Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Orlando Magic (August 1971)

zeppelin_orlando_magicFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Orlando Sports Stadium, Orlando, FL – August 31st, 1971

DVDA 1: Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dazed And Confused, Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day

DVDA 2: That’s The Way, Going To California – Livin’ Alone – You Really Got Me, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (Boogie Chillun’, My Baby Left Me, Mess O’ Blues), organ solo, Thank You, ending announcement

Last September Empress Valley distributed free DVD-A sampler containing tracks from all of their future releases. The Whisky A Go-Go track caused the most excitement, but among them is a track from the August 31st, 1971 Orlando show. Orlando Magic arrives two years after the Genuine Masters release Orlando You Really Got Me (GM-LZ-31.08.71-DVD-A-13). It presents the same redaction between the audience and soundboard recordings as are present on Empress Valley’s first release of this show on Florida Sunshine. For the audio, there is a choice between 98khz/24bit DVD-Audio 5.1 surround sound and Dolby digital 48khz/24bit.

Both tape sources sound very good on the surround sound and for a 1971 soundboard it is tremendous with a lot of depth and presence. Each song has its own live shot of the band and the label try match the photo to the song being played.

Thus during “Dazed & Confused” you see a picture of Page playing guitar with the violin bow, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” has Jones at the keyboard and “Celebration Day” has Page with the double neck and Jones on bass. Most of the photos are taken from the “Back To The Clubs” tour of England in the spring of 1971 so the look is off. Plant shaved his beard by the time Zeppelin toured North America that summer. The packaging is the big DVDA plastic jewel case as with the other Zeppelin releases.

Concerning the show and tape sources I wrote in a previous review: The audience source is used for the introduction where the announcer is telling people to relax, sit down, turns down the house lights and brings out the band to wild applause. The soundboard picks up with Page’s brief tuning and Bonzo’s count in to “Immigrant Song”.

The audience source is used for forty-five seconds in “Dazed & Confused”, for “Celebration Day”, acoustic set and for the first ninety seconds of “What Is And What Should Never Be” where the soundboard comes back in and runs to the end with a major cut in “Whole Lotta Love”. The quality of the soundboard tape is much better than the September 9th Virginia tape which is the only other soundboard to surface from this tour. It is in stereo, not mono, and has a wider degree of frequencies being very detailed and lively. The audience sounds far away but the band’s comments are picked up off mic putting you right on stage with them.

The concert itself is great and contains some unique moments. At 20:46 in “Dazed & Confused” Page gets into an almost complete ”White Summer” with a wah-wah arrangement. The next album is announced as coming out in three weeks before “Black Dog” where Plant hits the first high note and then avoids it for the rest of the song. “Stairway To Heaven” is played very close to the studio arrangement. “Celebration Day” is introduced as “one for New York” as Page slowly builds up to the introductory fanfare.

“Whole Lotta Love” begins with Page playing a very chunky riff with Plant yelling for “everybody” before launching into the song. John Paul Jones plays a very delicate cocktail piano underneath Page’s theremin solo. The audience begins to move forward (who wouldn’t?!) and Plant warns, “Oh, that’s far enough. Clive. Clive. Clive!…So I’m gonna sit down…boogie chillun” calling for the roadie Clive Colson to restore order at the front of the stage.

After ”Mess O’ Blues” Page gets into an amazingly catchy and heavy riff with Plant singing improvised lyrics before the tape frustratingly cuts out. They usually played a long blues like “You Shook Me” at this point but is absent on this recording. It picks up again at the beginning of the organ solo and runs to the end of “Thank You” with the rest of the encores (normally “Communication Breakdown” and “Rock And Roll”) being absent.

The tape ends with the house announcer asking for William Combis, because “your wallet is up here”. The great thing about Zeppelin in the early years are the surprises and unique moments and riffs they pull out of their head and this concert is an excellent example of this. It was hoped more tape was found for this release but unfortunately that isn’t the case.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Orlando Magic | , | Leave a comment

Van Halen 1st Album (1978)

51Nd8Sa2fFLFrom amazon.com

There are very few bands and guitarists in the history of music who changed the face of rock and reinvented the guitar, making everyone who thought they knew the instrument re-evaluate their knowledge.

Well, exactly 28 years ago, on 10 February 1978 came out the greatest rock debut of all times. And to this day, no other guitar album has had more impact on music the same way. Sure there was Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Beck, and many other amazing players before Eddie Van Halen, but even these shredders acknowledged Eddie’s impact and unmatchable playing and song writing. Not since Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced? in 1967 were people, both guitarists and fans, so shocked at what they were hearing when “Eruption” hit the waves, displaying yet an unmatched energy, power and technique. Simply put, if there’s one album that put guitar-oriented music back in its deserved place in the late 70’s and made it stay there for decades on end, it’s the self-titled Van Halen debut.

“Eruption” is one of the most important musical statements ever made in the history of rock. Now known as the “brown sound”, Eddie Van Halen’s monster tone, his acrobatic hammer-ons, pull-offs, whammy-bar dives, and unique trademark two-handed tapping licks on this short instrumental suggest a true virtuoso in every sense of the word. Basically, with this song, Eddie changed everything in the blink of an eye. Even the most prolific guitar players refused to believe the nasty end part of the track was actually played on a guitar, cause it sounded too much like a frenetic keyboard solo.

However, what truly makes “Eruption” so timeless is the compositional mindset it entails. Eddie actually wrote this piece way before 1978. There are 1975 bootlegs of Van Halen where Eddie plays a longer version of this piece. The one that ended up on the album is a more refined yet technically challenging version. The most interesting thing about the song, however, is that Eddie recorded it in just two takes. That’s not too big a surprise for Van Halen fans though, considering the fact that this band was one of the fastest recording acts in the world and hated going over the same tune more than a handful times.

The album produced two major hits when it was released. The opening song “Runnin’ with the Devil” starts out with eight simple bass notes played by Michael Anthony and quickly launches into a hard-rocking anthem that brims with then unheard riffs and burning leads. On “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love”, Eddie’s opening chords are epic in scope and powerful in impact. Graced with a great chorus and an impeccable back-up harmony, this song probably features Eddie’s godliest solo on the album, aside from the untouchable “Eruption” that is. Van Halen’s cover of The Kinks, “You Really Got Me”, was actually the first single of the album and yielded a lot of fan interest in the band, despite its 2:37 minute running time.

The band totally made this tune their own, while staying true to its integrity, they fueled it with their immense musicality and Eddie’s soaring lead work. Another cover song on the album was the bluesy John Brim cut “Little Dreamer”, instantly catchy with its chorus. The song is special for its acoustic intro though, being the first acoustic stuff Eddie put on tape.

The other songs on the album are Van Halen’s poppier hard rock numbers that got the crowds going in concerts, with the groovy bass and sweeping guitar on “Jamie’s Cryin'”, the ballady “Little Dreamer”, and the smoking double solo-inserted “I’m the One”. Eddie does some interesting scratching sounds on “Atomic Punk”, which has some excellent backing vocals from Mike Anthony and Alex Van Halen. Eddie is “On Fire” on the last song, and his soloing is supposed to show his respect to John McLaughlin, except that I can’t put the two guitarists in the same context.

Much like their other Ted Templeman produced classic albums, this disc took a very little time to record. As with their next set of following releases, the music was recorded almost completely live with minimal overdubs. Eddie and the band would only play a song two or three times and pick their favourites. The music was recorded in only six days, while Roth took about two weeks to finish his vocals.

The original sound quality wasn’t really bad, but Warner Bros decided to remaster it anyway. To this day I still consider sound engineer Donn Landee one of the best in rock. Without Templeman and Landee, Van Halen albums would lack their sonic punch in my opinion. The duo did an amazing job capturing Van Halen’s live feel on the first six albums.

It would be hard to imagine a true rocker or metalhead not owning this record. VH1 is not my favourite, but it signalled the beginning of a new era and paved the way for thousands of other bands and guitarists who would rip their songs, image, stage presence, and Ed’s chops of course.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Van Halen 1st Album | | Leave a comment

Aerosmith Music From Another Dimension (2012)

91R4GEGAJNL__SL1500_From amazon.com

Let’s face it – we will never get another A+ Aerosmith album like “Rocks” or “Pump.” The band is too fractured for that, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that after years of failed attempts we saw a new album at all. And with the possible exception of Rush, it’s damn near impossible to find a band who makes music 40+ years into their career that ranks among their very best work.

That being said, “Music From Another Dimension” has a 45-minute album’s worth of material that ranks from pretty good to quite good. What does the remaining 25 minutes suffer from? Overwrought balladry and Joe Perry’s lead vocals. And while much of the album rocks hard, there’s also an unfortunate lack of big rock hooks, which is really what prevents this album from ranking among the band’s best. But this didn’t need to be their best to still be pretty damn good.

“LUV XXX” starts things off right. It’s pure sexy rock with a great groove and one of the album’s better hooks, and would be a welcome set opener for the supporting tour. It’s likely no coincidence that the writing credits read simply “Tyler/Perry,” and one can only help wonder what kind of album this may have been if all songs carried similar credits.

“Oh Yeah”, penned solely by Joe Perry, continues the rock & roll party, and let’s all thank Steven Tyler for insisting that he sing the lead vocals instead of Joe (more on that later). On “Beautiful”, it’s evident that the band came to the table with the verses while an outside writer brought in the chorus, but it works. And “Tell Me”, penned entirely by bassist Tom Hamilton and carrying a noticeable Beatles influence, has the distinction of being one of the album’s only enjoyable ballads.

Over the next six tracks, we see the blend of near-greatness and mediocrity that modern-day Aerosmith has become known for. “Out Go the Lights” and “Legendary Child” share not only a melody but also a sense of raw rock & roll fun, and rank as two of the album’s best tracks (sadly, the latter is an outtake from nearly 20 years ago). “Street Jesus” and “Lover A Lot” are right up there, too, with the former serving as one of the band’s most energetic blasts of rock boogie since the 70’s.

But then we have “What Could Have Been Love”, a largely outside-written melodramatic ballad that’s basically a rewrite of “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” mixed with Jourey’s “Open Arms”, and “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You”, a country-fied duet with Carrie Underwood. The songs are practically interchangeable in their mediocrity, making you yearn for ballads that actually felt genuine (“What It Takes”, “Cryin”).

Unfortunately, the album never really recovers after this. Ballads “We All Fall Down” and “Another Last Goodbye” should have been shelved or saved for other projects, while Joe Perry’s rocking “Freedom Fighter” and psychedelic “Something” both suffer from his lead vocals.

Of the album’s last five tracks, only the mid-tempo “Closer” (with a rare songwriting credit to drummer Joey Kramer) is worthy of inclusion on the album. Oh, and deluxe-version bonus track “Sunny Side of Love” is much better than any of these songs. Couldn’t have one of the album’s many producers fought for its inclusion?

All its flaws considered, “Music From Another Dimension” is still a 3.5/5, B-grade album simply because there’s enough good material to latch onto, especially for anyone who didn’t want the lackluster “Just Push Play” or covers-only album “Honkin’ On Bobo” to be known as the band’s latest work. Overall this is a step back up for the band and one worth checking out.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Aerosmith Music From Another Dimension | | Leave a comment

God Save The Kinks by Rob Jovanovic (2013)

God-Save-the-KinksFrom The Telegraph

In the early months of 1967 we had the Beatles’ Penny Lane and Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks. Even in a year extraordinary for its harvest of good songs these two stood out: who could imagine writing a hit about everyday people doing ordinary things in a Liverpool street? Paul McCartney did.

Who would know rush hour at a London railway terminus was the stuff of pop dreams? Ray Davies, the only songwriter sharp-eyed, witty, angry, sensitive and skilful enough to vie with the Beatles at turning home-turf goings-on into songs that would still be in rude health half a century later.

Nostalgist and ironist, he was the consummate minstrel of humdrum consolations – hymning the old-fashioned working-class house as Shangri-La, leading The Village Green Preservation Society and lampooning the Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

The Kinks didn’t have the winsome charm of the moptops or the cunningly nurtured outlaw chic of the Rolling Stones. Ray and his brother Dave, pretty-boy somewhat-unhinged lead guitarist, were often at war. Ray is a difficult man: difficult for colleagues, wives, his brother and above all himself.

Rob Jovanovic’s book begins with a harrowing and very graphic account of a July day in 1973. Ray’s wife had left him and taken their two daughters, he had just played a terrible concert, he had overdosed on drink and drugs and stumbled into a hospital saying: “My name is Ray Davies. I am lead singer of the Kinks. I am dying.”

He doesn’t die but the book is never quite so healthy again. The Davies brothers were not involved. The author didn’t speak to either of them. That needn’t matter, but it does mean that a lot of effort is required to conjure up scenes and make the characters live. That doesn’t happen nearly enough. Instead, as occurs in all but the very good rock biographies, any chance of a compelling narrative is too often lost in thicketry of details of tracks, recording days, sidemen and outriders.

Mentioning the two best books about the Beatles – Philip Norman’s meticulously researched Shout! and Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald’s brilliant song-by-song analysis – is setting the bar very high but one does yearn for just a little of the virtues of both.

The author isn’t old enough to have been around in the Sixties, which is not his fault, but in order to explain and animate the Kinks he needs to conjure up the times and the peculiar cultural stew that provoked so much good music. Sentences like: “Fashion designers like Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne, models such as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, as well as hairdressers and make-up artists, were part of the new zeitgeist – popular icons, even stars” hardly get you there.

The early chapters about the young brothers’ lives with their large family in their small north-London house have all the facts but aren’t well written enough to draw you in.

As for the songs, one would love a more telling account of what went into them. This is not a churlish gripe. Listen to John Wilson’s Mastertapes radio interview with Ray Davies last year and hear how very interestingly he talks about his work.

Many Kinkswatchers will come to this book with a special advantage – in the past couple of years Julien Temple made two documentaries that were on BBC One, one about Ray, one about Dave, that really takes you to the centre of Kinksdom. Ray’s is fairly well trodden territory but beautifully done. Dave’s is absolutely compelling – he was the guitarist who, age 16, on You Really Got Me gave the world the power-chords soon copied by the Who and everybody else; he put a sitar-like sound on to See my Friends before George Harrison ever did anything Indian for the Beatles.

These days, having suffered a stroke, he is an almost unrecognisable but very sympathetic spiritually inclined figure. He says his brother was a nightmare but that may have been all to the good, it made him be himself.

God Save the Kinks doesn’t make attractive reading. Theirs is a tough story. It isn’t a tale of sweetness and light, there was too much fighting and too many cock-ups. After a mayhem-filled, shambolic mid-Sixties tour of the United States at the time when they might soon have taken the place by storm, they were banned from returning. Ray Davies has always been rather hazy as to precisely why and Jovanovic hasn’t produced any more clarity. Financially it was a setback but creatively it was probably a blessing. It kept them here to produce their best work.

This book does contain a lot of good material but it isn’t well served. Unlike gazing on Waterloo Sunset, reading it is certainly not paradise.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Book God Save The Kinks by Rob Jovanovic | , | Leave a comment