Thursday, October 30, 2014
The next round of Led Zeppelin deluxe remasters hit this week, with "IV" and "Houses Of The Holy" getting the upgrade in both sound and content. If you want to refresh your memory on what took place with the first round, my review is here.
OVERALL SOUND QUALITY:
Like the first round, I listened to the vinyl copies of both 1971's "IV" and 1973's "Houses Of The Holy." Unlike the first round, I wasn't immediately blown away, at least not with Zeppelin IV. The first thing I noticed as "Black Dog" started to shape up was a lack of bottom. I don't recall this record or any record by this band ever sounding so brittle. This is not to say it isn't an improvement over previous releases, but after enjoying the remastering on the first three, I anticipated the same type of excitement. Maybe my ears were expecting something completely different in the upgrade than what Jimmy Page or any of you will.
On the other hand, "HOTH" is the exact opposite, sounding more like a John Paul Jones production, with the bass taking front and center. This remaster is breathtaking. Like the first round, every layer of music is crystal clear, from Bonzo's cymbal work in "The Rain Song" to JPJ's bass work in "The Song Remains The Same," which is a song in itself. From the intitial needle drop, you will feel LZ in your living room.
The "Companion Audio" to these two releases also pales in comparison to the first three, especially "IV." I've listened to these records thousands of times and can blink every drum lick and guitar flourish and I was hard pressed to notice any major differences with the "alternate mixes." The U.K mix of "When The Levee Breaks," though, is a must hear. Greasier and heavier, with Plant's blues harp leading the way. The "mandolin/guitar mix" of "Going To California" is a beautiful piece of music actually, but again, it doesn't feel like anything more than a karaoke version. There is nothing particularly revelatory here...
...unlike the "guitar overdub reference mix" of "The Song Remains The Same" on HOTH, which blew my wee little mind. This overture which opens the record, has always been in my Top 10 of LZ songs. This new version will show you why. Jimmy Page creates an orchestra of guitars, with each additional track painting a new background, via a riff, rhythm or melody. As each new idea began to unfold, so did I. I thought I knew this tune inside and out. This version proves I did not. The slightly stripped down version of "The Rain Song" is also a stunner. Also in my Top 10, this "mix minus piano" version feels more personal. Softer, maybe as Plant's vocals, seem like the focus. This track is also one more reason there will never be a drummer like John Bonham. If anyone thought Bonzo was only about hammering it home, just give this subtle performance a good listen. I also really enjoyed the "guitar mix backing track" of "Over The Hills & Far Away," simply because I had no idea how grungey the rhythm guitar was. I just never heard it this way before. (You see, when you're a fanboy, these subtleties are game-changing.)
While neither of these new remasters benefits as well as the first three with audio improvements or bonus materials, for a fan...and I am...they are still very exciting, especially HOTH.
Next up, the 40th anniversary remaster of my favorite LZ record, "Physical Graffiti" coming in February, 2015.
Posted by Sal Nunziato at 5:16 AM
Monday, October 27, 2014
I have been around drummers my whole life. Cousins, friends and friends of cousins and uncles all seemed to be drummers and almost all have had an influence on both my listening and playing. One particularly vivid memory is of an afternoon listening to the just released King Crimson record "Larks' Tongues In Aspic," when my bedroom door opened. My uncle and his friend were paying a visit and his friend heard the music and said "Getting a good workout in here?" He knew I played drums. So did he. He offered this.
"I know you love Bill Bruford. But you should also listen to Elvin Jones and Ginger Baker."
I had already been a fan of Cream, but not really of Ginger Baker. Elvin Jones, on the other hand, was completely out of my league. As I got older, I understood both Elvin and Ginger, and of course, now love them both. My favorite drummers have always been my favorite drummers: Ringo Starr and John Bonham. I couldn't imagine The Beatles or Led Zeppelin without either of them, and though Baker never did anything for me when I was a kid, I realized when I got older, Cream would not have been Cream without Baker.
I'm thinking about this now in the wake of Jack Bruce's death and after reading a comment left by reader Heather Taylor.
"I went through a discovery and short love for Cream in college when I discovered good music. While I quickly moved beyond this band, I've always understood the impact and importance of Jack Bruce's playing on the course of rock music history."
"...when I discovered good music." I love this.
It's too easy for many, including myself for many years, to think of Cream as Eric Clapton's baby. But this short-lived trio, though a sum of its parts, was in many ways Jack Bruce's baby. This is one huge loss.
Something else came to mind, as a person who will never pass up a solid "get off my lawn" opportunity.
Which musicians currently making "good music," will carry the torch as the best of the best when all of our heroes are gone?
Flea? Taylor Hawkins? Gary Clark Jr.?
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
Two weeks prior to the New York City Marathon of 2002, David Bowie ran a little NYC marathon of his own. On the heels of his new release "Heathen" Bowie played one intimate show in each of the five boroughs. Beginning in Brooklyn and finishing in Manhattan, the mini-tour hit St. Ann's Warehouse, Snug Harbor in Staten Island, Jimmy's Bronx Cafe, Queens College and the Beacon Theatre. I made it to three of the five, skipping Staten Island and Queens.
The shows were insanely good, ridiculously small, and heavily stacked. Jimmy's Bronx Cafe was surreal. A latin dance club that was 75% full...I guess fans were afraid to venture to the Bronx...this venue afforded me the luxury of standing approximately 50 feet back from the stage on a platform which also had runway to its left. Think of it as L-shaped. Here is The Dame, a stone's throw in front of me, and just by walking a bit to my left and then forward on the back of the L, I was pretty much on the stage. No one cared.
By the finale at the Beacon Theatre, the set list had been shortened by 3-5 songs and the vibe felt more like a concert than "an evening with." But it was opening night at Brooklyn's St. Ann's Warehouse on 10/12/02 that took the cake. 24 songs in a little over two hours, including the live U.S. debut of "The Bewlay Brothers," a personal fave off of "Hunky Dory," this night was special.
Here it is, a stellar audience recording, maybe a tad light on the bottom, but it's all there, with Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard's guitars, Mike Garson on keys, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass and the monster that is Sterling Campbell on drums. (I might be forgetting someone or two.)
Turn it up!
Ashes To Ashes
5:15 The Angels Have Gone
I've Been Waiting For You
I'm Afraid Of Americans
Life On Mars
Look Back In Anger
Heathen (The Rays)
The Bewlay Brothers
Everyone Says Hi
Posted by Sal Nunziato at 4:46 AM
Thursday, October 23, 2014
"Night Surfer" was released a few weeks ago. It is yet another fantastic release from Chuck Prophet.
I will keep the hyperbole to a minimum, but I must say this. Prophet's solo output has been one of the most consistent in rock and roll. I know many will go as far back as 1990's "Brother Aldo," but for me, the year 2000 and its accompanying release "The Hurting Business," began a 15 year stretch of one breathtaking...yes, BREATHTAKING...release after another.
"Night Surfer" continues this tradition.
Chuck Prophet can sure spin a yarn. He can write a hook. He can play guitar.
2012's "Temple Beautiful" was all about San Francisco and it was a fave of that year. "Night Surfer" feels very autobiographical. I was moved. It thrilled me both musically and lyrically. I cannot recommend Chuck Prophet enough.
Ok, I'm finished.
Posted by Sal Nunziato at 5:05 AM