Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin Mothership (2007)

51US-2jHP8LFrom amazon.com

Review You’re looking at the newest and best Led Zeppelin hits compilation–Mothership–which includes 2 discs of music spanning the band’s studio career, and one DVD of live footage culled from their self-titled DVD. There’s no question about the quality of the material on these discs–every single song is a riff-laden classic, crackling with energy, and it’s certainly a treat to see the band at the height of its live abilities. Considering that Led Zeppelin was a prime mover in popularizing album-oriented rock (as opposed to purely singles-oriented) in the late 60’s and early 70’s, cutting up some of the finest albums ever made and splicing together some of the transcendent moments onto two CDs seems to slightly contradict the spirit of the band’s best music.

Who, ideally, is Mothership for? Well, if you’re already a hardcore fan, you’ll most likely already have all of Zeppelin’s albums and all of this music, as well as the complete DVD set that this disc pulls from. Only the utter completists would want to add a totally redundant compilation to their collections. If you enjoy hearing Led Zeppelin on classic rock radio and are interested in actually owning some of their best songs in a compact, 1-case set, this may be a great choice–it’s definitely more compact than the separately-sold Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1 and Latter Days: Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol.2, and it offers the bonus of DVD video.

Honestly, though, if you see yourself ever being interested in Led Zeppelin beyond their token radio hits, I recommend steering clear of this compilation in favor of the actual albums. Yeah, it’s great that Mothership includes the pounding energy of “Good Times Bad Times,” the epic blues of “Dazed and Confused,” the radio-ready metal “Immigrant Song,” the playful eclecticism of “Ramble On,” D’Yer Maker,” and “Kashmir,” as well as the obligatory grandeur of “Stairway to Heaven,” but in the context of their original albums, these songs are even more hard-hitting, well-sequenced, and classic. Not only that, but Led Zeppelin’s first five (arguably six) albums are nearly flawless in their songwriting and execution–if you skip out on the full albums in favor of Mothership, you’ll also be missing out on all of the other great material that’s arguably just as great as these ‘greatest hits.’

Mothership is most definitely the best career-encompassing Led Zeppelin compilation available at present. If all you want are the hits in a tidy package, this is the place to get them. If you’re interested in really experiencing what made Led Zeppelin the first of its breed and its members innovators in every sense of the word, the best way to understand, enjoy, and be thrilled into believing the claim that they’re the best hard rock band of all time is to experience their albums as they were originally intended–after all, each one is practically a greatest hits package by itself! Last, if you’re looking for a relatively career-spanning compilation that’s not quite the same as you hear on the radio, don’t miss How The West Was Won; it’s their definitive live collection and a great way to hear a ton of their best songs as raw and epic live recordings.

Review I had to review this timeless work, a true master piece and a sheer genius work of art in music and sound reproduction! After reading some really aweful reviews and seeing that such a Great work is not getting its proper appreciation, I had to say something. This is such a huge leap in the advancement of sound remastering, that you would have to be absolutely deaf to not to realise it and appreciate it! These two CDs are like the masters of all masters. The gold CD’s of all gold CD’s. The difference is like Day and Night! My four year old could spot the diffs. I am really sorry for those people, who don’t recognize it and value its true merits. I suggest you guys please get your Ears cleaned and checked! A thorough exam should be in order!

Let me tell you how huge this reincarnation is: For the first time we (rare breed of course) the audiophile and/or true Zep fans alike, who don’t listen to Led Zeppelin only on their mediocre iPod or from the downloaded crappy no quality MP3s, can enjoy or relive the true experience of this everlasting Sonic Phenomenon AKA. Led Zeppelin! Now you can represent this music to your offspring and the upcoming generations and prove that you were not crazy all these years when you loved and endeared a band not like any other bands in the history of Rock and Roll.

Every song in these two CDs is so vivid and vibrant that you get goosebumps for every note played and every sound reproduced. I could not believe my ears! It was like listening to the Led Zeppelin in your own studio while they recording the songs just for you and you are listening them live and for the first time and falling in love with the music and the sweet sound and the melody of every note played, all over again! For years I thought that I could only hear that kind of sound in my Record Player. Yes, I am one of the rare breeds who still owns a record player and collected every vinyls ever produced by the Led Zeppelin. CDs were supposed to bring more Dynamic Range and realism to the sound and the music but what we had all these years are the washed down version of Super Genius work of art. I could not stand the CDs that were released. However, that did not stop me from buying the CDs. I bought every release hoping someday it will come out right. Well my patience finally paid off thanks to everybody who worked on this project and has made the band immortal for all the generations to come.

This compilation is to all the Audiophile’s dream come true and prayers fulfilled, as some other reviewer said a true godsend indeed! Normally you would pay Ten or Twenty times more to get this kind of recording and remastering. If you are a true fan and audiophile you will definitely buy this set. If you are just another cheap downloader or iPod listener you will just utter non-sense to justify that you are right and everybody else is wrong. Well, let me tell you something. “Grapes are always sour” to those who never had them or can’t have them.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Mothership | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Good Times Bad Times DVD (2012)

511JBe8rZMLFrom amazon.com

Review Let’s get it out of the way- this is an absolutely fantastic set and shouldn’t be missed. The video quality is excellent, as is the sound, and it’s an absolute bargain given the 5+ hour running time. Buy it now.
So why only four stars? Well, the production team couldn’t just stop at a masterful restoration of the deteriorated masters- they had to ‘improve’ it.

Bootleg videos of the vast majority of this material has been floating around for years, and having seen much of it, I can vouch for the astounding restoration work this set represents. On the other hand, they saw fit to reedit nearly all the sequences to a 90’s MTV aesthetic.

Where the original may show a 10 second shot of Page’s hands playing a solo, this version will feature 4 or 5 fast intercuts to footage of Plant clapping (culled from earlier in the set), digitally fuzzified and pseudo-shakycam versions of the original shot of Page’s handwork, an audience shot culled from another show, another shot of Plant digitally slowed down in an attempt to make his clapping sync with the audio, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

In some instances it’s apparent that this was done to cover minor glitches (probably unrestorable) in the video, but the vast majority of the embellishment is in sequences with excellent quality. The fuzzy faux-shakycam treatment is particularly galling, since it’s such a cliche in recent MTV fare and obscures some truly lovely passages.

I’m not expecting an historical document, so I have no problem with the usual monkeying with the set order or the merciful editing of Plant’s traditional lengthy (and quite stoned) patter between songs, but every time one of these ‘improved’ segments kicks in I’m left longing for the beautiful set that would have remained had the producers stopped after the restoration process. Sometimes less is more.

Review Before purchasing this DVD set, you must ask yourself this simple question: “Am I a true Led Zeppelin fan or do I just like a few songs I hear on the radio?”
If you are just a casual fan who likes the cuts they hear on the radio and may own an album or two, this DVD is definitely not for you. This DVD is for the hardest of hardcore Led Zeppelin fans. For those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be around during Zeppelin’s heyday, then this DVD is a dream come true.

For years I had heard all the stories about how amazing Led Zeppelin’s live shows were. Of course I’ve seen “The Song Remains the Same” countless times and have a few bootlegs that are just good enough to tease. After completing just half of the first DVD, I felt that I had finally found the Zeppelin Holy Grail.

The performances on this DVD don’t completely live up to the hype, but they sure do come close. While the performances themselves are amazing, it’s the little things that really turned me on. Watching how the band communicates through their improv sessions, the fact that John Bonham sung backup on Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, seeing John Paul Jones playing the mandolin parts that I always thought were Jimmy’s, and countless other little bits that make it all worth the watch.

I’m not going to state that all the performances are perfect, because they certainly are not. The reason Led Zeppelin’s live shows were so legendary was because of how much improvisation they emphasize in the performances. It’s extremely rare to see that in a Rock and Roll band outside of the Dead. I believe the band maintained the ethic that sure it may not be perfect, and sometimes downright messy, but when they get into a groove, it’s truly lightning in a bottle. These improvised jams tend to be something that only musicians with jazz or blues backgrounds tend to understand. That’s exactly why Led Zeppelin was in a class all their own.

I personally tend to disagree with those that make Led Zeppelin out to be the fathers of heavy metal. True, they were a major influence then and now, but it’s got too much of a base in blues and jazz to be compared to Metal. I think we’re better off leaving that title to the likes of Black Sabbath. After seeing and hearing some of the material on this DVD it just re-emphasized this thought. The concert at Royal Albert Hall is just one blues jam after another with hints of their songs thrown in to give it a sense of cohesion.

For all of those musicians out there who idolized Jimmy Page as I did, you will not be disappointed in the slightest. To see how he communicates with the rest of the band as he goes through his wild improvisations is simply amazing. While it is true that Jimmy tends to be a very sloppy guitarist, it doesn’t change the fact that when he’s on, he’s REALLY on. To me the term “sloppy” is kind of silly. No he’s not precise like your Joe Satriani’s or Eddie Van Halen’s, he is however extremely musical. To be as improvisation oriented as he is takes a lot of talent, knowledge, and well…balls. Something that many of today’s guitarists simply don’t have.

While I love going to rock concerts to listen to my favorite bands, I always feel a bit ripped off because what is being performed is almost identical to what you were just listening to on the radio coming to the show. This can never be said about Led Zeppelin’s live performances. Every night is its own experience.

That is captured, for the most part, throughout this DVD. As I have repeatedly stated, these performances are more jams than just song after song. If you watch this DVD over and over again, sure you will find tons of musical mistakes. However, if you take it for what it is, a single moment in time, then you can’t deny its power. Led Zeppelin was one of the gutsiest, energetic, and awe inspiring live bands in the history of music.

If you are a musician and don’t find this to be a major educational and emotional experience, then in my humble opinion, it’s time to re-evaluate what music is to you. To me music was always a way to convey an emotional state through your performance. If you limit yourself to a pre-existing structure, then you’ve just taken away the essence of what the music was meant to be.

Essence. That is what this DVD is. The essence of the music, culture, and time that was all Led Zeppelin’s.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Good Times Bad Times DVD | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Early Days: Best of Led Zeppelin 1 (1999)

61GyqBK4e-LFrom amazon.com

Review I love Led Zeppelin. The “(fourth album)” is my favourite all-time rock album. I love “3” despite it often being trashed as subpar Zeppelin. I can groove to the atypically slow “That’s the Way” just as easily as “Whole Lotta Love” or “Trampled Under Foot.” But there are two essential problems with making a Zeppelin compilation album.

The first is that, if you’re a true Zep fan, you could name 50 great songs by them and still have some great tunes left over. You sure could not pick a total of 23 songs (including “Latter Days”)and call it a complete collection.

The other is that everyone has their own idea of what the best of Zeppelin is, except basically that “Stairway to Heaven” is their best song (but truthfully “Kashmir” is my favourite). My friend who got me into Zeppelin’s favorite song from the double album “Physical Graffiti”–“The Rover”–is absent from “Latter Days.” “Misty Mountain Hop,” my third favourite song from the affore mentioned “(fourth album),” is not on here. I like a few songs from the “In Through the Out Door” and “Coda” albums, but my friend sold his vinyl copies of them and has no desire to buy the CD copies.

Different people like different songs is my point. I disagree with a lot of Jimmy Page’s choices, particularly “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” One must formulate their own list of favorites, not listen to the favorites of others, especially if their only picked by one person. If you think Jimmy Page would immediately have a fair idea of what the best songs by his group are in the public eye, think again. This along with the “Latter Days” collection omits such hits as “Heartbreaker,” “Fool in the Rain,” and “D’yer Mak’er” (which reached #20 on the US pop charts, “Fool…” reached #21 at its peak). I’ve “rambled on” for long enough I think. So let me just give you instructions on purchasing Zep already.

First, buy the “(fourth album),” or “Zoso” as it is sometimes referred to, “Led Zeppelin II,” or “Houses of the Holy.” If you REALLY like what you hear there, I recommend buying one of the box sets that has the 4 extra tracks and all the songs from the studio albums, I recommend the 1993 10 disc set which has the extra tracks tacked at the end of “Coda.” But if you don’t feel it’s good enough to purchase the box set, but you still crave more Zep, get the self-titled debut followed by “Physical Graffiti.” If you purchase “Led Zeppelin III,” “Presence,” “In Through the Out Door,” or “Coda,” you will probably be discouraged to buying more Zeppelin, although they tend to sound better after multiple listenings, particularly “3.” But I strongly advise you to get them anyhow (maybe not “Coda”) and to not buy any collections.

Review I’m relatively new to Led Zeppelin and certainly to heavy metal music, so it was with some reservation that I bought “The Early Years” to sample what has been represented as the best of the early works of this legendary group.

Yes, while critic and fans alike have advocated listening to the original albums rather than compilations to really appreciate the music of this band, I wasn’t about to splurge on four albums without getting a foretaste of what they had to offer….and what a discovery this has turned out to be. This is one masterful compilation. Sequenced chronologically according to their source, you sense their musical progression with each track. The four opening cuts (from their debut album) signalled a promising start but they are quickly overshadowed by what was to follow.

Their hit singles, “Whole Lotta Love” and “Immigrant Song” sound as fresh and powerful today as they did three decades ago. Even “What Is and What Should Never Be” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, which some reviewers consider less than adequate choices from their second and third albums respectively, seem perfect as they provide contrasting pace and relief from the rampaging hits they follow. But it is the final brace of five songs from their untitled fourth album that displays the group at its peak and in all its glory.

They all sound like classics, from the full blooded howl of “Black Dog” to the heavy metal transformation of its self-titled subject “Rock and Roll”, and the wistful musicality of “The Battle of Evermore” (featuring the guest vocals of Sandy Denny). What’s more, the compilers have left the best to the last. Just when you think the music can’t get any better are you served with the amazing “When The Levee Breaks”, a masterful display of the collective musicianship and craft of the band members and finally, the magnificent opus “Stairway To Heaven”, which has become the anthem for listeners on rock music radio stations. Wow ! This is one hellavu compilation album…. all great stuff except for the tiresome “Dazed and Confused” which goes on a bit.

Led Zeppelin fans understandably regard “The Early Years” as a redundant product but for newcomers like me, there is probably no better way to start.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Early Days: Best of Led Zeppelin 1 | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin The Complete Studio Recordings [Box set, Original recording remastered] (1993)

51RDhbfiMHLFrom amazon.com

Review At college, a bunch of my CDs were stolen, including every Led Zeppelin CD I owned. My insurance replaced them within a week. I didn’t own every Zeppelin album on CD, and I owned two of the pre-remastered editions. When I replaced them, I got this set to compensated for my stolen Zep. I could not be more pleased with the results of this box set. There are three great things about it that will be discussed here.

The music: Every true rock fan knows the greatness of Led Zeppelin.

Every song and album is a gem, and is essential to any music collection. Everyone has heard songs such as “Whole Lotta Love,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “The Song Remains the Same,” and “Kashmir,” to name a few. There are also many not so well known great tracks here, including “Achilles Last Stand,” “In My Time of Dying,” “All My Love,” “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp,” and “Black Mountain Side,” to name a few. Plus, with the album Coda, you get bonus tracks unavailable anywhere else unless you buy the other two box sets, including the non-LP B-side “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” the outtake “Baby Come On Home,” and the excellent songs recorded for the BBC “Travelling Riverside Blues” and “White Summer/Black Mountain Side.”

Once you buy one Zeppelin album, you will want to buy more, and more, and more (just ask anyone), so you may as well get it all and more now instead of buying all the albums separately and wishing you had just bought all of them this way and also gotten the great bonus tracks. Plus, though not in the short run but definitely in the long run, it is cheaper to buy all the albums this way than to buy them separately, and this way, you get more for less.

The sound: Having heard two of the albums before Jimmy Page himself took control and remastered them, I know from personal experience that the new sound shows a difference between night and day. Before, they sounded like a lot of old, unremastered CDs do, dull, not enough volume, and need improvement. Here every single track from start to finish sounds so fresh, almost as if it were recorded quite recently. It shows that Jimmy Page really cares about the fans, as there are many under 21 who are discovering or will discover Led Zeppelin, and fans from the time upgrading their music collection to CD, and the sound should be as sharp and “current sounding” as possible. And here, Jimmy Page not only satisfied himself, but also satisfied CD buyers everywhere with the incredible sounds coming off of these 10 discs.

The packaging: The way this box set is packaged is excellent. What exactly is on the cover of the box, I do not know, but it is cool. The lid of the box set fold up and can be pushed in so you can access the CDs right from your shelf without having to take the box off the shelf and disassemble it, which is quite convenient. Inside there are five hardcover books, each housing 2 CDs. In order for the packaging to work, the Presence album is coupled with Houses of the Holy in order to give the double Physical Graffiti its own book.

But that doesn’t matter, you can listen to the CDs in any order you want. Each of the books contain graphics of the original vinyl packaging, such as the six different covers (front and back) from In Through the Out Door, the turning wheel from III, all the inner sleeves, everything is here. There is also a very entertaining booklet, filled with a biography and plenty of pictures.

If you like Led Zeppelin at all, this is the way to go. All the studio albums with graphics of the original vinyl and as originally sequenced. Please take my advice, if you like Led Zeppelin, invest your money and buy this set. If you have any hesitations at all, it is very likely that you have friends that like Led Zeppelin. Listen to their copies of the ablums and find out for yourself. Even if you have to make sure that the investment is worth it, you will not be disappointed in the end. This is sure to provide you enjoyment for a long time to come.

Review How do you review a boxed set of an artist’s complete studio recordings? I guess you would first review the band, and then review the features of the boxset. So, that is what I’m going to do.

First off, Led Zeppelin, how could you describe them? They’re so versatile. The only adjective that comes to my mind is “raw”. They have a raw sound, something that makes you know they’re real. They had an awesome attitude about their music, and were always attempting to grow as artists. There is no use trying to pick a best album, or a best song, they are all masterpieces. This set tells the story of Led Zeppelin. If you like Led Zeppelin, you’ll like the box set. If you don’t like Led Zeppelin, you probably won’t. In my opinion, they are a perfect mix between being serious and having fun, a perfect mix for rock and roll (in my opinion).

Next off- The boxset. It’s great. It’s an awesome package, and is well priced for the items contained inside. Inside is a book with an essay and pictures, which is well written, and is very informative. Also, inside are the five other booklets which contain two cds each and the original album art on a black background. It has every page of all the booklets and sleeves that came with the original albums, which is always a plus. Overall, the box has no problems. I get paranoid sometimes, though, pulling out the cds of their cardboard holders in fear of scratching them. So far, though, they haven’t been scratched. That’s why it’s only paranoia, and nothing real. If you are careful, they won’t get scratched from the cardboard containers.

If you are looking for all the Led Zeppelin songs, there is no other way to go. If you buy all the albums separately, you’ll have them all at the same price, but with no booklet or no cool box. If you buy the other box set and the two cds to compensate for the songs not on that box set you’ll have all the songs in mixed up order with no original cover art and no essay. So that is why, in my opinion, this is the only way to go. The songs should not be mixed up, because they are put in an order for a reason.

So, the only thing wrong with this box set is the fear I get from maybe scratching the CDs. Again, If you’re careful this won’t happen. That’s why this box set gets 5 Stars (4.9).

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin The Complete Studio Recordings | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin (Box Set) (1990)

51voa4-cMnLFrom amazon.com

Review Like it or not, Led Zeppelin and their music are the central locus of everything we call rock music today (for better or worse). This is not to minimize the vast contributions of other artists like Elvis, The Beatles, James Brown, The Who, Cream, and others. But simply put, Zep wrote the rule book.

I was a late comer to their music. I had heard all of the singles on the radio, but I guess the reason I never got into them was that at the time, it seemed that everyone I knew who was into Zeppelin was a stoner-type and that wasn’t my thing. I suppose I felt that I would have to be jacked-up to enjoy their stuff. But here’s the kicker: I never really listened to them in depth before my last year of high school. I only heard them, and there is a major distinction between the two.

A friend of mine brought all of their albums (which are showcased on this incredible set) over to my house on a weekend and we popped in one after another. At first I was thinking that we might get through one album and then move onto other things like playing our own music or going to a movie. I was wrong. One by one we sat and drank Dr. Pepper (an entire 12 pack) and listened through Zep’s catalogue.

I was beside myself. This was Led Zeppelin? But I’m hearing blues and gorgeous acoutic numbers and long songs that unfold like a good novel? I was hooked. What I was discovering at that moment was what so many others had. Led Zeppelin were extremely well rounded in the history of music. This is very evident in their blues outings from the first album especially. Some debate the validity of their blues performances. So be it. I don’t really care for blues in general, and this is as close as I get to listening to them. Zep does a great job with the blues. Call it what you want-it’s all good music.

If Zep had stopped there they would not have garnered the attention they did. But they didn’t. The band continued to add to their repetoire. Indeed, Zep were really the first true ‘heavy-metal’ band no matter what Jimi Hendrix fans say. Need I say more than ‘Communication Breakdown’? If that is not a precursor to the galloping riffage of Metallica and others I don’t know what is. But they didn’t stop there either. Listen to the gorgeous tracks like ‘Ten Years Gone’ and ‘Tangerine’ and feel the melancholy of the songs. It’s brilliant and haunting.

I know many people site the Beatles as the best band in rock history. I think those kind of debates are pointless-however, for me, no one tops Zep. A band that gets big today is one thing; the rock scene is horrendous. But Zep was playing during the era of Hendrix, Cream, The Beatles, and The Who: not exactly a music scene devoid of talent. This only lends more creedence to the idea that they were the best ever. This set is a wonderful compilation of many of their best songs (not all) and some lesser-known ones that could have been hits. Look no further, this is the king of all box sets, and one of the best values out there.

Essential.

Review It’s 2009, 40 years after “I” came out; almost 20 years after this box set hit the market. Remastered versions of the original albums have been available for more than a decade now. As one review said: this box set is passe. LZ has always been an album band. Get the original discs. I’m here to provide an opposing view, not to the historical and entertainment value of the original albums, but rather to wonderful alternative provided by this set. The four CDs here (and two discs of box set 2) enable you to listen to Zeppelin in a larger context, spanning the different styles of songs, moods, and instrumentation, in a way that makes sense and ultimately captivating.

In my frequent readings of reviews posted on the Amazon site, a common theme for just about any artist or band is the disputed role of compilation CDs. From the viewpoint that they provide all you need of the artist, invariably loyal fans will point out that this or that chestnut is missing and therefore you cannot be happy with just that CD. From the view of the listener who first explores the band, gets a taste for it and starts digging into the original albums, the compilation quickly becomes obsolete. (Should have listened to the reviews and gone for the original albums…)

But what about the proposition: suppose an album is put together of the best songs of the artist. Could that collection be better than any of the original CDs? That’s where this box set comes in strongly. Through clever sequencing the four discs included in this set not only collect the bulk of the best songs produced by Led Zeppelin, they also provide a most satisfactory listening experience, one that goes beyond the original albums and adds something new, enabled by the longer CD format.

Purists who gringe at the idea should consider this: In the days that these albums came out, the sequencing of the song was adapted to the two sides of an LP. That’s why, on “IV” for example, “Stairway” concluded side one–as such it was not immediately followed by another song, leaving the listener time to reflect and hold those last chords in his/her ear. In line with this thinking, in all compilations thus far, “Stairway” concludes a disc. Not so on the reissue of the original album: with the final chords of “Stairway” still ringing in your ears, noisy Misty Mountain Hop comes up as a not yet wanted intruder…

This is not to put down the original albums in CD form (the music is timeless), but instead of listening straight through on the discs as they are, I challenge the purists to see if, for Houses of the Holy, for example, the sequence 1. The song remains the same, 2. Dancing days, 3. D’yer mak’er, 4. The rain song, 5. Over the hills, 6. No quarter, 7. The Ocean, 8. The Crunge, doesn’t make for a better listening experience than the simple sequence of putting the two LP sides back to back. On “IV”, try the sequence: 1. Black dog, 2. Rock and roll, 3. Four sticks, 4. Going to California, 5. The battle of evermore, 6. When the levee breaks, 7. Misty mountain hop, 8. Stairway to heaven. Isn’t that closer to the spirit of the original LP sides? Knowing that these albums comprised two “programs”, is there really anything “sacret” about the song order of the issued CDs?

The key here is the pacing of the songs. I read that Jimmy Page himself put this box set together. Like LZ concerts of the days, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t deliberately followed the format of those concerts in these CDs, i.e. an energetic opener of three or four songs, a slower/quieter middle part, then picking up steam again for the final conclusion. And boy does it sound good! The original album sides were sequenced that way too, although the effect is not as clear because of the relatively brief playing length. In this box set you see this sequencing very clearly in discs one and two. Discs three and four pick up on the direction Zeppelin went into starting on “IV”: songs that are loud, dirty, and droning. Of these, disc three cherry picks perhaps the best of the type, and keeps going with high energy from beginning to end (“No quarter” provides some respite). Disc four attempts to do the same; although it does not sustain the quality of disc three it still contains great songs sequenced in way that enhances the impact while allowing you to take a breath from time to time.

Many of the songs contained in the second box set are ones that often dissuade me from listening to some of the original albums (the ones that I think hold up best as separate CDs are “III”, “I”, and “Physical Graffiti”, in that order). It’s not that these are bad songs, but they’re just not ones that I long to hear. There are still many great songs on the second box, though, and together with this first box, you have all songs that were issued. And you have them in a format that makes sense 30-40 years hence.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin (Box Set) | | Leave a comment

Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off-the-record with The Beatles, Bowie, Elton, and more by Ken Scott & Bobby Kowsinski (2012)

Products867647-1200x1200-1371844From amazon.com

Hardcover-4 page Prologue, 393 pages of text, 4 page Glossary, 4 page Discography, and an Index. Also included are 14 pages of good quality b & w photos (several taken by the author and never previously seen), with many more sprinkled throughout the book. There’s also recording data sheets and other documents from the period when pertinent.

This memoir by Ken Scott of working with various artists will be interesting to those (like me) who like to know something behind all the great music we hear. The author, with the help of Bobby Owsinski, has written about his time “behind the glass” recording many great artists.

His first job was engineering The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” album. From there he worked extensively with David Bowie, including the “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust…” album. Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Elton John, Duran Duran, Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones, America, Lou Reed, and a number of other well known artists have all used Scott’s talents. Also included are Mott The Hoople, Al Kooper, Happy The Man, the Dixie Dregs, and a few others that crossed paths with Scott.

Scott talks about a single track he recorded with Rick Wakeman for example, about Wakeman’s American car being so big, he took up two parking spaces. And when the parking meter had expired, the traffic warden gave Wakeman two tickets-one for each parking space. Or how touched he was when George Martin took Scott aside, and in a fatherly way, told him not to expect “The White Album” to win a Grammy because the album was such a departure for the group-hopefully not hurting Scott’s feelings. Or working with Nilsson, and the heavy drug use he witnessed.

He also talks very briefly about working with artists like Scaffold, Dada, Doris Troy, Lord Sitar-certainly lesser known artists (even Troy sadly wasn’t all that well known) of the time-proving his life in the studio wasn’t spent working with just the big names, but for Scott they were enjoyable nonetheless. One band he did work with early on was The Iveys-who later morphed into Apple Records Badfinger. Another great but sadly unsung band was Lindisfarne, and their fine album “Fog On The Tyne”-which more people should hear. But these are just a very few of the reminiscences found throughout the book.

He also relates the time when Keith Moon, after recording a tympani part for Jeff Beck’s first album, left the studio late at night, and spying an old lady walking by, used a PA system he had installed in his Rolls Royce to scream epithets at her. Needless to say Moon was banned from the studio (and the neighborhood) for quite some time. This is just one example of Scott’s memories of those wild times that run through this book.

Scott goes into some detail about his work with David Bowie on several albums, and his memories of that period are pretty interesting-especially for Bowie fans. He writes about jazz-fusion and the “Birds of Fire” album with guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Billy Cobham and keyboard player Jan Hammer, and Cobham’s solo albums, beginning with “Spectrum”. Bassist Stanley Clark is also here, and Scott talks about his solo album. Or Supertramp-and the album “Crime of the Century”. Or Kansas-the list goes on and on. Needless to say, along the way Scott has been nominated several times for a Grammy award, and has a number of both gold and platinum albums for his work.

He also writes about being fired from the studio because he worked with pop artists-which the new management hated. Scott then went to work for Trident Studios. It’s here that Scott worked on George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album. He talks about the fact that no one really knows who played on a number of the tracks because there was no documentation! When he asked Ringo about playing on it, for the 2001 reissue, Ringo responded with “Did I play on it?”

With the help of Osinski, the book is laid out in an easy to read (but not chronological) style. Everything is laid out as it happened, and Scott’s no nonsense style is a plus. The different events are laid out under that particular artist or a particular genre of music. But this isn’t a dry treatise on recording. Anything technical is in a sidebar for ease of use, and can be skipped over for those who have no interest in such things.

Throughout the book Scott talks about many different artists-taking us where outsiders haven’t the privilege of going. Scott’s clear cut memories bring us closer to what actually happened in the studio without bogging down in useless minutiae. His many asides and reminisces are at times very interesting and sometimes enlightening-and sometimes funny. When his memory may not be as clear on a point, he has talked with someone else who was there at the time to verify his memories. But virtually every page contains some interesting tidbit of information-no matter if it has to do with the actual recording, or with one of the many artists he worked with.

In some ways this book is reminiscent of Geoff Emerick’s 2006 book “Here,There and Everywhere”, about his time behind the glass as an engineer with THE BEATLES. But this book is broader in scope, and for that reason even more interesting. Fans of these artists and this whole era of music/recording will like reading this book from someone who was there. It’s interesting, enlightening, and just plain fun to read about artists and albums we’ve all heard so many times. And to have the chance to hear it from someone so close to it all brings the music to life a little bit more.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Book Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off-the-record with The Beatles Bowie Elton and more by Ken Scott & Bobby Kowsinski | , | Leave a comment

The Faces Electric Soup (Edmonton London, June 1973)

Faces-Electric-Soup-Gr850From collectorsmusicreviews.com

(The Godfatherrecords G.R.850) London, England, The Edmonton, June 4, 1973 (Ronnie Lane’s Last Show) (70:46) Introduction, Cindy Incidentally, Angel, True Blue, I’d Rather Go Blind, Jealous Guy, You Wear It Well, Maggie May, Borstal Boys, Twistin’ The Night Away, Memphis Tennessee, We’ll Meet Again BONUS TRACKS BBC Top Of The Pops, April 28, 1971: Richmond, Bad ‘N’ Ruin. BBC Top Gear, September 15, 1970: Around The Plynth/Gasoline Alley

Back in the good old TDK/Maxell 90 days (high bias, natch; and if you know what I’m talking about, you’re older than you think), I used to make Rod Stewart mix tapes for eye-rolling friends and unsuspecting colleagues and title them “When He Was Good.” Not that I was a big Rod fan, mind you, but once I discovered his work with the Faces and delved deeply into his first few solo albums – nearly all of which featured backing from some or all of the Faces to varying degrees – I felt that a wrong had to be righted.

Namely, that the MOR dreck Stewart had been churning out in the ’80s and flogging on MTV had completely overtaken and obfuscated his true legacy as an artist and singer for one of the best and truest rock & roll groups of the 1970s. The critic Greil Marcus was right when he said, referring to Rod, that perhaps “no artist has betrayed his talent so completely.”

“Electric Soup,” the latest offering from Godfather, a label that has quickly become a gold standard-setter in the ROIR world, not just for packaging and design, but for the quality of its recordings and source tapes, is proof positive that Marcus was right.

This handsomely presented silver disc set, housed in a beautiful full-color tri-fold cardboard sleeve, presents the Faces’ June 4, 1973 show at The Edmonton in London in its definitive form and the best available sound quality (at least to our memory). This title represents The Godfather’s first foray into Faces territory, and appears to be the first issue of this show since “The Party Hogs” was issued by Roaring Mouse some years back.

From shag-cut head to high-heel booted toe, “Electric Soup” is a very clear, nicely balanced soundboard recording that I very likely would have put to tape as one of my “When He was Good” volumes and foisted on friends who would have probably rolled their eyes. Until they played the tape and realized, from the moment that Ian McLagan’s’s barrelhouse piano and Ron Wood’s guitar chords kick off “Cindy Incidentally” (from the band’s fourth and final album, “Ooh La La,” released in April of that year) that this shite was bloody good!

“Electric Soup” is a colloquial term used to describe the dubious alcoholic concoction that results from fusing milk with natural gas, and given the Faces’ penchant for a tipple or ten, and their ragged-but-right stew of old time rock & roll, soul, and folk, it’s an inspired title for music that matches that disposition. As a bonus, the disc also includes a tasty BBC Top Of The Pops performance of “Richmond” and “Bad ‘n’ Ruin” from April 28, 1971, plus a Top Gear appearance of “Around The Plynth/Gasoline Alley” from September 15, 1970. Both are presented here in excellent quality. (Any and all Faces recordings done for the BBC are well worth seeking out on their own).

Besides being a strong, lively performance with the band firing on all proverbial cylinders before an enthusiastically receptive audience, the Edmonton show was an important Faces gig from a historical vantage point, as it happens to be bassist-singer-songwriter Ronnie Lane’s last show before he quit the band amid growing acrimony between he and Stewart in 1973. (Lane would go on to record, perhaps most notably, a couple of albums with his folk-tinged and criminally under-heard post-Faces outfit, Slim Chance, before eventually succumbing to multiple sclerosis in 1997 at age 51).

Ironically and unfortunately, despite this being his final show, we get none of Lane’s wonderful songs or lead vocals, which were always a softer contrast to Stewart’s sandpaper rasp on record. (Lane’s poignant ode to his father, “Debris,” from ‘71′s ‘A Nod Is As Good As A Wink … To A Blind Horse,’ remains one of the one or two best things they ever did). Oddly, neither do we get guitarist Wood’s lone star vocal turn on the then-current single, “Ooh La La,” which Lane wrote. The song selection – which does, however, include a pair of Stewart solo album numbers, “You Wear It Well,” and the soon-to-be-ubiquitous “Maggie May” – speaks volumes, perhaps, as to why Lane left amid growing tensions with Rod.

As was their custom, nearly half of the eleven tracks here are comprised of a clutch of covers that were in the band’s regular repertoire, among them Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel,”; the Etta James-popularized “I’d Rather Go Blind,”; John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”; Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” (sic) and of course, “Twistin’ The Night Away,” by Rod’s idol, Sam Cooke. The back-to-back readings of “Blind” and “Jealous Guy” in particular provide a rare introspective respite from the Faces’ usual brand of rough-and-tumble pub-rock blooze, which reaches a rollicking apex on an extended, set-closing “Memphis.”
Given the spirit of camaraderie and chemistry, you’d never guess that this was to be Lane’s last show. And the Faces’ days themselves were numbered. Within two years, they’d be gone, with Ronnie Wood unofficially joining another slightly well known quintet. But for a glorious few years, the Faces were special.

As a long time music journalist, I had the good fortune to interview keyboardist Ian “Mac” McLagan (a very charming, witty, gregarious fellow) not once but twice over the years, each occasion coming when the stalwart Rhino Records record label was about to issue a Faces retrospective, including the essential box set, “Five Guys Walk Into A Bar.” I asked Mac what had made the chemistry and musical interplay of the Faces so good, in the early years at least, before Stewart’s burgeoning superstardom caused friction among the principals, who came to be viewed and treated as Rod’s backing band.

”The fact that we had so many writers in the band, and so many different personalities. And that we always had a laugh,” McLagan recalled. “We’d rehearse and then go down to the pub. We weren’t thinking about the next career move … especially in the early days, when all of us used to be falling-over drunk all of the time. Like the Marx Brothers, we’d all be sitting together and at a certain point we’d all fall over and grope the girls who used to be hanging ‘round.

We were all pals, and we were just having the best f –g time possible. Unfortunately, by the end, I didn’t talk to Rod at all except to say f — k you on stage.”

May 23, 2013 Posted by | The Faces Electric Soup | , | Leave a comment

The Black Crowes Southern Harmony & Musical Companion (1992)

61Qk904xTgLFrom amazon.com

Review When The Crowes hired guitarist Marc Ford just before this album was recorded, they gave him something like 30 songs to learn, but when he showed up for the first day of sessions, lo and behold, he found that Chris and Rich had scrapped all those songs an had rewritten the whole album in two weekends. They proceeded to record the entire deal in eight days, and after some aggrivating attempts at mixing, Chris took the album home and “hot mixed” it in one night.

Four days writing, eight days recording, and one all night mix. This is what rock is all about. The finished product is a masterpiece, and all in a fortnight.

Rather than rehashing which songs are which, it is better to point out the fact that this is a heavily themed album. There are stings, thorns, illness and bad luck, but there are also remedies, harmony and salvation. This album cuts to the core of life, where everything can seem to be right, yet still falls apart, and where perspective is maintained and salvation is found. As they quote Bob M, “Think you’re in Heaven, but you’re livin’ in Hell”

When baby bands come out with their sophomore effort, it often falls flat (to put it mildly), but the Crowes were in their finest form on this one, proving that the “Stones Clones” can in fact forge their own way. Although I am a massive fan of the ’67-72 Stones, I challenge anyone to find Mick singing the blues better than Chris on “Bad Luck, Blue Eyes Goodbye”, or injecting more venom than is on “No Speak No Slave”. Well, Mick’s venom is pretty thick on “Turd On The Run” I’ll admit. But I digress…

This gospel tinged diamond of rock and roll has lived up to its name better than any other album in my life. In the last twelve years it has certainly been by best ‘companion’.
Do yourself a favor and get yourself a new best friend with “Harmony”. If you have a soul, “My Morning Song” will change your life.

If I could give it six stars, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Review Yes, that’s rawk, not just rock, but rawk.

From beginning to end, this album blew me away the first time I heard it, and about 1,000 listens later, now that I’ve heard and realized many of the album’s intricacies that were apparent on first listen, it blows me away even more now. Listen to the intro and through the first verse of Sting Me, the first song, and you’ll swear you’re listening to the Rolling Stones, with a different, more soulful singer (Chris Robinson). However, these guys can rock in more way than one, which they immediately prove in the next song, Remedy, which has to be my personal favourite Crowes song, with it’s incredibly catchy, hard-driven guitar from Rich Robinson, and a great performance from the always superb Chris.

The album then mellows down only slightly for the next four songs, but the volume drop only serves to enhance Chris’s down-home Southern soul-filled singing, and some incredible lead guitar from Marc Ford, who isn’t with the Crowes anymore, but proves here to be an awesome, underrated soloist with a very unique style. Then comes the 7-8-9 combo of Black Moon Creeping, No Speak No Slave, and My Morning Song, which, in my opinion is one of the best 1-2-3 punches for pure rock value in history; think Whole Lotta Love-What Is & What Should Never Be-Heartbreaker from Led Zeppelin II in terms of how hard these three songs rock.

As one critic said, Black Moon Creeping features the dirtiest, nastiest guitar tone ever put on vinyl, with a bass-heavy, heavily distorted wah giving the song great grit. However, this tone compares nothing to the wah tone on the following song, No Speak No Slave, during the solo. I literally jumped out of my chair when I heard the wah section of the solo on this track for the first time; absolutely must be heard to be believed.

The entire song, No Speak No Slave, in fact, needs to be heard; sounds like Zeppelin in their prime. My Morning Song rocks just as hard, and after these three songs you need a break, so the low-key cover of Bob Marley’s Time Will Tell will provide you with that to close off the album, reminding you that not only do these guys rawk, but they make music you can feel, with Southern soul, which is what Marley had, and is what the Crowes add to not just this track but the whole album. This album, in my opinion, deserves to be right up there with the great rock albums of all time, i.e. Led Zeppelin IV, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon, etc.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | The Black Crowes Southern Harmony & Musical Companion | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Sweet Home Chicago (January 1975)

lz_sweethomechicagoFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL – January 20, 1975

Disc 1: Rock And Roll/Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, When The Levee Breaks, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same/The Rain Song, Kashmir, The Wanton Song

Disc 2: No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick, How Many More Times, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love/Black Dog, Communication Breakdown

What is great about collecting Zeppelin titles is the many and various ways different labels market and re-issue different tapes. The fascination with comparing titles is on the level of a sport and there are even some websites devoted exclusively to comparing the different versions. Very few bands can claim this distinction! The virtue of this kind of production is in the luxury of waiting. If there is a title that you want but either can’t find or can’t afford, just be patient. Rest assured there will be a release sooner or later. And knowing Zeppelin manufacturers, they will oftentimes produce two competing titles.

The tape used for Sweet Home Chicago, Wendy’s latest release, has circulated for thirty years. It initially surfaced on vinyl as Live At The Chicago Stadium on Digger Records. Silver Rarities released this in the early 90′s as Live On The Levee followed by Tarantura’s Luftshiffe and Cobra’s cdr title Live At The Chicago Stadium, using the vinyl artwork as inspiration. Wendy’s release uses tapes that are closer to the master and overall sounds very good. Certainly much better than the Cobra release.

There has been some confusion about the date and sequence of songs of this show. Louis Rey in his book claims the bulk of the show is January 21st with “Rock And Roll”, “How Many More Times” and “Stairway To Heaven” being from January 20th. People closer to the source have definitively stated that isn’t the case, that all of the songs come from the first show and the same tape source. There is also some controversy surrounding the placement of “In My Time Of Dying”.

The Cobra release, Louis Rey and Lewis & Pallett in The Concert File claim that ”In My Time Of Dying” was played later in the set after ”No Quarter”, placing the track in the latter part of the show just as it was in Brussels. The Silver Rarities and Tarantura releases placed “In My Time Of Dying” before “The Song Remains The Same” as was the custom of a majority of the tour. Again sources close to the tape state the latter is actually correct, that the song was placed earlier in the set list after the European warm-up dates.

The show itself is not bad. This was one of the first concerts on their Physical Graffiti tour and the rust is apparent. But you can hear a very rare live version of “When The Levee Breaks” and “The Wanton Song”. The rarities in the set are the main redeeming features. It is interesting to hear the deafening silence to the newer numbers. But the mainstays of the set, “No Quarter” and “Stairway To Heaven” are very good and “How Many More Times” receives a big ovation.

Sweet Home Chicago is better sounding than previous releases and longer, including the house announcer at the very beginning. It comes packaged in a double slimline jewel case with an obi strip on the outside. The graphic design is simple, yet effective and since no other label has really done this show justice, this release is worth having.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Sweet Home Chicago | , | Leave a comment