Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin Sequence Of Events (San Diego & LA Forum, June 1977)

100622014331From collectorsmusicreviews.com

One of the ways Led Zeppelin showed their love of southern California was in the secheduling for their tours. All of them either ended there or had a leg end there with the exception of the 1971 summer tour which actually began in LA. The long 1977 tour was no exception with the middle of three legs ending with one in San Diego and six in Los Angeles. These seven shows are among the longest and most inspired of the trip and even Robert Plant himself says, before “Stairway To Heaven” in the June 21st show, this is ”sort of the highpoint of the whole tour.”

Sequence Of Events is a six disc set with the June 19th San Diego and June 21st Los Angeles shows. These occur after a the six week New York marathon of shows and a five day break in the schedule. The sound well rested, happy and loose in these performances and one gives one the impression that, had the tour been completed through August, these still would have been the highlight of the entire summer.

Both are sourced from the common Mike Millard recordings that have been booted many times, the Los Angeles show more times than San Diego. The manufacturers boast that these come from first generation tapes and have not been remastered, so they are not as loud as past titles, but have a more natural sound to them. Their merit is dependent upon personal taste (obviously).

San Diego Sports Arena, San Diego, CA – June 19th, 1977

Disc 1 (66:37): Introduction, The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (52:04): Ten Years Gone, The Battle of Evermore, Going to California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Kashmir

Disc 3 (43:40): Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

The first of nine California shows on Led Zeppelin’s eleventh and final tour of the US was in San Diego on June 19th, 1977. The site of some of the wildest shows on their previous two tours, this has been captured on an excellent sounding, three dimensional stereo audience recording which is the source of numerous silver titles.

The latest release of this tape can be found on Mystery Train (Tarantura TCD-87) released several years ago. Sequence Of Events claims to be from the 1st generation Millard source. It is very clear and enjoyable. Unlike Tarantura, it hasn’t been tweaked at all and is not as loud.

Zeppelin’s performance in San Diego ranks among the worst on this tour. Plant mentions in the show that Jones has a bad back, but Bonham apparently was suffering from food poisoning and constantly misses breaks and tempo. It is apparent right from the beginning in “The Song Remains The Same” and in the segue into “The Rover,” which is the early electrifying moment, just limps instead.

Plant tries to ignore the issues in his greetings, saying, “first of all, I suppose we should try and apologize for not being here the last couple of years, but you know, you know how it went. And secondly it’s very nice to see they finally found you seats here. Isn’t it amazing when they can’t afford a few seats for people? Anyway, this is the earliest that we’ve ever got to a concert, so that means we’ll get to bed early tonight. I’m not going to do much spieling cause I heard the live album, so we’ll just play a lot of music instead.”

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” again has it’s painful moments with Bonham losing track of the breaks. After “In My Time Of Dying,” which includes cries of “oh my Audrey,” Plant focuses his attention on Jones by saying, “now strangely enough we’ve reached a very awkward physically yet again and that is that John Paul Jones is, I don’t know if ever any of you men in the audience ever had any trouble with your backs, remember ‘Saturday night when you just got paid, full about the money you don’t try to save’ [quoting Little Richard’s ‘Rip It Up’] and you get trouble with you back. You understand? You know what I mean? It’s about time he had some sordid press cause he’s got a very bad back, and he’s only by the luck, by the grace of god, is he sitting at the keyboards today. So he’s been lying in bed all day with a hot water bottle under his back, and it’s about time that somebody noted it down in the press that John Paul Jones doesn’t just play backgammon.”

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is a slight improvement over the first four songs and is notable for really emphasizing John Paul Jones on organ. The performance begins to really improve with “No Quarter.” With Jones and Page taking the lead, Bonham dutifully follows along and they deliver a very interesting improvisation in the middle of the piece which lasts about twenty minutes.

The acoustic set is when they noticeably loosen up a bit. It turns into one of the highlights of the show and was even singled out in the reviews in The San Diego Union the following day where Robert Laurence writes: “At its very best, the show captured what is best about rock ‘n’ roll, its power to stir the human juices and inspire feelings of joyous abandon. At other times, though, particularly during the several extended, pointless solos indulged in by Page, it dragged and sagged and its momentum came to a halt…Oddly, a high moment in the evening came during a quieter time when Plant and Page performed as a blues duo, seated side by side in the middle of the stage, Plant singing (for him) softly, Page strumming a right bluesy acoustic guitar. They opened the set with ‘Mystery Train’ as Plant pointedly imitating the classic Elvis Presley version of the song.” (“Led Zeppelin Puts Extra Roll In Its Rock”).

Before “The Battle Of Evermore” Plant is more interested in listing all of their aliments, speaking about “John Paul Jones’s back,” and saying “I hurt me foot in a soccer match yesterday,” and “Jimmy hurt his hand when a firecracker hit in New York,” and even “JJ Jackson hurt his head on the way.” “Battle” is one of the more interesting renditions on the tour with Plant hitting some of the high notes in the middle.

“Going To California” sounds gorgeous and, as Laurence points out in his review, they play a bit of “Mystery Train” as a prelude to “Black Country Woman.” “White Summer” hangs together well and “Kashmir,” despite Bonham’s attempts, also comes off very well. Page and Jones truly take the lead in this song and resist the drummer’s attempt to steer the song into disaster.

“Moby Dick” is understandably dropped and Page goes straight into his solo. He plays snippets of the Star Spangled Banner, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Dixie before the theremin and violin bow exercises. “Achilles Last Stand” is similar to “Kashmir,” that despite Bohnam’s mistakes comes off very strong and Bonham’s bashing at the end out of frustration adds a level of violence to the piece.

Afterwards Plant refers to the song as “that’s a song that tells of a few months of our existence while on the run from the British government. All hail the Jolly Roger. Well San Diego, this song really doesn’t take too much explaining. I guess this is for the holy.” “Stairway To Heaven” closes the show and the short encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock And Roll” close the event. Overall there are much better concerts from this tour to enjoy, but none more interesting than this which sees the band compensate for another with good results. Tarantura package this in a box with a small poster of the front cover with pretty looking picture discs. This works well for those who want a nice looking version of this common tape.

The Forum, Inglewood, CA – June 21st, 1977

Disc 1 (70:10): Introduction, The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over The Hills and Far Away, No Quarter

Disc 2 (52:52): Ten Years Gone, The Battle of Evermore, Going to California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Kashmir

Disc 3 (75:08): Over The Top / Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

This is the common Listen To This, Eddie tape, booted more times than is worth recounting dating back to that late seventies. The trend in Eddiereleases going back over the past decade is to edit in the inferior recording for the cut in the guitar solo in “Ten Years Gone” and the transition between the guitar solo and “Achillies Last Stand.” That is certainly the case with one of the best versions of the show found on Listen To This, Eddie (Christmas Edition) (Empress Valley EVSD-260/261/262), which is the most complete and best sounding. Sequence Of Events utilize the Millard tape only, so the cuts have not been edited.

The concert remains legendary in Led Zeppelin’s live history. Bonham is healed from whatever ailed him in San Diego and delivers one of this most powerful and creative performances, reminiscent of his work on the 1973 European tour. It’s evident in one of the most aggressive versions of “The Song Remains The Same.”

After “Sick Again” Plant spiels to the crowd, asking if anyone was present when he and Page jammed with Bad Company in May, 1976 and telling the audience that “tonight no beating around the bush. We’re just gonna play cause that’s what we’re here for.”

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is much tighter than the previous night’s disaster, and “In My Time Of Dying” is dropped in place of “Over The Hills And Far Away.” Like much of this show, there is an aggressive aura surrounding the piece and the contrast between the pastoral beginning of the heavy-metal solo riffing in the middle is startling. Page squeezes out several mournful moans from his guitar.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is referred to as “urban blues of the United Kingdom. … it’s a song that’s very close to all of us in the band from time to time.” It is a great performance and afterwards Plant jokes, “it’s starting to cook!” He mentions Bonham’s food poisoning before introducing John Paul Jones for a very long and improvisatory version of “No Quarter.” Three of the very best versions are found during this run of shows and it’s great to have all three so well recorded.

The acoustic set is very relaxed and as intimate as can be in the Forum and brings, as Plant says, “a rather warm vibe.” He introduces John Bonham before “The Battle Of Evermore” as “the rhinestone cowgirl…I guess he’s the cowgirl in the sand.” Someone close to the mic shouts “bring on Neil Young” at the mention of Young’s song.

The ”White Summer,” ”Black Mountainside” and “Kashmir” medley sometimes is the source of musical disaster but goes off without a hitch and sounds massive in this recording.

There are some problems with the drum-kit before “Over The Top” and Plant has to keep spieling the audience until it’s fixed. Plant calls the drummer “the man who fought against the elements. The man who fought food poisoning. The man who drinks Heineken. The man who doesn’t get out of bed. The man who hasn’t got a cymbal. The man who’s having a chat with his man who knows the man who tunes Jimmy’s guitar who comes from Scotland, and doesn’t know the man they call Tim, but does know Audrey from Dallas. Thank you. The man who now learns how to construct his own drum kit. The man who’s not very professional. The man who said he could go back to a building site, and we all agreed. The man who’s holding up the show. The rhinestone cowgirl. Come on Bonzo, get on with it. That’s what the Quaalude stagger is. The man who played the Los Angeles Aztecs and beat them 10-1 by himself. The man who one wonders is he worth waiting for, and doesn’t really realize there’s a curfew here. A childhood friend. A man who many people once said, never heard of him.”

Thankfully the drum solo is kept to below twenty minutes. It’s probably kept to a minimum because he was recovering from illness. It is, however, quite energetic, making up for the length with intensity. A surprise “Heartbreaker” is pulled out, probably to compensate, and is followed by Page’s guitar solo leading into “Achillies Last Stand.”

The show ends with Plant’s long thank you to the crew and friends before “Stairway To Heaven” and the short, two song encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock And Roll.” Sequence Of Events is in a basic jewel case with tour photos on the artwork. While the sound is good and packaging very nice, it’s hard to say who this might appeal to. Experienced collectors are sure to have multiple versions of Eddie, that this edition doesn’t have the cuts edited diminishes its appeal. San Diego sounds really nice and the Tarantura isn’t accessible to many collectors, but there are other titles out there with this tape.

Advertisements

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Sequence Of Events | , | Leave a comment

Art Of Noise Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise (1984)

CS1381900-02A-BIGFrom starling.rinet.ru

Well, normally, everybody’s afraid. But give it just one spin and you’ll understand that in reality the album title is much more ironic than its is “threatening”.

You could indeed argue that this was the first techno-pop album ever; you could actually win the argument, too, because this is no goddamn Kraftwerk here. Producer Trevor Horn, yes, the same Trevor Horn that was once a member of Yes, and his gang o’ three weird production/engineering/mixing goons, with Anne Dudley at the top, set out to revolutionize popular music with this puppy… again. And pretty much succeed. Now I’m no expert on electronica-based genres of the Nineties, but I know for sure that techno, trance, house, you name it, they all owe a lot to this album; and I certainly know for sure that these guys were ahead of their time at least a good five or six years or so.

In fact, I wonder what kind of things shocked reviewers were writing about it at the time. See, this is by far the first, or the first well-known, album, that actually introduces the practice of sampling; and by sampling I don’t mean merely ‘cut-and-paste’ kind of things which Can were doing a decade earlier, but more like sampling in the modern sense of the word. Just the most simple example: the one-minute ‘Snapshot’ builds up a cyclic pattern of drum machines, synth loops and croakings around the famous three-note piano riff of ‘Baba O’Riley’. Simple and effective, actually fun, too, and as far as I know – unprecedented.

Apart from that, I guess the best way to describe Who’s Afraid would be “sound collage”, but unlike, for instance, the underground industrial bands of the time, Art Of Noise were definitely trying to mold their collages into rhythmic, almost danceable grooves. Heck, what’s up with “almost”? They are danceable! ‘Beatbox’, although in a somewhat different version, was, like, the ultimate break dance soundtrack of its time!

This is why they proved so “influential”, with tons of techno and trance performers ripping out the weirdness and imagination of this music and leaving just the rhythmic punch. Ah well, we can’t blame them for all the techno crap they’ve launched upon this world anyway, or else we’d have to blame the Beatles for Barry Manilow or something.

In any case, I can’t say that deep down in my soul, I like this album all that much. I’m not saying it has no emotional or entertainment value – it’s just way too weird and convention-disturbing and jerky for its own good. However, and this is very important, neither does it fall into that category of records which I perceive as “museum quality” (i.e. listen to it once or twice to get a unique, curious experience, then shove ’em somewhere deep in the cupboard so that you can forget all about ’em, then maybe rediscover them ten years later and get the same experience again). For the simple reason that I seriously had the urge to relisten to at least parts of it at least several times, and lemme tellya, this never happened with any Faust or Einstuerzende Neubauten record.

Weird, because the only more or less ‘normal’ song on it happens to be the ten-minute long opus ‘Moments In Love’, and ironically, it’s also by far the worst number: unlike all the other grooves, which are energetic and disturbing, ‘Moments In Love’ is supposed to be a slow moody romantic ‘electronic shuffle’, with no unpredictable melody/mood transitions, no sampling, no crazyass vocal effects, just a few New Age-style synth chords actually played throughout its duration.

For two or three minutes, I could reasonably tolerate it; five minutes would be justified if two of them were dedicated to that ‘different’ mid-section; but ten minutes of it is boring as hell. And it just sticks out like a sore thumb – not really innovative either. Maybe they just really wanted a “normal” composition in there so that people wouldn’t be put off that much, but why stick it in the middle then? Don’t get me wrong – the basic premise is beautiful, but ten minutes? Nah.

In any case, if a guy is gonna be put off by this record, he’s gonna be put off beginning with the first two or three minutes. ‘A Time For Fear (Who’s Afraid)’ opens the proceedings with a strange spoken anti-imperialist rant, then a raving onslaught of echoing drum machines that sometimes go into unpredictable loops together with the accompanying bits of said rant, then calms down with a short synth-only New Age-meets-medieval interlude, then the drum machines kick in again. Then, with a funny ‘oh no I don’t believe it… ba ba ba bam’ the record leads you into ‘Beat Box’, which is… nup, I guess it’s impossible to describe it. Sometimes you be gettin’ a funny funky bassline. Then suddenly the bassline is no more, and instead you get a poppy guitar riff, and then that bassline pops up somewhere from another direction and it’s all speedy and apparently computer processed and looped and whatever, and all around you you get swirling dancey synth patterns and vocals coming from every direction saying all kinds of jumbled nonsense.

Very often, you’re going to encounter the same melody bits and the same vocal bits in different songs; it’s all like an insane potpourri, a big piece o’ pie chopped into several pieces and scattered randomly throughout the forty minutes. I swear I did hear these looped car-ignition noises in several numbers at least, although, of course, they’re mostly prominent as the rhythm-substituting elements of the single ‘Close (To The Edit)’, arguably the best known song on the album. (And I do guess that the Yes reference is intentional, seeing as how there was Trevor Horn producing this thing, plus they actually pronounce ‘to be in England, in the summertime, with my love, close to the edge’ at one point). And if you listen very carefully, you’ll notice that the bassline driving the song forward is actually a slightly modified rockabilly kind of thing. But it meshes with the ignition rhythm perfectly.

One thing that people usually forget to mention about Who’s Afraid is how fun it all sounds. You probably wouldn’t expect a bunch of samples to beg for a description involving the words “lively”, “joyful”, “enthusiastic”, “childishly hilarious”, etc., but these are exactly the definitions that spring to mind. It is all perhaps best symbolized by Dudley’s unabashed, refreshingly sincere fit of laughter at the end of the title track – and the echoey ‘Boom!’ she yells into the microphone like a little kid who’s so innocently happy about just having discovered a supercool gadget and being able to mess around with it. I mean, the things they’re doing aren’t all that different from whatever you the cool (or, rather, the uncool) weird experimental guy are doing sitting all alone in the dark with your computer and a bunch of .wav files, dicking around trying to make something unusual. They just happened to be the first people to really gain notoriety with this – and also, to do this better than most other people.

I’m not going into details over the remaining tracks – they’re all pretty similar, with recurring themes and lookalike atmospheres. But anyway, this is certainly an outstanding record, and it actually symbolized a time when people were taking the practices of sampling and computer processing and trying to create a whole new musical world, a whole new sonic dimension, a whole new emotional pattern, mayhaps, with it. I guess in the end, they didn’t succeed – boring dance people just took over the easiest of their achievements and discarded the major ones.

But that doesn’t mean these records aren’t worth your attention; after all, just because hippies did not manage to bring peace and love to the whole world does not mean you can’t enjoy Crosby, Stills, & Nash even in the modern day world.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Art Of Noise Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise | | Leave a comment

The Mahavishnu Orchestra Birds Of Fire (1972)

BirdsofFiremahavishnuFrom popmatters.com

After appearing on Miles Davis’ landmark opus Bitches Brew, the 30-year-old British-born guitar wizard known as Mahavishnu John McLaughlin birthed his own band and christened it The Mahavishnu Orchestra. His quintet featured virtuoso instrumentalists, each hailing from a different country, each applying his uniquely flavored and unquestionable means towards an end of jazz-fusion nirvana.

Birds of Fire, the band’s sophomore effort and gong-heralded opening track knocked the crap out of everyone daring enough to turn on to it in 1973.

How much has the world changed since then? Forget the muttonchops and flared pants legs, they’re more than likely on the way back in these days, this album actually charted in a big way. Come on folks, we’re talking about daring (with a capital D) music making a large noise on the Billboard album chart. You don’t think that’s strange? A quick peek at the current top 50 albums will make your head spin. Check it for yourself, Billboard.com, but have your Dramamine handy and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In 1973, this ultra challenging hard rock/jazz fusion exploration began an 11-week stay on the Billboard chart and fully ripened at number 15. Today’s number 15 album? That would be Shaggy’s Hotshot. Glad you took the Dramamine now?

Okay. The times were different. The early ‘70s were ushering in an era of arena rock and the audiences were ripe for a group of virtuosos able to take stage and whim out a multitude of breath taking musical influences often at sound barrier threatening volumes. Exactly why this isn’t appreciated now is beyond me.

Oh yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “He grew up in the ‘70s, this was HIS music and now he’s trying to force it on us because he’s either unwilling or unable to adapt to the changes of the field he professes to be fairly coherent in.” To which I reply: “Uh, have you listened to Shaggy?” Actually, you’d be wrong. I came of age in a magical era baby, when a young man could ride a giddy hook, a Flock of Seagulls hairdo and a 35 dollar Casio keyboard into the top 40. The 1980s.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra is hell and gone from ‘80s goof. This was a group of players who were masters of their prospective instruments. Right, now you’re thinking: “This is music to be appreciated more so than listened to. The only people deriving pleasure from this album are the theory dipped music geeks capable of hearing their microwave’s done signal and telling you what key it’s in.”

Okay, it’s fairly complicated stuff; I’ll let you have that one. Still, we’re talking about a band with an electric pulse and a heart with at least two of its four chambers pumping blood of the rock and roll variety. This will appeal to anyone eager to open their mind and expand their musical horizons.

Twenty seven years later this digitally remastered album is as vibrant and demanding as ever. John’s playing, be it Teddy Bear tender or perilously abrasive, fits nicely amidst the controlled den created by Billy Cobham’s assault on the skins and Jan Hammer’s synthesized acrobatics. Jerry Goodman’s violin provides a bit of a Dixie Dregs type vibe at times, while the slower tempo ditties offer more than a morsel of a Bela Fleck and the Flecktones type feel. Still, both those bands are alive and kicking out great music that’s all but going unnoticed by the general music consumer.

I suppose the only mega-popular band around today that somewhat incorporates the fusion aesthetic into its art is the Dave Matthews Band. So let’s put it this way: Mahavishnu was a peyote fueled Dave Matthews Band, sans vocals, with 20 times the talent and influences plus a baddass seventies tube-amp swagger.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | The Mahavishnu Orchestra Birds Of Fire | | Leave a comment

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972)

04From sfloman.com

Returning to a harder edged rock sound, this futuristic concept album about an androgynous alien rock star was the ultimate glam rock album, as well as an incisive critique of pop stardom.

It was also the album that broke Bowie big, at least in the U.K (it took him a bit longer to break through in the U.S.). After all, the glittery stage persona of the flaming haired Ziggy Stardust made for great rock n’ roll theater – remember the confusion caused when Bowie “retired” Ziggy? – and, more importantly, this album contains some truly great rock ‘n roll songs.

Included among those are the unforgettable riffs and strange yet catchy chorus of the title track, and the relentlessly surging rock drive and hilarious lyrics of “Suffragette City,” the album’s two most famous songs, at least in the U.S. where both still make the regular rounds on classic rock radio.

In addition, the hard rocking “Moonage Daydream” features some killer Mick Ronson guitar and otherworldly atmospherics, while the wide-eyed wonder of “Starman” (a U.K. top 10 hit) is a catchy, evocative, and dramatic space ballad a la “Life On Mars?”

Also notable are the lushly orchestrated chants of “Five Years,” which brilliantly harks towards Armageddon (and which bears a resemblance to the Moody Blues’ “Go Now”), the lovely, melancholic piano ballad “Lady Stardust” (the “lady” in question being glam friend/rival Marc Bolan; all together now: “he was alright…”), the slinky groover “Hang On To Yourself” (which always makes me wanna move), and “Rock n’ Roll Suicide,” the dramatic, theatrical finale which ends the album as perfectly as “Five Years” had started it.

Even the lesser tracks, such as “Soul Love,” with its overly accented soulful pop vocals, and the upbeat if comparatively generic rocker “Star,” are enjoyable if not quite as necessary, as is the Ron Davies cover “It Ain’t Easy;” I know that I always sing along to its big chorus in any event.

Sure, there are some dated elements to the album’s early ’70s sound, but Ronson’s razor-sharp guitar playing and Bowie’s passionate if reedy vocals ensure that this sci-fi extravaganza delivers a one-of-a-kind experience. Hell, even the evocative album cover is legendary, and all these years later Ziggy Stardust remains both Bowie’s most beloved and flat-out best creation.

Note: The overtly gay single “John I’m Only Dancing” (another big U.K. hit that wasn’t released in the U.S. until many years later due to its risqué lyrics) and “Velvet Goldmine” (later the title of a major motion picture about the good old glam days) are essential bonus tracks on the reissue.

Note #2: During this time Bowie also made major contributions to the careers of Lou Reed and Mott The Hoople, producing Transformer and All The Young Dudes, respectively. Bowie also wrote the classic “All The Young Dudes” for Mott.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | David Bowie Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars | | Leave a comment

The Incredible String Band The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968)

album16From starling.rinet.ru

In 1969, a guy who sometimes goes under the Dutch name Don Van Vliet and sometimes under the gastronomic name of Captain Beefheart took blues and jazz music and said: “Let’s see what happens if we take this music and play it the wrong way.”

The result was an album that, up to this day, neatly separates the world’s musically knowledgeable population into the section which insists that music should be played right and should not be played wrong, and the section which maintains that music can be played wrong, and the more you play it wrong, the more it will seem to you to have been right in the first place. In other words, the Dutch Captain was an experienced troublemaker. That much is known.

What is known to a somewhat lesser extent is that exactly one year and a half before the trouble with the Captain, the exact same move had been performed by the Incredible String Band – only the intended target was folk music rather than the blues.

By 1968, the duo of Williamson and Heron, although still firmly rooted in traditional Anglo-Saxon musical forms, had popped in so much Eastern influence and so many tablets of acid that nothing could come out of these deranged minds if not some of the most deranged music ever captured on tape. He who thinks something like The Piper At The Gates of Dawn represents the ultimate in mid-Sixties psychedelic wackiness is bound to have another think coming.

In comparison with the ISB’s 1968 contribution to the ears of the world, Syd Barrett, with a few minor exceptions (all belonging to his solo career rather than the Floyd era) will look like Neil fuckin’ Diamond – and this considering that Williamson and Heron never intended to use even a tenth part of all the studio gadgetry that Floyd had at their disposition, achieving their goals with nothing but a bunch of traditional folk/Eastern instruments and two pairs of some of the most bizarrely tuned vocal cords to be ever jammed between the larynx and pharynx of a vocalist.

Actually, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter is pretty normal… for the first fifteen seconds of its duration. The guitar strums out a fairly ordinary rhythm, and Williamson coos out what seems to be a fairly pretty folkish melody. ‘The natural cards revolve, ever changing… [click 15 seconds click] ….seeded elsewhere planted in the ga-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-rden fair… gro-o-o-o-ow tree-e-es! gro-o-o-o-ow trees!’ At this moment ‘Koeeoaddi There’ [original spelling preserved] lifts off the ground, and there’s no turning back.

At no single moment are you able to predict whatever is going to happen at the “single moment plus one” point. It’s not like the conception of verse and chorus has been completely abandoned, nor do they always turn away from the idea of repetition of instrumental and vocal themes. But repetition and choruses are treated on par with lack thereof – it doesn’t seem to matter much to these guys if they do repeat something or not, it sort of depends on the vibe they’re getting.

Likewise, there can be occasional hooks on here, in the traditional sense, that is. Sometimes. Most of the time, though, the album reads like a long, sprawling jam session, conducted by a pair of completely stoned loonies, sitting on the cold floor of the studio late at night and capturing whatever comes into their heads on tape. However, that’s also the impression one gets from the music of Beefheart, and one’s attitude towards the music often changes upon learning that it was indeed the intended impression, but in reality all of the tunes were meticulously composed and thoroughly rehearsed prior to the recording process. I certainly suspect the same style of work for the Incredible String Band.

As a result, either this music just completely evades description or you can write shitloads of formalistic musicological stuff trying to define its capacities and limitations and still be brought back full circle to where you started. Because essentially, this is some insane, chaotic shit out there. We must be thankful to the guys, though, that they are gradually welcoming us to this world – the album gets progressively weirder and whackier as things go by. On Side A, what you have to get used to is deconstruction – of everything from medieval ballads to artsy epics to traditional lullabies to Dylan-like pseudo-folk to Gilbert & Sullivan.

As long as you’re able to abide by the idea that “song structure” and “memorability” are two terms that should be kept far, far away from this review, everything is fine. However, on Side B the whacked pair brings in their large pack of Eastern influences, and screws them together with medieval and Celtic elements in a package that really threatens to explode your ears, with both Heron and Williamson reveling in dissonant singing, half-mantras, half-dying dog last howls. (‘Swift As The Wind’, in particular, was the last straw for my family, after which I had to switch to earphones – and I have to admire their tolerance on behalf of everything that came before that).

Lyrically, this stuff sometimes makes strangely more sense than I expected it to – the above-mentioned ‘Swift As The Wind’, in particular, is easy to decipher, telling the story about a child’s half-paradise, half-nightmare visions of the Divine and his parents’ scoffing him for having too much of an imagination. (Considering the imagination displayed by these guys, I’ll be darned if the song isn’t autobiographical).

‘Mercy I Cry City’ supposedly has to be taken as a lament for the urban life killing the freshness of nature – a topic reminiscent of the Kinks but dressed in words and music completely unimaginable for the non-pot-smoking Ray Davies. But in general, of course, the lyrics aren’t supposed to be given much thought, unlike the actual singing, of course.

Considering that I have already assigned the album as a whole a pretty high rating, I am now justified in retracing my steps a little and bestowing the best song title onto the album’s most “normal” number – the almost operetta-style, martial-rhythm-enhanced ‘Minotaur Song’. Sure, it’s the catchiest thing on the album, but there are reasons beyond that, too. The minotaur imagery has always fascinated me, and the duo’s take on this mythological motif is suitably weird, hilarious, and unique.

How can we, in fact, find a better description for the creature than ‘I’m the original discriminating buffalo man/And I’ll do what’s wrong as long as I can’? And it’s definitely the first time I’ve heard of a minotaur who ‘can’t dream well because of his horns’, but then again, if you think about it a long time, that does start to make a little sense, doesn’t it? Love the concept, love the song.

The album’s two lengthy, sprawling centerpieces belong respectively to Heron and Williamson and illustrate quite well the basic differences between the two. Heron, as the somewhat more ‘normal’ of the two, basically makes ‘A Very Cellular Song’ into a celebration of the abilities of traditional folk music, sewing together a series of fragments even including one which he did not write himself – ‘We Bid You Goodnight’, a short spiritual which you might be familiar with if you’ve ever attended a Grateful Dead performance or heard one of their many live albums. You never know which corner of the genre he might turn to during the next moment, of course, but, apart from maybe the ‘amoebas are very small’ section, the bits and pieces are all familiar.

Not so with Williamson. ‘Three Is A Green Crown’ pushes the envelope as far as possible. Think a ‘Within You Without You’, I suppose, only twice as long; with lyrics even more convoluted, looking like something you can either hear from the lips of a non-commercial guru or a non-recoverable schizophrenic; and with more pitch changes midway through each recited vowel than George Harrison ever had in his entire career.

This is a manner of singing that is produced by a combination of the oldest, darkest European folklore and the most exquisite Eastern vocalizing techniques – but in some ways, it is more radical than both, and really stands on the verge of being “anti-musical”. Brace yourself, then, and keep those earplugs handy – if not for yourself, then almost certainly for your neighbours. And if you have pets, think about temporarily consigning them to your best friend’s custody.

Do I really like this stuff? Is it likeable at all or do you really have to be in a very certain state of mind to like it? (Not surprisingly, the very first review of this album I’ve ever read – on Amazon.com – began with something like ‘I first heard the Incredible String Band while being with my wife on a tour of the sites with the highest registered level of paranormal activity…’). The first question is more simple to answer: no, I don’t really like it, except for a couple of the more accessible numbers, although I certainly respect the effort and think it even more worthwhile than Beefheart’s. The second, though, is a tough son of a bitch.

I can really see myself liking it – provided I take a couple dozen more listens, memorize all the lyrics, and actually start remembering which of the tracks have sitars and which ones do not. The main reason, I think, is that The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter really packs some serious emotional impact – these guys, Williamson in particular, have a vision, and they’re delightfully and sincerely praising the stuff they see, honestly hoping that the listeners will see it as well.

Upon careful consideration, however, I suppose I shall leave things as they are, for practical reasons. The person at whose side Beautiful Daughter has occupied the former place of more “accessible” music will from then on live in serious danger of seeing all the “accessible” music next to it the way we Beatles-and-R.E.M. lovers see Christina Aguilera next to our “table music”.

Such a person might end up seeing the world in different colours, wearing green-and-purple ties to work, and spending all his time bombarding movie companies with requests to release the entire Sam Fuller collection on DVD – in other words, effectively ruin what little bits of a “real life” he might still possess. So me, I prefer to continue regarding the Incredible String Band’s third album as an odd historical curiosity, useful for opening your mind but harmful for opening your heart.

That said, everybody who considers himself, to a small degree at least, interested in the impact of the Sixties, absolutely must hear this at least once.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | The Incredible String Band The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter | | Leave a comment

Rush Moving Pictures (1981)

Rush-Moving-Pictures-Vinyl-AlbumFrom starling.rinet.ru

Heh heh. We’re through with the radio (Permanent Waves), now’s the time to handle some cinema (Moving Pictures). 20th century rocks, baby.

Now the nagging question every Rush fan would like to ask me is: why the hell do I trace this huge difference in quality between Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures? There are several reasons, all of which combine to make this 1981 album a real highlight in the Rush catalog.

First reason: the guys have finally learned to master the synthesizers. There’s much more keyboard work here than before; it is better incorporated into the mix, so that the synths feel like partners rather like, uh, roadies or something; and at the same time, they never sound cheesy or overwhelming. So Moving Pictures manage to get a modernistic look without actually sounding dated twenty years on, and at the same time the sound is made less monotonous than on Waves.

Second reason – this album, apart from maybe ‘Red Barchetta’ which is almost as obnoxious lyrically as that radio promotion was a year before (err, Neil, it doesn’t matter how many epithets and romantic allegories you cram into your lines, this band was not designed to continue the line of ‘409’ and ‘Little Honda’), has easily the best lyrics of the entire Rush career.

Every now and then, you still fall upon a line that seems directly taken from a manual on psychoanalytics (like the ‘everybody got to deviate from the norm!’ chorus of ‘Vital Signs’), and the ‘all the world’s indeed a stage’ line in ‘Limelight’ may seem icky when you’re in a particularly sarcastic mood, but there are actually songs that conceal their messages through cleverly selected analogies (‘Tom Sawyer’, ‘Witch Hunt’), make good use of parallelisms (‘Camera Eye’) or have no lyrics at all, heh heh (‘YYZ’).

But, of course, the best thing is that the songs are simply better. ‘Red Barchetta’ may be dumb lyrically, but the main riff of the tune, which sounds like it was copied from Led Zeppelin’s ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and then worked on and improved, can’t be beat! Don’t tell me it doesn’t prompt you to get out your air guitars or madly tap your foot.

There’s some goddamn energy, which seemed so lacking on Permanent Waves, and even some unfaked excitement… heck, maybe these guys were into simple automotive joys, after all. But even better is the instrumental ‘YYZ’, where Lifeson unleashes his full power in a series of crunchy, fast-flowing, and inventive riffs – the wonderful thing is how he picks upon all the styles imaginable, from dissonant New Wave to basic hard rock to free-form jazz to fusion to even straight ahead funk (check the maniac chuggin’ at the end of the second minute, for instance), plus there’s a weird Eastern-flavoured solo for a dozen seconds or so.

And Geddy and Neil shine on the tune as well, although they’re more supportive of the guitar here than showing off their individual skills (in concert, though, ‘YYZ’ would become a vehicle for Neil’s…. uh… drum solo. Looord!).

The other two songs on the first side are excellent, thus combining to make arguably the best album side in Rush history. ‘Tom Sawyer”s lyrics have a mystical tinge to them, and this is perfectly translated to the music, with a good power chord/sci-fi synth interplay and a couple catchy vocal melodies to boot. And ‘Limelight’ is the best power-pop number Rush ever did; here, Mr Geddy is the main hero, weaving his voice around the guitar lines in a particularly friendly and romantic manner.

It’s really uncanny how a well-placed vocal note can turn a potentially mediocre song into a highlight – but this is exactly how the charm of the ‘living in the limelight, the universal dream, for those who wish to seem…’ appears to me. Unless you’re one of those smelly metal fans who are certain the Beach Boys used to sing that way due to an injured manlihood, ‘Limelight’ can certainly demonstrate how Geddy Lee is actually a very good singer who knows that proper modulation is the proper key to success. (Too bad he forgets that so goddamn often).

Unfortunately, the second side can’t really sustain the success of the first one, because the lads couldn’t resist the temptation of having an epic. ‘The Camera Eye’ is eleven minutes long and eleven minutes boring. The riffs don’t stick in my head, the singing lacks catchiness, the lyrical thematics is all right but the song just never goes anywhere in particular.

Only a brief solo from Lifeson in the end brings some refreshment, but essentially this is just a waste of time – same “loud meaningless riff” approach as on much of Permanent Waves, lacking either the mystical tinge of ‘Tom Sawyer’ or the rough metallic punch of ‘Barchetta’ or the diversity and technical wizardry of ‘YYZ’.

A star off for that one – thankfully, the tension is then restored for ‘Witch Hunt’, which concentrates on building up a monstrous, menacing atmosphere, and does that all right, with a no-holds-barred metal riff from Alex and Geddy spooking you as best as he can (which isn’t really that good, but at least it’s fun). And ‘Vital Signs’ shows vital signs, indeed, namely, that Rush have certainly been spending time absorbing the New Wave sound – Lifeson plays some reggae licks on here that he probably copped from the Clash or Andy Summers.

Not a great song, but a decently constructed one if you disregard the ‘everybody got to deviate from the norm!’ chorus. Er, I like deviating from the norm, but got to? Geez, what a fascistic approach. Maybe I want to conform, is that a problem with you, Mr Peart? You freedom-of-choice-lovin’ no-goodnik!

All in all in all in all, a cool album somewhat marred by the inconsistency of the second side, but still, it’s one of those rare cases when Rush manage to lift the lid off their cauldron of mediocrity and for a brief shining moment combine pop, prog, metal, and New Wave elements in an exciting synthesis. That’s what everybody usually says about Permanent Waves, but there’s so few actual pop and New Wave elements on that record I really don’t understand that approach. This record, all right. I gotcha, Mr General Critical Opinion.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Rush Moving Pictures | | Leave a comment

Aerosmith Toys In The Attic (1975)

aerosmith-12-lFrom starling.rinet.ru

I have definitely softened towards Aerosmith over a certain period of time, so it came as a little surprise that upon relistening to Toys In The Attic since having last proclaimed it to be the highest point this band ever had the hope of reaching, I no longer felt it to be that way.

But nevertheless, there is still a great big gap between Toys and whatever preceded it – by their thid release, Aerosmith really sounded like a band intent of occupying first place in something at least, even if that ‘something’ be the musical equivalent of jacking off to a copy of your local porn magazine in the bathroom. (Hey, not that there’s anything sexually unhealthy about that!). And Toys In The Attic finally qualifies.

Not that it’s just a “naughty schoolboy” kind of record; it also improves drastically in the darkness department, pushing into Zeppelin territory a bit and certainly – by now – edging the Stones off the turf. Were I in a particularly lofty disposition, I probably could have tried to hang the “visionary” tag on Aerosmith at the time: there’s certainly quite a bit of artistic pretense on the album, and some of it actually works, making Toys In The Attic the one Aerosmith album that’s the least likely to make you cringe.

The big difference is, in fact, obvious from the very first seconds of the album: with no signs of an intro and no hints at any kind of build-up, the title track attacks you instantaneously with almost punkish rage, drive, anger, and above all, a thing we hadn’t seen from these guys yet – masterful precision, as Joe Perry hammers out the caveman riff in an almost AC/DC-esque robotic manner.

Tyler’s vocals, though, are naturally more reminiscent of Jagger’s than Bon Scott’s, and this helps add a real sense of danger, loneliness and desperation to this lament for all your long lost years, all culminating in the masterful gloomy refrain – ‘toys, toys, toys… in the attic toys, toys, toys…’. Fast, utterly convincing, Goth-coloured nostalgia? Heck, why not take it, along with the classic guitar solo.

‘Toys In The Attic’ is an undeniable classic and one of this band’s best moments, but the honour of “best song”, after consideration, still goes to ‘Walk This Way’, and it’d be the exact same way even if I weren’t aware of the “rejuvenated” hit version that helped Run-D.M.C. establish the long-awaited bridge between rock and rap and so on and so on (and for a long time I have not been aware of it indeed).

Fact is, ‘Walk This Way’ is simply Aerosmith’s brief shining moment of genius. Even a bad band, let alone a passably competent one like these guys, can occasionally tap into something mysterious and sacral, and that’s what the main riff of ‘Walk This Way’ is – mysterious and sacral, in the vaginal sense of both words, of course.

It’s almost unbelievable how a band that was so firmly stuck in routine blues-rock could suddenly crank out something that funky, that raw, that groovy, but it happened, and turning back to Run-D.M.C., their choice of ‘Walk This Way’ as the white-guy song to cover was perfectly understandable. If there’s one song Mick Jagger and Co. could envy their followers, it’s this one.

The record never really lives up to the punch of these two undeniable classics, but truth is, it rarely lets the listener down either. The BIG plus is that it mostly spares you the necessity of engulfing the formerly obligatory power ballad or two. Well, there is one, to be frank – it’s the closing number ‘You See Me Crying’, yet it ain’t even a power ballad in the true sense of the word. It doesn’t actually try to be heavy, instead relying on simple piano and massive orchestration.

Naturally, I don’t like it much: as I like to reiterate, Steven Tyler’s emotions affect me about as much as the speeches of Slobodan Milosewicz, and essentially he is just copping the style of Plant (or Jagger in songs such as ‘Moonlight Mile’) without any positive results. But it’s the last song and it’s at least seriously melodic, with a hint at creativity, unlike whatever followed years later in the same style.

Yet I far prefer ‘Uncle Salty’, which has far less lyrical and vocal bathos – a laid-back countryish rocker spiced with a bit of socio-psychological critique. Disregarding the fact that lines like ‘when she cried at night, went insane’ are defyingly ungrammatical, let’s just notice that generally the lyrical matter hits hard, and the song produces an overall creepy effect. (Dig the ‘ooh it’s a sunny day outside my window’ intermission – that line is almost steeped in mid-Sixties garage psychedelia and thus contrasts rather ironically with the ‘went insane’ part.

Well, thank God Aerosmith do have a sense of irony, even if it’s a kinkily twisted one). ‘Adam’s Apple’ is this band’s exercise in popular theology, as Tyler’s lyrics leave little doubt about what exactly is the “apple” a metaphor of – too bad the main melody feels so ordinary and pedestrian next to the truly inspired riffs of the two big ones. ‘Big Ten Inch Record’, then, is a sly little retro rocker, almost a tribute to Gene Vincent and the like, with even more sleazy, but hilarious analogies and wordgames for your pleasure; I particularly like how the verses work if you treat them separately, without the chorus (‘whip out your big ten inch!’) and how they work differently when viewed in sequence (‘whip out your big ten inch… record of a band that plays those blues…’). And is it just me, or does Tyler intentionally pronounce ‘except for my big ten inch…’ like ‘suck on my big ten inch’? Huh huh. What a punk. Ho ho. Funny!

It’s not one hundred percent true, but the second side of the LP is primarily “Dark” where the first side of it was primarily “Raunchy”, with most of the heavily produced, thickly-instrumentated, psychically disturbing numbers collected in one tight heap. ‘Sweet Emotion’, arguably the third best known song off the album, is cleverly underpinned by the synth-processed “talkbox” guitar style (the same that was earlier used by Ten Years After on Watt and later used by David Gilmour for ‘Pigs’ and by Peter Frampton on every number that he wanted to make a hit of) and manages to be funky (verse riff), metallic (main riff), psychedelic (‘swe-e-e-et emo-o-o-o-tion!’ – am I alone in hearing echoes of the Stones’ ‘Child Of The Moon’ on here?), and bluesy (the solo) at once, and ‘Round And Round’ is one of the band’s heaviest and grittiest tunes.

It’s not that strong melodically, but it’s pretty convincing in its mighty drive. Almost like a Sabbath song with a cockier vocalist, except that Iommi would probably bother to come up with a more intricate riff. Then again – maybe by 1975 he wouldn’t necessarily come up with a more intricate riff.

Basically, I don’t need to tell you that this is the Aerosmith record to buy if you only buy one, as everybody around will tell you the same. Rocks may be more consistent overall, but nobody’s record collection is perfect without ‘Toys In The Attic’ and ‘Walk This Way’ in it, and since Aerosmith hit collections without ‘Crazy’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ on them are presumably rare to come by in these unhappy days of ours, the choice is pretty clear cut.

As far as “general critical opinion” goes, I think that Toys In The Attic is overrated, mainly due to the fact that in 1975, Aerosmith’s brand of hard rock had little competition in the States (errr… Grand Funk Railroad? Nah, didn’t think so), which pretty much is bound to streamline any particular school of thought. But hey, maybe it ain’t a classic, but it’s a darn fine chunk of a hard rock record. Just a, you know, big ten inch record of a band that plays those blues. So whip it out and suck on it.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Aerosmith Toys In The Attic | | Leave a comment

Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon by Tony Fletcher (1998)

9781844498079From amazon.com

“Dear Boy” is many kinds of a book. Whilst it is of course a rock biography, it is also by turns a comedy, a romance, psychoanalysis and probably most of all, a tragedy.

Since first hearing the Who as a Mod in the 1980s during the death of the youth cult’s revival that began in 1979, I have been fascinated with the life of the band that have been important for so many followers of music, mod and rocker alike. “Dear Boy” is the greatest insight into Keith – and in fact The Who – since Barnes’ “Before I Get Old”.

In “Dear Boy”, Fletcher begins with Keith’s childhood, where even then it was wondered if he suffered with some form of hyperactivity. Insights range from his life at home with his mild-mannered parents, divided from them by a curtain spanning the living-room behind which he played his drums; to his practical jokes on the streets which were the forerunner of some of his later, more famous antics.

The book follows his musical career from the Beachcombers (apparently the happiest time of his life) to The Who. It reveals the complex relationships he shared with the other band members. His practical joking he shared with John Entwistle (they bought a car together containing hidden speakers so they could alarm the public with their announcements), his destructiveness he shared with Pete Townshend (jointly responsible for the hotel smashing escapades but always happy to leave Keith with all the credit), and his see-saw relationship with Roger Daltrey, who was once almost thrown out of the band for beating Keith up whilst on tour.

But the true tragedy of his life is revealed through his friends and family. Keith, desperate to be wanted and loved, tried to be liked by everyone. As his fame grew so did his bizarre behaviour – fuelled by an increasing alcohol and drug habit – in an attempt to become even more popular. All the time however there was a frustrated and depressed man underneath it.

Plagued by the death of his one-time minder for which he held himself personally responsible, the break up of his first marriage and his addiction to mind-altering substances, Keith often tried many things to rid himself of his demons – from medication to drying-out clinics and even to an unusual form of exorcism.

Fletcher writes with a genuine love and sympathy for Keith, but also with boldness and honesty, refusing to shy away from the darker side of his nature, usually manifesting itself at home. No stone is left unturned (and no hotel, it seems, is left unsmashed) as he tries hard to get inside the mind of the world’s most famous drummer and to the root of his problems – in fact in my opinion trying harder than many of the quacks Keith asked help from during his life.

Fletcher adds an extra dimensions to the things commonly known. For example, I knew Keith had trashed hotels; but I had no idea of the scale of it, the sheer level of destruction that was caused. I’ve seen photos of Keith often dressed up as Hitler or a Jester – but I had no idea he would actually take on this persona, driving his family crazy by remaining in costume and in character for days on end.

It’s a huge book; however due to its well-written and easy style, it didn’t take me long to get through it. Very much recommended.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Book Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon by Tony Fletcher | , , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Final Cut (Knebworth, August 1979)

final_cut_fFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Knebworth Festival, Stevenage, England – August 11th, 1979

CD 1: (67:38) The Song Remains the Same, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Hot Dog, The Rain Song

CD 2: (50:45) White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Trampled Underfoot, Sick Again, Achilles Last Stand, guitar solo/ tympani solo, In the Evening

CD 3: (39:16) Stairway to Heaven, Rock & Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

Such was the belief in Led Zeppelin’s undiminished popularity that, when they booked their big UK come back for the Knebworth Festival in 1979, promoter Freddie Bannister took the unprecedented step in booking two concerts on consecutive weekends. Whereas the first Knebworth show drew an estimated 100,000 people, the second drew only 40,000 (some sources put the number as high as 80,000) and the idea backfired on the promoter.

Robert Plant in particular resented the almost universal criticism of the first weekend and his complaining during this show really spoils the mood. However, between the two Knebworth shows, this is arguable the more artisically satisfying.

It was the last of the four in 1979 and there are signs that the band were gaining more confidence. They were supported on this day by New Barbarians, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, The New Commander Cody Band, and Chas and Dave.

Many audience recordings exist of the event, but in late 1999 the Celebration label premiered this almost complete, excellent quality stereo soundboard recording on Final Cut. It was the label’s second release (after the Bonzo’s Birthday Presents soundboard fragment) and remains one of their best productions before they began to remasterd their tapes to death to produce utter garbage.

Celebration use an excellent audience recording for “White Summer” and Plant’s closing comments at the end of the show. There is such a dynamic timbre to the music and audience sounds that is unique to many soundboard recordings that, despite the re-releases, remains unsurpassed. The discs are housed in a fatboy jewel case with many photos of the event in a cardboard slip cover. The first edition is in gray and the second in brown, and both editions contain a four page insert and are limited edition.

Since Celebration’s release there have been several other releases of this tape. The earliest was Knebworth Festival (TCD-4-1,2) which tried to cut down on the lower frequencies. Jelly Roll made a comeback five years after their last release with Knebworth Festival 1979 (JR-32/33/34) with increased volume and the PA problems removed.

Empress Valley released Blind Date (EVSD-214-219) in 2002 and although the tape is complete, they “improve” the show by taking out the PA problems during “Over The Hills And Far Away.” It is also lacking in the lower end.

Watchtower issued Welcome To the 1979 Knebworth Festival, 11th Of August (Watchtower WT 2002094/95/96) soon after Empress Valley in both a seven disc boxset with the first Knebworth show and a bonus disc from Earls Court and individually in jewel cases.

After the opening songs Plant shows his bitterness at being slammed in the press after the first Knebworth show, saying, “Well, it didn’t rain, but it rained on us in the week from one or two sources, and we’re just gonna stick it right where it really belongs.” It is immediately obvious that the emotion and intensity of the first week is lacking.

“Over The Hills And Far Away” is ruined by a loud crackling in the PA system. Page in particular sounds distracted during the solo and stumbles into the second half. “What’s going on?” Plant asks. “It must be the samosas” he jokes but the noises persist through “Misty Mountain Hop” which, “apart from a load of crackling featured Jonesy on narcissistic keyboards.”

“No Quarter” is fifteen minutes long and includes a masterful duet between Jones and Page in the middle section where there seems to be some telepathy between them proving this is one of the greatest live vehicles written by Led Zeppelin and it is a shame this would be the final live version.

“Ten Years Gone” is dropped so Plant goes into the long introduction to the first new song of the set, saying, “In the neolithic caves in Peru they’ve been finding a lot of colored drawings on the walls, and along with the colored drawings they also found a new album cover. We’re managing to get the album out in about two weeks. As you’ve no doubt read the reviews, it’s tremendous. You can imagine. It’s called In Through the Out Door, which is one of the methods of entry that proves to be harder that one would originally expect. And this is one of the tracks from it. It’s called…and we dedicate this to the Texas road crew, and all the people to be found in the sleazy hangouts around there…it’s called Hot Dog.”

“The Rain Song” is very strong and the tape picks up Jones playing some pretty and unique bass-lines in the middle of the piece. The next portion of the set is occupied with some of their most adventurous songs of tours and journeys beginning with “White Summer.”

Whether the thematic link was intentional or not, but “Kashmir,” “Trampled Underfoot,” “Sick Again” and “Achilles Last Stand” all deal with motion and adventures in foreign lands in one way or another. They are performed well although “Sick Again” seems to puzzle the audience and “Achilles Last Stand” stumbles out of the gate and is generally sloppy.

Everyone seems tires after “In The Evening” as Plant introduces the final song of the main set, saying, “it comes to the time now when we really got to thank you for hanging about for four years you English folk. And you French people, for hanging about since ooh, I don’t know how long. I would like to thank everybody who’s come from everywhere to create part of the atmosphere that we’ve had. The other bands that we’ve had with us, Commander Cody. Good, good, good, good. Todd, Keith, and Ronny [Keith Richards and Ron Wood who opened for Zeppelin as the New Barbarians]. Peter Grant. Thanks everybody.”

A tired version of “Stairway To Heaven” is played before they come back for the encores. “Can you do the dinosaur rock?” Plant asks before “Rock And Roll.” The new arrangement of “Whole Lotta Love” is much more tight and vicious this evening and the final encore is a quick version of “Communication Breakdown.”

“It’s been great….We’ll see you very soon. Don’t know about the Marquee, but somewhere soon. See you later, bye” are Plant’s parting words. For an historical piece this is a great document to have of this show, warts and all.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Final Cut | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Cologne 1980 (June 1980)

zep_cologneFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Sporthalle, Cologne, Germany – June 18th, 1980

Disc 1 (55:15): Train Kept A Rollin’, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Black Dog, In The Evening, The Rain Song, Hot Dog, All My Love, Trampled Underfoot, Since I’ve Been Loving You

Disc 2 (47:50): Achillies Last Stand, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Stairway To Heaven, Rock And Roll, Communication Breakdown

The Cologne soundboard first surfaced in 1991 on Close Shave Part 1 (Flying Disc CD 6-801) and Close Shave Part 2 (Flying Disc CD 6-802) and Pure Nostulgia (NEP-005/6) on Neptune followed. Like almost all of the soundboards released in the late eighties and early nineties the speed was too fast. Tarantura included the encores on Blitzkrieg Over Europe(T3CD-5) released in 1994 which also includes Frankfurt, Nurnberg and fragments from Mannheim.

The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin released Cologne 1980 (TDOLZ Vol. 61), with the speed corrected and using the audience source to fix the gaps in “The Rain Song” from 6:14 to 7:17, in 4:24 to 6:13 in “Achillies Last Stand” and 9:20 ”Stairway To Heaven” and runs for four minutes until they come back onstage for the encores. The editing job between the two sources is rather sloppy and abrupt.

This tour has its critics who focus upon some of the sloppiness and stale playing. The only glaring mistakes are found in “Achillies Last Stand” where Bonham misses some cues, but there are more reasons to investigate this era than to ignore it. These are the few shows where In Through The Outdoor material was played live, especially “All My Love” (which I don’t think has ever surfaced again in either Page/ Plant or Plant’s solo outings).

But it is their reinterpretation of their material for the “new wave” era that is fascinating. John Paul Jones’ synthesizers replaced the mellotron and other various keyboards from previous years adds a more “contemporary” feel. Some of it doesn’t really work like in “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. But for “In The Evening” and “Kashmir” it works beautifully. “Trampled Underfoot” was also used for on stage experimentation with Page exploring different timbres in the solo.

It seems this track would have been one of their big new wave numbers had the band survived. They are careful in this show with only two simple encores, “Rock And Roll” and “Communication Breakdown”, but further shows will have some expanded, more experimental versions of “Whole Lotta Love” in the encore.

TDOLZ package Cologne 1980 in a single pocket cardboard sleeve utilizing the artwork from the old and very rare Japanese vinyl release Cologne (XL 1538/39/40). It is a good performance even though it’s only the second stop of the tour. This show is very enjoyable and the editing job might not be to everyone’s taste but is very well handled and makes this a title worth investigating.

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Cologne 1980 | , | Leave a comment