Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Earl’s Court Arena 2405 Evoluzione (May 1975)

scan0001From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Earl’s Court, London, England – May 24th, 1975

Disc 1 (59:15): Rock And Roll / Sick Again / Over The Hills And Far Away / In My Time Of Dying / The Song Remains The Same / The Rain Song / Kashmir

Disc 2 (51:45): No Quarter / Tangerine / Going To California / That’s The Way / Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp

Disc 3 (74:21): Trampled Underfoot / Moby Dick / Dazed And Confused

Disc 4 (33:41): Stairway To Heaven / Whole Lotta Love / Black Dog

Led Zeppelin’s May 24th, 1975 gig in Earl’s Court, the fourth of five shows in London that month, is one of the longest, tightest, and most dramatic concerts they performed in the latter days. Despite Clinton Heylin’s criticism that it is dull and tedious and features a very stoned Robert Plant wittering on about friend and family who have fallen by the wayside, it remains one of the best recordings of the band at the very height of their popularity.

Its popularity can be credited to its almost constant circulation since the night after the event.

A good quality audience tape was use for vinyl releases in the seventies, but a partial soundtrack to the video surfaced and was used for the compact disc releases. An almost complete soundboard was used in the Empress Valley box set Demand Unprecedented In The History Of Rock Music. They also released the show on its own, but soon after Watchtower issued a competing version of the show in improved sound quality.

Earl’s Court Arena 2405 Evoluzione was Empress Valley’s copy of the Watchtower, their attempt to have the definitive version. Since Watchtower have been inactive for the better part of a decade now, Empress Valley rules the roost for this show and own the best version available.

In July 2012 Empress Valley reissued several titles including this one in very affordable jewel cases and half way decent artwork. Thankfully they didn’t revisit their TMQ sleeve disaster of the past couple of years, but actually manufactured a title that is worth having. And it has a mega-cool picture on the cover. This is a good and affordable way to obtain the definitive version of this classic Led Zeppelin concert.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Earl’s Court Arena 2405 Evoluzione | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Alts & Takes LZ4 (LZ4, Houses Of The Holy, Physical Graffiti, 1971 – 1974)

lz4-pgFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

(78:14): Led Zeppelin IV: Black Dog (alternate mix), Battle Of Evermore (different vocals), Four Sticks (alternate mix), Four Sticks (alternate mix), When The Levee Breaks (alternate mix), When The Levee Breaks (different vocals) (Headley Grange, Hampshire, England – January to February, 1971). Houses Of The Holy: No Quarter (instrumental) (Electric Ladyland Studios, New York, NY – June, 1972). Physical Graffiti: Kashmir (instrumental), In The Light (alternate vocals), Trampled Underfoot (alternate mix 1), Trampled Underfoot (alternate mix 2), Custard Pie (alternate mix) (Headley Grange, Hampshire, England –January to February, 1974). The Wanton Song (FM broadcast)

The third of Boogie Mama’s three volume Led Zeppelin outtake compilation focuses upon the band’s mid career output from the four album to Physical Graffiti. Arguably the height of their compositional skill, they wrote some of their best and most interesting songs. Like the two other volumes there is no new material, but the sound quality and layout are exceptional and and worth having to those do not otherwise have this material.

Alternate studio takes of songs from the fourth album occupy the first half of the disc. The first track “Black Dog” is the same as the final version except John Bonham’s counting on his sticks is audible throughout the recording and the guitar solo is a bit longer. The following track “The Battle Of Evermore” contains a different recording that is found on the LP. Accompanied by the acoustic guitar and mandolin, Robert Plant sings alone without the aid of Sandy Denny. The lyrics are also quite different.

The first “Four Sticks” begins with Bonham drumming and complaining it sounds “too African.” The second is a pure instrumental take. The tracks for the fourth album end with two versions of “When The Levee Breaks.” The first alternate mix first surfaced on Empress Valley’s The Lost Mixes EP Vol. 1 (EVSD 89). “When The Levee Breaks” begins with inaudible studio chatter and the opening drums are missing, beginning with the first verse. Absent also is the second verse and some guitar overdubs. The bass and drums are louder than the final mix. The second alternate take comes from Akashic’s The Smithereens collection. There is less echo and there are some alterations in the lyrics.

The lone Houses Of The Holy era outtakes is an instrumental version of “No Quarter.”

The balance of the disc contains alternate versions of tracks from Physical Graffiti. “Kashmir” is a straight up instrumental run through of the commercial version. It’s followed by the alternate ”Elizabethan” arrangement of “In The Light.” The two “Trampled Under Foot” takes are different mixes of the final commercial version.

Afterwards is a mix of “Custard Pie” with a different harmonica solo at the end. (Boogie Mama erred in listing this as “The Wanton Song.”) The disc ends with the WPLJ recording of “The Wanton Song” which surfaced several years ago. Overall this is a very nicely assembled and handsomely produced title with interesting Led Zeppelin outtake material.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Alts & Takes LZ4 | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Alts & Takes LZI & LZ2 (LZ I & II Outtakes, 1968)

lz1-2From collectorsmusicreviews.com

(79:42): Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (take 8), Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (take 9), You Shook Me (take 1), Babe Come On Home (take 1), Babe Come On Home (take 2), Babe Come On Home (take 3) (Olympic Studios, London – September 20th to October 10th, 1968), What Is And What Should Never Be (instrumental), What Is And What Should Never Be (alternate take), Ramble On (instrumental), Ramble On (alternate take), Heartbreaker (instrumental), Heartbreaker (alternate take), Whole Lotta Love (instrumental), Whole Lotta Love (alternate take), Moby Dick (intro/outro), Moby Dick (solo only)

Atls & Takes LZI & LZ2 Boogie Mama is the first of three volumes of collected Led Zeppelin outtakes. As the title suggests, it presents some of the best outtakes from the first two albums released in 1969. The opening tracks date from Zeppelin’s very first recording sessions in October, 1968.

“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was the track which Jimmy Page and Robert Plant bonded on in their first face-to-face meeting at Page’s home. The final product sounds much more restrained than these two takes, with Plant singing his guts out. “You Shook Me” is the very first take according to the voice of engineer Glyn Johns. It lasts for almost eight minutes and cuts out at the very end.

There are three takes of “Tribute To Bert Burns”, which surfaced in 1993 as “Baby Come On Home.” This dates from the final day of recording.

The next section feature instrumental and alternate takes of “What Is And What Should Never Be,” “Ramble On,” “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love.” These surfaced earlier this year and are fascinating to listen to. They are in pristine sound quality and make this set worth having. The final tracks are the long circulating “Moby Dick.”

The sound quality for all the tracks is outstanding. Boogie Mama package the title in a digipack with glossy cardboard paper and early photographs including the amateur portraits taken of the band a week into their first tour as The New Yardbirds. The latter half of the disc with the newer tracks makes this one worth having.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Atls & Takes LZI & LZ2 | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Alts & Takes LZ III (LZ III Outtakes, 1969-1972)

LZ3From collectorsmusicreviews.com

(77:03): Celebration Day (instrumental), Hey Hey What Can I Do? (instrumental), Out On The Tiles (instrumental) (Olympic Studio, London, England – May to June, 1970), Jennings Farm Blues (takes 1 – 12) Olympic Studio, London, England – November 1969), Feel So Bad (Fixin’ To Die), Since I’ve Been Loving You (vocals only) (Olympic Studio, London, England – May to June, 1970), Poor Tom (instrumental) (Morgan Studio, Willeston, London, England – May 6th, 1970), Friends (Bombay rehearsals), Friends (Bombay vocal take 1), Friends (Bombay vocal take 2) (EMI Studios, Bombay, India – March 1972), Sugar Mama (Morgan Studio, Willeston, London, England – June 1969), Immigrant Song (rehearsals), Out On The Tiles (rehearsals), Bron-Y-Aur (rehearsals), Hey Hey What Can I Do? (rehearsals) (Headley Grange, Hampshire, England – May – June 1970)

Alts & Takes LZ III on Boogie Mama, the second of a three volume anthology of Led Zeppelin outtakes, focuses almost exclusively upon the third album. The band spent more time on this LP than the first two and more studio leftovers are in circulation as a result. The first three tracks are perfect studio instrumental recordings of “Celebration Day,” “Hey Hey What Can I Do?” and “Out On The Tiles.” Excpet for the lack of vocals, they are identical to the commercial recordings.

Following these three are the full twenty-five minute “Jennings Farm Blues” recordings. An electric guitar orchestra recorded in November 1969, this was scrapped and resurrected the following year as “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.” The sound quality is perfect and it’s fascinating hearing Page develop the piece until it goes nowhere.

Following “Jennings Farm Blues” is “Feel So Bad,” a medley of blues hits played by Page on a nervous sounding slide guitar and is part of the sessions for “Hats Off For (Roy) Harper” which closes the album and was recorded at Olympic studio. This is followed by the three minute vocal take of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” of which many collectors question its authenticity.

After the instrumental “Poor Tom,” Boogie Mama include the “Friends” sessions from Bombay in March 1972 and the Led Zeppelin II era outtake “Sugar Mama,” recorded in the summer 1969.

The final tracks are amateur demos from 1970. “Immigrant Song” and “Out On The Tiles” are full band rehearsals and bootlegs have always attributed them to the third album rehearsals in Headley Grange. However the sequence of events after the cottage is first a rehearsal session at Plant’s farm in Worcestershire. Afterwards they convened in Olympic Studio to record “Friends” and “Poor Tom” and afterwards continued rehearsals in Headley Grange. It is difficult to determine which set of rehearsals those two tracks date from, but if indeed all six tracks come from the same rehearsal then they were recorded at Plant’s farm.

The two full band electric rehearsals are fascinating to hear as the band work on them. ”Immigrant Song” contains the famous screeching and inaudible lyrics different from the viking saga the song developed into. The final studio version doesn’t have a guitar solo, but the rehearsal has one that is short and primitive.

“Out On The Tiles”, John Bonham’s song, has the basic melody and only the chorus present (“all I need from you / is all your love”). The final track on disc two is “Poor Tom”, Led Zeppelin’s interpretation of Robert Wilkins’ “Prodigal Son.” This was recorded on May 5th, 1970 and the version here is the same as what appears on Coda but in much worse quality and without lyrics.

The sound quality for all of the tracks is as good as possible. And although there is nothing new, it is a nice assembly of material in very nice packaging.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Alts & Takes LZ III | , | Leave a comment

My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman (2013)

Gregg-Allman_cross-to-bearFrom amazon.com

This memoir written by Allman with the help of Alan Light, takes in all the important periods and changes, both good and bad, in Allman’s life.

The many photographs (mostly b&w some color) are both interesting and add depth to Allman’s writing. The end papers are pretty cool too. Reading portions of this book brought back some good memories of seeing the ABB live, when both Duane Allman and Berry Oakley were alive. Once the band started a tune, they were an unstoppable juggernaut, capable of taking a song anywhere-and they did. They were a true band-everyone was an equal-and they played their a*#es off. I wish someone would collect all the tracks by the Allman Joys, Hourglass (both albums) and the 31/st of February, into one neat box set. That would be pretty cool.

The death of Gregg Allman’s brother, Duane, and it’s effect on Allman, runs all through this book. Basically, after writing about early family life (he doesn’t like to be called Gregg-rather Gregory) and their early bands, the story really begins in Los Angeles, after the brother’s bands Allman Joys (there’s a photograph of that band which is a good example of the intensity of Duane’s playing, at the head of Chapter Three) and the later Hourglass, has come apart, Allman learns that Duane is back in Florida, putting together (“Two drummers? Sounds like a train wreck”. G.A.) a band. Needing a songwriter/vocalist, Gregg hitchhikes back to Florida to meet, and subsequently jam with the boys. Something clicks, and soon Duane surprises Gregg with a new Hammond B3 organ-along with a few very fat “cigarettes”.

From that point Allman writes about their search for a band name (Gregg wanted Beelzebub), with the majority of the band settling on the Allman Brothers Band. Allman also writes about the band’s use of magic mushrooms (which is how a mushroom ended up as part of the band’s logo), and the ensuing jams that took place. In the early days the band would play anywhere and anytime, and Allman notes that they had a limited number of songs, so they began to stretch them out into long jams in order to fill out a set-much to people’s delight. In a short time the band began playing larger indoor venues and large festivals.

Allman describes the backstage/between concerts happenings, especially with the many available women-so many that their road manger would hand out lists of “consent of age” laws for each state to every band member. He also writes about the band’s continuing drug use-marijuana, mushrooms, cocaine, and heroin-and alcohol-among others. The brothers exploits with the Selective Service are interesting too. Luckily (for him) they lost Duane’s paperwork-so he didn’t “exist”, and Gregg took more drastic measures-which brought back memories of those times.

Some of the low points Allman writes about are the brothers growing up without their father (who was killed by a hitchhiker he picked up), the profound effect his brother Duane’s death had (and still has) on him, the stabbing/killing of a promoter by a band associate, and the difficulties of being away from home. But one of the major points is Allman’s testimony (for full immunity) against Scooter Herring, a friend who scored Allman’s drugs, which sent Herring to jail for 75 years (which he didn’t serve), and how his actions broke up the band. But he also writes that after Duane’s death (and Berry Oakley’s) the band was floundering, with no real direction, but the other band members saw Allman’s testimony against a “brother” too much to handle, and it shattered the band for a number of years.

A portion of the book is devoted to his meeting and marrying Cher. He writes about Cher giving him her phone number (while she was on a date with someone else), her need for attention, and her lack of vocal (“…if you don’t like it, f*#% you”. Cher) ability. Starting out producing a record for Cher, it soon became an album by the both of them (“That record sucked, man”. G.A.) under the moniker Allman and Woman-which was panned by almost everyone. And it’s nice (and telling) to hear Allman write about, and own up to that less than stellar recording. But differences in personality, and Allman’s continued drug use brought the marriage to an end in 1979.

Allman also writes candidly about his attempts to become drug free, and when he was finally free of various substances-his heavy drinking. Along the way he fights his alcohol usage (finally freeing himself), contracts Hepatitis C, has a liver transplant, and continues to make music. But he also talks about some of the good things that have happened to him (and the band)-their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his participation in the on-going reunion of the Allman Brothers Band, his well received latest solo album, and (most importantly) his family and sobriety.

Not being an autobiography (in the truest sense), Allman is free to zero in on certain events and periods of time that are the most important (to him) and fascinating to fans. His conversational style of writing is easy to digest, but there are obscenities throughout the book when Allman talks about particular points. This memoir is written from the vantage point of someone who has lived through both the highs and lows in life, and if not totally triumphant, Allman has come out the other side alive to talk about it. This is a good, penetrating, look inside the life of a fine musician and a basically shy person-who has shared a number of both good and bad periods in his life. After reading this book, you’ll be thankful (as Allman is) that he is alive, and that we can still listen to that world weary, soulful, bluesy voice. “My Cross To Bear”. Indeed.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Book My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman | , | Leave a comment

Art Of Noise Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise (Deluxe Edition 2011) (1984)

a22581From pitchfork.com

The introductory video on the DVD half of this reissue talks about the legacy of the Art of Noise– mentioning Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers, and Massive Attack. It’s easy to see why the group would be proud of such lustrous descendants, but it actually sells them short.

What’s interesting about Art of Noise– certainly the first phase of their project, which culminated in this debut album– isn’t so much their children but their parents. This was a pop band named after a 1913 art manifesto, deliberately aspiring to inherit the explosion of early 20th century conceptual creativity and make Futurists and Dadaists rub shoulders with b-boys and clubbers. The group’s own arch-conceptualist, music writer Paul Morley, apparently planned an album that would be a grand collage of the century’s sounds– what he actually got was an acrimonious split.

Morley may, in his words, have only “made the tea” in Art of Noise, but he dominates the visual half of this reissue: introducing videos, reading out essays onstage, continually playing the ideas man and provocateur even if his incessant wordplay’s an acquired taste. The group’s videos are proof that this apparent pretension came with a smart payoff. “Beat Box” is recast as the soundtrack to a city with lively, evocative footage of 1980s London cut to its rhythm.

“Moments in Love” mixes dancers and tortoises, grace and absurdity. And most famously “Close (to the Edit)”, the dream-logic realization of the group’s ideals, with a creepy punker kid commanding anonymous wreckers as they smash cellos and pianos to pieces.

“Close (to the Edit)” reminds you that Art of Noise were trying to be funny and sometimes scary– neither of them standard pop ambitions in 1984 or now. In fact, what’s striking about this album is the range of moods and effects it musters, while remaining an intensely playful record. It follows the savage, martial arrangement of Cold War bricolage “A Time for Fear (Who’s Afraid)” with a teasing version of “Beat Box” where the track’s purposeful electro keeps getting diverted by shiny new sounds.

On the title track, a snooty voice asks, “Can I say something?” and the music refuses to let it even say that, gleefully slashing the sample to ribbons. The album flirts with annoyance and even boredom– the way the stately, repetitive beauty of “Moments in Love” lulls you before unwinding itself into stranger places. But they could also be thrilling. Their immediate context was hip-hop, but their kind of funk– best experienced on “Close (to the Edit)”– has a brash rigor to it, calling to mind tireless pistons and marching feet.

“This limited circle of pure sounds must be broken,” Luigi Russolo wrote in the manifesto that inspired the band, “and the infinite variety of noise-sound conquered.” But the technological limits to sampling in 1984 meant that Art of Noise were stuck with a very finite variety of noise-sound, constantly worrying at and reusing snippets of samples.

The only problem with the many reissues of early Art of Noise is the group’s endless recycling of its two key tracks. “Beat Box”– of which “Close (to the Edit)” is a cousin– and “Moments in Love” were on their first EP, then issued as separate singles, appeared on every compilation, dominated this debut album, and now appear– counting the DVD– six times each on this reissue.

For diehard fans, the incessant tinkering is part of the fun– for listeners less caught up in the band’s process, it’s easy to get a little weary with the radio sessions and alternate video edits collected here. Stick with the core album and videos, though, and you realize the reason Art of Noise kept returning to these songs: Both are superb, anchoring a record that’s as sly, stirring, and occasionally infuriating now as it was on release.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Art Of Noise Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise | | Leave a comment