Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door (1979)

cover_5639181182009From amazon.com

Review During a time when record labels thought it would be prudent to cash in on the punk phenomenon of the late 1970s and almost went under in the process, this album brought kids into record stores and saved the industry. That said, the album is not viewed favorably amongst the buying public because it lacks a “How Many More Times”-esque head-banger.

Jimmy Page, reeling in the depths of addiction, is not as prominent on “In Through The Out Door”. John Paul Jones, on the other hand, is all over the place, be it on piano or synthesizer, and has 6 writing credits on the album. “In the Evening” is a fine opener (although Robert Plant does sound like he guzzled a bottle of Liquid Plummer) and a song which benefits mightily from Jones’ contributions. “Fool In The Rain” and “All My Love”, the two most played songs off the album on FM radio, are excellent examples of the skills of all four members. Page and John Bonham, in particular, are outstanding on “Fool”, creating a sophisticated, layered sound which does not rely on million-mile-an-hour guitar leads and over-the-top drum bombast.

The 10 minute “Carouselambra” continues the fine tradition of Zeppelin epics (“Kashmir”, “Achilles’ Last Stand”) with some excellent keyboard and bass work from Jones and understated yet tasty double-neck guitar and guitar-synth work from Page. Plants lyrics are indecipherable, however, without a lyric sheet. But he is crystal clear on “I’m Gonna Crawl”. Page belts out one of his pristine blues solos here, easily the best lead on the album, while Jones has a synth-orchestra opening the track.

That leaves two other songs: “South Bound Saurez” and “Hot Dog” are the true definition of filler. Page does not sound at all sober in his “Hot Dog” lead, stumbling through pentatonic scales and sounding as if his right hand is permanently attached to the B-string bender on his Telecaster because he uses it so much. “South Bound” is one of the songs which you can listen to on the radio if nothing else is on. It is not the quality of “Fool In the Rain”.

Overall, this album is good but confusing. It does have sparkling musicianship but some filler material as well. The production is not up to Page standards, either; given his health cicra 1978-79, it is not all surprising. But what is strong is very strong indeed. “Carouselambra” alone is worth the price of the album. It is also an interesting experience to listen to Zeppelin as they musically evolved over the course of a decade. “In Through The Out Door” is an album a true Led Zeppelin fan cannot be without.

Review This is Led Zeppelin’s most maligned album, most of said malign coming from ultra-orthodox rock fans who can’t stand musical diversity. Because unlike their previous, guitar-riff based albums this one features John Paul Jones on keyboards in the lead role, with Jimmy Page playing along beside him instead of in front of him (for once).

Since Page was pretty whacked out on heroin during the making, his guitar playing skills do leave something lacking especially compared to his best work on songs like Achilles Last Stand or Black Dog.
However, the use of keyboards on the songs gives them a very different and unique feel.

In The Evening: A song with a standard rock sound and standard blues lyrics, the huge, slamming riff makes a great opener. Too bad you can’t understand any of the lyrics except ‘oh oh I need your love’.

South Bound Saurez (sic): An interesting little piece featuring Jones’ piano, but not an especially classic piece. You can’t understand any of the lyrics, though.

Fool in the Rain: A mellow, happy little riff about a slightly less happy subject; a guy waiting for his date and imagining he’s been stood up, when actually he’s waiting in the wrong place (whoops). Very enjoyable and spiced up by the fast little jam section in the middle.

Hot Dog: weirdness. A mock-country song that demonstrates their sense of humour if not much else.

Carouselambra: Whoa, they really opened the floodgates now. The first part contains keyboards, drums, bass and vocals but no guitar. The second bit has Page plucking out fuzzy little arpeggios while Robert Plant occasionally belts out something, and then it returns to a full synthesized speed-fest. You can’t understand any of the lyrics (starting to notice a pattern?) which is a shame because they can almost compete with Bob Dylan in terms of inscrutable mysticism. Great, underrated song.

All My Love: Another synth-heavy one. It’s the most sincere song on the album, dedicated to Robert Plant’s son (not daughter as a lot of people think for some reason) who died in ’77. Nice melody and cool solo.

I’m Gonna Crawl: A cool bluesy ending to the album, it might seem a bit repetative at first until they start to mix things up.

All in all…well, if you’re a really over-the-top fan like me you’d buy it even if it was crap. It isn’t. It’s as good as any of their other albums, just very different, and musical diversity is what made the band so great. So head out to your closest locally-owned, non-chain music store and get this album!

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January 25, 2014 Posted by | Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Fillmore East January 31st & February 1st 1969

1559From ledzepconcerts.com

Concert Memories :: Led Zeppelin :: January 31, 1969

I was at the famous IB/Led Zep (their debut, of course) show at the Fillmore East in NY. At the time, I was a fairly regular attendee to the Fillmore, and I always collected (and still have) some of their handbills which listed upcoming shows. I don’t recall The Move ever being listed on the bill.

I seem to remember that for a brief time (perhaps in the very first listing of the show) the opening act for IB was listed as the “New Yardbirds” which, of course, was Zeppelin’s early name. After that, the bill listed only Iron Butterfly and Led Zeppelin. Fillmore’s shows were always at 8pm and 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

I know I went to one of the early shows, but I’m not sure which day. I’ve read various reports of the audience walking out after Zeppelin, or IB refusing to go on, but to my knowledge, none of that occurred to the extent it was reported.

At the show I attended, it looked like about 1/3 or less of the audience left before IB came on, most of them slightly older than I was (in 68 I was 15), who no doubt had come just based on the word of mouth about Page’s new band. I think prior to that show, Zeppelin had only played one show in Boston. I hope that helps.
Phillippe LaVere

There were 2 shows each night; 8.30 pm and 11.00 or 11.30 pm, depending on the venue. A typical warm-up act would usually play about 30 min, with a 1 song encore. The main act would usually come on around 9.45 pm and play for 50 min (two 25 min sets, with a 10 min break in between). The Fillmore had a capacity of about 3,000 or so. The first shows on Friday were always about half-full, but the late shows were generally sold-out or 90% full.

Everybody thought Zeppelin was from California. They had no following at all, and Iron Butterfly was big. Both bands were under Atlantic Records, Zeppelin (Atlantic) and Butterfly (ATCO). What I remember is, the first night Friday, both bands played well for the first show. The second show went on around midnight and ended around 2.30 am Though I’m a Zeppelin fan, both bands were pretty equal on the first night. After every late show, most of the fans hung out in front of the Fillmore, waiting for the bands to come out. The Move (a British rock band) though scheduled, did not play.

I’m note sure why, it could have been a better gig or a dispute over fee. Bill Graham was notorious for not paying opening acts. He felt they should be thankful for just being on the bill. Like I said, the first night Zeppelin and Butterfly played equally well.

Paul Ceasare

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Fillmore East January 31st & February 1st 1969 | , | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited II (2012)

5052205062463_1500x1500_300dpi.600x600-75From amazon.com

I was in line for the pre-order of this superlative CD set. My vinyl copies of most of the originals that were culled for this song roster have suffered a strange fate that I can only account for by vaguely remembering that I had my records stacked on the floor and leaning against a heat-radiator which (while a student in Buffalo NY), was hot for endless winters… Stunned to find them warped beyond playability I have lived without this music for a long time. I find much of digital (CD) music generally sonically disappointing these days and was hesitant to replace my now-useless LP’s with dubious digital versions.

But still I could not resist the compulsion to go after this set and I will testify that I am not disappointed. This is a highly recommended re-creation of much of the classic-period (as I would define it) Genesis repertoire.

These kinds of musical exercises can pretty much go in one of two basic directions, a faithful recreation, maybe with a few of the original cast being one; I was pleased to see that Mr. Hackett and company took the other fork – avoiding the county-fair ‘oldies-show’ pitfall while re-imagining the music from a modern point of view and taking advantage of the bias of your particular instrument/s while opening the process up to folks who are equally enthusiastic about the journey.

I can see that a fair amount of time has gone into the track sequence and the various ways these songs were re-conceived and performed. The engineering of the material (primarily Roger King) is wonderful in it’s innovation, punch and clarity and the reclamation of Steve Hackett’s guitar authority within these songs, for my ears, reinvigorates and expands the originals. That hanging guitar sustain at the commencement of ‘The Chamber of 32 Doors’ will tell you all you need to know about Mr. Hackett’s approach to this music and his role in it’s original conception.

I confess that I went out and bought a sub-woofer, to upgrade the near-antique conglomeration of Hi-Fi (see how old I am?) components I cling to, essentially at the time of committing to this music purchase. I was stunned at the contribution to the output of my almost silly-looking paired Tandberg Fasett speakers those new-found lower bass notes made and this recording has plenty of those, even at the more subtle, low bass setting I prefer to maintain.

There are so many exemplary performances and vocal treatments here that both pay homage to and build upon the originals. I was afraid I would miss Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins’ voices but after a couple of playings and the expected getting-used-to period, I came to realize that it was the music that held steadfast and the new players brought something to the endeavor.

I have read through the various reviews here and agree with many of the comments; I also disagree with a few perspectives. So, I think that Gary O’Toole hit his marks on all his vocalizations; these never sounded better. Contrary to some opinions here, I greatly enjoy Amanda Lehmann’s handling of ‘Ripples’ and found that it opened up a new way of hearing that song, so-far “owned” by Phil Collins. Forget about who she is or is not sounding sort-of like; just listen to the intent of the music. I hit the repeat button a few times here (I had a similar reaction to hearing Shelby Lynne sing ‘Surfer Girl’ on Brian Wilson’s Musicares tribute video; I think some of this may involve getting over the gender bias of an original music and see what new may come of it). Rob Townsend’s wind contributions really do nudge a lot of this music into the improvisational jazz arena that it often tends toward. I have greatly enjoyed Mr. Hackett’s association and projects involving Steven Wilson and have yet to be disappointed with those outcomes; in so doing, I have become a huge fan of Mr. Wilson’s work with Porcupine Tree and on his own – this originating with these more recent collaborations of two creative thinkers. The participation of the Hungarian jazz ensemble Djabe in support of this music (and vice-versa) seems like a natural collaborative extension of their combined musical capabilities and interests.

Without pursuing the ‘favorites’ quagmire (okay, I’ll allow Musical Box…), I highly recommend this music purchase: obviously to Genesis freaks but also to younger listeners possibly new to what we still call ‘progressive rock’ – those who may find something missing or redundant in much of the musical out-pour these days. The long form, epic, ‘tone poem-ish’ nature of Mr. Hackett’s recent original works and now this particular ‘musical rehash’ – which may suffer under the “progressive” moniker – lends itself to introspection, absorption and a degree of musical feeling that remains with you after the demands of the day inevitably take you back over. The original or traditional classical and other musical references (the music-box intro; Greensleeves) which ‘set up’ or embellish certain selections help to redefine, enrich those pieces and bridge the chasm to other music forms and your own music memory.

Get it, queue it up, crank it up (I definitely agree with that fellow!) and sit down and listen. It’s quite excellent.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited II | , | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited (2005)

Genesis+Revisited+Steve_HackettGenesis_RevisitedFrom amazon.com

Wow! Quite the feat! Obviously, a great deal of work, and love, were put into this album, not to mention production!

Having heard Genesis mostly from “Selling England by The Pound”, onward (except for “Watcher of the Skies”) there are some songs I’d never heard before. The third, for example, is a killer instrumental with Steve playing an insane, frantic Jeff Beck-like, seething solo. In fact, Jeff was one of Steve’s influences, and he quotes Jeff (from the Yardbird’s: “I Can’t Make Your Way”) fom 6:05 to 6:11 minutes into the track, “Fountain of Salmacis”, one of the great pieces I’d never heard before.

Prior to that, (though I haven’t really read the notes), I’m guessing that’s probably Steve singing through some device on “Dance on a Volcano”, which I’m sure most people would agree would have been much better suited to Paul Carrack, (who sings on a couple of other pieces), in the upper registers. However, in a couple of sections (when the vocal “octavider”, or whatever it is, goes ominously low) it couldn’t sound cooler! Perhaps if he’d sung the “whole” song like that, it might have worked better.

But there’s plenty of amazing things happening throughout this album. Like “Watcher of the Skies”,(imagine Steve playing this with King Crimson, since three key members of that band are playing it with him), and the amazing interpretation of “Firth of Fifth”, with some beautiful classical guitar in the middle, and then Steve demonstrating he’s one of the best rock guitarists in the world in the following section, not just with speed, but taste, and (more importantly something sorely missing these days),”creativity”.

The orchestra, at the beginning of this piece, recalls something enchanting, and beautiful not unlike “Nutcracker Suite”. Too bad that section wasn’t even longer! “Your Own Special Way” is nice, but occasionally there’s a little synth “riff” that sounds a little too “soft rock”, but Steve (I think wisely), leaves out the familiar riff in the chorus, and does a brilliant solo, that I can’t possibly imagine being topped by anyone on the planet!

“Waiting Room Only” is the “strange” piece, pretty much a “Number Nine”-ish, weird bit of Hackettry- at first. But by about two minutes into the piece, it starts to get rather interesting, and soon, more “musical”, with some fairly cool stuff going on.

I have to admit that I don’t really care for the following version of “I Know What I Like”, except for the funny bits, and the famous solo that Steve pretty much keeps intact and even adds to, that is only now becoming deservedly recognized for being the very first “real” example of the two-handed, finger-tapping technique in rock guitar, years before Eddie Van Halen unjustly got all the credit.
At the beginning of “Los Endos”, Steve demonstrates that he can play a pretty decent bit ot Flamenco, and then the band goes into high energy mode, the rest of the song being intact with all kinds of great little moments, with great drumming and layered drums, synth guitar, mellotron, and so forth.

Overall, a great album, especially for the usually low price. But if you’re not that familiar with Steve Hackett, he has even better albums- since, and prior. But this is still a “keeper” considering that almost all of it is superb.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited | , | Leave a comment