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Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page by Brad Tolinski (2012)

light___shade_jacket_image1From amazon.com

Being a dedicated Led Zeppelin Fan and Yardbirds fan before that, means I have a continued interest in all things Zeppelin, including the individual members and the music long after the end of the “golden era” of their albums. I bought the first single Atlantic vinyl 45 of Communication Breakdown b/w Good Times, Bad Times, then bought all their albums, then the first CDs, then remastered CDs, DVDs, and live recordings. I saw them 3 times in concert, including the great Long Beach Concert in the early 70’s now on CD. I stood above Jimmy Page in the second tier and don’t think my ears recovered for three hours after the concert was over. Wow. Great performance I obviously will never forget (the other two concerts I attended were the earlier Los Angeles Forum after III came out and Kezar Stadium Golden Gate Park San Francisco Houses of the Holy album tour).

Of course I had to have this book and I think any fan will have to have it. I am not trying to talk anyone out of reading it, it’s not bad but not great either. A bit of a disappointment to me overall. I read the inside jacket information before purchase, much of which I now think is “hype” (excuse the term – early reviews said Led Zeppelin was all “hype” with little talent, then there is the Superhype Music name). The positive of the book is that you hear the actual words from Mr. Page rather than a writer who may be prejudiced for or against him and the group. However, out of the 300 pages, less than 100 pages is actual interviews of Page, the rest is the author’s writings about Page, Led Zeppelin, later projects and “musical interludes” which are sometimes interesting but are not Page. The “oral autobiography” I expected is not that but an incomplete look into the group and other projects. So much has not been covered.

One thing as a musician that I had expected more of and was talked about on the jacket was that the book “encompasses Page’s entire career beginning with his early days as England’s top session guitarist”, but in my opinion there is little detailed information about that time, there are references to much of that work but not specifics, it says for example that he worked on Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” which is true but by not spelling out exactly what he did implies he was lead guitar, he was not. And from other readings I have done, he was not lead guitar for many of the records he is credited to as being on, like the early Kinks, yes he played on their records also with The Who, but did not play lead, same for the recording of the movie Goldfinger theme. I don’t need him to be lead, it would just be nice to have more exact information instead of vague references that imply the wrong information.

Next, the cover says the book does this: “Examining every major Led Zeppelin track” – it depends on your definition of “major.” There are maybe five or six tracks that are talked about in some detail but not enough information for anyone wishing to know how songs got created, the inspiration, how chords changes and other musical phrases were worked out, things like that. There is a little about alternate tunings for guitar which I liked to know and I did find it fascinating that Page would purposely play every concert solo differently at different times so that it would be a new challenge for him and so it would not get boring for him or the audience. He talks about lyrics and how Plant evolved into a major lyricist for the band. But what do certain lyrics mean? Not there. Some information about album artwork. There is an interesting interlude about the equipment Page used: primary guitars, amps, and effects. (Recommended: It Might Get Loud, a DVD with Page, The Edge, and Jack White.)

Some of the book’s other “musical interludes” seem unnecessary, maybe put in due to lack of interview material (not only is there less than 100 pages of interviews, the book uses a not so small type size giving the impression that it is a larger book than it is, also when the first question of a chapter is posed, does it really take a whole page to do that? Very dramatic, black page with white lettering, but a waste of space.) The interlude on “fashion” was not something I felt I had to read, I thought this book would be about the musical genius of Jimmy Page (is he known for fashion? I think he is mostly known for playing guitar, songwriting and producing.) Some of the other interludes might appeal to others, but not to me. The interview with Jeff Beck with Jimmy Page seemed to be from separate interviews and put together, were they in the same room at the time? I have no idea. The interlude with Yardbird Chris Dreja went on too long, I stopped caring and skipped over the end of it. Interview with Eric Clapton? Not here. A chapter on “The Astrology of Jimmy Page”, huh? A long interlude with Paul Rodgers, who I have enjoyed in his many groups, but why here? An interlude with Led Zeppelin publicist I also found unnecessary. I need books that inspire me, that make me want to read throughout the night to finish it, books I HAVE to read. This wasn’t one.

I know that I have read much of this material before, not sure where – I suspect from a small sized book about the album IV (my personal favourite and I’m sure for many fans, it has everything, every song is well done. I still listen to it regularly after 40 years). I found at least some of the interviews have been published before and this is not unique material.

Having read other books about the group which go into detail about the legendary nightlife of the group and was not something I wished to rehash, I was looking for something new, something with more in depth material about Page’s early works and the creation of the Led Zeppelin music, how and why he played what he did. I was frankly disappointed in this book. Oh well, as a fan I guess I might be disappointed in anything less than the full picture. This is not bad book and is fine if you don’t expect too much.

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May 12, 2013 Posted by | Book Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page by Brad Tolinski | , , | Leave a comment