Saturday, May 23, 2009

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME...
...but visually, they're presented better than ever...
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I've been a big fan of Led Zeppelin for a long time now. Early on, I really dug the loud, heavy, upbeat tracks on their albums, and over the years, I've come to appreciate more, the softer, acoustic-oriented tracks which they'd intersperse between the Loud Cuts. In a way, I feel that Zep was "The Beatles Of The '70's" in terms of originality, creativity, and presentation. It was as if the group could do almost any type of material, and do it well. I remember getting their 4th album (the one with Stairway To Heaven), and the songs "Rock and Roll", "Misty Mountain Hop" and ESPECIALLY "When The Levee Breaks" just blew me away. That album's been in my collection for over 35 years. I couldn't believe how fully-developed their very First album was, when I added it to my collection...Gosh, "You Shook Me", "Communication Breakdown" and "I Can't Quit You, Baby" again just Blew Me Away.
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I could go on and on...the exotic 9-minute tune, "Kashmir" from Zep's "Physical Graffiti" album (1975) is mystical, sensitive, and still Very Very Heavy. How about "The Ocean", or "Dancing Days" from their 1973 album, "Houses Of The Holy"? Both of those tunes feature strange, off-base and really effective musical riffs (Riff: repeated sequence of notes) which all blast thru the Stereo Speakers quite nicely. But the Softer side of Zeppelin comes through as well...the acoustically propulsive "Bron-y-Aur Stomp" or the pastoral "That's The Way"; both tracks are from 'Led Zeppelin III', which featured an entire side of Acoustic Material. On their final studio album, "In Through The Out Door", (1978) they recorded one of the most Beautiful songs ever, "All My Love". It's just amazing, the range this group possessed. And, as I age, their softer tracks appeal to that side of me that likes to Ponder and Daydream. The Mighty Zeppelin never really did rely on 'formula' or any kind of predictability; and in concert, it's easy to tell that the group wanted to keep their material fresh, interesting and compelling. And it is...
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In Concert, what I've seen has 'Led' me to think that, well, one couldn't know what to expect...how they can take the song, "Dazed And Confused", a twisted blues with a weird chord progression...in the course of that tune, they'd play it heavy, they would then break out into a relentless James Brown-type of Funk Jam, and then all of a sudden, stop in their tracks as guitarist Jimmy Page pulled out the VIOLIN BOW and raking it across the strings, causing his instrument to emit all kinds of weird, eerie sounds...sometimes, I wonder if even the Group Members Themselves didn't really know what was gonna happen; from what I can tell, they were waaaay out there on the edge; teetering over the edge, and almost falling in before making a complete musical recovery...it makes for some very, very fascinating listening. The "live" version of "Dazed and Confused" lasts for 26 and a half MINUTES, and from what I've read, some nights the song ran for 45 minutes (or more).
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I recently bought this 2-DVD special edition of Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains The Same", which came out on LP (and now compact disc) as well. This 'special edition' features an unedited "Whole Lotta Love", plus three songs not included in the original film, and of course, the 26-minute version of "Dazed and Confused" in all its regal splendor. I already had the 'old' single-DVD of the film, and in comparison, it's easy to tell that this presentation has Really Been Enhanced in a major way.
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The "Live" version of "Whole Lotta Love" features Jimmy Page waving his hand over and around a strange instrument called a 'Theremin' (There-a-min), which changes frequencies depending on how close your hand is to it; Page would cause the instrument to scream and wail; then he'd point to singer Robert Plant, and Plant's high voice would match the wailings of the Theremin. Absolutely wild. (It was that part that was edited out on the original DVD issue.) And after a couple minutes of that, Page went back to his guitar and Rocked Down The House. Elsewhere, their extended version of "No Quarter", a song that begins with ghostly keyboard meanderings, whispers at the start, gains momentum, becomes torturously-heavy before again disappearing in a cloud of fog and ghostly keyboards...this is music you don't just listen to...it becomes something you experience...
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One of the tracks that really grabs me is their 'Live' version of "Since I've Been Loving You", one of the most Anguished blues tracks I have ever heard. This is music that just Pounds at you; it Makes you feel things, it Really Reaches for your soul. And, mind you, I'm writing this over 30 years AFTER this concert was filmed, and still this music has an Immediate Impact. From a visual standpoint, what's amazing about this DVD is how sharp the video is...it's almost sharper than you'd see in Real Life; ah, the wonders of digital technology (The 'extra' tracks don't 'look' as sharp, although the sound on them is crisp and clear). Obviously, Led Zeppelin is not everyone's cup of tea. That said, their softer songs make for some very, very pleasant listening; I worked at a University Radio Station, and played their softer music in the Early Morning Hours. And their loud rock and roll...it's some of the loudest, most concentrated Rock and Roll that will Ever be recorded. Led Zeppelin's repertoire consisted of some of the most diverse musical offerings I've ever heard, drawing from Eastern, Folk, Blues and Soul influences. To me, it's no wonder Led Zep's music continues to sell. It's music in which you hear something different, no matter how many times you've heard it before.
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I love to play guitar. And seeing Jimmy Page in concert, with his fingers whirling madly up and down the guitar neck like mine will never be able to do inspires me to (A) practice harder and more often, or (B) to Quit Altogether; most of the time I'm caught in the middle of those two extremes. And I've even learned a Led Zeppelin riff or two...

2 Comments:

Blogger MarmiteToasty said...

2 of me lads play guitar besides other things lol..... actually there has been guitar music in my house almost all day :)

x

10:54 AM  
Blogger some guy who blogs said...

Hi, MARMEE!!!!! I have a 6-string acoustic, a 12-string acoustic, a nylon-string Classical guitar, my Dad's old electric guitar (the body of which is bright red), and two of my Mom's baritone ukelele's, which are tuned like the first 4 strings of a guitar. You'd think I'd play better than I do, what with so many different gee-tars to choose from...

12:56 AM  

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