’s lyric drumming through the course of the thirty minute improvisation. After “Stairway To Heaven” they finsh the set with “Whole Lotta Love.”

There is some commotion in the audience and a short delay. Plant says, “here’s something that you can do that to” before the start. The long medley, which had been introduced in “Whole Lotta Love” three years prior, would be scrapped after this show. Only John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun’” would remain for the US tour the following summer.

The recording unfortunately cuts out fourteen minutes into the song when the band are finishing up “(Baby You’re So Square) I Don’t Care,” cutting out “Let’s Have A Party” and “I Can’t Quit You” and the encore “Heartbreaker.”

Vive Le Zeppelin is packaged in a bulky booklet with liner notes written in Japanese and in an English translation. Utilizing the older tape source, as poor as it is, would have been a good idea to fill in the gaps and make this a complete and definitive version of the show. As it is, this is a good title for the Zeppelin completist but hardly essential to own and hopefully some label will edit the two tapes together and produce the definitive version of this historic show.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Viva Le Zeppelin | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Rare Films

From collectorsmusicreviews.com

zep_rare_films(4:48:38): New York 1969, Cleveland Jul. 20, 1969, Cleveland Oct. 24, 1969, North Carolina 1970, Iceland 1970, Germany 1970, Hawaii 1970, Montreux 1971, Houston 1971, Japan 1971, Australia 1972, San Bernardino 1972, Tucson, Arizona 1972, Japan 1972, Los Angeles 1973, San Francisco 1973, Pittsburgh 1973, New York Jun. 28, 1973, New York Jun. 29, 1973, Chicago 1975, Philadelphia 1975, Texas 1975, Dallas 1975, San Diego 1975, Long Beach 1975, Seattle 1975, L.A. Mar. 24, 1975, L.A. Mar. 25, 1975, L.A. Mar. 25, 1975, L.A. Mar. 25, 1975, L.A. Mar. 25, 1975, L.A. Mar. 25, 1975, Chicago 1977, Birmingham, Alabama 1977, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 1977, Landover, Maryland 1977, Greensboro, NC 1977, Plaza Hotel – N.Y. 1977, New York Jun. 10 1977, New York Jun. 14 1977, New York Jun. 14 1977, New York Jun. 1977, L.A. Jun. 22, 1977, L.A. Jun. 23, 1977, L.A. Jun. 23, 1977, L.A. Jun. 23, 1977, L.A. Jun. 26, 1977, L.A. Jun. 26, 1977, Oakland 1977, Knebworth Aug. 4, 1979, Knebworth Aug. 11, 1979, Rotterdam 1980, Zurich 1980, Munich 1980

Rare Films contains almost five hours of rare footage of Led Zeppelin from their prime. All of the clips are downloaded from Zeppelin’s official site ledzeppelin.com which the label mention on the artwork. Nothing on this disc is new. The clips come from amateur fan-shot footage (with very few exceptions) and everything has been circulated and pressed onto DVD before. But coming from the official site, this should be the best available visual and audio quality. All four hours and forty-eight minutes are pressed onto one silver DVD with no evidence of pixelation and look as good as they appear on the website.

The clips are arranged in strict chronological order running from the first tour to the last, starting with the startling color footage of the January 31st, 1969 Fillmore East show in New York. Filmed on 8mm by Dennis DiMatteo, this is the earliest known footage of Led Zeppelin live. Lasting only a minute, it offers tantalizing glimpses of “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” “I Can’t Quit You” and “Dazed And Confused” including a full frame shot of Jimmy Page using the violin bow on his psychedelic telecaster.

The ending shot shows a brief glimpse of the late Erik Brann of Iron Butterfly. The footage is synced with audio from the audience tape.

The next two clips are photographic montages of the two 1969 shows in Cleveland. Both photographs and montages were done by Michael Pierson and posted on the official site to commemorate Cleveland Rocks.

The clip from July 20th features photographs of the venue, of Joe Walsh of the James Gang, and of course Led Zeppelin all set to the soundtrack of “White Summer” from the audience tape of the show. At the very end is the voice of Walter Cronkite speaking about Apollo 11 landing on the moon, an event which occurred that night. The final photo shows the small white house where the group watched the moon walk along with the rest of the world.

The October 24th clip follows a similar pattern as July 20th. It starts off with photographs of the venue and adverts for the show, followed by photographs of the show. It ends with a notation that Led Zeppelin II was released two days before and that the following night in Boston the band played the Boston Gardens before 16,000, and a quote from Peter Grant that it was their “first big gig.”

Following the Cleveland slide shows is a short clip from the April 7th, 1970 Charlotte, North Carolina show. It is the only piece from their spring 1970 tour of the US. It shows the short trip to the venue and very good close up shots of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. No attempt has been made to sync the footage, but instead “What Is And What Should Never Be” from the audience recording of the show is used as a soundtrack.

Zeppelin’s visit to Reykjavik in Iceland consists of a radio interview with Plant as a soundtrack to their arrival and a clip from “Dazed And Confused,” all taken from the official DVD. It continues with a short clip from an amateur source from the back of the venue which is very dark. It ends with a short Plant interview for Icelandic TV the night before the gig.

Germany 1970 is a clip lasting several minutes of home movies made of their four date tour in July. The various shots show the band traveling with journalist Chris Welch, sailing down the Rhine River, and touring a very depressing looking West Berlin inter-cut with live footage filmed from the side of the stage. Page in particular looks mysterious wearing the long, red cape. “Celebration Day” taken straight from Led Zeppelin III is used as a soundtrack. Some footage was used on the official DVD, but this clip has different scenes.

The final clip from 1970 is the 8mm color footage from the September 6th, 1970 show in Honolulu, Hawaii. The shots are very close to the stage but a bit dark. “Communication Breakdown” from the audience tape of the show is used as a soundtrack. At points the music vaguely syncs with the footage.

Montreux 1971 is a long clip showing the band having lunch, walking to the stage, and hanging out in the dressing room after the gig. Interspersed are shots of hippies sitting on the ground with flowers in their hair, smoking pot, and staring into space. There are no live shots, and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” from the show is used as a soundtrack.

Following is the clip of the August 26th, 1971 show in Houston, Texas. The first half shows the audience milling around the venue waiting for the show. “Out On The Tiles” is used as a soundtrack for this part. The concert footage is, generally speaking, very good medium shots with very nice views of the action on stage. Since there is no audio and no tape exists of the show, the live footage is synced with audio from the Orlando and Toronto shows from the same tour. Songs include “Immigrant Song,” “Heart Breaker,” “Dazed & Confused,” “Stairway To Heaven,” “Moby Dick” “Celebration Day” and “Whole Lotta Love.”

The final footage from 1971 is a clip from the September 23rd show at the Budokan in Tokyo. The video is clear but slightly jumpy. Only very short fragments of songs are present from throughout the show including “Immigrant Song,” “That’s The Way,” “Moby Dick” and “Whole Lotta Love.” The video is synced with the excellent audience recording found on Timeless Rock.

The Australia 1972 clip is very short. Some pre-concert shots of the Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne and the showgrounds in Sydney are shown with a clip of an interview with Jimmy Page taken from radio Perth as a voice over. It’s very short and not very enlightening.

Footage of the June 22nd show in San Bernardino is opposite, however. Close-up, clear, steady, with rich colors, it is the best available visuals of the US tour in 1972. The visuals are perfectly synced with the audience recording offering a seamless experience. It includes clips of “Immigrant Song,” “Heartbreaker,” “Dazed & Confused” including rare footage of “The Crunge,” and “Whole Lotta Love.” It’s so good that it demands repeated viewings.

The same cannot be said of the following clip of the June 28th show in Tucson, Arizona. It’s dark and barely watchable, and the visuals are synced with the rough audience tape that exists of the show.

Even worse is the following track from Tokyo, 1972. Distant, blurry and saturated from poor lighting, it’s hard to even tell which of the two Tokyo shows is filmed and what tracks they are playing. Music from the audience tapes is used as a soundtrack, but no attempt has been made to try and sync the music with the visuals.

No footage from Zeppelin’s Winter UK tour from 1972-1973 or the 1973 European tour is included. Black and white 8mm footage from the May 31st, 1973 Los Angeles concert follows. It is very close to the stage and captures the action well, but is very short. “Over The Hills And Far Away,” “No Quarter” and “Dazed And Confused” synced from the excellent audience recording.

The Bonzo’s birthday party show is followed by short clips from the massive Kezar gig in San Francisco on June 2nd. It contains very short fragments of “Rock And Roll” and “No Quarter” filmed from the top of the stadium. It’s really impossible to see the band play, but it is very good as showing the mass of humanity there that day.

The Pittsburgh footage come from home movies made by members of the road crew. In color, they feature the band leaving the airport (with “Bron-Y-Aur” as a soundtrack), and on stage playing “Rock And Roll.” The travel was also filmed professionally and appears in the film The Song Remains The Same.

Also very good are fragments from the July 28th and July 29th New York shows. Both were filmed for the concert movie and it’s possible to see the same shots.

The July 28th was filmed a fair distance from the stage but it’s possible to pick out the action as it occurs, offering good panoramic scenes of the show. The clips range from the entire show, bits from almost each song played that night synced to the soundboard recording. The following clip from the July 29th show comes from a road crew’s home movie of the event. With spectacular close up shots from the side of the stage, it gives fantastic detail of “Dazed And Confused.”

Following New York is color 8mm films from the Chicago 1975 gigs. The earliest available footage from the troubled tour, it shows the band giving a highly effective and entertaining performance despite the circumstances. It’s up close and very clear with generous fragments of “No Quarter,” “Moby Dick,” the violin bow section in “How Many More Times” and an almost complete “Black Dog.”

A week after Chicago the band played at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The clip is much like the Chicago film. It’s very close to the stage and in color, showing the band playing “In My Time Of Dying.”

The Texas 1975 footage comes from the March 3rd, 1975 show in Fort Worth. Filmed from the front row, it has very nice close ups of the action. Because no tape exists of that show, instead of being synced with one of the available soundboards from the Dallas shows, a radio advertisements of the shows are used as a soundtrack.

The next clip contains footage from one of the Dallas shows. It is also close and in color, but slightly more fuzzy. It is synced and has short clips of “Rock And Roll,” “Sick Again,” “Over The Hills And Far Away” among other songs. Perhaps the best parts is an exciting clip from “Trampled Underfoot,” showing the light show and “Dazed And Confused” with the lasers.

The March 10th San Diego clips are in color but far from the action and very fuzzy. It has clips of “Sick Again,” “Kashmir” and other songs. The Long Beach fragments, from the legendary March 12th show, are a bit closer than San Diego but still blurry.

The Seattle clip has very short color fragments of the March 17th show. The various songs are synced with the excellent audience tape. It’s a big fuzzy, but very close to the stage and enjoyable. It’s especially dramatic to see Page playing the theremin and the band playing “The Crunge.”

The closing three shows of Los Angeles are the last of the 1975 footage. The first clip is about twenty minutes of color footage from the March 24th show, the opening night. It has clips of “Rock and Roll,” “Sick Again,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “In My Time of Dying,” “Kashmir,” “No Quarter,” “Trampled Underfoot,” “Moby Dick,” “Stairway To Heaven,” “Whole Lotta Love / Crunge / Black Dog,” and “Heartbreaker” filmed in color with sound synced from the Millard recording. It is closely shot with distance ranging from band members’ height making up most of the screen to being seen from hip to head.

Five clips from the March 25th follow. A complete “Over The Hills And Far Away” is taken from color footage very similar in quality to the previous night. It’s a big fuzzy, but in color with great detail including Page’s floral pattern blouse. It’s followed by “The Song Remains The Same,” complete from a two film source edit between the color film and black and white.

Most of “Kashmir,” “Trampled Underfoot” and the encore section with “Whole Lotta Love,” “The Crunge” and “Black Dog” end this part of the disc. All of the clips from this show are perfectly synced with the Millard recording of the show.

Footage from the April 10th, 1977 concert in Chicago starts the extensive coverage of Led Zeppelin’s final US tour. Four minutes of reasonably reasonably clear and close, but very fragmented footage is included. There are parts of “The Song Remains The Same,” “No Quarter,” “The Battle Of Evermore,” “Trampled Underfoot,” “Black Mountain Side,” “Kashmir,””Moby Dick” and Page’s “noise solo.” This concert is notable for Page wearing the Nazi stormtrooper hat for the first couple of songs. He eventually changes it for a white cowboy hat before going hatless during the middle of the show. And by the noise solo he changed into his all white suit.

The second clip from the tour picks up at the beginning of the second leg with the May 18th Birmingham, Alabama show. It has ten minutes of color footage from the upper left hand side of the venue. It is shaky, but very exciting as the band play “The Song Remains The Same,” “In My Time Of Dying,” “Kashmir,” “Moby Dick” and “Rock And Roll.”

The following night in Baton Rouge is documented with several minutes of color home movies. It shows the band arriving at the airport on the Starship, fans outside the LSU Assembly Center several shots of the band playing onstage. The concert footage is jumpy but clear and has some startling scenes like the laser show during “No Quarter.” The audio is synced from the May 22nd, Fort Worth audience recording.

The Landover footage is an interesting little travelogue filmed by a fan named Vince Cavo. Traveling from Utica in upstate New York to Maryland, the first portion of the film documents him and his friends traveling and hanging out in front of the Capital Centre with “For Your Life” from Presence as a soundtrack. The concert footage comes from the May 30th show, the final of four nights. It is taken from the middle of the floor seats. The band take up the middle of the shots, but the camera is steady and the colors are very rich and vibrant. It has very short clips of most of the songs from the show up to “Achilles Last Stand.”

Maryland is followed by a clip from the May 31st show in Greensboro, North Carolina. The camera was located within the first couple of rows right in front of Jimmy Page. It’s a bit bumpy and fuzzy, but picks up the action nicely. Page looks extremely hip in his white flower suit, sunglasses with cigarette dangling from his mouth as he plays the double neck guitar. It contains most of “The Song Remains The Same.”

The next five clips cover their stay in New York in the second week of June. There is a minute long color clip of the band leaving the Plaza Hotel in the afternoon. Although all four pass the cameraman, only Plant stops and greets them.

Next is a dark, color fragment from the wild June 10th show with small clips from “No Quarter,” “Ten Years Gone” and Plant introducing “The Battle Of Evermore.”

Two clips follow from the June 14th show, the final night in New York. They are close to the action and in color, but very dark like the June 10th show. The first clip has “The Song Remains The Same” and “Sick Again,” and the second has the encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock And Roll.”

And the final clip from New York is close to the stage and in color like the others, but much brighter and more enjoyable. This clip has fragments of several songs with the most coming from “Achilles Last Stand.”

The Los Angeles fragment on June 22nd is also in color and quite dark. It has fragments of the show from “The Song Remains The Same,” “Sick Again,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Over The Hills And Far Away” and much of “Achilles Last Stand.” Page wears the black dragon suit for the first couple of songs but changes to the white version for “Over The Hills And Far Away.”

The first June 23rd For Badge Holders Only show clip is close up and has fragments of the latter half of the show starting with “Trampled Underfoot.” A lot of time is spent in the noise solo and the encores with The Who drummer Keith Moon.

The next three clips are little music videos. The first two, with “Sick Again” and “Achilles Last Stand,” are edits of fan shot footage of the June 23rd show edited with clips from the July 17th Seattle professionally shot tape. The edits are very well handled and they are both quite entertaining.

From the June 26th LA show is a clip with the ending of “Stairway To Heaven” and the encore of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “It’ll Be Me” taken from only one source. There is two source edit on youtube, but it’s not used here. The final clip from the 1977 tour is a very short segment from the July 23rd show in Oakland. Containing only small pieces of the opening two songs, it’s reasonably watchable but ends almost as soon as it beings.

After the tour, Zeppelin were inactive for two years. The next time they played live was in Copenhagen, but no footage has ever surfaced. The next two clips are from the two Knebworth shows on August 4th and August 11th.

The August 4th clip was filmed from the front of the stage and focus more upon the giant screen behind the stage than on the actual musicians. The footage from August 11th is far away from the action, dark and blurry. Both are fragmentary but give a good idea of the size of the event.

The disc ends with three clips from the final Led Zeppelin tour. The first is a ten minute fragment from the June 21st, 1980 Rotterdam show. The color footage has pieces of “Trampled Underfoot,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Achilles Last Stand,” “White Summer,” “Kashmir,” and “Stairway To Heaven.” Filmed in color with sound dubbed from a soundboard, it is shot from high left side and offers good panoramic views of the stage.

Three minutes from the June 29th show in Zurich has clips from “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Black Dog” and “Achilles Last Stand.” It is close up and in color and, despite being shaky, very dramatic.

The last segment is a ten minute fragment from the July 5th show in Munich, Led Zeppelin’s penultimate gig. The color footage has scenes from “In the Evening,” “Hot Dog,” “All My Love,” “Trampled Underfoot,” “Achilles Last Stand,” “Kashmir,” “Stairway To Heaven,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Whole Lotta Love.” The final song features Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke on drums with the band.

Rare Clips is packaged in a plastic DVD case with standard artwork. Although it doesn’t have everything little clip in circulation, it offers a comprehensive alternate video history to supplement the official release and watching it can be overwhelming. It’s a worthy title along with the previously released Assemblage titles on Cosmic Energy.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Rare Films | , | Leave a comment

LZ-’75 The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour by Stephen Davis (2010)

lz-75-promoFrom amazon.com

Arguably, one of the most influential bands in rock and roll history, no group seemed to mesmerize fans in the manner Led Zeppelin did. There is an undefined mystery/aura associated with Zeppelin that generates interest in the band, beyond its music. While Stephen Davis’ “Hammer of the Gods” was a much anticipated and appreciated look into the band, its tale of debauchery only added to Zeppelin’s mysterious lore. With LZ-75, Davis returns to give us a closer look at the band during its 1975 American Tour. Based notes and memorabilia that were “lost” for almost 35 years, Davis serves-up a close look at the band that somewhat diminishes the mysterious sheen that has cloaked the band throughout its history.

Halfway through the book, I was ready to pan Davis’ work as it appeared Stephen Davis had a grudge against the band. The Godfathers of the heavier version of rock and roll seemed to be finally exposed as … well … mere humans. As a lifelong fan of the band, I was not sure if I was ready to have its image decimated by a series of somewhat embarrassing tales that amounted to nothing less than “too much information”. However, as I pressed on, I began to appreciate Davis’ recollection of the band as an exclusive insider’s-view of Led Zeppelin in an era where rock stars enjoyed their decadent lifestyle in relative secrecy.

“LZ-75” starts with Davis discovering an old box full of memorabilia collected from an assignment covering Led Zeppelin during its 1975 American tour. From this point he takes us to the beginning of his adventure trying to secure such an assignment (made difficult by the negative press the band couldn’t escape from most traditional music sources like “Rolling Stone” magazine). His early reporting of the band’s performance, let alone its members, is less than flattering. Rather than Rock Gods staging yet another blitzkrieg across the United States, we see a group of spoiled prima donnas as unhealthy, homesick, and belligerent drunks with a penchant for drugs and groupies. The performances at the start of the tour are characterized as tepid, not torrid, as one concert in Texas included Robert Plant pleading with an unimpressed audience for some sign of appreciation. Unlike previous tours that followed the release of a new album, this tour featured the band trying to introduce music from an album (“Physical Graffiti”) whose release was delayed. The lackluster fan enthusiasm for the new music (including iconic gems like “Kashmir” and “Trampled Underfoot”) in addition to Robert Plant’s lingering influenza and Jimmy Page’s injured hand seemed to cast a funk on the band and its burgeoning tour. The rhythm section of the band (John Paul Jones and John Bonham) weren’t devoid of problems either as one became the subject of constant ridicule on stage (Jones) and the other (Bonham) turned into his violent, alcohol-fueled alter-ego, “the Beast”. While Davis’ main goal was to land a rare interview with the reclusive Page, it began to appear that the futility in getting that interview started to sour Davis’ opinion of Led Zeppelin altogether. After all, how many fans really need to know about Bonham’s need to wear diapers on stage due to alcohol-induced incontinence or the repeated need to compare Jones’ hair to that of Liberace and his keyboard playing as “cheesy lounge music”?

It is once the tour heads to Los Angeles that Davis’ reporting of events become more interesting and the band begins to enjoy itself and perform as expected. For it is the city of Los Angeles, with its abundance of drugs and loyal groupies, that traditionally served as Led Zeppelin’s life support during American tours. The mood is more relaxed, the album is finally released, the band is happier and the audience begins to appreciate the performances. It is at this point where the reader is given a much appreciated fly-on-the-wall perspective of the band’s stay at the Continental Hotel (the “Riot House”) and on board the legendary “Starship” (the band’s plane). We are exposed to the various people and activities that comprise the burden of that 1975 tour: the hand-assembled, 500 light bulb “Led Zeppelin” sign present at each show, the thuggish antics of band manager Peter Grant and tour manager Richard Cole to the workaholic Danny Goldberg. One interesting moment includes the possibility of Davis witnessing Manson follower Squeaky Fromme’s attempt to contact Jimmy Page about a pending omen. Davis finally eases up on Jones’ by acknowledging the importance and need of his bass-playing skills and thankfully, the almost daily account of Bonham’s diarrhea, comes to an end. With the tour drawing to a close there is a melancholy sense that the author realizes the band’s best days may be a thing of the past.

“LZ-75” is actually pretty good reporting, in my opinion. Throughout the book, Davis displays an honest view of what he sees (good and bad) and overall, he comes across as objective. The book is probably best served to Led Zeppelin fans. Although some fans may believe Davis aims to tarnish the band’s image, many fans may appreciate a peek behind the mysterious veil that has surrounded the band for so long, exposing its members as mere mortals after all.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Book LZ-'75 The Lost Chronicles Of Led Zeppelins 1975 American Tour By Stephen Davis | , , | Leave a comment

Donald Fagen The Nightfly (1983)

MI0003515830From blogcritics.org

“Your independent station,WJAZ/With jazz and conversation,” Donald Fagen croons on the title track of his 1982 solo album, The Nightfly. Indeed, the modern classic involves conversation about hope and disillusionment; the past, present, and future; and confidence and uncertainty, all set to an irresistible jazz beat.

Each track on the album stands out for its complex lyrics and arrangements, along with Fagen’s superb piano and vocals. While some of The Nightfly’s contents include echoes of Steely Dan (“The New Frontier” being a prime example), it established Fagen’s unique identity apart from the legendary group. Twenty-six years later, the impeccable album sounds as fresh today as it did in the early ’80s.

The album kicks off with “I.G.Y. (International Geophysical Year),” perhaps one of the most thematically complex—and least likely—hits of his career. Fagen narrates the piece from the perspective of a starry-eyed young man from the past, dazzled by visions of a technologically advanced future. “What a beautiful world this will be/What a glorious time to be free,” he sings. He envisions space travel, cities “powered by the sun,” and a machine “to make big decisions/Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision.” Typical of Fagen, he throws in a seemingly sarcastic line amidst this optimism: “Perfect weather for a streamlined world/There’ll be spandex jackets one for everyone.” The jaunty piano-dominated arrangement suggests this positivity .Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly Yet the cover of The Nightfly reflects the opposite of the song’s sentiment; a black-and-white image of Fagen, cigarette dangling from one hand, in an anonymous radio broadcasting studio. His downcast look suggests disillusionment and cynicism, a man who has lived through disappointments as well as upbeat times.

“Green Flower Street” further represents this disappointment, from the perspective of a man lamenting the innocent times of his youth: “Since May there’s trouble every night…Where we once danced our sweet routine/It reeks of wine and kerosene.” Instead of finding “murder in the street,” he longs for a place where he and his lover “wear neon bends in daylight sky.” The shuffling rhythm does recall such Steely Dan gems as “Peg,” but the nostalgia is all Fagen. Incidentally, he performed a live version of “Green Flower Street” during his tour with the all-star New York Rock and Soul Revue back in 1991. Their live album Live at the Beacon contains a catchy revision of this classic jam.

Reverting to his role as DJ, Fagen trots out a jazzy makeover of Leiber and Stoller’s “Ruby Baby,” which tells of teenage frustration, particularly of rejection. “I got a girl and Ruby is her name/She don’t love me, but I love her just the same,” he complains, adding that “like a ghost” he will haunt the object of his affections. In the next song, “Maxine,” the narrator gets the girl and dreams of a future with her. Featuring harmonies worthy of the Four Freshman or Manhattan Transfer, the song recounts the young man’s idealistic visions of life after graduation. “We’ll move up to Manhattan/And fill the place with friends/Drive to the coast and drive right back again,” he sings in a wistful tone. Yet certain images puncture this perfect scene—he mentions he and his lover meet at the mall and “try to make sense of the suburban sprawl.” Will they really reach this perfect state of domestic bliss? Uncertainty seeps through Fagen’s lyrics.

Next comes the standout track of The Nightfly, “The New Frontier.” A deceptively cheerful ditty, the song’s lyrics detail the hapless narrator’s attempt to seduce a woman into joining him in his bomb shelter. “We’ll pretend that it’s the real thing/And stay together all night long,” Fagen sings. The man prepares for the new frontier by stating his desires to “learn design and study overseas.” Whether the woman who has “a touch of Tuesday Weld” is buying the man’s story is unclear. Fagen even gives a shout-out to Dave Brubeck, stating that he hears that the woman likes him, too. “He’s an artist, a pioneer/We’ve got to have some music for the new frontier,” he sings. Is Fagen suggesting that jazz will figure prominently in the future, or is it just a cheesy pickup line? No matter what, Fagen’s salute to Brubeck perfectly suits the rest of the album.

The DJ returns on the title track, cutting a lonely and detached figure. He fields calls about “a race of men in the trees” and “tough legislation,” eventually sneering, “I wait all night for calls like these.” He brags that “tonight the night is mine,” but admits heartbreak: “I wish I had a heart like ice,” he laments. He recounts a long lost love, stating that despite his cool, jaded exterior, “Once there was a time/When love was in my life,” and that “the answer’s still the same/It was you.” But he immediately returns to his DJ patter about “jazz and conversation,” presumably puffing on his cigarette and awaiting that next phone call.

This jaded outlook resumes in “The Goodbye Look,” a calypso-infused track that details a man’s futile attempts to seduce a woman in tropical paradise. “I know what happens, I’ve read the book/I believe I just got the goodbye look,” he sneers. But with images of a colonel “standing in the sun/With his stupid face the glasses and the gun” and talk of “action after dark,” this hardly seems like a vacation. I love the seemingly throwaway line, “Would you pour me a Cuban Breeze, Gretchen,” evoking images of a dejected man sitting at a bar, befuddled by the world. Romance and revolution clash, prompting the narrator to complain that “the rules have changed, it’s not the same/It’s all new players in a whole new ball game.” Innocence is gone, replaced by cynicism.

Ending on a nostalgic note, The Nightfly concludes with “Walk Between Raindrops,” a charming tune which functions as a more jaded take on “Singing in the Rain.” The lovers, walking in Miami, fight but make up as they “watched the regulars rush the big hotels.” The romantic scene includes the “causeway by the big hotels,” an unlikely environment for an intimate moment. But an idealistic, romantic view returns when Fagen sings that “you opened your umbrella/But we walked between the raindrops back to your door,” hardly the jaded perspective of the other songs. Thus Fagen ends on an optimistic note, suggesting through nostalgia that there may be hope for the future after all.

The Nightfly spawned two sequels, 1993’s Kamakiriad and 2006’s Morph the Cat, both meditations on middle age and mortality. But The Nightfly remains Fagen’s solo masterpiece, an album that still entrances with its jazz and rock mix, complex lyrics, and contradictory philosophies (namely optimism versus pessimism). In other words, The Nightfly contains all the elements that make it a modern classic.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Donald Fagen The Nightfly | | Leave a comment

Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)

The+Lamb+Lies+Down+On+Broadway+Disc+1+Genesis++The+Lamb+Lies+Down+OnFrom ultimate-guitar.com

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is one of the quintessential prog rock albums of the 70s and for good reason. It is arguably Genesis at their finest. Although the album does not contain the awe-inspiring Supper’s Ready, the tactically brilliant Musical Box, or beautiful Dancing With the Moonlit Knight, it still manages to equal, if not best, the previous Genesis albums. In terms of sound, there is just too much to talk about. Like all albums in the Gabriel/Hackett era, this album is a musical cacophony.

The listener is bombarded with Genesis’ outstanding musicianship, sonic grace, over-the-top craziness, flawless cohesion, and seemingly limitless musical experimentation. I defy anyone to listen to Hairless Heart and tell me that they weren’t moved. And at the same time, one can’t but help and crack a grin when listening to The Colony of Slippermen. What is truly amazing about the album is general feeling of punk about it, despite it being released in pre-punk 1974. And yet, with that punk undertone, Genesis fail to loose their trademark sound.

There aren’t any notable tracks because the album is so damn good all the way through. This is an amazing feat being that it’s a double album. As far as consistency is concerned, The Lamb far outdoes even the likes of The Wall. Dare I say that? I think I just did.

As a prog fan, I love a good concept album/rock opera. My 3 favourites of these are The Lamb itself, The Wall, and Operation: Mindcrime. The Lamb doesn’t have the best story of these three (largely due to the abstract craziness of it) it is still one of the best concept albums/rock operas out there. I’ll try my best to give a breakdown of the story. A New York punk named Rael (an allegory for Peter Gabriel) emerges from the subway after tagging the walls there and sees a lamb lie down on Broadway. He then finds himself trapped in a cave, then a cucoon, then a cage in his mind. He sees his brother John and calls for help, but his brother does not respond. Then he finds himself in a factory that is producing lifeless packaging and sees John working there.

I kind of loose track of the story here, but when Counting Out Time rolls around, Rael apparently finds a girl and tries having sex with her, but fails. Then he wakes up in a tunnel and follows the Carpet Crawlers to a door. It leads into a chamber of 32 doors filled with people who don’t know how to escape. Rael hears a faint voice and turns to see a blind woman named Liliwhite Lilith. She feels the breeze of the exit and leads him out of the chamber. Again I loose track.

Rael stumbles upon a pool during the song The Lamia. It’s filled with 3 snakes with female faces. He enters the pool and they start to nibble him and he them. Then he turns into a deformed Slipperman and finds himself in their colony. His brother John is there as well. Rael learns that the only way to reverse the effects is to get castrated. He does so and his “number” is put in a tube to hang around his neck for some reason. Just when he thinks his ordeal is over a Raven swoops in and takes his junk.

So he runs off after the bird and leaves John behind. When he catches up to the bird he watches it drop the tube into some rapids. So, he scrambles down the scree towards the rapids, but then he hears a cry for help. Rael spots his brother John drowning in the rapids and opts to save him instead of getting his “number” back. Rael jumps in the water, grabs hold of John, and pulls him to shore. But when Rael looks at John’s face he sees that it’s his own. I have no idea what this means, but it’s one hell of an adventure.

Albums of this calibre are few an far between. There is not a “bad song” on the album. Despite the lack of unity in the band’s song writing on this album, they made it work and work in a very good way. This, along with Operation: Mindcrime is my second favourite album ever after Dark Side. If you like the early Genesis sound, definitely get it. If you are interested, it’s the best album to start with ’cause the songs are shorter than on other albums. And if you aren’t a fan of most Genesis stuff, this still has undeniable songs like The Carpet Crawlers, Hairless Heart, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (song).

Simply, one of the best albums ever made.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway | | Leave a comment

Bill Laswell Carlos Santana: Divine Light Reconstruction & Mix Translation (2001)

cover_3711191112009From allmusic.com

If there were ever a golden opportunity for Bill Laswell, doing his trademark remixing style on Carlos Santana’s works was it. Here he chooses two of the guitarist’s most spiritual works, one the enduring and profoundly influential Love, Devotion & Surrender featuring John McLaughlin, and the other a more obscure but no less regarded album called Illuminations, recorded with Alice Coltrane, among others.

Laswell takes segments from each recording, alternates them, and attempts two things: to reconcile them to one another, and to create an entirely new work from the pair. By remixing the individual tunes, he creates a new vista to look at. His emphasis on bridging the gaps between Santana’s more restrained style on Illuminations and his rollicking, screaming-into-the-heavens assault featured on Love, Devotion & Surrender presents an intriguing, but problematic, situation.

Given the radically different emotions expressed on these records, it’s impossible to equate the tenor of Santana’s sound across the spectrum — even by adding and deleting effects. For one, the material on Illuminations doesn’t hold up as well. It was as much Coltrane’s date as it was Santana’s, and it wasn’t one of her best periods. An example of this is on “Angel of Air,” which opens the album. With overly lush string arrangements and crowded middle ranges where Jules Brossard’s hopelessly hackneyed soprano saxophone playing crowds the guitar space, Santana’s one moment of glorious fury in the entire 11 minutes is lost in the mix.

Despite a rhythm section that included Dave Holland, Don Alias, and Jack DeJohnette, the tune fails to light. As the grooves give way to “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane, with Larry Young’s organ ushering in the melody before the guitars enter, the overly packed notion opens into spaciousness. Here, despite the familiarity Santana fans have with the material, in this context it comes off as something new, removed from its original space and placed in amore urgent body. And it’s true: The material from this album is weighted with the burden of transcendence where the Illuminations tracks are merely fodder for added sound effects and deeper sounding rhythm tracks.

They float where the Love, Devotion & Surrender material soars, punches a hole in the sky, and carries the listener into an entirely new hearing space. The lone exception from the Illuminations material in terms of its ability to transcend Alice Coltrane’s string strangulation is “Angel of Sunlight,” which Santana co-wrote with Tom Coster. Here, the entire band — especially the rhythm section — breaks loose of the lurid fetters and pushes Santana…hard. Listeners can hear the struggle as he tried to come up with ideas to engage the rhythm section.

Laswell’s attention to detail here is admirable. He pumps up Holland’s bass in the mix and adds a shimmery tone to DeJohnette’s cymbal work that gives the piece an urgency it doesn’t possess on the original album. Unfortunately, he didn’t mix Brossard’s cheesy “I wish I was Coltrane” solo right out of the tune. Alas. Divine Light is a pleasant enough listen, one that provides enough depth and interesting pockets to keep one interested in the project. Musically, the majority of the album holds together.

But the rough spots and black holes — and there are more than a few — mar the proceedings in such a way that is discouraging. Given that this is not Stevie Ray Vaughan but the king of spiritual six-string transcendence, it is not remiss to have expected more of Laswell — especially given his wondrous treatments of Bob Marley and Miles Davis in the recent past. A near miss, but a miss nonetheless.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Bill Laswell Carlos Santana Devine Light | | Leave a comment

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)

noel_gallagher_high_flying_birds_album_cover_location_beverly_hillsFrom Uncut

What’s Noel Gallagher’s problem? Fabulously wealthy and finally shot of his brother, he’s surely now free to make the self-indulgent, critic-pleasing album displaying all the wit and taste he’s previously reserved for his interviews. Following in the footsteps of his heroes, like Weller after The Jam, like Marr after The Smiths, like Ian Brown after the Stone Roses, he could reveal the restless, questing free-ranging spirit that was fettered by the dopey conservatism of his old group.

But that sibling rivalry runs deep. Following Beady Eye’s goofily enjoyable debut earlier this year, is he content to let Liam claim the mantle of Continuity Oasis and swagger off with the rump of their old audience, leaving him with the cold comfort of a couple of extra stars from broadsheet reviewers? What’s a Britpop boy to do?

Well, you could try to have it both ways. As the promo campaign ahead of his solo debut is a bit too eager to point out, High Flying Birds is just the first of two Noel Gallagher albums, and will be followed in 2012 by his collaboration with pie-eyed psychonauts Amorphous Androgynous (who previously cooked up an epic reworking of the final Oasis single, “Falling Down”). The Amorphous Androgynous album is, according to Noel, “far fucking out”. Very much in contrast to High Flying Birds, then.

An unkind critic might note that the highest flying birds are generally vultures, wanting to scope out the largest possible territory for rotting carcasses to scavenge. Noel’s Birds stick pretty close to his favourite hunting grounds, however. The first single “The Death Of You And Me” is by far the best thing here, folksy fingerpicking, spooky organ and an oddly affecting, ominous lyric elevating what would otherwise seem an obvious airgun marriage of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” and The Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon”.

The Kinks-fix that Noel has been on since at least “The Importance Of Being Idle” hangs heavy all over High Flying Birds. The looming dread of “Dream On” (“Oh me, oh my, I’m running out of batteries…”) owes something to “Dead End Street”, “Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks” refers to “all the people on the village green” and by the time of “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” you get the feeling he could knock out one of these well-turned, doomy, descending bass line ditties in his sleep, like a craftsman knocking out reproduction furniture. On the final Oasis album a track like “Falling Down” seemed novel, enlivened by a sudden midlife sense of mortality. Here that feeling has gone stale, with songs that settle into humdrum strums and occasionally struggle to rouse themselves from their torpor with comedy brass codas.

Elsewhere, he sticks even closer to home: the first couple of Oasis albums. Both “If I Had A Gun” and “Broken Arrow” labour vainly to escape the long shadow of “Wonderwall”. The cumulative effect of all this mid-tempo moodiness is that High Flying Birds feels awfully plodding – particularly in comparison to the unexpected zip and zest of Beady Eye’s Different Gear, Still Speeding. It’s not until the sixth track, “What A Life”, that the pace picks up, but it’s too little, too late.

The closing “Stop The Clocks” was written for Oasis’ Don’t Believe The Truth [2004] but mysteriously left off the album at the last minute, going on, in its continuing absence, to provide the title for the 2006 greatest hits comp. After all this time you might reasonably imagine it was some rare jewel Noel was sensibly stockpiling for his solo career. But despite the dimly psychedelic gesture of some “Lucy In the Sky…” keyboards and a laborious closing wig-out, it can’t help but close the album with a sense of lumbering anti climax. “What if I’m already dead/How would I know?” he sings, offering an open goal that’s difficult to resist.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that High Flying Birds is a half-hearted failure of nerve, an attempt to play to the base more characteristic of a hedging politician than a truly reckless rock ’n’ roll star. The end of Oasis was never going to be the end of the battling Gallagher’s, and after the first round of the solo careers, the score is indubitably Liam 1, Noel 0. If nothing else, High Flying Birds has upped the stakes for the return leg.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds | , | Leave a comment