Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Zep V Boston (July 1973)

zep_boston_iqFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Boston Garden, Boston, MA – July 20th, 1973

Disc 1 (46:22): Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over the Hills And Far Away, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2 (62:56): Dazed and Confused (incl. San Francisco), Stairway to Heaven, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love (incl. Let That Boy Boogie)

Image Quality were one of the Japanese silver labels in the nineties who wanted to release the entire unofficial Led Zeppelin tape catalogue. One of their final efforts was Zep Vs Boston utilizes what was at the time the only tape source for the July 20th, 1973 Boston show. It is poor to fair, distant, muddy and the bass tends to distort the sound.

The tape omits the first ninety seconds of “Rock And Roll,” the first two verses. The tape picks up at the second verse’s “lonely time” before the guitar solo. There are also cuts in “No Quarter” at 7:38 and a small cut after “Stairway To Heaven.”

Boston occurs in the final week of the tour and is one of the strangest Led Zeppelin shows captured on tape. On a tour noted for the wildness of the audiences and throwing of firecrackers, this show ranks as the absolute worst.

The trouble begins after “Over The Hills And Far Away” when Plant says: “Easy. You don’t want to break those things down. So please stop pushing forward. If you don’t stop pushing forward we’re gonna have to stop until everybody can move back a bit. Is that understood please? I’m sure people sometimes get a little bit deaf.”

After a pause he continues with crowd control, “Now we’ll try to keep you as cool as you can. Can you push back because every time we come to Boston we have such a good time with so many good people, right? Eighteen and a half thousand people, but one thing, listen. There are people at the front who are gonna get hurt. So please some how distribute yourselves about otherwise the concert’s no good if you can’t do that, you know?”

They drop ”Misty Mountain Hop” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “try and play something a little soft while you try to scurry around. This is for the benefit of those people who like to hear a little subtlety in amongst the melee. No Quarter.” They deliver a laid back version of the piece where Jimmy Page plays a David Gilmour sounding guitar solo during the middle improvisation.

Plant continues the crowd control afterwards saying: “Really, I’ll tell you we’ve done so, we’ve done a lot of concerts. We’ve played to thousands of people. A lot of people are cool in as much as they understand that they’re people who really want to enjoy the concert behind them. Why don’t you just cool it a bit, eh? Every time we come here, cool it. I know how it feels, but you still got to cool it.” The audience don’t appreciate the soft “The Rain Song” and grow a bit impatient until the hard rock section of the piece kicks in.

“Dazed And Confused” is very intense and rile up the audience. So much so that afterwards Plant says sarcastically: “I don’t know what local football team is called, but it’s just been playing for an hour and a half in front of our feet”. They drop “Moby Dick” and play out the rest of the set and leave. “Thank you and good night, Led Zeppelin are gone,” the mc announces with the audience milling around like they don’t believe it.

The decision is a correct once since many very loud M80s are set off. Their affect is truly unsettling, having the Garden sound like a war-zone. It is a shame because the band were on a definite peak in this period and were playing outstandingly. And, as events would dictate, this would be Led Zeppelin’s final performance in a city that embraced them so warmly at the beginning of their career. Image Quality utilize a double fatboy jewel case with the photograph motif on the front cover and various Laurence Ratner tour photos on the artwork.

It is a good production, but the Joe Maloney tape that surfaced many years after this is far better sounding, and this release is good for completists only.

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June 18, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Zep V Boston | , | Leave a comment

The Beach Boys Friends (1968)

BeachBoys_FriendsFrom starling.rinet.ru

Note: already after I’ve finished writing this review, I suddenly remembered that a weird former part of myself actually already wrote a review of this album, and not on the Prindle site.

I checked it out and was excited to learn I still share a lot of those opinions, but since there were a few actual differences, plus, the old review’s style was a bit, er, obsolete, to put it roughly, after some inner debates I decided to keep the new one after all. Here’s a link to the old classic weird review, then (see the Friends entry, of course).

Back to the new one, now. After Wild Honey, I guess it was obvious that the Beach Boys had entirely given up on competition of any sorts, and both of last year’s albums had cemented the “dated” image of the boys so firmly in the public opinion that it was impossible to compete anyway. In this respect, I don’t think Brian ever had any illusions about potential success when he and the boys were recording Friends.

The album seems to go entirely against the trends and norms of 1968, in almost every single respect, even more so than the Kinks. It’s abysmally short, about twenty five minutes long, bringing back the era of Surfin’ Safari. It’s based on singles. It’s drastically underproduced, with many of the tunes employing just a single organ pattern or a trivial piano-bass interplay. Worse of all, it’s softer than any other record released at the time – rock record, at least, if we’re to consider the Beach Boys a rock band.

But it’s a good record, twenty five minutes of calm, quiet, and exceptionally tuneful relaxation. It’s just that the record is so stripped down that at times I get the feeling I’m listening to Smiley Smile again. Fortunately, it is not so: all of the compositions on here are all very well thought-out and finished, all of them joining together in one intentional package of briefness, charm and soothingness. It just takes time to get into; a time and a mood. Unfortunately, so far I haven’t yet had a chance to get into the required mood, but I’ll try to fake it.
After all, there’s a time for everything, and just because I haven’t been patient enough to wait for the time for Friends, do you think I can bash a good album just like that? No way!

I can bash certain songs, though. Like almost everybody, I can, will and even feel myself obliged to bash the chitlins out of ‘Transcendental Meditation’, one of the band’s lowest points of the epoch. What an ugly and dumb way to end the record – with a two-minute pseudo-rocker based on discordant jazzy brass work and corny, sappy vocals that have absolutely nothing to do with transcendental meditation. The only excuse I can take for the existence of the song is that it has to be taken tongue-in-cheek, based on the Beach Boys’ unhappy experience of touring with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. If they ever wanted to make fun of his doctrine, they couldn’t have taken a better route… and even so, it still sucks.

More arguable would be my dismissal of the two compositions by Dennis. Despite the hugely laudable liner notes about Dennis’ enormous creative potential and beautiful voice, I can only say that (a) if Dennis ever had a potential in the first place, it wouldn’t start coming out until a couple of albums later and (b) out of all the Beach Boys’ voices, his is undeniably the worst – not exactly lacking expression, but very insecure of itself and, well, ordinary compared to the rest. ‘Little Bird’ is at least upbeat in its own humble way, but ‘Be Still’ just passes me by like a stone: minimalistic organ notes and near a cappella singing in that shaky tone don’t really make up for substantial listening.

So let’s stick to the real thing, shall we? There are nine more songs, which all rule in one of the nine possible ways. Way number one: take the same minimalist organ pattern as in ‘Be Still’, but supplement it with a great emotional vocal hook and cute backing vocals and make a half-minute intro. That’s ‘Meant For You’, as gorgeous an introduction to an album that there ever was.

Way number two: make up a cheerful, delightful waltz that will make you feel at home even if you’re listening to it through a gap in Lucifer’s jaws. That’s the title track. Way number three: to punch up some emotionality, take a music-hall melody and play it in a minor key to put an inch of melancholy into the pudding (‘Wake The World’). Way number four: sing a song in a pitch higher than everything you did before (‘Be Here In The Morning’). And so on…

I’ll just mention three songs more because there are substantial things I think I can say about ’em. ‘Passing By’, although instrumental, is also one of the very best instrumentals ever recorded by the band. Unlike the early obligatory surf send-ups or the “experimental for the sake of experimentation” stuff on Pet Sounds, this one has a really interesting original melody that’s just as soothing as everything else on here but doesn’t suffer from cheaply penned lyrics. Cool harmony lines, oh so cool harmony lines, too. Next: ‘Anna Lee The Healer’ is beautiful.

A bit McCartneyesque in style, and I could care less if Mike Love’s lyrics are ridiculous beyond belief, set out to celebrate the talents of a masseuse of all people. Finally, ‘Diamond Head’ is another instrumental and one of the weirdest ones they ever did. Who said experimentation days are over? It describes a Hawaiian landmark and does so in a million different ways and so vivaciously I really gape in awe. Listen to the sound effects, the slide guitars, the complex percussion, the way the melodies fade out and come back in a different way… a whole world of its own.

And that’s about it. I know I mentioned the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society in the previous review already, but I can’t help but make a comparison again – this album is the equivalent, with the nice charming rural atmosphere overwhelming the listener. Even the album cover with all the ‘green’ overtones brings on associations. Needless to say, both albums sank equally low at the time… and were replaced on the pedestal as time went by.

Still, let us not forget Friends is not a masterpiece – too short, too much filler for such a short album, and, well, hey, it’s no Pet Sounds, you know, as banal as it sounds.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | The Beach Boys Friends | | Leave a comment

Black Sabbath 13 (2013)

untitledFrom loudwire.com

Ozzy Osbourne has stated multiple times that ’13′ could possibly be the most important album of his career. With such a fabled discography preceding ’13,’ both with Black Sabbath and his solo career, Ozzy’s claim is not one to be taken lightly, and although ’13′ may not be the greatest album to ever be attributed to Ozzy’s name, the disc is a definite success for Black Sabbath.

The build up to ’13′ made it one of the most anticipated metal albums of the 21st century. Released 19 months after the original Sabbath lineup announced their reunion, the album almost didn’t happen at all. The departure of drummer Bill Ward and cancer diagnosis of guitarist Tony Iommi seemingly stopped Sabbath in their tracks. Cancer, however, didn’t impede Iommi from writing some of the sickest guitar work of his career, with an extra-bright light tilted toward the riff master’s virtuosic soloing.

The disc begins with ‘End of the Beginning,’ a solid track reminiscent of the song ‘Black Sabbath’ once the verse kicks in. The intro riff of ‘End of the Beginning,’ which is stretched out for nearly three minutes, isn’t mind-blowing, but Iommi’s riff still retains its beefy feel before he really starts going to work. The remainder of the eight-minute track is a controlled, yet step-on-the-gas Sabbath piece as Iommi’s lead and backing guitar lines keep the album’s kickoff track on a steady course.

Next up is the five-star monster ‘God is Dead?,’ which ventures into doom territory as Sabbath delivers one of their heaviest and creepiest cuts to date. Special attention should be directed at bassist Geezer Butler and his immense bass tone, accented well by Brad Wilk‘s drumming throughout, allowing ‘God is Dead?’ to personify Black Sabbath’s intensions to keep a signature sound in tact while injecting some fresh energy into its core. ‘God is Dead?’ captures a more primitive side of the brain, possessing the listener to float along during slower parts while punching whatever may be within an arm’s length during Iommi’s bigger, more energetic licks.

’13′ begins to slow down a bit as six tracks remain. ‘Loner’ starts off with a fairly generic riff and a take-it-or-leave-it verse, but picks up immensely as the track takes a more melodic turn. Iommi once again brings the song’s quality to an impressive level as the guitarist connects piece after piece with skillful precision. Ozzy’s howling vocals during Iommi’s softer parts also command a well deserved tip of the hat (or bowler).

‘Zeitgeist’ is Sabbath’s ballad within ’13,’ harnessing the use of Middle-Eastem percussion, wind instruments and a distorted filter on Ozzy’s voice. Iommi’s rich guitar blends from the slow, ‘Changes’-paced track into ‘Live Forever’ — a better-than-average piece which makes good use of Iommi’s ability to keep a song flowing. Ozzy once again adds a great deal of character to the piece, this time honing a more poetic touch with the lyrics: “They say you see your life go flashing by / Cold dark endless nights / To burn in Hell or bathe in everlight” and “I don’t want to live forever, but I don’t want to die.”

‘Damaged Soul’ and ‘Dear Father’ round off the record as big Iommi riffs and wild shredding continue to create a swamp vs. hurricane dichotomy. ‘Dear Father’ in particular is home to an especially trudging Iommi / Butler riff, giving the duo a break from stomping through their doomsday landscape.

As an album, ’13′ belongs to Tony Iommi. Ozzy, Geezer and Brad Wilk all have their moments throughout the album, but when it comes to consistency and meteoric impact, Iommi’s work is the predominant factor of why Sabbath fans will sink their teeth into ’13.’ We all expect the world from Black Sabbath, and after a 19-month wait and 35 years without hearing a full release from Ozzy, Tony and Geezer, anything less than classic Sabbath is doomed to show its cracks. ’13′ isn’t a perfect album, but it’s a damn good one; saturated with piece after piece of pure Iommi brilliance.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Black Sabbath 13 | | Leave a comment