Classic Rock Review

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The Beatles Anthology 3 (1996)

51VbkWobuwLFrom starling.rinet.ru

And again we’re exposed to a flood of ‘musical skeletons’. Disc 1 is pretty much the White Album complete, with minor omissions due to disk space, and it’s chock-full of uninteresting, dull, sloppy versions which would have been brilliant were they not completely obliterated by their elaborate peers on original releases. Who needs a quiet acoustic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’? Interesting… but no keyboards? No Clapton solos? No George wailings in the background? Who needs it? Not me. I mean, it’s a good start if you’re planning to learn how to play this kind of thing, and it is moving in quite a different way, but the definitive version will always be the definitive version. What is the point to listen to half-finished, raw versions of ‘Rocky Raccoon’ or ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, or listen to an overlong version of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’.

Nice to know ‘Mean Mr Mustard’ and ‘Polythene Pam’ began life as possible candidates for the White Album as well, though. Still, this is rather a good treat for historians than for music fans. Likewise, historians will be pleased at the hilarious “tame” demo version of ‘Helter Skelter’, with just a timid guitar rhythm track and cute little drum fills from Ringo, far from the ‘I got blisters on my fingers!’ hysterics. Or they’ll be pleased at the gentle acoustic version of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’ featuring Paul having a lot of fun with his voice, modulating it in as many ways as possible. (All the greater is the fact that he settled down on just two or three different intonations in the final version, which saved it from looking way too self-indulgent.) And they’ll be certainly pleased at the first disc ending off with John playing a near-acoustic version of ‘Julia’ and shouting ‘Couldn’t I go from there? ‘Cause that was almost perfect!’.

Still, there is some actively good news as well, in that overall there’s a bit more previously unreleased material than on the second volume. George’s sad, melancholic, confessional ‘Not Guilty’ is at the least entertaining; it’s kinda clumsy and doesn’t hold up well, but it has enough quality to have been later resuscitated for his 1978 album, although it did not do much there. John’s ‘What’s The New Mary-Jane’ is certainly fun and could have been a ten tons better contribution for the White Album than ‘Revolution 9’ ever was: a groovy psycho number that starts out as a nursery rhyme and goes on to become a scary, creepy sound collage. Finally, Paul’s ‘Step Inside Love’ is a pretty ditty, chunking off in a mellow tempo before the band goes drooning in a psychedelic schizophrenia (‘Los Paranoias’). But that’s about it.

Disc 2 gives us insight into the Let It Be and Abbey Road sessions, and believe me, you won’t be tremendously excited about hearing it over and over, either. Sure, Phil Spector’s ‘wall-of-sound’ production is missing, and a lot of people rave about ‘The Long And Winding Road’ sounding a lot greater without the orchestral background. Could be. Could be not. Me, I personally don’t feel the need for another version, I quite enjoy the original. Here, the standouts are ‘Come And Get It’, an interesting McCartney product which was later relegated to Badfinger who performed it in the exact same way, and some rock’n’roll jams which you can also see live in the Let It Be movie.

Again, I think it’s much more interesting to see the movie where you can really see the boys take off their load and engage in some mindless fun, forgetting about their problems. Here, on the other side, the only thing you notice is the displeasant sloppiness of these numbers. Come on now, the boys were just banging on their pianos and wailing out the lyrics to ‘Rip It Up’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ that they probably haven’t played for six or seven years already. Why this stuff ought to have been extracted from bootlegs and offered to the general Beatles’ lover is way beyond me. ‘Nuff said.

Other than that, there are also some interesting demo versions of songs which would later become solo Beatle songs: Paul’s ‘Junk’ and ‘Teddy Boy’ were later included on McCartney, and George’s ‘All Things Must Pass’, sure enough, on All Things Must Pass. If you like ’em, be sure to get these albums! They’re as good as any Beatles disc… well, here I am – talking of solo Beatles instead of the Anthologies. Pure chance?

Nah. I mean, if you’re really objective and if you’re Beatles-obsessed, you would do yourself a much better job to grab the best of the Beatles’ solo albums before even thinking of getting the Anthologies. If you ask me, indeed, I’ll say that all this crazy hype did nothing but ruin the Beatles’ reputation. At least, these archives should not be marketed under slogans like ‘the lost great Beatles’ legacy’ or something like that, but with a severe warning to fans that these records are documents, not new records. As it is, I suppose many an ignorant fan of ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Michelle’ has shelled out his money for nothing.

On the other hand, I think that, with a little (ok, with a huge) editing, you could tape off the best of the new material, outtakes and live performances to make a really good 90-minute tape or a superb 45-minute tape, which you’ll be sure to enjoy just as fine as your average Beatles album. And don’t forget to put ‘Cry For A Shadow’, ‘That Means A Lot’ and ‘Come And Get It’ on it!

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May 8, 2013 Posted by | The Beatles Anthology 3 | | Leave a comment

Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder (2009)

9780470450420_p0_v2_s260x420From amazon.com

Review By now, no Eagles fan should be surprised by tales told about “The Gods,” Don Henley and Glenn Frey, and how they have treated (or mistreated) their fellow musicians over the years. What makes this book stand out is that the recounting here is done from the inside, by someone who is not only very capable of telling that history, but is also adept at conveying it in a very readable, conversational way. This is guitarist Don Felder’s memoir-to-date, “Heaven and Hell.”

Other Amazon reviewers have covered the basics of Felder’s life story, tracing his beginnings in Gainesville, Florida; his growing focus on music and guitars; and his father’s undue influence on his life. Knowing where he’ll eventually end up, the pages make for interesting and anticipatory reading. We follow Felder’s winding career path (which includes attending Woodstock) as it eventually leads toward the Eagles, to California, and to the celebrity and opulent lifestyle that only rock stars can earn. And of course: simultaneously to alcohol, drugs, extramarital liaisons, and chain-saw attacks on hotel room furniture. (You go, Joe!)

Those folks who have also read books like Jonathan Gould’s “Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain & America” will no doubt be stirred by the resemblance of the Eagles to the Fab Four. Felder himself refers to the analogy on page 116 when Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon are said to have adopted “the George and Ringo positions” in the group. Ain’t it the truth? Here we have a band made up of highly creative musicians, dominated by two of the original members (who seem to be writing most of the songs) and a manager who’s behind it all, calling the shots. And though the first albums took the public by storm, subsequent albums became tougher and tougher to put together as tempers flared, arguments ensued, and individuals walked out. Near the end, in and around the breakup, intricate legalities took over. In both cases, it all boiled down to ego and money. In retrospect, one wonders what would have been the Beatles’ fate if Mark David Chapman had not pulled the trigger. Would John, Paul, George and Ringo have eventually buried the hatchet, just temporarily, and embarked on a “Hell Freezes Over” kind of tour? Wouldn’t we all have fallen over each other to get tickets for it?

As for the Eagles: with just one phone call, the controlling forces decide that Don Felder — after more than 20 years of service, and after contributing the signature “Hotel California” melody — is no longer necessary to the band. To his credit, he does not roll over and play dead, but instead fights to keep his original legal position in Eagles, Ltd. Nevertheless, Felder is left behind in the end, much like the California license plate that graces the book jacket: battered, bruised, and detached; yet still in one piece, ready to be picked up again. I’m quite pleased to know that, due to the outcome of his successful lawsuit, he will still benefit from the CD I bought at Wal-Mart and the ticket I already bought to see the Eagles in concert later this year. Good for you, Don! And thanks for sharing both the good times and the bad times with us. But please know that after reading this book, I’m going to think long and hard before I spend any more of my own hard-earned dollars on the Eagles.

Review I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since Don Felder first mentioned he might write it, apparently just after he was fired from The Eagles by Don Henley and Glen Frey. But then it was not going to be published because of lawsuits and counter-suits, etc., but now here it is at last.

I have to admit I couldn’t wait until now to get the book here in the US, so I paid a bit more and bought a new copy from England, where it was published last year. So I’ve already read it, couldn’t put it down. A great read for any and every Eagles fan, especially those of us who followed the band from the very beginning, when The Eagles were comprised of Henley and Frey and Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner.

Those four put together the band’s first two albums; while working on their third album Felder was invited to join, and these five guys created the Eagles’ most successful music. Back when all this was happening I presumed Felder was just some guy brought into the band to give them a harder-edged sound, much to the chagrin of the country-oriented banjo-playing Bernie Leadon. What I found out from this book, however, was that Felder and Leadon were old friends from back in Florida, and that it was Bernie who first came West and eventually persuaded Felder to come out as well a few years later. I also learned that Felder had known and played guitar with Duane Allman in Florida.

I followed The Eagles all the way through the 70s, was saddened when Bernie took his banjo and acoustic guitars and left the band, to be replaced by hard-rocker Joe Walsh, and then even more saddened when bass player Randy Meisner quit a year later. Felder talks at length about these two events, and how sad he was about it as well. He also gives us a much more realistic take on the “reunion” in 1994, as well as the reunion of all seven band members at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. And then he goes into the events around his firing. I think he writes very honestly here, without any petty vindictiveness.

Sure he was/is upset about the way it all went down. What’s left of “The Eagles” – Henley and Frey and about a dozen or more hired hands on stage filling out that “Eagles” sound – is currently putting on some big-time shows around the world and making a ton of money, and people who go to see them seem pleased. But are they seeing The Eagles? I don’t think so. It’s as if John and Paul, having fired George and Ringo, decided to hire a bunch of backing musicians and call themselves The Beatles. Sure, John and Paul were the main stars of the band, but only the four of them deserved to be called The Beatles. Same thing here. Henley and Frey became the big stars of what was originally a very democratic band. Henley is a fantastic talent, with maybe the best voice in rock. He and Frey wrote some great songs, no question. They can still play and sing and create a lot of good music.

Don Felder created the song Hotel California, and it just doesn’t seem right to see them playing it now without him. Ah well, this old sentimentalist remembers the good old days of The Eagles, and this book is a great way to bring those memories back. Thanks for writing it, Don!

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Book Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Box Of Tricks (Honolulu, September 1970)

lz_honolulu1From collectorsmusicreviews.com

International Center, Honolulu, HI – September 6th, 1970

Introduction, Immigrant Song, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

The Box Of Tricks is the latest release of the Led Zeppelin Honolulu tape following many other releases including Holiday In Waikiki on Gold Standard, Tarantura’s namesake Box Of Tricks (Red Hot RH-023), Almost Son Of Blueberry Hill (Shout To The Top STTP 123), In Exotic “Honolulu” (Akashic AKA-24), and finally September VI (Empress Valley EVSD-486).

The sound quality is very good and clear and Tarantura tried to cut down the hiss present on the Empress Valley release. The problem is that some of the top end is lost in the remastering and whereas the EV sounds very vibrant, the Tarantura sounds a bit restricted. What they gain in clarity they lose in dynamics. The bit of digital static found on September VI isn’t present on The Box Of Tricks, and the cut after “Heartbreaker” is smoother.

This is labeled “1st Edition” on the artwork, so it can be assumed there will be a 2nd Edition. It is packaged in a single pocket cardboard sleeve and comes with a bonus booklet with various rare amateur photographs from the actual concert. Because this concert has seen many releases, there is nothing really gained with this release except the rare photographs. Regarding the concert, for the Empress Valley edition I wrote:

The mc gives an introduction to the band before they play “Immigrant Song”. Page doesn’t segue into “Heartbreaker” quick enough so John Paul Jones plays the beginning of “Dazed And Confused”. It is curious how the band follow his lead and plays the song for the next fifteen minutes. On other occasions they would stop just wait until they got back on track. “Dazed And Confused” being played as the second number was a feature of the spring tour and this is another very good version.

The guitar solo is kept to a minimum however. Afterwards Plant says, “What am I doing? This is one from the second album. It’s about a mean woman, as they usually are.” “Heartbreaker” picks up and Plant sounds strangely subdued in this recording. Almost an hour of the set is skipped over and they get set to play “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Such is their love of the new song they skip playing well-known material from their latest album Led Zeppelin II. There is some commotion in the audience before the band can play and Plant says, “Don’t do that. Calm down. No frenzies. This group’s been renamed the ‘Box Of Tricks’.” It isn’t clear what he is talking about. It could be a reference to the new song or to the fact they changed the set list around so much?

At this point someone shouts out “Whole Lotta Love” to which Plant replies, “You know we get off on that every night but the thing is, it comes eventually.” The same guy, who is a big Yardbirds fan, shouts out “White Summer…White Summer” before the band begin a standard version of “What Is And What Should Never Be.” “Moby Dick” is only thirteen minutes long before Plant urges everybody to get loose. The “Whole Lotta Love” medley closes the set and is a compact fourteen minutes that includes the Hank Snow hit “I’m Moving On” but drops some of the regular inclusions from this tour like “Honey Bee”.

“Communication Breakdown” opens with a riff that sounds similar to “Out On The Tiles” while Plant yells out “groove!” The review in the newspapers the following day pointed out that the second show was better than the first. The organ solo is singled out as being awful, and Plant stopped the show twice because of a man having a seizure and for a fight that broke out. Despite these distractions the review called this show superior to the early one.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Box Of Tricks | , | Leave a comment

How ‘Led Zeppelin II’ Was Born (Rolling Stone, April 2013)

lzrscollectorseditionFrom Rolling Stone

On the second LP, you can really hear the group identity coming together,” Jimmy Page recalled years after its release. While Zeppelin recorded their first album in three weeks after a single, two-week Scandinavian tour, Led Zeppelin II was cut over six months on tour in London, New York, Vancouver and Los Angeles, with the band carrying the master tapes along the way in a steamer trunk.

“It was quite insane, really,” Page said. “We had no time, and we had to write numbers in hotel rooms. By the time the album came out, I was really fed up with it. I’d just heard it so many times in so many places. I really think I had lost confidence in it.”

In reality, they made one of the greatest, heaviest and raunchiest albums ever, steeped in both Delta and Chicago blues, Sixties psychedelia and gentle-to-bone-crushing dynamics. Highlights ranged from the chugging, apocalyptic chaos of “Whole Lotta Love” to the bullet-fast fuzz riffs of “Heartbreaker” to “Bring It on Home,” a juke-joint blues gone mad. “They were the first numbers written with the band in mind,” Page told writer Mick Wall later. “It was music more tailor-made for the elements you’ve got. Like knowing that Bonzo’s gonna come in hard at some point, and building that in.”

Less than four months after the release of their first LP, in January 1969, Atlantic was already prodding the band for new material in time for the Christmas season. In April, Zeppelin headed into London’s Olympic Studios with engineer George Chkiantz. “Whole Lotta Love” was one of the first tracks they worked on; it was constructed from a riff Page invented during one of their 15-minute-plus live versions of “As Long As I Have You,” with Plant adding lyrics taken straight from Muddy Waters’ 1962 single “You Need Love.” They finished it in New York with Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, who helped execute the terrifying middle section, incorporating a variety of sounds: Page’s slide guitar mixed backward, his eerie theremin, a female orgasm and a napalm-bomb explosion. Said Page, “It’s sort of what psychedelia would have been if they could have got there.”

Guitar solos were recorded in studio hallways; Bonham played the percussion part to “Ramble On” on a guitar case, a drum stool or a garbage can (no one recalls which), and his showpiece “Moby Dick” solo was patched together from several recordings in separate studios.

The recording methods may have been ad hoc, but the results were fully realized. “What Is and What Should Never Be” used stereo mixing to send Page’s guitar and Plant’s squeals ping-ponging from speaker to speaker as if mimicking a bad acid trip. “The Lemon Song” – their version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” – was cut live in the studio, seamlessly time-shifting from smoky cool to frantic boogie, Plant howling, “Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg!”

“Thank You,” a folk hymn drenched in 12-string guitar and organ, was Plant’s first writing effort, penned for his wife during a time of intense changes; in less than a year, the band had gone from slogging it on tour in snowy English car rides to weeklong stays at the Chateau Marmont, watching Elvis Presley from the front row in Vegas and mingling with L.A.’s groupie elite, the GTOs.

Amid all this chaos, Zeppelin remained focused and worked feverishly. A studio perfectionist, Page refused to get distracted. In July, on the night the group celebrated its gold record for Led Zeppelin at the Plaza Hotel in New York, the guitarist sent the band straight to the studio afterward.

“There was an urgency to being in the States,” Bonham said. “I remember we went out to the airport to meet our wives, got them back to the hotel and then went straight back to the studio and did ‘Bring It on Home.’ We did a lot that year like that.”

“I could see the battle fatigue taking its toll on Jimmy,” road manager Richard Cole said, describing a London session. “His face seemed drawn. The circles under his eyes were getting darker. He started smoking more cigarettes than usual.”

It paid off. Even “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” – a twangy rocker Page said he wrote about “a degenerate old woman who tries to be young,” and which he later said was his least-favorite Zeppelin song – was undeniable. By August, they had finished recording, Kramer and Page mixing the LP in two days at New York’s A&R Studios on a 12-channel Altec board. “It was the most primitive console you could imagine,” Kramer said.

Released October 22nd, 1969, Led Zeppelin II went on to sell 3 million copies within six months, taking the Number One spot from Abbey Road in December. “Whole Lotta Love” hit Number Four in the U.S. in January 1970, foreshadowing heavy metal more than a decade early.

“Our whole lives changed,” Plant said. “It was such a sudden change we weren’t sure how to handle it.”

This story is from the special Rolling Stone edition Led Zeppelin: The Ultimate Guide to Their Music & Legend, January 31st, 2013.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | How 'Led Zeppelin II' Was Born Rolling Stone April 2013 | | Leave a comment

Neil Young The Complex Sessions VHS (1995)

complexFrom amazon.com

‘The Complex Sessions’ is a VHS-EP featuring four songs drawn from Neil Young’s 1994 ‘Sleeps With Angels’ CD release together with Crazy Horse. Those four songs are arguably the choice moments from the ‘Sleeps With Angels’ album. The recordings are made in my favorite format: nothing but the band, a recording studio (in this case the Complex Studios in Los Angeles), and several camera’s as the only audience.

The album ‘Sleeps With Angels’ was critically acclaimed and garnered sentimental accoutrements due to the connection between Young and the recently departed Kurt Cobain. That connection may be popularly overstated as Young and Cobain never actually met, but Cobain did reference Young’s lyric “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” in his suicide note, and interestingly Young was trying to contact Cobain out of concern for his well-being the very week that Cobain took his own life.

Young has added to the intrigue by being especially tight-lipped regarding their ethereal connection, but in a 2002 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald he stated, “I like to think that I possibly could have done something… It’s just too bad I didn’t get a shot”. While the title track from the ‘Sleeps With Angels’ album is often attributed to memorializing Cobain’s death, it’s tempting to view many other tracks from the disc as having a connection as well. The first three songs from this VHS-EP are prime candidates.

Neil opens with the acoustic ‘My Heart’. The filming is limited to a close-up of Neil delivering the vocals and playing tack piano, while Crazy Horse can be heard backing up with bass marimba, vibes, and drums. The whole song alludes easily to the Cobain tragedy with lyrics such as “…in the night sky a star is falling down…”, and “…when life is hanging in the breeze, I don’t know what love can do”. It’s a soft, gentle, beautiful number, and a faithful rendition.

‘Prime of Life’ follows, picking up the rock theme which anchors the remaining tracks. The chorus, “Are you feeling alright, not feeling too bad myself, are you feeling alright my friend?”, again seem to allude to Young’s attempt to reach out as mentor, muse, and friend to Cobain. The coup de gras, ‘Change Your Mind’ follows, offering “the magic touch”, “supporting you”, “protecting you”, “soothing you” and “embracing you”… perhaps everything Cobain needed, and perhaps what Young might have enabled him to find. Even the concept of “change you mind” seems so fundamental as the answer Cobain needed. The song itself offers extended instrumental passages that seem to descend into non-existence (at one point rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro reduces his “strumming” to a massage of the six metal strings with his palm), only to come back to life again and again, and awakening to the hopeful chorus. There seems to be a message there… but as with many Young songs, you just never know.

The final track, what Neil might call “some more trash for ya” (as he referred to the encore ‘Roll Another Number’ on the Weld video), the rambunctious indictment of consumerism, ‘Piece Of Crap’. It’s an odd, but fun way to top off this short series of performances, seemingly out-of-place with the exception of extending the evolving intensity of both sound and tempo over the four tracks to its ultimate heights.

Young first began performing ‘Change Your Mind’ while on tour with Booker T. & the MG’s in late 1993, but only three public performances of all four tracks with Crazy Horse (at Farm Aid and the two Bridge School Benefit Concerts) preceded these recordings. That’s probably just enough “rehearsing” to get everything tight without losing the edge that only fresh can deliver. Jonathan Demme receives many kudo’s for the filming and production, but I find the relative absence of close-ups of Ralph Molina (drums), Sampedro, and bassist Billy Talbot a bit disconcerting. All in all, a four star effort, essential for true Young fans, and a great one-time viewing for everyone else. Available only on VHS at the time of this writing.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young The Complex Sessions VHS | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Cold Sweat (Essen, March 1973)

cold_sweat_fFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Grugahalle, Essen, Germany – March 22nd, 1973

Disc 1 (59:06): Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2 (43:48): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 3 (42:17): Whole Lotta Love (includes: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Turn On Your Lovelight, Boogie Chillun’, Baby I Don’t Care, Let’s Have A Party, I Can’t Quit You, The Lemon Song), Heartbreaker

There are a total of three different sources for Zeppelin’s show in Essen, two audiences and a soundboard fragment with most of “Dazed & Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love”. The first audience source, spanning the beginning of the show through part of “Stairway To Heaven”, was first released as Essen 1973 (SBM-73-1/2) on Savege Beast Music. The soundboard fragment was released, along with many other soundboards, on Essential Led (CD 6 – 807) released in 1991 on Flying Disc.

Several years ago the second audience source surfaced running from “Stairway To Heaven” to the encore “Heartbreaker”. An edition utilizing all three sources was released on Winston remaster and on silver disc on Essentially Led Complete on the short lived Live Remains label (LR-04011/2/3) and Gracias! on Empress Valley (EVSD-300/301/302). Cold Sweat on Tarantura is another edition that is similar to the latest two releases in using the three different sources.

Live Remains and Empress Valley both chose to use all of the available soundboard as a base and fill in the audience sources around it. Tarantura’s edition is different in they want to minimize use of the soundboard recording as much as possible. The first audience source is used from ”Rock And Roll” through “Dazed & Confused”.

The second source picks up with “Stairway To Heaven” and goes to the end except for a twenty second segment at the beginning of “I Can’t Quit You” in the “Whole Lotta Love” medley where the soundboard recording is used. So while technically this is a three source mix, for practical purposes this is really a mix of the two audience tapes. In my review for Empress Valley’s Gracias! I wrote: “I wish EV would have left it as a two source audience mix…I’d wait for a proper two audience mix to come along and pass on this.” I would like to think Tarantura took my advice with this release.

The first source is very loud and powerful with some distance from the stage with a bit of echo surrounding the music. It captures the atmosphere of the show perfectly and contains a tape flip eliminating the first verse of “The Song Remains The Same”. The second source isn’t as good as the first, sounding muddy and distorted but on the whole listenable and enjoyable. The editing between the two sources is rather abrupt right at the beginning of “Stairway To Heaven” with no attempt to use a smooth fade between the two. The audience sources are very good at picking up the atmosphere of the event and the violent devastation especially of Bonham, who sounds like he’s about the level the venue with his drums.

Essen is another Zeppelin masterpiece from Europe 1973. The band are fighting faulty equipment in the first third of the show. “We must ask you to cool everything for about three minutes because James’ guitar is a bit fucked” Plant says before ”Black Dog”. ”Misty Mountain Hop” also gets off to a rough start because of the guitar and Bonham is inaudible during the beginning of ”Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” (and his vocal contributions to that trace are VERY important).

But the show hits its stride with “Dazed & Confused” and this is among the very best versions. They get into a bit of “Walter’s Walk” in the middle. Plant sings a bit of Shirley Bassey’s “Big Spender” (a song that figured predominantly in Queen’s rock and roll medley at this time) as a prelude to “Whole Lotta Love” that has the usual medley but delivered very intensely. Tarantura should be commended for not relying upon the soundboard (much). That tape is fantastic but extremely fragmentary and is great to listen to by itself.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Cold Sweat | , | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (1971) review by Lester Bangs

the%20rolling%20stones%20-%20hot%20rocksFrom Lester Bangs Rolling Stone

It would be nice to be able to call it something like The Rolling Stones’ Golden Decade, for the Stones have been the most enduringly prolific highwire act of their time, both reflecting and surpassing the era with a deadly accuracy that can make them seem more dangerous than they really are. But somehow this album merely falls into that venerable Stones tradition of supra-throwaway albums, collections like December’s Children and Flowers that by their very slapdash cynicism validate themselves and charm us into feeling that they’re as sure a representation of the Stones ethos as brand-new and more unified efforts like Let It Bleed.

Hot Rocks (London 2PS 606-7) is even crasser than Flowers and Children, because it’s the first Stones album on which every track has been represented on albums previously released in this country. Some of them, in fact, like “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” are on their fourth go-round. So in part Hot Rocks is, however beautifully packaged, a purely mercenary item put together by the Stones’ former record company to cash in on the Christmas season and wring some more bucks out in the name of the Mod Princes they once owned.

As historical document of Greatest Hits culling, Hot Rocks takes almost no chances, and if the Stones or London sometimes display an unexpected sense of what may be the band’s most important statements (as in the inclusion of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”), there is also much left out. The absence of “Lady Jane” makes sense in the light of its being on three albums already and not that good in the first place, and considerations of space make “Not Fade Away’s” freezeout seem reasonable until you reflect on how severely the derivative but vital R&B (their best work, really, until Let It Bleed) of their first five albums has been under-represented here. Maybe it’s sensible to cut “The Last Time” in favour of its flip side “Play With Fire,” but the absence of “It’s All Over Now” fairly glares at you.

Either “She’s a Rainbow” or the great, roaring “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow” would have been more fun than the always lame “As Tears Go By” and the socially incisive but musically slight “Mother’s Little Helper,” both of which were included. And “We Love You,” the brilliant “jail-single” of the summer of ’67 which may be the most musically adventurous thing the Stones have ever recorded, has never been on an album released in this country (There are also the great B sides like “Who’s Drivin’ My Plane,” “Child of the Moon” and “Sad Day,” but they deserve a different sort of album. Maybe someday they’ll get it.)

So when we look past the magnificent cover depicting the Stones in their numerous roles as ragtag rogues of Merrie Olde, Tangierian travellers, fashion plates, etc., what do we find? The evolution of a rock & roll band from superlative interpreters of mostly borrowed R&B in a style that was never far from pop, to being pop artists, philosophers and social commentators couching their vision and fantasies in a style that seldom gets all that far away from R&B.

The Stones have never been far from Chuck Berry stylistically, and in the beginning he was as predominant an influence as Ray Charles was for the early Eric Burdon and Joe Cocker. But the Berry-Diddley-Jimmy Reed phase of the Stones’ genesis is overlooked in favor of two songs deriving much more from the traditions of uptown soul and pop. Nevertheless, “Time is on My Side” and “Heart of Stone” are vintage Stones, with the arrogant persona that is largely the subject of the first half of their career and the first half of this album already emerging unmistakably, and cemented in “Play With Fire,” first entry in the Stones’ continuing sometime dalliance with the folk traditions of their native land. “As Tears Go By” derives from those traditions too, but in much more cornball fashion, and one imagines the Stones could have only recorded it to prove they could carry it off, Delsey tissue strings and all.

The crucial thread running through almost all of the Stones’ early work, and much of what has followed, is the tension in the alternation of themes of utter arrogance and disdain, and of the sense of ennui and frustration deriving from living, however highly, in these desperate times. “Get Off Of My Cloud” brought the former razzberry to a pinnacle of derisive noise that many, including Jagger himself, found excessive, while “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” was, of course, the primal and perhaps still definitive statement of the latter condition. The balancing of these two senses is at once the strength and limitation of the Stones: strength, because nothing is more universal now than boredom and dissatisfaction and the Stones’ particular brand of charismatic swagger has been affected by more adolescents than any other posture of the generation: limitation, since yesterday’s outrageous strut is today’s cornball signal to get the hook, and keeping a sure grasp on the shifting modes in malaise o’ the day is one of the most difficult feats for any artist to maintain in this fast-mutating era.

The Stones have maintained, of course, radiating a semblance of constant change while mainly just reworking the most tried-and-true elements in their arsenal. Along the way, they’ve juiced up the process by turning now and then from their narcissistic role to cast a caustic eye at the society around them, as in “Mother’s Little Helper,” and borrowing whatever was handily trendy, from the sitar in “Paint It Black” to the Memphis horns in “Brown Sugar” and Sticky Fingers, to garnish their basic sound. And, in “Let’s Spend the Night Together” they brought the stud role to a double-entendre — whether the song is actually about sex or about being too wired to make it and knowing that nothing needs to be proved anyway — as brilliant as the utter sexist dominance of “Under My Thumb” is devastating. “Let’s Spend the Night Together” also represented the apotheosis of noise evolved into an arrangement of perfect clarity and unorthodox form, and effortlessly pushing, pulsating, almost mechanical sound that could go on forever.

It’s on the second record of Hot Rocks, however, that the big thematic shift in the Stones’ music becomes unmistakable. Almost all of the previous songs had been in a more or less tangible sense autobiographical, but now the ongoing persona ballooned into something at once stranger, more surrealistic and yet perhaps more universal. “Jumping Jack Flash” was unmistakably Mick Jagger, but also a creature of myth, a new mask to wear. “Sympathy For the Devil” cemented this process, of course, and helped give the Stones the “bad-vibes” patina which led so many to lay the blame for Altamont solely at their feet.

Always theatrical, the Stones had found a way of moulding their basic profile into and out of various synonymous figures. We always sensed that they were basically lower-class street-punks who used to get out and mix it up on Friday nights, even if it may not have been entirely true, but not until “Street Fighting Man” did they take the trouble to play out the role in the most overt fashion possible, and what was even better was that the time was ripe for them to do it in the fashionable context of revolution. They can hardly be blamed for not following through politically, since, just like Dylan and most of the other giants in this business, they are basically involved in finding roles, playing them out and projecting them, and then moving on to new ones. And at least they never pretended, as Lennon does today, to be doing more than that. Listening to “Midnight Rambler” still gives me chills today, but I hardly think Mick Jagger thinks of himself as “a proud Black Panther.”

So the Stones, beginning with Beggar’s Banquet, moved into a strong new phase where they are beginning to let their fantasies run free, and, if something like “Memo From Turner” from Performance is any indication, Jagger may have even darker dreams than “Midnight Rambler” in store. Unhealthy, perhaps, but undeniably pertinent.

The other, and even more important, recent phase is the Stones’ interest in songs, the kind of triumphs hinted at in “Satisfaction” and “Mother’s Little Helper,” that deal in searingly explicit terms not just with sexual conceits and power fantasies, but with the conditions under which all of us are living today. “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” may be the two most crucial and enduring things ever laid on wax by this band; certainly they demonstrated an unprecedented maturity, a view of the world as it is and a promise that the Stones’ most vital work may well lie ahead of them. And even the much maligned “Brown Sugar” is an almost perfect crossbreed song in the new Stones vocabulary, combining a forceful picture of colonial racism with another Jagger fantasy which has offended some people but strikes with undeniable power.

The direction of the Stones’ future is clear, though perhaps less predictable than ever before. I doubt if they’ll ever stop writing songs like “Bitch” and “Live With Me” any more than they’ll ever stop copping licks from Chuck Berry. It doesn’t matter. They are the most creative and self-sustaining rock & roll band in history, and, despite what some observers say, not tired at all yet. “Gimme Shelter,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and “Brown Sugar” point the way, and if Jagger & Co. are perhaps the most decadent or even, in the words of some, evil of our heroes, they also have the surest grasp of who we are and where we are going. The Stones will not quail from reflecting it; it’s up to us to do something about it.

May 8, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-1971 | | Leave a comment