Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Final Night At The Garden (Madison Square Garden, June 1977)

091201044711From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – June 14th, 1977

Disc 1 (65:31): The Song Remains The Same, The Rover intro./Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over The Hills And Far Away, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (59:31): Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Moby Dick

Led Zeppelin’s final New York show on the 1977 tour has one of the better sounding audience recordings. Unfortunately it is only two-thirds of the show and has been extremely hard to find. I was first pressed in the vinyl boxset Strange Tales From The Road (Rock Solid Records / International RSR 243 A-T) along with many and various other tapes. The first silver disc pressing is ”The Song Remains The Same” to “No Quarter” on Over The Hills And Far Away (Tarantura T19CD-4~6), along with the June 22nd Los Angeles show. It came out again on silver several years later in the spring of 1999 on Strange Tales From the Road (STFTR 001-008), a straight copy of the vinyl. The sound was good but it ran a bit too slow.

Final Night At The Garden is the first time the tape has been available on its own. It has been speed correct compared to Strange Tales and includes the four minute “Moby Dick” fragment omitted from the previous releases.

It is a shame the entire show does not exist because it is an energetic performance in front of a lively New York crowd. After the opening songs Plant jokes around with the audience, saying, “Well good evening, and far be it from we … sort of aliens to say, but welcome to the last night at the garden. We must apologize for the delay but there’s a real reason for it. I’ve got no clothes to wear.” People by the taper shout “bullshit!!” “I was sitting in the back. So now you can see what it’s all about, right? Blue jeans!”

“Over The Hills And Far Away” just recently was added to the setlist to replace “In My Time Of Dying.” It broke up the string of three big blues songs. It was also added because, “you get a bit bananas when you play the same place six times cause I see so many faces I almost know.”

“No Quarter” is by “one of the greatest yachtsmen in Central Park, John Paul Jones.” They favor a twenty-eight minute version which has it’s highlights, such as Jones playing “Sakura Sakura” on the piano. There are also some parts which drag a bit but in the end Page delivers a furious solo.

Before the acoustic set Plant points out journalist Lisa Robinson since she’s “in the press section at the front here. You know Lisa Robinson? Anybody heard of Lisa Robinson? The grandmother of rock and roll. One of the finest women you could ever meet and she’s come to hear what is becoming now, quite a legend, and that is the acoustic set. When we see how many mistakes we can make. So watch very carefully.”

Robinson published a review of the shows in New York for Hit Parader magazine pointing out that the acoustic set was the highlight of the show and how she was surprised to see the musicians bring their kids along on tour.

“Going To California” is “an old George Formby song” and “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” is dedicated to Ral Donner. “You remember Ral Donner? Yes, Ral Donner. Somewhere in New York, and he’s the only guy who made Elvis jealous. So this is for you Ral, and you wife and ten kids” and at the end, instead of shouting “Stryder” Plant shouts “Ral.” Page also includes a bit of “Dancing Days” in the middle.

The tape concludes with a great version of “Black Mountain Side,” “Kashmir” and only four minutes of Bonham’s set piece. I remember reading about a decade ago that the complete tape surfaced on tape and was about to be booted, but that has never happened. Hopefully someday another tape of this show will be available. But until then this is a very good release by TCOLZ worth having.

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May 13, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Final Night At The Garden | , | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Brussels Affair (1973/2011)

61UmjLZ5zeLFrom The Guardian

One of my albums of the year has just arrived, and it pains me to say it’s by the Rolling Stones.

I know, merely mentioning them these days conjures up the acrid smell of their current incarnation, not even a shadow of a ghost of an imitation of their former selves. Moreover, they are maintaining the shameless and unsatisfactory burst of nostalgia that began with last year’s Exile on Main Street reissue, presumably to keep the money coming in while they decide whether or not to haul themselves around the planet for yet another tour. The latest superfluous item is this week’s re-release of the chronically overrated Some Girls. Fancy some 34-year-old out-takes not even good enough to be included on 1981’s odds-and-sods collection Tattoo You, spruced up with new Mick Jagger vocal parts? You really do not.

And so to the online side of their operation. Stonesarchivestore.com has recently been launched, with the standard-issue promises that these days pass for white-knuckle rock excitement: “Unheard music”, “rare merchandise”, “signed lithographs”. But wait! By way of bringing all this to our attention, this new enterprise has begun with the online release of the 1973 live bootleg known as Brussels Affair – put to tape in the well-known R&B heartland that is Belgium, long whispered about as a glimpse of the group at their all-time onstage peak, and put up in fragments on YouTube. Not that anyone seems to have noticed, but it’s on sale for what currency converters today put at £4.46, which was enough to tweak my curiosity.

It is, as I half-expected, unimpeachably great: a beautifully recorded, often unhinged 70 minutes during which the Stones manage to sound like the Platonic ideal of a rock band: simultaneously tight, unhinged, absolutely convincing, and gloriously ludicrous. Stones lore has long held that even at their height, they could swing between being awful one night and inspirational the next, and what this recording proves is just how jaw-dropping the latter occasions could be.

At the risk of sounding like the man from Jazz Club, the bass and drums are so wonderfully lithe and interlocked as to sound supernatural. As opposed to his 21st-century habit of just about managing the riffs in between letting loose an open-tuned “clang” once in a while, Keith Richards’ rhythm guitar lives up to expectation and drives the whole band, while Mick Taylor’s soloing threads itself through the rest of the music with grace and understatement. Mick Jagger, looking back, was at the juncture beyond which lay pantomimic absurdity and a reluctance to sing in what you and I would recognise as English, but everything here is pitched exactly right: in between addressing the crowd in schoolboy French, he growls and hollers to pretty thrilling effect; on the slow songs, he’s simply great.

This was late 1973, when Goat’s Head Soup had just been released – and, according to retrospective received opinion, the Stones had exited the run of form that stretched from 1968 to 1972. To my mind, this view of things omits how good large swathes of GHS actually were, a point underlined here by versions of Dancing With Mr D, Star Star (or, if you prefer, Starfucker), Angie and Doo Doo Doo Dooo (Heartbreaker). The only shame is the non-appearance of Winter, one of my favourite Stones songs – though Taylor inserts hints of it into a gorgeous 11-minute reading of You Can’t Always Get What You Want, so all is well.

So, some concluding thoughts. Leaving aside a disappointing go at Gimme Shelter (which has never worked live, even then), Brussels Affair is better even than 1970’s Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out – and, unlike that record, apparently unsullied by post-production cheating. It shreds such other Stones in-concert albums as Love You Live, the woeful Still Life, and the even more miserable Flashpoint. Only one mystery hangs over the whole thing: why did they take the best part of 40 years to release it?

May 13, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Brussels Affair | | Leave a comment

Folk-Rock: The Bob Dylan Story by Sy Ribakove (1966)

51M87NYV82LFrom amazon.com

I read this book just before my 16th birthday when it came out in 1966. I thought it was true, of course, and I’ve often wondered how many runaways who hit the road in the second half of the 60s were influenced by this small gem of a book on a then-new phenomenon? Not a joke. Every hippie girl I met had a copy of this thing!

The book is basically a long magazine article, with some fairly interesting song reviews thrown in. Just about everything Dylan did pre-Blond-on-Blond comes in for scrutiny, most of it quite fascinating if you recall that 1966 was a banner year for Bobby Darin and Andy Williams — lots different from what was about to come!

Simply put, this book is a salute to the lost innocence that flourished for awhile in the 60s before everything went sour. We really believed that people could change their minds on serious issues by a kid with a guitar. We really believed all the twaddle Dylan told people about himself running away and jumping freight trains (all now known to be total fictions, but so what?) and that the freedom of the open road was still available to everybody.

Reading it now is a shock for the same reason listening to “The Times They Are A-Changin” is a shock: Dylan articulated a kind of freedom that was drying up even then. The times a-changed — for the worse. Freedom is now a commodity you’d better be prepared to pay serious money for. Or as Dylan himself put it, “money doesn’t talk. it swears.”

That’s why this book stands alone: Other sources have more “facts” about Dylan; this one is the Dylan legend complete with that totally naive optimism that could only have come out when it did, right before the innocence of the Sixties turned nasty.

But read it and be shocked anyway. Be shocked for the freedoms we once took for granted and are now slipping away with each new clause added to the Patriot Act. Read it to know what intelligent and inexperienced kids in the 60s thought mattered. It may not matter now, other things do. But to understand the past you get into the minds of those who tried to make a difference.

That’s why this little book matters. I classify it as “fiction” because it’s not what the mid-60s were really like. It’s more like what we wanted them to be. If they’d have been what we wanted, the world would look a lot different now, come to think of it.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Book Folk-Rock: The Bob Dylan Story by Sy Ribakove | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Sessions (Headley Grange, January 1971)

sessions_fFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Headley Grange, Hampshire, England – January, 1971

Disc 1 (71:25): Stairway To Heaven, acoustic guitar/organ instrumental, acoustic guitar instrumental, acoustic guitar instrumental 2, Black Dog, No Quarter, Stairway To Heaven take 2, instrumental, Stairway To Heaven take 3, Stairway To Heaven take 4, The Battle Of Evermore (acoustic intro), The Battle Of Evermore (alternate lyric), The Battle Of Evermore (echoed harmonies & choruses), The Battle Of Evermore (full mix), The Battle Of Evermore (final mix 1), The Battle Of Evermore (final mix 2)

Disc 2 (46:55): rehearsals for Friends, Four Sticks, Friends (with vocals), Friends (with vocals), Four Sticks (2 takes)

Sessions on The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin is an interesting release with some old material and other outtakes making their debut. The music dates from the time when Zeppelin were writing and recording their fourth LP in early 1971 and from the unreleased Bombay, India rehearsals in March 1972. Because most of these come from professional sources, the sound quality is very good. Some of the amateur recorded rehearsals are also very good quality.

The earliest titles with this material were on vinyl including Rehearsals January 1971 (Rock Live 2-A-B) and Inedits (LZ1-2). On compact disc these sessions have appeared on many titles such as All That Glitters Is Gold (Celebration CSM-001A/B), Another IV Symbols (Tarantura TCD-4), Hairway To Steven (Invasion Unlimited IU9645-1), Led Zeppelin IV Outtakes (Tarantura), Stairway Sessions (Silver Rarities SIRA 71), Studio Haze Vol 1 (Laughing Skull), Ultra Rare Tracks Vol. 1 (Missing Link ML-001), Stairway To Heaven Sessions 1970-1971 (Live Storm LSCD 52631 and also on Zoso’s Company ZOSO-9301/2), and on the sixth disc of the Antrabata set. The latest release is on disc four of Studio Sessions Ultimate (Scorpio LZ-07001~12).

The first disc opens with a first take of “Stairway To Heaven” and is followed by three instrumental tapes which feature Page on guitar and Jones on electric piano.

“Stairway To Heaven” is a three and a half instrumental run-through of the opening theme played at normal speed, faster, and then returning to normal. The following jam features Jones playing a happy theme on the keyboard and Page accompanying him with a bouncy, catchy melody. The recording is clear enough to be from Island studio, but it could also date from Headley Grange.

What are clearly from the house are the “Black Dog” rehearsals. It sounds as if it was recorded on a two-track, sounding heavy with the echo. ”Black Dog” at this stage has yet to be fully worked out and Plant is improvising lyrics on the spot (something he would continue to do on stage for many years, come to think of it). It gives a fantastic aural snapshot of the band creating a classic track in the studio.

By the third take, the band are clearly having difficulty mastering the difficult riff until Jones shouts out instructions and leads the band on the bass guitar. Page, followed by Bonham hit into a groove with Bonham shouting, “YES!” The final take is a very confident delivery.

“No Quarter” also dates from Headley Grange and is the earliest reference to the Houses Of The Holy song, three years before its official release. Even in this primitive state the basic melody and structure of the song is present although it is a bit too up-tempo. Plant scats vocals and Page plays a solo before the tape runs out.

The final two “Stairway To Heaven” tracks are joined by Plant adding vocals to the rehearsals and Jones adding recorders at the beginning, bring the song closer to the final, recognizable version.

An important story in Zeppelin mythology is about the spontaneous nature of the lyrics to the classic song with Plant claiming the words just came to him. There is some truth to this claim since, besides some minor variations and differences in the melody; it is very close to what appears on the fourth album. The song in this take approaches the traditional ending but returns to the opening theme. The final take of “Stairway To Heaven” comes from a different tape than the previous ones and sounds brighter and clearer. Bonham joins the band to lay down a drum track and the song sounds even closer to the final version.

There are smaller variations in the lyrics (“when she gets there she knows/ if the stores are all closed / she can call in and see…”) but still mostly correct. The song builds into a crescendo and Page switches his guitar and rips out a solo with ideas that will find their way into the live performances of the piece for the next decade. The song still doesn’t have the closing verse (“there was a lady we all know / who shines bright light…”) but has the soft ending and the track closes with amazement with Bonham saying “bloody ‘ell!” They spoke to the press about developing an epic to replace “Dazed And Confused” and they know they wrote an excellent song.

The focus of this release, and what makes it still relevant even after the Scorpio box set, are the “Battle Of Evermore” outtakes that are not found elsewhere. The first “Battle” track is a forty-second fragment of the introduction.

The second “The Battle Of Evermore” contains the final instrumental track and has Plant singing lyrics, with some variations from the final version, without Sandy Denny’s contribution. This is available on Scorpio and other sets in similar sound quality. It is interesting to hear Plant working out the song as he goes along. Him singing the tune by himself sounds one-sided and bare and one can understand why they chose to invite Sandy Denny to sing on the track.

Lyrically, this take goes (and the final version are in parenthesis):

The Queen of Light took her bow and then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom to wait the night alone
(The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone)

The Dark Lord rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all
Side by side we wait the might, of the darkest of them all
Oh well, the time is coming and would it be so much to say
The people will now let go

(I hear the horses thunder down in the valley below
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow)

The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness
The ground is rich from tender care, which they do not forget

The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrant’s face is red

The sky is filled with good and bad, the mortals never fail

Oh well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow

The drums will shake the walls of stone, the Ringwraiths ride in black
(The drums will shake the castle wall, the Ringwraiths ride in black)

The pain of war can not exceed the woe of aftermath
No comfort in the fires at night that lights the face so cold
The runes of old have reappeared to swing the tide of war
(The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back, bring it back)

And the song ends with Plant saying, “that’s it!”

The other takes are all of the final version with Denny’s contribution. The first has the vocals buried deep in the music, and the other two contain variations on the echo.

The second disc focuses upon material from 1972 and contains the complete Bombay sessions from March, following their tour of Australia. This tape is one of the most often released and popular outtake.

Page and Plant recruited famous Indian musician Vijay Ragav Rao to assemble an ad hoc orchestra comprised of both western and Indian instruments. What can be clearly heard are both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant speaking to Rao, and Rao translating their instructions to the musicians. The orchestra tries their best but the different takes reveal missed cues and misunderstandings. This is the first time they tried to interpret their musical ideas to anyone other than members of the band and they have difficulty in explaining what they want.

Rehearsals exist only for “Friends”, as well as a very good final take with vocals. For “Four Sticks”, the other eastern inspired tune they practice, only more polished takes without vocals exist. The sound quality is the same as on other releases. Sessions is packaged with the two discs in a single pocket cardboard sleeve with the liner notes glued on in emulation of the old bootleg LPs from the seventies and eighties. It’s a nice touch by a label that really produced many quality release when they were in production. And this is one of their titles that is still a must have.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Sessions | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Latter Day Saint (San Bernardino, June 1972)

zep_latterdaysaintFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA – June 22nd, 1972

Disc 1: Swing drone, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp

Disc 2: Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

Latter Day Saint is a Tarantura release that surprised many. There was neither prior announcement nor any anticipation but it appeared suddenly. This covers the well-documented San Bernardino tape from June 22nd, 1972. This is the same tape source used for the original vinyl release Berdu (Screaming Oiseau MX 7500).

It was also used for all of the subsequent CD releases Route 66 (Tarantura T4CD-3) and its European clone Born To Be Wild (Whole Lotta Live WLL018/019). Berdu (Cobra Standard Series 010), like all Cobra releases, replicated the original vinyl packaging and was followed by Born To Be Wild (Magnificent Disc MD-7201 A/B), released in 2002 and is a poor release degraded by over zealous remastering.

The last release was on Swinging In San Bernardino (Empress Valley EVSD 303/304). Empress Valley claimed on the front cover their version came from the original reel-to-reel tape and it is the best sounding version of the San Bernardino tape. It is a dynamic listening experience with powerful lower frequencies and one of the overall best sounding tapes from Zeppelin’s summer tour.

The tape begins with the electronic drone that the band introduced at the second New York appearance and began every show for the rest of the tour. This is one of the most bizarre openings for any set and was probably instigated by Jimmy Page, who loved the sound and use of drones. Until the nineteenth century, composers would utilize the drone in music to emphasize a pastoral effect and mimic the sound of the troubadours.

Both Beethoven (Symphony No. 9, 1st Movement) and Richard Wagner (Das Rhiengold) use the drone at the beginning of their pieces to emphasize creation placing their works outside of discernable time. Page liked the exotic quality of the sustained note and used in on several occasions like in “Friends,” “In The Light,” and Lucifer Rising. Plant introduces “Black Dog” as a song “about an old dog who like to boogie a lot.” Page flirts which some chromatic scales in the solo and also plays Bouree and “Feeling Groovy.” “Since I’ve Been Loving You” contains phenomenal soloing by Page before the newer track “Stairway To Heaven.”

The recording is good at picking up the vibrations on the other neck during the solo. The acoustic set was four songs long on this tour and was the longest they played at this point in their career. “Tangerine” was introduced to the set list in Japan the previous September and is really out of place. The studio version is partly acoustic but needs the electric slide guitar for its effectiveness and this pure acoustic version played on stage is never really convincing. The arrangement used at Earl’s Court three years later is much better and it makes me wonder why they didn’t include “Friends” by this time. John Bonham does his best Johnny Cash imitation during “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” and is a fun song.

The audience are audibly impatient with the acoustic material however. “Dazed And Confused” is the first long epic of the evening. At twenty-seven minutes, this version is a masterpiece. Right before the violin bow interlude, between 5:30 and 6:00, Page plays a interesting slow and majestic piece. The improvisation includes both “The Crunge” and “Walter’s Walk” as Page goes riff crazy.

A firecracker goes off before “What Is And What Should Never Be.” This is one of the final live performances of the Led Zeppelin II track. It would be dropped from the live repertoire after this tour, never to return. “Moby Dick” is kept short tonight, reaching just over ten minutes. “Whole Lotta Love” includes the normal inclusions in the medley with “Boogie Chillun’,” “Let’s Have A Party,” the Ricky Nelson classic “Hello Mary Lou,” and ending with Howlin’ Wolf’s “Going Down Slow.” The last song is a strange choice for Zeppelin to play and particularly for Plant to sing. With Howlin’ Wolf’s voice, the lyrics come across with a strange mixture of anger and regret, weathered by the years of a wasted life.

With Plant’s voice, it comes across as shallow fan worship, a youngster standing in shoes ten times too big. Page’s solo rattles the rafters of the Auditorium however and is an excellent way to end the medley. “Rock And Roll” is the only encore played in this concert and it is a shame they didn’t include the new songs from Houses Of The Holy that had already been introduced to the stage. Latter Day Saint is limited to one hundred numbered copies and comes in a cardboard gatefold sleeve reminiscent of the old TDOLZ label.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Latter Day Saint | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award (Seattle, June 1972 & Fort Worth, August 1971 & Page/Plant London, August 1994)

zep_aheadafterFrom collectorsmusicreview.com

Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award is a potpourri by Empress Valley gathering together three fragments that has nothing to do with one another and presents them in one convenient package. Empress Valley packages this in a thick cardboard gatefold sleeve exactly as they did with Windy City II. The photos are a little incongruous with the Hiroshima 1971 photo on the front and one from a 1973 press conference on the inside. They also duplicate the picture from the “Unledded” recording found in The Concert File on the inside.

Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, WA – June 18th, 1972

Disc 1 (77:05): Announcement, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California. Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – August 23rd, 1971: Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven

The first approximately forty-five minutes of the first disc is the June 18th, 1972 Seattle fragment that has seen several releases over the years. It appears on Trouble In Vancouver (LZP 388) on the old Gold Standard label, on the no label Sub Zep and most recently as a bonus on the Flagge title Axeman of Cometh with the June 11th, 1972 Baltimore tape.

The tape is very good and clear and is of comparable quality as the older versions. It begins with the house announcer saying the show will start at 8:30 to give the people from Vancouver more time to arrive. After a small cut in the tape the drone used to open the show for the latter half of the tour is audible.

Usually this lead directly into “Immigrant Song” but Plant interrupts it to have a short sound check and to address some hecklers before the band begin playing. After “Heartbreaker” Plant says to the crowd, “What can we say? Somebody tried to do a lot of damage in Vancouver, breaking down doors and all that old shit” and asks if anyone is from Vancouver to dedicate ”Black Dog” to them.

The band was originally scheduled to play that city on this date but the city were concerned about violence and cancelled the gig. It is commonly assumed it is based upon the behavior of the manager at 1971′s show in Vancouver where they broke a government officials equipment but that explanation really doesn’t agree with Plant’s comments on the tape.

It probably had more to do with the riot on June 3rd at the Rolling Stones’ concert in the city where, according to The Sun: “The Rolling Stones and an ecstatic crowd of 17,000 were inside, flying stones and an unruly mob of 2,000 were outside…285 policemen faced a barrage of rocks, bottles and, for the first time in recent Vancouver history, Molotov cocktails…Thirteen of the police required hospital treatment…thirteen people were arrested…PNC directors will meet within the next few days to draw up new ground rules for rock concerts.”

The riot occurred when fans attempted to snag free tickets and doors and windows were damaged in the melee. Whatever the case may be the band delivers a set that sounds very much like the San Bernardino gig on June 22nd, being the standard set delivered very well.

There are no hints they played any of the new material from Houses Of The Holy as they did the following night in Seattle and Los Angeles. It is impossible to tell though since the tape ends after the first acoustic number and until the rest of the tape surfaces or a second source is found we’ll never know how this show ended.

Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – August 23rd, 1971

Disc 2 (57:48): Celebration Day, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown (fragment)

The August 23rd, 1971 Fort Worth tape follows Seattle to roughly replicate concert order. This previously unknown source first surfaced in the mid-nineties and was released by The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin on Hot August Night (TDOLZ Vol. 42) from second-generation copy. The masters are now hoarded but this is the complete document. The beginning of the show was taped by “Nick” the taper, but he flipped the tape to record the “Whole Lotta Love” medley.

He said to the fanzine Proximity “I think I realized at that point that I was taping over a lot of good stuff from the beginning of the concert, and that I would rather have that than the end of the show. Then I just went home. We would just replay and re-live the concert for the next week or, until the next concert came to town, then the tape would go in the drawer!” (Vol 8, No. 26, July 1997).

It is a very clear and enjoyable fragment capturing a hot performance. Empress Valley comes from the same source as Diagrams and sounds almost identical so there is again no improvement. It begins during the violin bow solo in “Dazed & Confused” and it is a great version with “White Summer” making a soft appearance about sixteen and a half minutes in during the coda section.

“Stairway To Heaven” has an interesting guitar solo. There is a small cut after “Celebration Day” and Plant complains about the heat and lights and asks for the white spotlights to be turned off. The acoustic set usually contained “That’s The Way” and “Going To California” but the latter was dropped for unknown reasons. “Moby Dick” is incomplete cutting out at fifteen minutes into the drum solo.

“Whole Lotta Love” has the standard inclusions in the medley with Plant singing an unknown blues during the early improvisation. The tape captures forty seconds of the first encore “Communication Breakdown”. The sound quality is poor because the taper managed to sneak backstage and began recording the encores from that position until Richard Cole kicked him out. It is a fascinating document and this release is the first time it has appeared on a silver commercial boot in almost a decade.

Hot August Night generated a lot of buzz when it first came out and it is a mystery why other labels didn’t jump on it to make it more common than it is. The original release has been sold out for a long time and Empress Valley did a good job in making it available again. Anything from the seventh US tour has special appeal since it is one of Zeppelin’s most creative and important tours. In place of finding the Diagrams release (nearly impossible these days), Ahead & After is a strong alternative.

Page / Plant “Unledded” filming sessions, Studio Two (London TV Studios), South Bank, London, UK – August 25th, 1994

Disc 3 (62:12): Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, The Battle Of Evermore, Gallows Pole, The Rain Song, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Four Sticks, Friends (fragment)

The third disc of this three-disc collection is an hour-long raw soundboard fragment from the “Unledded” sessions in 1994. The tape is very clear although the balance fluctuates between Plant’s vocal and Page’s guitar. It begins with the Arabic music intro and runs until three and a half minutes into “Friends” unfortunately omitting “Kashmir” and ”That’s The Way.”

“If you bear with us a minute we just got to plug in” are Plant’s opening words. The bulk of the television program comes from the second night on August 26th and it is great to have the first night in such excellent quality.

They deliver a strong but nervous set with Plant talking a lot between numbers during tunings. There is a short break edited out between “Gallows Pole” and “The Rain Song” and the only negative with the set list is that none of the newer songs like “Yallah” or “Wonderful One” weren’t played. This tape probably could have stood as a solo release but is much better with the older fragments.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award | , , | Leave a comment

Van Morrison Astral Weeks (1968)

10946535From sfloman.com

After fronting the Belfast band Them, who pounded out a sweaty brand of r&b-based rock n’ roll, Van Morrison banged out some solo singles for Bert Berns’ Bang Records, the most notable of which was the classic “Brown Eyed Girl” (recommended listening: the 2-cd The Story Of Them Featuring Van Morrison and The Bang Masters, respectively).

When Berns released an album (Blowin’ Your Mind) without his consent it began Morrison’s longstanding distrust of the music business, and when Berns died Van joined Warner Bros., where he immediately delivered this amazing album, which defies description or complete comprehension. Recorded in a single whirlwind 48 hour session, Astral Weeks is simply one of the greatest albums of any kind ever created. Upon first listen this might not be obvious, as Van does away with standard song structures and immediate accessibility, instead conceiving the album as an entire entity whose otherworldly intensity and magical air of mystery reveals hidden riches with repeat introductions.

Musically mixing together Celtic folk with American jazz and pop, Morrison had the benefit of working with stellar jazz musicians such as Connie Kay (drums), Richard Davis (bass), Jay Berliner (classical guitar), and John Payne (flute, soprano saxophone), who crafted the delicately textured melodies behind which Van The Man delivers a vocal performance for the ages. Van’s poetic, stream of consciousness lyrics are supposed to comprise some sort of song cycle, but like most of Bob Dylan (who likewise benefited from some stellar performances from unsung heroes in his backing bands) at his best, this album is all the more special for its inscrutability, as I myself revel in the evocative images of Van’s reminisces about “Madame George” and the rest of the gang down on “Cyprus Avenue” without really understanding any of it, or necessarily wanting to. No, this album is more about an elusive magical quality than anything else, even songs, despite the fact that some of these songs are absolutely spectacular.

For example, there’s the title track, which has an airy bass/flute led melody and arguably my favorite Van (or anybody, for that matter) vocal ever (I can hear him singing “there you go, there you go” in my head right now), while “Sweet Thing,” with it’s almost hooky string arrangement, is the closest thing here to an accessible pop melody (it was later covered by The Waterboys, among others). “Cyprus Avenue” is another highlight whose instruments (acoustic guitar, harpsichord, bass, strings, flute, drums) flutter about as Van looks back at what he himself describes as “a mystical place,” while “The Way Young Lovers Do” sees Van at his most poetic and romantic.

The song, which was later covered by spiritual successor Jeff Buckley, is the only really rocking song on the album, ironic given that the album always appears on “greatest rock albums of all-time” polls. Love the trumpet solo too, but this song and every other song here takes a backseat to “Madame George,” a 9-minute epic that even Van himself (a notorious crank pot) likes. Again, I’ll let others rack their brains for an interpretation, as Van allegedly waxes poetic about a lovelorn drag queen and other assorted losers, but to me this song’s magic (and yes, magic is the right word) is all about its mystical atmosphere.

The strings on the song actually sound like they’re weeping, and Van soulfully sings like a man who knows true pain, despite the fact that he was only 23 years old when this album was recorded. OK, I’ll relent and suggest that this is probably because the song is really about outgrowing certain friendships and moving on, something that Van was likely experiencing at the time (having left Them and pursuing the nomadic lifestyle of a rock n’ roller).

You see, this album isn’t that inscrutable, but most of the songs here are open to interpretation. Perhaps “Beside You,” “Ballerina,” and “Slim Slow Slider” fail to match the five aforementioned songs, but again Van’s mesmerizing vocals (i.e. “you breathe in you breathe out you breathe in you breathe out you breathe in you breathe out”) make them well worth hearing, as his vocal sweeps and swooshes dash about his brilliantly poetic wordplay. Simply put, Astral Weeks, Morrison’s most magnificent and fervent flight of fancy, is a spellbindingly intense effort that takes you away to a special place, and despite its often-bleak subject matter it offers an uplifting, spiritual listening experience that makes me feel good whenever I hear it.

Easily ensconced among my top five favourite albums of all-time, Astral Weeks is a one of a kind listening experience that deserves to endure forever.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Van Morrison Astral Weeks | | Leave a comment