Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin First Class Ticket DVD (Earl’s Court, May 1975)


Earls Court Arena, London, England – May 25th, 1975

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, No Quarter, Tangerine, Going To California, That’s The Way, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Trampled Under Foot, Moby Dick, Dazed And Confused (incl. San Francisco), Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love (incl. The Crunge), Black Dog, Heartbreaker, Communication Breakdown (incl. D’yer M’ker)

First Class Ticket was first released by Cosmic Energy last year as their first attempt to bring high definition Blu-ray technology to Led Zeppelin’s final Earl’s Court show on video tape.

Recently the reissued this release but on NTSC DVDs instead of Blu-ray. The normal disc has as much clarity and are as enjoyable as the first release and is much improved over Empress Valley’s Demand Unprecedented on DVD.

Cosmic Energy use the same footage as Empress Valley (including the crowd shots at the beginning), and offer an upgrade of the video. Comparing the two releases, the Cosmic Energy does look more sharp than the Empress Valley. Without access to the master tapes the editing is understandably limited, however.

The final minute of “No Quarter” and “Tangerine” are still missing and a high generation copy of the video is used to fill the gap.

A good video of a concert is able to convey not just the personality of the artists, but all of the action on stage and the atmosphere of the event. One of the concerns about this footage is, since it was produced with the intention of giving close-ups to attendees in the arena, the screen would be dominated with them. It is good then that the video on this release is not like that at all.

Beginning with shots of the audience getting to their seats and Earl’s Court filling up, to Freeman’s animated introduction and throughout the three and a half performance by the band, it perfectly captures the excitement and emotion of Zeppelin’s final show in England for, in Plant’s words “a long long time.”

Many times the cameras pan away to capture the band members interacting with one another. There are a minimum amount of times when the cameraman’s judgment is called into question, but it is easy to overlook them.

Conveyed is the power of the music and watching Plant bop along to Page as he plays the opening to “The Song Remains The Same” and other such visuals is exciting to watch. Some startling images are also captured, such as the light show during “Trampled Under Foot,” the laser beams during “Dazed & Confused,” Page’s hand motions during the theremin solo, and Bonham whaling away at the drum kit.

One of the essential Led Zeppelin videos to have, Cosmic Energy have produced an excellent DVD production of this great videotape.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin First Class Ticket | , | Leave a comment

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)


When Britpop’s leading group Oasis imploded in 2009 following one final blow-up between eternally quarreling siblings Noel and Liam Gallagher, it was somewhat surprising that bandmates Gem Archer and Andy Bell would elect to throw their lot in with the latter of the two to form Beady Eye. Of the pair, Liam is the more volatile: easy to rankle, quick to anger, and infamous for resorting to physical violence to settle disputes. Regardless of whatever the cause of the break might have been or who may have been at fault, the aftermath left Noel, Oasis’s lead guitarist and primary songwriter, without an outlet for his material.

Considering this is a man who has incessantly boasted for close to two decades about his songwriting prowess, it was inevitable that Noel Gallagher would find a way to get his latest batch of songs out there in some fashion. It would be reasonable to say that the public (in Britain, at least), concurs with Gallagher’s self-assessment. Evidently viewing him as the true talent from Oasis compared to his little brother and his old sidemen, British consumers have responded accordingly at the sales counters. Noel’s debut solo LP has noticeably emerged to a better reception than Beady Eye has mustered with its output so far, topping the UK Albums Chart upon release and already spinning off two Top 20 pop singles. Given the reception, it looks like Liam’s floated idea for a 2015 Oasis reunion to commemorate the 20th anniversary of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? isn’t something Noel will be attentively mulling over any time soon.

The clumsily titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is only half-heartedly positioned as more than a mere solo project. There’s no question that the man is firmly in charge here, freed up from having to share top billing with his singing sibling. Eschewing the sort of heads-down, group shout-along rock ‘n’ roll anthems Oasis (Liam in particular) always favored, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds focuses on the songwriter’s other well-trod creative stomping areas, bouncy psychedelic pop and balmy balladry. Bolstered by full-bodied and warm production that suggests Gallagher’s legendary self-confidence has not been diminished one iota in the two years since his group’s demise, these ten songs are augmented with loads of strings, brass, and backing singers wherever possible, with touches of electronica production tricks that suggest a newfound sense of experimentalism.

Well, experimental for Noel Gallagher. Though Gallagher has expressed adoration for everything from grunge to Krautrock to trip-hop over the years, Oasis’ repertoire was strictly defined by extremely catholic classic rock reference points. If there was no guitar, no hook, and no giant chorus, the band didn’t give a toss. Gallagher continues to follow a musical gameplan dictated by the very rigid parameters of what the songwriter considers to be emblematic of great rock music. So as in past offerings, the album is built upon sing-song melodies reliant on repetitive two- or four-bar phrases, simplistic rhyme schemes (“If I had the time / I’d stop the world and make you mine”) that aim for universality over profound meaning, and plodding, strident rhythms that exhibit a dearth of syncopation. The most bounce you get is in the rootsy shuffles found in the likes of “The Death of You and Me”, but that tune is just aping the more baroque side of the Kinks and the Beatles, two of Gallagher’s chief idols and most transparent influences (not to mention owning a more direct debt to the verses from Oasis’ “The Importance of Being Idle”). Song structures follow predictable verse/chorus formats, and bridges like that in “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” only ratchet up linear emotional sensation instead of veering into new directions. “Stop the Clocks”, a scrapped Oasis tune that Gallagher has resurrected for his new project, at least throws in prechoruses that lead to satisfying explosions of blatantly psychedelia-redolent soloing.

True, it’s not like anyone should be anticipating any new tricks from the proudly formalist Gallagher at this stage. Observers have known not to expect him to deviate too much from his formula ever since the overcooked Be Here Now (1997) proved to even Oasis’ most optimistic advocates that the band’s idea of a sonically ambitious record involved little more than making all the songs over five minutes long and adding unnecessarily excessive amounts of guitar overdubs. However, this record won’t dispel the popular notion that Noel’s Midas touch was depleted writing the first two Oasis albums. The next “Live Forever” or “Wonderwall” certainly isn’t found here, but you do get “AKA… Broken Arrow”, a song that heavily trades on “Wonderwall” for ideas. “(Stranded on) The Wrong Beach” is another glaring example of how limited Noel’s bag of tricks is as it cribs the lapping waves tide sound effect from “Champagne Supernova” for its conclusion. Even when he’s trying to experiment, Gallagher can only stretch so far. Noel spoke in a Quietus interview of trying to evoke acid house in the single “AKA… What a Life!”, his acceptable stab at indie dance, but filtered through his sensibilities the track ends up more akin to an offering by Oasis-worshipping Brit rock group Kasabian.

Even with all the bells and whistles, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is not much more than what one would expect given the name on the artwork—and sure, that will suit many potential purchasers perfectly fine. Beneath the shiny new ear candy, the album pedles the same sort of passable exercises in Gallagher’s patented populist songcraft that have populated the last decade’s worth of Oasis LPs, with the main difference being the boorish laddishness embodied by Liam is totally absent (one of the album’s virtues is that it reminds listeners that Noel has a fine if undistinguished singing voice, a talent that was understandably underutilized in Oasis in favor of his brother’s grittier and more expressive vocal abilities). It’s a slight departure from Noel’s usual pub and football terrace-friendly fare, but only just, and absence of Liam in front of the microphone instantly leaves the potential of the material to surpass its average nature untapped, since it was his cocksure delivery that often made latter-day Oasis any interesting. Long-starved Oasis fans can take solace in the notion that although there’s no chance of Gallagher returning to his mid-’90s creative peak, he’s maintaining his brand with a sincere stab at variance at least.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Let’s Have A Party (Berlin, March 1973)


Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, West Germany – March 19th, 1973

Disc 1 (58:59): Introduction, Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc2 (66:05): MC, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love

Disc3 (66:40): MC, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love

Led Zeppelin’s March 1973 tour of Europe is among their legendary eras. By far the majority of these shows were in Germany and all of them exists on tape. The Berlin show on the nineteenth can be found on both a complete audience tape and an excellent sounding soundboard fragment of the hottest parts of the show.

The earliest release with material from this concert is the rare vinyl A Good Job – Inedits 6 (LZ 73 A-B) which has “Dazed And Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love.” One two compact disc releases have the audience recording of the entire concert. The first to come out was Majestic Holies (Immigrant IM-015~16) in the mid nineties. A decade later Wings of Desire (Wendy Records WECD-191/192) was release with the audience tape and the soundboard recording used in “Whole Lotta Love.”

Most titles in the past fifteen years have utilized the twenty-two minute soundboard recording featuring most of “Whole Lotta Love.” Among the earliest were Air Raids Over Germany (Tecumseh TRC-005) which has the “Whole Lotta Love” medley from this show along with “Dazed And Confused” and “Bring It On Home” from the 1970 Berlin tape and the entire fifteen minute 1980 Nuremberg show.

Nasty Music (Tarantura T3CD-011-1-2-3) also has “Whole Lotta Love” along with other songs from the era and Let’s Have a Party (ARMS ARMS.15PR) is a one disc title with only the twenty-two minute “Whole Lotta Love” medley. Twopenny Upright (Antrabata ARM 161171 180773 190373) also has “Whole Lotta Love” along with other material and finally A Soundboard Platter (Scorpio LZ-07005-01~04).

In the ensuing years a second, very good but fragmented audience tape surfaced.

Let’s Have A Party on Graf Zeppelin is a three disc collection utilizing all three tapes. The first two discs contain the complete show from the first audience tape. It’s very good but thin and lacking in dynamics. It cuts out at the very end of “Whole Lotta Love” cutting off the encores. The second disc edits the second audience recording, which is much clearer and enjoyable than the first, with the soundboard “Whole Lotta Love” fragment. It’s not essential for enjoying the show, but is a nice bonus to have.

The first disc has a short introduction before the opening “Rock And Roll” which segues into “Over The Hills And Far Away” which Plant calls “a song from the last album.” After taking a cigarette from someone in the front row, he introduces “Black Dog” as a song “about a four legged creature who liked to boogie all the time until he became incapable of moving afterwards with his lady friend.”

The playing is fluid and Page’s riffs dynamic, but the audience are strangely quiet (their pre-gig stomping notwithstanding). Plant addresses the situation after “Black Dog” joking, “we are led to believe that this place often gets quite noisy, and considering we’ve come here before, I bet there are sixty guys in the back there who haven’t come to see a concert. So we’re gonna try to have a nice good time, somehow or other.”

“Misty Mountain Hop” forms a strange little diptych and is played with utmost sincerity. Plant’s narration in the latter and punctuated by busts of notes from Page’s guitar.

There is a long pause before “Dazed And Confused” which Plant describes as “a very old song.” Someone requests “Whole Lotta Love” but he jokes, “it’s not ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ that was recorded by Jethro Tull.” Page plays a riff that could either be “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel or (and more probably) the opening riff to “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” by T Rex.

Nevertheless, “Dazed And Confused” is another masterpiece in improvisational skill. Bonham in particular forgets all restraint and bangs away throughout he entire piece. During the long jam session they try a cover of Ricky Nelson’s tune “I Got A Feeling” right before the funk section that leads into the call-and-response.

It seems that every version of this piece in Europe is grounds for more onstage experimentation by the band, at times trying hard to push it into a Mahavishnu Orchestra style jazz-fusion piece. One can hear echoes of John McLaughlin in Page’s playing at certain points. Their second LP Birds Of Fire was released this month).

After “Stairway To Heaven” Plant mentions they are traveling to Hamburg the next day.

The set ends with the “Whole Lotta Love” medley, reaching almost twenty-five minutes. It includes funky arrangements of the normal inclusions including “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” “Boogie Chillun’,” “Baby I Don’t Care” and “Let’s Have A Party.” The climax is reached with a devastatingly heavy and sloppy performance of “I Can’t Quit You,” lacking the reference to “Stones In My Passway” like the British performances but does include the lemon reference.

At the final climax Plant yells “Elvis Presley has now left the building. Good night.” The encores, mostly likely “Heartbreaker” and maybe “The Ocean,” have never surfaced.

Let’s Have A Party is a really good release on Graf Zeppelin. Everything this label releases is worth having and, much like Tarantura, do their own mastering. The Berlin show hasn’t been out in a while, so this is an excellent way to pick up what is a surprisingly good and difficult show to find.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Let's Have A Party | , | Leave a comment