Led Zeppelin on stage in 1973

Led Zeppelin:
Standing Against Time

by Julia Dragomirescu

Led Zeppelin IV album unfolded

I hear the “ding dong” sound as I enter the vinyl record shop. The smell of antiques wafts gently through the air, beckoning to the wanderer to enter a realm of nimble-fingered guitarists and pre-Raphaelite-faced singers. Enchanted, my eyeballs focus on the simple black lettering, shifting from one category to the next. My eyes refocus on the last one labeled “Rock.” Rushing to the stack, I madly flip through it, reaching further and further, holding my breath when the holy grail appears before my eyes: Led Zeppelin IV! I knew today would be my lucky day. And it doesn’t even smell that bad. Proud of my extraordinary find, I whisk it away to my house and gently open the sleeve. Before doing so, I analyze every minuscule detail of the cover, noticing that it bears no title. A strange old man catches the viewer’s eye, he carries a gigantic bundle of sticks on his back and has a simple wooden walking cane. This painting has a countryside background nailed onto what appears to be the wall of a peeling building when the front and back cover are viewed together. When opening the inner sleeve, a charcoal background lights up the wise old man and the lantern that guides his way. He stands atop a cliff, as intricate as a spider web, while peering at the miniature town below him. At last, the shiny black disc slides into my hands. Mysterious symbols appear on the label. Not paying much heed to them, I laboriously place the vinyl record on the player. I gently pick up the needle and anticipate the first chords of the singer and guitarist in harmony. I can feel the music flow into my ears physically shaking my heart and reminding me of the power and force of music, especially Led Zeppelin’s music. I will now take you on a journey to discover the answers to the following questions: Why is Led Zeppelin, a band from the 1970s, still popular today with audiences, especially the younger generation? What has caused their music to survive while other bands have been forgotten?

I decided to start off my research by looking more closely at general facts about the band in order to test my own knowledge and maybe find out something new. I went on Led Zeppelin’s music portal and found that they were an English rock band that started up in 1968 by Jimmy Page, the producer and guitarist of Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant became the vocals of the band as well as the harmonica accompaniment. John Bonham thumped away on his drums while John Paul Jones played the bass guitar, mandolin, and was the keyboard master of the group. The band mostly played hard rock songs, with a few softer more acoustic songs in between. Led Zeppelin’s inspiration came from African-American blues singers, such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. From there they developed their signature sound: a turbulent, guitar-oriented blues rock medley. Led Zeppelin experimented further by incorporating reggae, funk, soul, Celtic, classical, Indian, pop, Latin, Arabic and country behind the blues and folk background of many of their songs. They are considered valuable today for their ongoing commercial success, past artistic achievements and influence over others then and now. All of their original studio albums reached the top 10 of the Top 100 Billboard of the US, with their sixth album, Physical Graffiti, rising to number one. Ok, wait, stop! I thought. These statistics are great, but are they the true representation of why and what makes Led Zeppelin popular with young people today? I decided the answer was no. I steered away from electronic sources and chose to go old-fashioned.

Led Zeppelin on stage in 1969

In Barney Hoskyns’ book Led Zeppelin IV, he describes the mood of the recording room when the band first met. The future members knew that something great had happened right from the very beginning when they stepped into the room. In the studio, there wasn’t much to see. John Paul Jones recalls the dim atmosphere of the room; “It was wall-to-wall amplifiers and terrible, all old,” but that didn’t bring them down one bit as Page took the lead and corralled them all into action: “Jimmy counted it out and the room just exploded.” Bonham followed and set the rhythm and beat with his drums while the rest just fell into place. Plant became the focus with his booming voice and Page joined in to support him, complementing each other. John Paul Jones bass guitar set the right tone, as they harmonized “Train Kept a-Rollin” an old Johnny Burnette Trio rock n’ roll song. Together, they created the perfect jigsaw puzzle. This description, (not much of a scene really), was a good start to understanding the band’s dynamic but didn’t give me any concrete descriptive details to paint a picture on why the band was a success today.

Hitting a dead end, my first intention was to actually contact the real band members and get them to tell me their perspectives and experiences with younger people of my generation. I grabbed my laptop and found some fan mail and official websites with email addresses. I first tried to contact Robert Plant since he is my favourite member of the band. I spent a long time scanning Google search results and I found absolutely nothing. Disappointed, I tried the other band members and found an email address for Jimmy Page. I emailed him and asked him for an interview. The email came back to me and stated that the address did not exist. Frustrated, I remembered that I read a while ago an interesting blog post about the band’s references and inspirations for songs. I found a name attached to that article: Steven Markham. I emailed him, asking him for an interview, trying to seem professional despite being a high school student. He emailed me back immediately, success! I shouted quietly in my head because everyone else in the house was already in bed asleep.

Steven Markham, an alumnus of the University of Chester, is an expert on Led Zeppelin’s music and gave his overall impressions of the band:

I think that their strongest point is that they are, individually, superb musicians with a technical mastery of their instruments and voices. Their use of English folk music as well as the usual blues and rock influence also makes them stand out amongst their peers and produces melodic and harmonic structures that are unique. The ‘Rock Gods’ look, style and stage posing also made them iconic figures as did their refusal to ‘play the game’ within the music industry; refusing to release singles, not using their faces on album covers and the brutal management style of Peter Grant”

I also decided to interview some cover bands. I emailed around 20 different bands from the US, UK and Canada. Only 8 bands got back to me: Led Zeppelin 2, Letz Zep, Coda, Led Zeppelica, Crimson Daze, Black Dog, Boot Led Zeppelin and A Whole Lotta Led. However, only 5 of them actually answered my questions. I asked them what originally led them to become Led Zeppelin fans. Robert Miniaci, Coda’s singer, had this to say;

When I was about 11 years old, I was sitting at the family stereo with headphones on listening to the radio. I tuned into a local station and there was a song on already a third way in. I didn’t know what the song was, the title, or who the band was. What happened to me was that I was struck with this incredible feeling. This energy that made the hair on my arms rise. I never heard a song like this. In that instant it was the most incredible song I had ever heard. So, eventually the song ended with a blistering guitar solo. The DJ came back on, and said, ‘Well that was Black Dog by Led Zeppelin.’ The very next day I was going through my older brother’s record collection, because I had a feeling he had some Led Zeppelin records. Sure enough I found an album, that had no writing on it, nothing to indicate who created this record. I was to learn that this was Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album. From that moment onward, it became a discovery of Led Zeppelin. I was immediately addicted to their music. I had to learn everything about them, and what their music was all about. I spent hours locked in my bedroom listening and learning, and singing along. To this very day, I still feel the same about the band and their music.”

My second question was trying to probe what they thought made the band stand out, what was specifically unique to Led Zeppelin. Letz Zep’s Billy Kulke exclaimed;

With Zeppelin, all the musicians are masters of their instrument, pushing back the boundaries of music. All four members contributed to the sound and the appeal of the band. Yes, there had been rock bands, and great musicians before, but not a band with all four trailblazing in a way Zeppelin did. To compare with other bands, they may fall onto a successful formula, then flog it to death. Zeppelin never sat on their laurels, but were always looking to advance, and change, and try new things. They were never content to sit on past glories. Whatever your mood, there is a Zeppelin period that satisfies this: the raw power of “Whole Lotta Love,” to the acoustics, and the prog-rock of No Quarter.”

Greg Reamsbottom from A Whole Lotta Led had an enthusiastic response;

It’s about how the music makes you FEEL. Bands like the Sex Pistols technically sucked in terms of musicianship (a problem Zeppelin certainly didn’t have!) but they made you FEEL something…that’s what counts! Led Zeppelin’s music SWINGS…the way the guitar, bass and drums lock together (always described as “tight, but loose”!) just works…few bands have that little bit of magic. Add Plant’s stratospheric vocals and you have something unique. It’s basically just the blues (something primal) with a heavy, psychedelic twist.”

One thing that really grabbed me when I was just starting to get to know Led Zeppelin was not only the amazing riffs and vocals, but also their strange and mystical lyrics. I think the creativity of their lyrics cause the listener to be compelled to hear more. Steven Markham contrasts two of their styles and the impact Led Zeppelin’s music has on him:

When you play their acoustic and ‘quieter’ tracks there is a melodic beauty that transports you to simpler times, somewhere between Merrie Olde England and Tolkien. When they turn up the volume there is a primal energy that erupts through the speakers.”

As I delved deeper behind their inspirations and meanings of their songs and albums, I found a multitude of references. Jimmy Page was clearly the major contributor to Led Zeppelin’s more odd and “spiritual” songs. It is evident that he had vast knowledge on the occult, folk mythology and fantastical literature and was fascinated by it. He has been described by Barney Hoskyns’ as, “a satanic Paganini [playing Dazed and Confused on stage], an evil minstrel with his face obscured behind a curtain of black hair.” Mr. Markham’s article on Led Zeppelin caused me to become more interested in the band. Since childhood, I remember being fascinated by books and story-telling. My dad would read fairytales and myths to me (almost) every night before bed. I remember the way he would “present” them to me, describing them in such a way that the characters appeared real. Anyways, I also remember that I would listen to the music channel on TV, watching different videos of Abba, Bee Gees and other vintage bands. I didn’t realize then, but music is a form of story-telling. It captures the audience with a particular rhythm or beat and lets the lyrics follow naturally. A lot of Led Zeppelin’s songs cover different topics like Led Zeppelin on stage in 1973love, mythology, religion and folk stories. This is one reason why I love music and why I liked particular songs by Led Zeppelin, like Stairway to Heaven. However, I thought that this was not the case for everyone, especially other young people who listened to music because it made them feel a certain way. Now, that’s in general of course and doesn’t apply directly to the band. So, I decided to look online in chat forums that were geared towards the younger generation.

On Quora, in a topic called “What is so great about Led Zeppelin?”, a 21-year-old named James Cook made two interesting comments:

The music they created defined a genre, transforming rock music from a tired rehash of old blues standards into a whirling dervish of musical energy and primal force. Songs like Immigrant Song and Kashmir transport the listener to distant lands…..When you listen to a Led Zeppelin song, you’re listening to something other than four men in a cramped studio. You’re listening to fifty years of blues music driven into a frenzy by Jimmy Page’s studious years of listening to every release by the American blues masters. You’re listening to all the folkish tradition of the English countryside in Robert Plant’s vocals. You’re listening to the musical theory and melodical genius of John Paul Jones. You’re listening to John Bonham, whose drumming style once led Jimi Hendrix to comment, ‘Boy, you’ve got a right foot like a rabbit!’ When you’re listening to a Led Zeppelin song, you’re listening to the combined output of four of the most talented musicians who ever lived, along, of course, with that unknown factor.”

On another website titled, Debate.org, there was a poll taken where users answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the question, “Is Led Zeppelin the best rock ‘n’ roll band of all time?” 78% said ‘yes’ and 22% said ‘no.’ KaeciMill compared Led Zeppelin to other bands for the ‘yes’ section;

No other band has achieved their level of musical sophistication as well as having a catalogue as unique and accomplished. In the decades following Zeppelin there have been metal bands who surpassed them techniquely. However, Zeppelin had better song writing abilities and that is why their songs remain timeless. If you play a later era album by The Beatles you could argue the songs are as good if not better than Zeppelin’s but they fall short musically with uncompromising artistic statements. In comparison, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd lack certain aspects of career fulfillment. Sabbath’s late 70s work pales miserably in comparison to their early achievements and lacks the diversity of Zeppelin. Pink Floyd may have released musical masterpieces like “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon” but certainly were not as prolific, with only 3 or 4 defining albums. Zeppelin has 6 pretty much undeniable classic albums, that’s excluding their last two. In the years to follow no other group has released 6 albums of that calibre in their career. Even artists as great as Hendrix can’t make that claim, despite how profound their influence. Even 90s greats like Nirvana can’t reach Zeppelin’s level of artistic fulfilment.”

In the ‘no’ section Anonymous makes some disagreeable comments,

Led Zeppelin were half of a great band. As everyone seems to say, Led Zeppelin had one of the greatest-ever rhythm sections in all of rock music. Bonham and Jones were incredible not only in how good they sounded, but also in how they were, as players, capable of getting out of the way and providing an underlying propulsion for Plant and Page to work on. But Plant and Page were the problem; the prior is, let’s face it, not a very good singer, and the latter, while a very good guitar player, sacrificed actual depth in his song writing for pretentious myth-making. So what Led Zeppelin ended up being was a great drummer and bassist adding propulsion to shallow, nerdy totems. Art should have higher standards.”

What!? I thought after reading that. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but that was a little crude, I concluded.

I tried to find someone on the forum, Quora, that lived in my area. I found a few kids that lived close by and tried to contact them. I was wondering if I could see their personal collection of vinyl records and the stories behind how they got them, especially the Led Zeppelins. I got about 3 people to agree to give me their email. Most of them had around the same collection that I had which made me really dispirited. The one kid that had a more extensive collection told me that he now lives in Barrie [he forgot to update his profile]! Seeing that I couldn’t find anyone with an extraordinary vinyl record collection, specifically with Led Zeppelin records, I settled with my dad’s (technically mine as well) potpourri. Since I had failed in finding a stranger that I could conduct a live interview with, the next best thing was to interview my dad who also influenced my music taste.

As you enter our condominium suite the kitchen is the first thing you see. A very homey looking island counter and black accessories creates a warm and pleasant atmosphere. As you pass the kitchen area you realize that the boundaries blur between different spaces and all of a sudden you find yourself in the living room. Dark bookshelves line the walls with various subject matters. Paintings of different sizes stand out against the coffee hued walls. When you reach the spiral staircase to your left, you notice a large collection of records. As you skim through, it is clear they are separated by categories, like jazz, pop, electronic and rock. In the rock section you’ll find Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III and Physical Graffiti. In the CD section you’ll also find The Best of Led Zeppelin and Latter Days: Best of Led Zeppelin Volume 2. After coming into the room and pretending that I was at an interview with a person I hadn’t met before, I sat down on the futon, setting the mood for a casual and relaxed session. I asked, “What caused you to become interested in Led Zeppelin?” as I was getting ready to scribble down on my notepad what he had to say. “Their expressive music: the melody as well as the lyrics. Also, at the time when I started to love hard rock music, in the Communist [in Romania] era, a contributing factor was my growing love for the English language and the Occidental [Western] life. This also powered my desire and the dream I had to ‘escape.'” Satisfied with the unique answer I had received, I continued: “What do you think are the band’s strongest points? What makes them stand out when compared to other bands?” He replied,

Besides what I have already mentioned previously, both the melodies and lyrics, I believe Led Zeppelin is one of the best bands due to their genre diversity but also, at the same time, being able to maintain their characteristic orchestral line. Also, Robert Plant’s exotic voice definitely makes them stand out from the crowd.

I reached my third and final question, “Can you describe the impact their music has made on you?” I inquired.

It makes me feel good, better. It relieves all stress that has been accumulated throughout the day.”

His answer was concise and simple which I liked very much because he described the number one reason why people like music: it brightened their mood after a demanding and tiring day. I gave a quick smile, shook his hand and said that it was a pleasure to be here, “Thank you.” I walked out the door and immediately came back in. Now it’s time to get back to work, I thought as I cracked my knuckles and sat quietly while the noise of the keys clacking accompanied my thoughts.

A recurring topic came up while I was doing my research, so I thought it would be interesting to learn more about it. That problem was the copyright conflict Led Zeppelin had with other artists. In Barney Hoskyns’ Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band he claims that other bands, not just Led Zeppelin, that appeared from the British blues upswing of the 60s, stole riffs from African Americans who were also ripped off by their contracts from the 40s and 50s! Hoskyns describes Jimmy Page’s attitude toward this notion as indifferent and callous and was awarded song writing credit when he didn’t deserve it. Robert Plant clearly states Page’s actions back then,

I think when Willie Dixon [Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” was stolen from Muddy Water’s “You Need Love” which was purloined from Dixon] turned on the radio in Chicago 20 years after he wrote his blues, he thought, ‘That’s my song.’ When we ripped it off, I said to Jimmy, ‘Hey, that’s not our song.’ And he said, ‘Shut up and keep walking.'”

Jimmy ended up blaming Robert in an interview with Guitar World that he was supposed to change the lyrics but didn’t fulfill the task. But does this change the value of their music? I thought to myself. I decided to ask the tribute bands what they thought of the situation. Coda brought out what I think is one of the truest responses,

I guess the band should have given credit at the time the albums were released. I feel those early blues songs inspired the band and that they had no other intention but to pay homage to the early blues legends. They were fans of the music and loved it to death. Remember, the blues is like a quilt. Everybody absorbs what came before them, they will pay homage by playing those songs, then adding to them, their own brand of inspiration. It’s a story that every one contributes a chapter to. Remember also, that one single person cannot be given full credit for creating the blues. That’s impossible. The king of the Delta Blues himself, Robert Johnson, didn’t create the blues, and probably interpreted lyrics and songs in his repertoire that he heard orally from someone before him. But I would never take that title away from him and his stature in blues history. He helped influence so many! So back to the point of your question. I fully believe with all my heart, it all boils down to inspiration.”

A Whole Lotta Led had an equally true answer,

Zeppelin freely admitted that they used/borrowed/ripped off stuff from the guys that influenced them…it’s always been that way, and we still see this in music today. They were certainly inspired by such songs, enough so that they sometimes copied them verbatim, but Zeppelin took those songs and made them “their own,” playing them in a way no one had thought of before.”

Going back to my opinion, I don’t think the copyright scandal necessarily devalues their music because they truly reinvented the songs they “borrowed.” It is true that what they did was wrong, not properly crediting the artists they were inspired from, but that doesn’t change the fact that fans love their music regardless.

Overall, I think that people love Led Zeppelin and they have stood the test of time because of the raw power and synergy of their music. Led Zeppelin will continue to be one of the greatest rock bands of all history.

~

Julia Dragomirescu is a Romanian-born Canadian. Currently in her last year of high school at John Fraser Secondary School, she decided to take a course called Writer’s Craft this year. It is a class where students discover different styles of writing like poetry, narrative, satire and new journalism; as well as what techniques to use to improve their writing. She has a love of reading and has now discovered a love of writing. which has led Julia to become passionate about discovering new stories about various subjects.

~

Works Cited

  • Email interviews (including attempted) with Steven Markham, Boot Led Zeppelin, Led Zepplica, Sam Rapallo, A Whole Lotta Led, Black Dog, Crimson Daze, Letz Zep, Get the Led Out, Dread Zeppelin, Lez Zeppelin, Fred Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin 2, Talztop, Michael White & The White, Song Remains the Same, Led Zeppelin Show, Crunge, Coda, Scott Calef, Paula Mejia and Dave Lewis
  • Hoskyns, Barney. Led Zeppelin IV. New York, NY: Rodale, 2006. Print.
  • Hoskyns, Barney. Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.
  • “Is Led Zeppelin the Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Band of All Time?” Debate.org. Debate.org, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2016. .
  • Live interview with lifelong fan Alex Dragomirescu
  • Markham, Steven. “The Occult Symbolism of Led Zeppelin.” Mysterious Times. WordPress, 03 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2015. .
  • “The Led Zeppelin Portal.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.
  • “What Is so Great about Led Zeppelin?” Quora. Quora, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2016. .
Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters

Buy Foo Fighters

Foo FightersWith the suicide of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain abruptly ending what looked like a promising rise for the rock trio in 1994, the group’s drummer, Dave Grohl, decided to write and record independent material as a “cathartic experience”. The resulting work, Foo Fighters, an album and act which derived its name from a term World War II aircraft pilots would use to describe various UFOs. No one (even Grohl) at the time knew that this album would act as the commencement of a highly successful rock band for decades to come.

The name originally served as a proxy, intentionally used by Grohl to preserve his anonymity after recordings were completed. Those recordings took place over just one week in October 1994 at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, with Grohl frantically recording all instrumentation and vocals himself. Along with producer Barrett Jones, the duo spent long days recording up to four songs each day in the order that they would ultimately appear on the album. Having never been a front man, Grohl was initially insecure about his singing so he often double-tracked and applied added effects to his voice. Many of the compositions were initiated during Grohl’s time in Nirvana, as he would often bring a guitar along on tour. However, there were many parts composed on the fly during the short studio time.

Grohl originally pressed a limited number of LPs and cassettes to pass out among fellow musicians and friends. He had been offered a permanent gig as drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and briefly considered taking it before Petty heard one of his tapes and encouraged Grohl to pursue “the solo thing”. Soon these tapes reached some major labels and Grohl signed with Capitol, who accepted the original recordings but had them remixed. Grohl then recruited a full band to forge a live show and fulfill Capitol’s request for a photo of a full band.


Foo Fighters by Foo Fighters
Released: July 4, 1995 (Capitol)
Produced by: Barrett Jones and Dave Grohl
Recorded: Robert Lang Studios, Seattle, October 1994
Album Tracks Primary Musician
This Is a Call
I’ll Stick Around
Big Me
Alone + Easy Target
Good Grief
Floaty
Weenie Beenie
Oh, George
For All the Cows
X-Static
Wattershed
Exhausted
Dave Grohl – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Drums

Foo Fighters

The opener, “This Is a Call”, is actually one of the more recent songs written by Grohl and, right from the jump, his sense of melody and accessibility is evident along with his penchant for unabashed, hard-edged rock. the song starts with some double vocals above strummed electric for one line before the song explodes into a full and intense rock arrangement and it peaked at #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. “I’ll Stick Around” is more like a traditional Nirvana song with rotating riffs and a quasi-punk feel. The song’s vocal vibe ranges from detached whine to emotional screed with the music following perfectly throughout. The third song, “Big Me”, displays a third distinct type of talented musical style by Grohl. As a calm and melodic pop song, the track displays a knack for effective use of repetition and arrangement in getting the songs message out in a quick and effective way.

“Alone + Easy Target” dates back to 1991 and is another good jam, albeit not quite as innovative as the first three songs. “Good Grief” is driven by steady, upbeat drums and drilling guitar textures and the choruses get a little punk intensive, while “Floaty” contrasts with a pleasant 12-string acoustic intro before launching into a flange-drenched steady rock sway during the verses. “Weenie Beenie” brings the effects to a nearly absurd level with its textures and heavily treated vocals. While this is all fun as a headbanger, there is not much in terms of musical substance. “Oh, George” returns to melodic hard rock and is a loose tribute to George Harrison, who he calls his “favorite Beatle”.

Dave Grohl

Coming down the stretch, Foo Fighters maintains its energy and vibrancy while offering more diverse selections. “For All the Cows” is another Nirvana-esque track, starting with calm, jazzy verses and exploding into heavy punk screeds during the choruses. “X-Static” is notable as the only track with an outside musician, as Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs plays guitar. “Wattershed” is a punk jam with nearly screamed vocals that rail against mailmen, banks, record contracts, and other divergent subjects. “Exhausted” closes things out and works great with its title as the closing track to this rapidly recorded collection. The track is notable for an extremely long “feedback” section in the middle, before the main musical riff reprises to shepherd out the album.

Foo Fighters charted well throughout the world and was promoted through several tours domestically and internationally. These tours served to gel the members as a proper “group” and much success would follow, starting with the 1997 second album, The Colour and the Shape, and continuing well into the next century.

~

1995 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1995 albums.

 

Electric Light Orchestra in 1970

The Orchestra Stuns Atlantic City with Classic Rock Performances

Electric Light Orchestra in 1970The former members of the Electric Light Orchestra and the Electric Light Orchestra II joined forces and combined their musical prowess for the first time to hold an unforgettable performance at the Resort Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on January 2nd. Going under the moniker themselves “The Orchestra,” the two groups managed to bring classic rock hits with an orchestral touch to the thousands of guests who watched at the casino’s Superstar Theater. The Orchestra performed hits like “Strange Magic,” “Evil Woman,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Do Ya,” “Telephone Line,” and “Sweet Talkin’ “Woman.”

The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) was originally an arena band that toured the world from 1971-1986. In the late 1980s, however, the arena band branched out and gave birth to a symphonic rock band called The Electric Light Orchestra II (ELO II). Both bands are well known for their extravagant performances, unique approach to rock music, and individual personas that garnered a huge following over the years.

Joining The Orchestra are original ELO Members Lou Clark and Mik Kaminski. ELO II members Gordon Townsend, Eric Troyer, Parthenon Huxley, and Glen Burtnik also joined as members of the newly formed super group.

The Resort Casino Hotel was a fitting venue for the arena band’s reunion. The Superstar Theater is well known for its amazing musical concerts all-year round, which actually help the resort stay in operation. Ever since the dawn of online gaming, which offers not only convenience when it comes to slots and staple casino games but also through their integration on mobile as well as daily freebies that seem to be absent in land-based casinos. As a way to drive tourists and revenues back into the city, casino establishments are expanding their entertainment options to the public, and this includes holding big concerts with marked-down prices. Tickets for the concert were sold for only $25, $35 and $45 via Ticketmaster.

Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

Buy Tragic Kingdom

Tragic Kingdom by No DoubtNo Doubt offered an upbeat breath of fresh air to the mid nineties with their dynamic masterpiece, Tragic Kingdom. This third overall studio album by the California-based rock band found tremendous commercial and chart success and sustained seven singles over the period between late 1995 and early 1998. Led by the dynamic vocals of Gwen Stefani, the group composed songs blending a diverse array of musical genres including blues, rock, ska, reggae, grunge, new wave and punk.

The group was formed in 1986 by keyboardist Eric Stefani, with his sister Gwen occasionally joining in on backing vocals when they practiced in their parents’ garage. Bassist Tony Kanal later joined after catching one of the band’s early shows and began a (initially) secret relationship with Gwen. In early 1988, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young joined No Doubt, rounding out the band’s long-standing lineup. Impressed by the group’s rabid live following, No Doubt was signed to a multi-album deal by Interscope Records in 1990. However, the group’s initial two releases, their 1992 self-titled debut and the self-produced The Beacon Street Collection failed to gain widespread success.

Producer Matthew Wilder was brought on board to produce Tragic Kingdom. The album included recordings made over a two and a half year period between March 1993 and October 1995, with recordings made in nearly dozen studios in and around Los Angeles. This album would also be the last to feature Eric Stefani, who was the primary composer of the material on the first two albums. After Eric officially left the band in 1994, most of the other group members stepped up to co-write the new material.


Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt
Released: October 6, 1995 (Interscope)
Produced by: Matthew Wilder
Recorded: Los Angeles, March 1993–October 1995
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Spiderwebs
Excuse Me Mr.
Just A Girl
Happy Now?
Different People
Hey You
The Climb
Sixteen
Sunday Morning
Don’t Speak
You Can Do It
World Go ‘Round
End It On This
Tragic Kingdom
Gwen Stefani – Lead Vocals
Tom Dumont – Guitars
Eric Stefani – Piano, Keyboards
Tony Kanal – Bass
Adrian Young – Drums, Percussion

Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt

The opener “Spiderwebs” starts with a steady reggae show piece with some brass before it quickly changes into a more frenzied and rock-oriented ska groove. Dumont’s crisply squeezed guitar chords and Kanal’s thumping bass lines accompany a steady beat by Young. Released as a single, the song reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. “Excuse Me Mr.” features a more frenzied ska riff and is especially entertaining during the bridge section where a frantic drum shuffle is accompanied by honky tonk piano and some fat brass. This song was originally composed as an acoustic folk song but the recording was lost in a studio accident, causing the group to re-write and re-record a punked-up version. “Just a Girl” features a wild sounding guitar riff accented by slight bass and steady hi-hat fused drums through the intro and verses and, later on, Eric Stefani adds a soaring synth lead over the ever-intensive rhythms. The lead single from the album, the song charted twice in the Top 40, eventually peaking at number 3. The lyrics, written by Gwen Stefani, tell of her own experiences dealing with female stereotypes;

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes, I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise / Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand, this world is forcing me to hold your hand…”

“Happy Now?” is a more vocal and lyric driven track with strong guitar riffing and chords. This is one of several tracks which lyrically deal with Gwen Stefani’s recent breakup with Kanal, after a seven year relationship. “Different People” features strong rudiments and a great animated bass line, while “Hey You!” has a unique and excellent arrangement with a heavy sixties vibe brought on by the overt sitar and harpsichord as well as the more subtle structuring of the rock groove. “The Climb” is a dramatic blues song written by Eric Stefani and it features cool penny-whistle organ parts under the verses with several guitar textures by Dumont. The song goes through several trans-formative sections and a long ending dissolve where each musician gets to add bits of embellishment in turn. Following the standard ska of “Sixteen”, a drum shuffle fades in along with a driven bass which makes it closer to pure reggae with heavy rock guitars and dynamic, dramatic vocals.

The album’s first and only ballad, “Don’t Speak”, offers one its most indelible moments. The song starts with Eric Stefani’s slow, rocking electric piano in verses but breaks into jazzy acoustic choruses complete with a later excellent flamenco acoustic lead by Dumont. Slight use of strings and brass are just enough to bring out the emotions without getting overly sappy, shining the spotlight on Gwen Stefani’s vocals, which are best at their very best on this album. The song would go on to become the breakthrough single. received tremendous airplay, and helped elevate the album as well as previously released singles. It would also go on to be nominated for Song of the Year at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

Coming down the stretch, Tragic Kingdom features more entertaining tracks such as “You Can Do It”, which is funky, seventies style soul with heavy brass, disco strings, wah-wah guitar and rounded bass patterns. “World Go ‘Round” returns to the upbeat reggae with horns and Hammond organ and plenty of brass, while the closing title song is a strong and steady, guitar and vocal driven rocker which is set up like a theatrical mini-suite complete with horn sections and a rapid fingerboard guitar lead. The best of this lot is “End It on This” (which should have been the album closer). This last, great song on the album has a definitive new wave feel with rapid guitar riffs and bass notes accented by melodic piano patterns. The choruses feature especially potent keyboards and bass which work together to give a feel of rapid melodic motion. The song then steadies into a traditional guitar lead section before an intense and fantastic outro section.

No Doubt

Following Tragic Kingdom‘s release and success, No Doubt embarked on a an extensive tour which lasted about two and a half years. A 1997 performance from this tour was recorded in the group’s home city of Anaheim and released as a Live in the Tragic Kingdom DVD. The band would not follow-up with another studio album until Return of Saturn was released in 2000, a half decade after Tragic Kingdom.

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1995 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1995 albums.

 

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

The 1965 Album of the Year

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

As a final wrap up of our final classic year review, 1965, we still needed to decide on an Album of the Year for that year. This was a unique situation, because all other classic years reserved the Album of the Year until the end of the review period but, in the case of 1965, we’ve gone with the “50 Years Ago Today” process of reviewing each album on (or near) the anniversary of each album’s release date.

For quite a while, we had decided that one of the two Bob Dylan classics from that year, Bringing It All Back Home or Highway 61 Revisited, would fill this top honor for 1965. For most of this year, I had championed the album that I personally reviewed (and my longtime favorite of all Dylan’s works), Bringing It All Back Home. There were two simple reasons for this – it came first and it perfectly intersects at the point of Dylan’s folk climax and rock n’ roll inception.

On the other hand, J.D. Cook had reviewed and championed Highway 61 Revisited as the album which “honors his past but also points a big bright burning finger towards works yet to come”. At one point, I had challenged Mr. Cook to debate the merits of each album and put it up for a public survey vote (much like we had for 1980’s Album of the Year). However, you really can’t put the two up against each other like a sporting competition so, after careful consideration I have decided to capitulate and concede Mr. Cook’s position. After all, this is Classic “Rock” Review, and there is little doubt that Highway 61 Revisited is closer to a traditional “rock” album out of the pair.

Like a Rolling Stone single by Bob DylanBeyond that, Highway 61 Revisited contains incredible musical benchmarks, from the innovative “Ballad of a Thin Man” to the exquisite gem “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” to the epic folk/Western “Desolation Row”. Further, this album is the first to include a heavy piano and keyboard presence, not only blazing the path in this regard, fully setting the template for countless rock albums to follow. Then there is the true classic part of this album, the opening track “Like a Rolling Stone”, a composition with a perfect balance of structure and improvisation, freak and thought, poetry and melody, which makes this song one of the very finest of the entire 20th century.

Finally, there is the true tipping point of the decision – the story behind the album’s title. As told in this River of Rock article; “as a teenager near Duluth, Minnesota, a young Robert Zimmerman used to daydream about riding down Highway 61 to the legendary musical locales of America.” Here, I believe, lies the true heart of rock n’ roll, not just the static situation, but the ongoing journey, whether it be in retrospective reflection or introspective vision. Highway 61 must always be revisited.

Merry Christmas 2015!
…..Ric Albano, Editor

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My Generation by The Who

My Generation by The Who

Buy My Generation

My Generation by The WhoThe Who released an impressive debut album in December 1965 with My Generation. Although the group was initially dissatisfied with the album, it has grown in the past half century to be regarded as one of the pivotal rock albums of the mid sixties. With most songs composed by guitarist, Pete Townshend, along with a few select blues and funk covers, the album features a raw, hard rock sound and approach which may have been heavier than any on any popular rock album up to that point in time.

Townshend grew up in a musical family outside London and met future bandmates, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle in grammar school. Daltrey, who was a year older than the others, started the group The Detours in 1959 and soon recruited Entwistle into the band on bass. Although Daltrey played guitar originally, in 1961 Entwistle suggested Townshend be hired as guitarist with Daltrey moving to lead vocals. In early 1964, the group changed their name to The Who and brought on drummer Keith Moon to round out the classic quartet.

Over the next year plus, The Who toured relentlessly and became a favorite band of the English “mod” movement. The group adopted mod fashion and lifestyle and even temporarily changed their name to, “The High Numbers”, for their initial 1964 single because management thought the name played better to their audience. Filmmakers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp later took over as managers and encouraged the group to change their repertoire towards R&B, Motown, and soul with the new slogan “Maximum R&B”. In late 1964, The Who recorded and released the song “I Can’t Explain”, which further expanded their sound to the raw, riff-driven sound made popular by The Kinks.

My Generation reflects a confluence of these evolving early sounds by the group. Produced by Shel Talmy, the album features songs released as singles earlier in 1965 along with a further mix of originals and cover songs which reflect their strongest live material.


My Generation by The Who
Released: December 3, 1965 (Brunswick)
Produced by: Shel Talmy
Recorded: IBC Studios, London, April-October 1965
Side One Side Two
Out In the Street
I Don’t Mind
The Good’s Gone
La-La-La-Lies
Much Too Much
My Generation
The Kids Are Alright
Please, Please, Please
It’s Not True
I’m a Man
A Legal Matter
The Ox
Tracks Included on Alternate Versions of the Album
Circles
I Can’t Explain
Bald Headed Woman
Group Musicians
Roger Daltrey – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Pete Townshend – Guitars, Vocals
John Entwistle – Bass, Vocals
Keith Moon – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

To kick off the album, “Out In the Street”, sounds like it has a false start by Daltry during intro, but when it does fully kick in it is a gritty rocker with driving rhythms and strong drumming by Moon. Later in the song they play with harmony arrangements, rudiments and guitar effects, making it an interesting listen. “I Don’t Mind”, follows as the first of two James Brown covers. Dramatic and soulful, the group again shows off their tight rock ability and style versatility.

“The Good’s Gone”, is a unique, droning rocker built on sharp drum patterns and extended guitar chording by Townshend.  The song is  repetitive but to great effect during verses and choruses with the tension finally relieved during the slight bridges, and this arrangement stretches it out beyond an almost-unheard-of-for-1965 four minutes in duration. “La-La-La-Lies”, is the first pure pop song on the album and it features a heavy piano presence by guest Nicky Hopkins along with rich backing harmonies throughout. The song failed to chart in the UK but was a significant hit in Sweden. While still entertaining, “Much Too Much”, is the first song to sound incomplete and the lead vocals melody seem to meander a bit.

The title track, “My Generation”, is the obvious highlight of the side and album, as well as the strongest song for both Entwistle and Moon. Perhaps the first ever true punk song, it gives a heavy nod to teenage angst in general and the mod counterculture specifically. The song is distinct musically with Daltrey’s signature stutter through the verses, Entwistle’s fantastic bass lead, and a final verse which goes up a key to add intensity and climaxes in a wild, unhinged coda. The song reached number 2 in the UK in October 1965 and is The Who’s highest charting single ever in their home country through a long and distinguished career.

The Who

The second side begins with “The Kids Are Alright”, another indelible Who classic which features rhythm, melody and strong accessibility. The song also features musical interludes where Moon gets to wail on the drums, making this a precursor to many Who classics in years to come and was referred back to during an interlude part of 1973’s Quadrophenia. After this zenith, the album regress’s a bit starting with, “Please, Please, Please”, which sounds like it would have been an exciting live track but doesn’t quite translate on this studio record. “It’s Not True”, is an upbeat, Southern-style rocker with rich harmonies and lyrics more reflective of outlaw country, while the oft-covered Bo Diddley classic, “I’m a Man”, features fascinating blues vocals by Daltrey and a wild piano lead by Hopkins.

The album does end strong with a couple of original and innovative tracks. “A Legal Matter”, is a frenzied rocker, sandwiched between an interesting guitar intro and outro and featuring pleasant and strong rock elements and melodies throughout. “The Ox”, closes the album as an improvised jam with Moon working off the floor tom drums of the Sufari’s 1963 classic “Wipeout” and Townshend, Entwistle, and Hopkins complementing each other throughout the improvisation.

My Generation became a template for future garage rock, heavy metal and punk genres. However, The Who quickly moved on to forge their own distinct sound, starting with 1966’s A Quick One, with increasing elements of theatrical arrangements and philosophical themes which would elevate the group to ever-increasing heights.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1965 albums.

1965 Page
 

Turn Turn Turn by The Byrds

Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

Buy Turn! Turn! Turn!

Turn Turn Turn by The ByrdsThe Byrds finished their breakout year of 1965 with their second highly acclaimed and commercially successful album of that year. Turn! Turn! Turn! built on the group’s distinct, multi-guitar-timbre, folk/rock sound with a fine mixture of original, cover, and reinterpreted traditional tunes. Of the originals on this album, guitarist and vocalist Jim McGuinn‘s contributions were on par with those by Gene Clark, who had been The Byrd’s primary composer of original material up to that point in time.

McGuinn, Clark, and David Crosby formed the group as a folk trio called, The Jet Set, in early 1964. However, McGuinn had become a fan of the Beatles early music and began to fuse his solo folk repertoire with acoustic/rock versions of their songs. While rehearsing new material, the band began to bridge the gap between folk music and rock and soon drummer Michael Clarke was added to the band. The group made some demos and released one single on Elektra Records, “Please Let Me Love You”, under the name, “The Beefeaters”, in October 1964. Bassist / mandolin player Chris Hillman joined the band in late 1964, rounding out the original five-piece lineup. Next, with a recommendation from jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, the group was signed to Columbia Records and decided to rename themselves (one final time) to The Byrds. In early 1965, the group reached immediate fame with an original cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, followed by their debut album of the same name, which reached the Top 10 on the album charts during the summer of 1965. That same summer, the group toured England and was being promoted as “America’s answer to the Beatles”.

With this international success, The Byrds returned to Columbia Studios in Hollywood with producer Terry Melcher to record a second album. By now, folk rock was becoming a growing trend and the group was primed to fully capitalize on their momentum. However, the recording of Turn! Turn! Turn! was not without its tensions, as Crosby (who had one co-writing credit on the album) accused McGuinn and Melcher of conspiring to keep his songs off of the album. Crosby had written a handful of originals which were rejected for this album, as had Clark, who had three additional tracks rejected. Most of these songs were included in the extended 1996 CD reissue of the album.


Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds
Released: December 6, 1965 (Columbia)
Produced by: Terry Melcher
Recorded: Columbia Studios, Hollywood, June – November, 1965
Side One Side Two
Turn! Turn! Turn!
It Won’t Be Wrong
Set You Free This Time
Lay Down Your Weary Tune
He Was a Friend of Mine
The World Turns All Around Her
Satisfied Mind
If You’re Gone
The Times They Are a-Changin’
Wait and See
Oh! Susannah
Group Musicians
Jim McGuinn – Guitars, Vocals
David Crosby – Guitars, Vocals
Gene Clark – Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
Chris Hillman – Bass, Vocals
Michael Clarke – Drums, Percussion

The signature guitar orchestra led by McGuinn’s jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker dominates the music of the opening title track, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”. These guitars are complimented by perfectly harmonized vocals, and Clarke’s rolling drum pattern under the chorus sections. While it is filled with so much sustained guitar textures, it stops on a dime several times between each verse/chorus sequence, including a false ending before a coda with extra intensity. The song was originally composed by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, with many of the lyrics were lifted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, possibly written by King Solomon in the 10th century BC. With that, the song holds the distinction as the #1 pop hit with the oldest lyrics.

Like the opener, “It Won’t Be Wrong”, is another upbeat track but with more standard love song style lyrics. Cowritten by McGuinn and Harvey Gerstand, this track features some interesting style changes which make it unconventional and a bit strange. Clark’s, “Set You Free This Time”, is a country/pop flavored track, especially in its vocal approach. In fact, this is the first song to feature solo lead singer, with harmonies used sparingly and with Clark’s fine harmonica solo as the song fades out. “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, is the first of two Bob Dylan covers on the album and is set up like a spiritual with the chorus/hook featuring heavy harmonies. Musically, this song has much the same jangly vibe and strong drums as previous tracks, but with an added heavy bass presence by Hillman. The first side concludes with an original rendition of the traditional folk tune, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, a finger-picked acoustic song with stripped down arrangement and a slight, distant organ by Melcher under the later verses.

The Byrds in 1965

“The World Turns All Around Her”, is a fine, pop-oriented composition by Clark which may only suffer from lack of strong rhythm presence in production mix. “Satisfied Mind”, follows as a country-esque cover of a folk song by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes. Along with the fine sparse instrumentation and harmonica lead, this track is highlighted by profound and philosophical lyrics;

Money won’t buy back your youth when you’re old, a friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold / The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind…”

Clark’s, “If You’re Gone”, is different than any other track on the album. Vocal-centric with a slow-rock backing, the song has distinct and interesting, almost haunting, chanting low-register vocals. While not quite as potent as their cover of, “Mr Tambourine Man”, the Byrds’ cover of, “The Times They Are a-Changin'” ,still dekuvers somewhat of an interesting arrangement of the Dylan classic. Further, the group members were pleasantly surprised when Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney showed up during the recording of this track. “Wait and See”, is the only song to feature Crosby as a co-writer, along with McGuin, while the group chose to do a souped up version of the popular campfire song, “Oh! Susannah”, to close the album.

Turn! Turn! Turn! peaked in the Top 20 of album charts in both the US and UK. However, The Byrds wasted little time moving forward musically, as they released their controversial breakthrough single, “Eight Miles High”, just two and a half weeks after this album’s release. Just two months later, Gene Clark left the group in February 1966, commencing a wave of personnel shifts which would continue through the duration of the group’s career.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1965 albums.

1965 Page
 

Do You Believe In Magic by The Lovin Spoonful

Do You Believe in Magic
by The Lovin’ Spoonful

Buy Do You Believe in Magic?

Do You Believe In Magic by The Lovin SpoonfulThe Lovin Spoonful had a meteoric career which climaxed shortly after it began in the mid 1960s. Do You Believe in Magic is the 1965 debut album by the group. It displays an incredible diversity of styles, ranging from folk to blues to country, bluegrass, and jug band. Led by composer and vocalist John Sebastian, this debut contains tracks which are equal parts original and innovative along with a healthy amount of reinterpreted standards  traversing many American genres.

Sebastian grew up as the son of a studio session harmonica player (of the same name) and he launched his own music career playing the folk circuit in Greenwich Village, New York City in the early 1960s. Along with guitarist Zal Yanovsky and two future members of The Mamas and The Papas, Sebastian formed a group called The Mugwumps in 1964. Later bassist Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler joined Sebastian and Yanovsky to form The Lovin’ Spoonful. Starting in 1965, the group began recording for Elektra Records before Kama Sutra Records exercised a previous option to sign the Lovin’ Spoonful.

Beyond the 12 tracks which appear on Do You Believe In Magic, the band recorded some of their biggest hit singles in 1965. Sebastian’s “Daydream” is a moderate pop/folk song which reached #2 in both the US and the UK. The rock-oriented chart topper “Summer In the City” was written by Sebastian and Boone and features a signature Hohner electric piano, further expanding the group’s palette.


Do You Believe In Magic by The Lovin Spoonful
Released: November 26, 1965 (Kama Sutra)
Produced by: Erik Jacobsen
Recorded:June-September, 1965
Side One Side Two
Do You Believe In Magic
Blues In the Bottle
Sportin’ Life
My Gal
You Baby
Fishin’ Blues
Did You Ever Have to…
Make up Your Mind?
Wild About My Lovin’
The Other Side of This Life
Younger Girl
On the Road Again
Night Owl Blues
Primary Musicians
John Sebastian – Guitars, Keyboards. Vocals
Zal Yanovsky – Guitars
Steve Boone – Bass, Vocals
Joe Butler – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album aptly begins with its title song, “Do You Believe In Magic”, an upbeat folk tune with nicely layered guitars and a backing vocal chorus provided by Yanovsky and Butler. Thematically, the “magic” is about the power of music and this certainly resonated in 1965 as this, oft-covered, debut single from the group reached the Top 10 in the US.

As was the custom for debut albums of the time, the bulk of Do You Believe In Magic is cover songs, including the remainder of the original first side. “Blues in the Bottle” features bending, descending notes with Sebastian’s vocals being deep and rustic. “Sportin’ Life” is a slower blues number with some legitimate lead guitars for that genre, while “My Gal” is a fun, rocked up folk song about an alcoholic girlfriend who can “get drunk on shoe polish”. Co-written by Phil Spector, Barry Mann and, Cynthia Weil, “You Baby” is a somber, crooning folk song centering on the vocals, sort of in the realm of Roy Orbison with good mixture of guitar riffs. “Fishin’ Blues” closes out the side by adding a blue grass dimension to the group’s sound, with Sebastian’s vocals matching the country mood and Yanovsky’s consistent pick/slide guitar overtones bring the tune to a new level.

The Lovin Spoonful in 1965

A picked guitar intro gives way to a bright organ rhythm on Sebastian’s “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” with the singer adding vocals with a dynamic range. The second single released from the album, this song reached #2 on the American Billboard charts in 1966. “Wild About My Lovin'” follows as a simple blues track with a moderate rhythm and beat, with the philosophical “Other Side of This Life” featuring a good bass-driven rhythm by Boone.

The album finishes strong with three Sebastian originals, starting with the romantic ballad, “Younger Girl”. “On the Road Again”, is one of the harder rocking songs – in the manor of traditional rock and roll, at least – not too much in way of substance, but a fun song nonetheless. The closing instrumental, “Night Owl Blues”, is the only one credited to all four band members. It is led by a proficient harmonica through the first section, where Sebastian shows off his talent on this instrument for the first time (he would later do some memorable harp for other artists like The Doors), later followed by a quality lead guitar section by Yanovsky, complemented by some ever intensive playing by the rhythm section.

Do You Believe in Magic reached the Top 10 on the album charts and sparked an avalanche of further hit singles, albums and soundtrack themes over the next two years. Yanovsky departed from the band in mid-1967, followed by Sebastian’s decision to go solo in early 1968, which effectively ended The Lovin’ Spoonful.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1965 albums.

1965 Page
 

Having a Rave Up by The Yardbirds

Having a Rave Up
by The Yardbirds

Buy Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds

Having a Rave Up by The YardbirdsHaving a Rave Up with The Yardbirds is an oddly constructed mish-mash of recent singles, new recordings, and live tracks recorded over 19 months prior to this album’s release. Still, this late 1965 release captures the heart of The Yardbirds from many different angles and laid a firm foundation for the heavy blues rock which would dominate the music world for decades to come. The songs on this album straddled between live and studio tracks as well as the group’s earlier pure blues and later psychedelic rock. Side one features (then) current lead guitarist Jeff Beck while Side Two features older live recordings with former guitarist Eric Clapton, songs which were previously released in England on the 1964 album, Five Live Yardbirds.

That live album failed to reach the charts and was subsequently not issued in the US or any other part of the world. Clapton soon departed as he considered himself a blues purist and didn’t like the commercial approach being forged with tracks like the hit single, “For Your Love”. Released in June 1965, the album For Your Love, was the group’s first international release and featured songs with both Clapton and Beck on lead guitar. Later in the summer, The Yardbirds embarked on their first US tour and decidedly shifted their focus towards the American market.

Some of the studio tracks for Having a Rave Up were recorded during that first American tour at Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis and Chess Studios in Chicago. The album was co-produced by Giorgio Gomelsky and group bassist Paul Samwell-Smith. Smith also helped give the album its title as he forged many of the “rave up” arrangements during the middle instrumental sections of several songs, especially those on the “live” side of the album.


Having a Rave Up by The Yardbirds
Released: November 15, 1965 (Epic)
Produced by: Giorgio Gomelsky & Paul Samwell-Smith
Recorded: London, New York, Chicago, Memphis, March 1964–September 1965
Side One Side Two
You’re a Better Man Than I
Evil Hearted You
I’m a Man
Still I’m Sad
Heart Full of Soul
The Train Kept A-Rollin’
Smokestack Lightning
Respectable
I’m a Man
Here ‘Tis
Group Musicians
Keith Relf – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Jeff Beck – Lead Guitars
Eric Clapton – Lead Guitars
Chis Dreja – Guitars
Paul Samwell-Smith – Bass, Vocals
Jim McCarty – Drums, Vocals

The understated but fantastic opener, “You’re a Better Man Than I”, launches things with advanced rock techniques and message. Production wise, there is a subtle play on amplitude to give a serious and somber effect and bring out the rolling bass and drums along with the catchy and hip melodies by vocalist Keith Relf. The song was written by brothers Brian and Mike Hugg and it features a sustain-heavy guitar lead by Beck. Group collaborator Graham Gouldman composed the guitar-driven “Evil Hearted You” which was a major hit for The Yardbirds in Britain. Here, Beck inventively uses Spanish scales and odd chords before the group launches into their first frantic, rave-up bridge.

Next comes a distinct and souped-up version of the Bo Diddley classic “I’m a Man”. This studio recording of the song was recorded at Chess Studios and it packs much into its two and a half minute duration while still remaining a loose and fun jam. Relf’s harmonica really shines as the main lead instrument here, with guitarists Beck and Chis Dreja contributing nicely to the frenzied end jam. On the second side is another fine but not quite as potent version led by Clapton’s guitars. “Still I’m Sad” is the only fully original composition on the album, co-written by Smith and drummer Jim McCarty. This track takes a radical turn as a dark folk song with monk-like chanting persisting throughout to a steady, slow beat.

The heart of the album comes at the end of the first side, starting with Gouldman’s “Heart Full of Soul”. Starting with a slightly Indian-influenced guitar riff by Beck, the song features a good mixture of rock elements with superb production and a perfect mid-sixties vibe, “Heart Full of Soul” reached the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. “The Train Kept A-Rollin'” would become the classic late sixties jam song with renditions by countless bands following this version by The Yardbirds. Relf recorded two lead vocals for an odd effect, which becomes more of a distraction, but this is counterbalanced by a couple of great jam sections with over-driven guitars and shuffling rhythms.

The Yardbirds in 1965

The four remaining songs were renditions of traditional blues classics recorded live with Eric Clapton in London in March 1964. While these are not the best recordings, as the bass and drums are too loud and the lead vocals are a bit too low in the mix, the energy of the performances nevertheless seeps through. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” is the best of these as a sixties rock interpretation of a pure blues song. The Isley Brother’s “Respectable” is fast and frantic, with early reflections of the latter ska genre, while the closing “Here ‘Tis” features great bass with a scat, chanting vocal chorus in the background and wild, frenzied guitar picking along with rapid percussion.

Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds was the Yardbirds’ highest charting album in the US during their active career and a later re-issue was packaged with eleven additional bonus tracks. These include the popular single, “Shapes of Things”, a group original which lies on the cutting edge of sonic evolution, and “New York City Blues”, a true precursor to the Led Zeppelin blues sound several years later.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1965 albums.

1965 Page
 

Physical Grafitti by Led Zeppelin

Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin

1975 Album of the Year

Buy Physical Graffiti

Physical Graffiti by Led ZeppelinToday we cover an album that epitomizes everything that is great about classic rock. Through their dozen years as a band, Led Zeppelin released eight studio albums, all of which were excellent to differing degrees. But Physical Graffiti is the best for two reasons. First is simple math, as it is their sole double studio album, hence twice the normal rock n roll bliss. More importantly is the sheer diversity of this album, which combines newly composed material with outtakes from the group’s three previous studio albums and in the process captures an incredible array of styles, production and compositional methods. All of this, plus the simple fact that the individual performances are brimming with innovative and outstanding musicianship, helped to make Physical Graffiti an easy choice as Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1975.

In their first three years as a band, Led Zeppelin recorded and released four albums with sequential numerical titles. Over the course of these albums, the material branched out from heavy blues to acoustic folk and many subtle sub-genres in between. Released in 1973, Houses of the Holy ,was built more in the studio than any of its predecessors, taking advantage of technological advances and use of overdubs to forge the sound. To follow-up, the group went to Headley Grange in East Hampshire, England in late 1973. They had previously recorded, Led Zeppelin IV ,with Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio at this location but these later sessions were soon abandoned as the new material was underdeveloped and bassist John Paul Jones had fallen ill. Instead, the sessions were turned over to the new group Bad Company, who had recently signed to Led Zeppelin’s new label Swan Song and used the location to record their 1974 eponymous debut album.

The group reconvened at Headley Grange in January 1974 and were much more fruitful, recording eight new tracks over the next several weeks. The running time of these tracks extended beyond the length of a conventional album (at the time, vinyl albums were typically around 45 minutes), so the group decided to extend it out to a double length LP by including several unreleased songs from previous Led Zeppelin albums. This extended the project quite a bit as additional overdubs were required to establish sonic consistency, so final mixing did not take place until October 1974. The album’s title was coined by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page, who wanted to convey how much “physical energy” had gone into producing this album. The title also sparked the idea for its unique, Grammy nominated album packaging, with a die-cut sleeve through which various images can be alternated into the windows of a New York City brownstone tenement.


Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin
Released: February 25, 1975 (Swan Song)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Various Locations in the UK and US, July 1970-February 1974
Side One Side Two
Custard Pie
The Rover
In My Time of Dying
Houses of the Holy
Trampled Underfoot
Kashmir
Side Three Side Four
In the Light
Bron-Yr-Aur
Down By the Seaside
Ten Years Gone
Night Flight
The Wanton Song
Boogie With Stu
Black Country Woman
Sick Again
Group Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Mandolin
John Paul Jones – Bass, Piano, Keyboards, Mandolin
John Bonham – Drums, Percussion

The album opens unabashedly with “Custard Pie”, which takes the simplest crisp guitar riffs and builds such an infectious groove around it by combining with Jones’ cool clavichord, John Bonham‘s steady but incredible drumming. Lyrically, the song pays homage to a few traditional blues songs – “Drop Down Mama” by Sleepy John Estes and “Shake ‘Em On Down” by Bukka White – with vocalist Robert Plant adding further authenticity with some fine harmonica playing over the otherwise straight-up rock music. “The Rover” was an outtake from a 1972 Houses of the Holy session and it is a wonder why it was ever cut (it would have fit perfectly between “D’Yer Ma’ker” and “No Quarter”). In any case, it remains one of Zeppelin’s most forgotten gems as solid hard rock at its melodic finest. Even more impressive are Plant’s vocals, which soar finely over the rock landscape which crosses both time and space;

“Traversed the planet when heaven sent me, I saw the kings who rule them all. Still by the firelight and purple moonlight I hear the rested rivers call…”

“In My Time of Dying” is a rare track with songwriting credits going to all four band members (although the song’s roots date back to the 1920s) and is also distinct as the studio recording with the longest duration. As a slow and deliberate blues, it reverts back to Led Zeppelin’s debut album with Page’s impossibly slow slide guitar being complemented by Jones and Bonham, who are masterful at adding perfectly timed bottom end rhythm to give it all structure. At around four minutes in, a frenzied second part of the song commences, highlighted by Bonham’s incredible drum patterns and Page’s multi-textured multiple guitar solos. Then, after building the tensions as far as possible, the group returns with a heavy rock rendition of the opening part.

The album’s second side starts with “Houses of the Holy”, the title track which was left off the album of the same name. Unlike the aforementioned “The Rover”, this song is actually more at home here as a very basic track with just repeated verses and riff interludes. It never really travels anywhere musically, just gains in Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelinintensity in its vibe and sexually charged lyrics as it goes along. Sticking with the sex themes, “Trampled Under Foot” uses car parts as metaphors for female body parts and, much like the previous song, relies on repetition and building intensity. Musically, this track has a great funk groove throughout which never gets old, and features a funky clavichord lead by Jones with Page adding some whining guitar textures underneath.

“Kashmir” is a masterful and innovative track written by Page, Plant and Bonham over the course of three years. It is sonically pleasing and interesting throughout its eight and a half minute duration with several theatrical “scenes’ slowly unfolding in time. The song’s main progression is built on an ascending riff developed by Page with Jones conducting further orchestration performed by session string and horn sections and Bonham’s drums fed through a phaser for effect. Plant actually found inspiration for the lyrics in Morocco but preferred Kashmir (where he had never been) as a mystical, imaginative place which transcends a physical location on Earth;

“To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen, they talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed. Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace, whose sounds caress my ear but not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear…”

Side three of Physical Graffiti begins with “In the Light”, one of the oddest but ultimately entertaining songs in the entire Led Zeppelin collection. A long synthesizer and bowed guitar intro by Jones and Page breaks into an enjoyable and upbeat rock section with Jones providing some inspired electric piano. The track was originally a piano-driven ballad called “Everybody Makes It Through” but the verse sections were rewritten with the improvised outro section retained as a canvas for the layers of Page’s guitars. Next comes “Bron-Yr-Aur” the first instrumental since Led Zeppelin II as a pleasant solo acoustic bit by Page which turned out to be the group’s shortest track on record. “Down By the Seaside” is another totally unique song in the Zeppelin catalog as a mellow country/folk track which possibly drew inspiration from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Recorded during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV in 1971, the song is pleasant and rewarding as a one-off foray into this musical territory and features Jones’ electric piano interludes complemented by Page’s ascending guitar textures.

“Ten Years Gone” is Led Zeppelin at their studio best, as an exquisite song with outstanding contributions by each group member. The opening arrangement is just a simple ringing guitar and bass before launching into a majestic heavy riff which divides the verse stanzas. Started as a pure instrumental piece by Page, the track includes two of his most inspiring leads, which sandwich the heavy middle bridge section and where Jones’ bass and Bonham’s drums are brought out with their best elements. Each subsequent section in this suite builds on the last, reaching for an ultimate emotional crescendo as Page layers guitar upon guitar with distinct voices so that nothing ever gets buried underneath. Finally, there are Plant’s poetic lyrics of love, destination, regret and redemption sung in a very somber and reserved voice as he recalls the heartbreaking decision to abandon his teenage girlfriend in order to pursue his musical dreams. The outro is only real section where he raises his voice with great, desperate improvisation, almost as if he is trying to shout back through time.

Led Zeppelin in 1975

The fourth and final side begins with “Night Flight”, which dates back to late 1970. After the emotional intensity of “Ten Years Gone”, this bouncy rocker provides a lighter feel and owes much of its musical power to Jones’ Hammond organ with Page just adding strong rhythmic licks on guitar, almost as if their roles are reversed. Plant’s vocals are dynamic and strong throughout this track, almost to the point of straining. On “The Wanton Song” Zeppelin seems to step into the future musically with odd-timed but fierce riffs and Bonham’s unambiguous drumming. Two interludes contain fantastic guitar textures, attained by Page feeding through a Leslie keyboard speaker, which give the start sound just enough flavor and diversity to make it classic.

If there is any weakness on Physical Graffiti it is in the way the album wraps. While interesting in their own way, the final three tracks are rather tame in comparison with the tremendous material which precede them. “Boogie with Stu” was an improvised jam during the Led Zeppelin IV sessions, featuring Ian Stewart on piano with Page on mandolin, leaving Plant with his one and only session on guitar. Page returns to guitar on “Black Country Woman” with Jones moving to mandolin in what would turn out to be the last Zeppelin acoustic song on their original studio records. Recorded in 1972, the song features a truly authentic setting, outside with a passing overhead airplane left on the tape at the beginning. The album wraps with “Sick Again” which, unlike the other three powerful side closers, is a rather common heavy blues rock song to complete the album as a whole. With lyrics about the LA groupie scene, this track musically features a nice overdubbed, whining guitar through the chorus sections and obviously contains some impressive performances but does not seem to be mixed too well, with vocals and bass getting lost behind the guitars and drums.

Physical Graffiti was a success commercially and critically, reaching the top of the album charts upon its release and eventually going 16x platinum in sales. With half the album being like a tour of the multiple phases that this group with incredible musical diversity had gone through during their first five years and five studio albums and the other half showing the band progressing forward with the fusion of funk, heavy pop, soul, and the modern sound that would become new wave, this remains the single best example of what made Led Zeppelin such a tremendous musical force.

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1975 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1975 albums.