Wednesday, December 31, 2008
He becomes the second member of Led Zeppelin to be named by the queen for a rank in the Order of the British Empire. In 2005, she bestowed a lesser honor upon Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page in 2005, naming him an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE.
So, Plant has made it onto a list of honorees. The queen names those who are to be given these titles, and there's an actual ceremony held later when the honorees hobnob with the royals. You can just picture this occasion in your mind.
Rarely have people ever refused royal honors. Might Robert Plant become one of them?
Plant has snubbed awards ceremonies in the past, but not showing up to the Grammys when he's been nominated or even guaranteed a Lifetime Achievement Award is one thing. A royal honor is another, and he knows this: He did show up alongside Page and John Paul Jones in Sweden in May 2006 to pick up the Polar Music Award honoring Led Zeppelin. That award comes from the Swedish royals.
Will it be any different when the Queen wants to meet up with Plant and congratulate him firsthand? Plant's not exactly a fan of the Royal Family, and he's made jokes about them in the past. But this may just be the time to swallow hard for a few minutes and go bask in an honor that not everybody gets in a lifetime.
Update, Jan. 7, 2009: Kevyn Gammond, who played guitar in the Band of Joy with Plant and John Bonham in 1966-1968 and then for Priory of Brion with Plant in 1999-2000, says Plant's honor is "very deserved" and "great news." Gammond, who is now a lecturer at Kidderminster College in England and founder of Mighty Atom Smasher (MAS) Records, told hometown paper The Shuttle that Plant "has done a great deal for many charities and organizations."
Update, Jan. 30, 2009: Plant reveals in a new interview why, after sufficient internal debate, he has opted to accept the title bestowed upon him by the queen.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
The singer had recently commented he would start out the new year with some recording sessions with Alison Krauss, intending to make their second album together.
Which means no Led Zeppelin reunion! No big surprise; he told fans three months ago not to expect him doing anything with Led Zeppelin. And all the while, the band could never have existed without him.
So, Plant says there's no feud between him and Jimmy Page. Which is good news considering the year Page has had.
It's pretty evident that Page would have liked for a Led Zeppelin reunion to have taken place by now. The world was still reeling at the beginning of 2008 from the universally heralded one-off Led Zeppelin concert of December 2007, it seemed further shows would be in the cards.
Back in January, even Jimmy Page was giving an impression that the band might be nine months from its first tour in 28 years. Speaking with reporters in Japan, Page spoke of a "parallel project" of Plant's from which he would be freed after the summer.
Never mind the discouraging news report in March of Plant allegedly having turned down a lucrative offer to take part in a Led Zeppelin reunion tour. The press didn't know what they were talking about: One minute it was that, and the next minute the tour was magically going to occur -- with Whitesnake as the opening act.
Undaunted, the rest of Led Zeppelin's would-be members spent part of the year tightening up their act:
- John Paul Jones and Page jammed with half of the Foo Fighters at a show in London, letting Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins take turns on drums and lead vocals while they ran through "Ramble On" and "Rock and Roll."
- Jason Bonham quit his dayjob to take part in whatever was going to happen.
- Page, Jones and Bonham rehearsed -- secretly at first, but then disclosing that they were jamming on new material and that they wanted to get an album out once they had the right singer. This revelation seemed to offer Plant assurance that the band would welcome brandishing new Zeppelin material.
And then came the further leaks that named Myles Kennedy and Steven Tyler. Putting names to the rumors added authenticity to them. Long before this week's offer from David Coverdale to sing for their band, some reporters were mentioning Jack White and Chris Cornell. Perhaps the theory was that the more in-demand the singing position in Led Zeppelin was perceived, the more Robert Plant would want it.
But through all this, Plant's concert itinerary with Alison Krauss -- that so-called "parallel project" that loomed from the get-go -- kept piling on through the late summer and deep into September and early October. While it's possible Plant had already made up his mind, he was never quite firm in his public interviews whenever asked about an eventual Led Zeppelin reunion. Everything sounded like we should wait and see.
That was the understanding until toward the end of all the touring, when Plant issued his parting thoughts on the matter: No, he wasn't going to do it. But good luck and best wishes.
That brings us to Plant's comments this week to interviewer Ruth Jones on BBC Radio Wales:
"I'm doing very well with Alison and I'm enjoying that.Plant has just spent all year touring and singing concerts, but he swore off all touring for another two years in September when he also put down his foot on Zeppelin activity. Asked about the chances of another Led Zeppelin tour, Plant suddenly alluded to the frailty of his mortal frame at age 60:
"I still see Jimmy quite a lot and he's very complimentary and supportive of what I'm doing.
"But we are in different places now and you have to go on to do different things."
"Do you know how long it took me to climb up onto the stage here? And it's only four steps!"Oh, please! That schtick again? That's so summer of 2007.
No feud between Page and Plant? If I were Jimmy Page, and if I had spent all of 2008 forecasting a Led Zeppelin reunion by year's end, I might be a little angry right about now.
Hopefully, this doesn't mean Page, Jones and Bonham will change their mind about going on the road without Plant and without the Led Zeppelin name. But I guess we will see.
I said back in March, after Plant's alleged rejection of a £100 million offer to reunite with Led Zeppelin, that I hoped Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham "would be able to move on and continue their own careers in a dignified manner if this tour thing doesn't come to fruition." And I also hoped "that they could carry on in whatever capacities makes them happy." I meant it, and I still hope that's what happens.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Conveniently enough for Coverdale, his plan of having multiple singers replace Robert Plant includes Coverdale as being one of them. Meaning, he would be able to sing a few songs and then sip tea backstage while somebody else went front and center to tackle other songs.
Essentially, he suggested a Ferris wheel of rock singers and said he'll be in one of the seats.
He also said Def Leppard's Joe Elliott would be up for the job if asked.
Coverdale is quoted in an article by StarPulse that has gotten some real traction on the radio. Apparently, it's pretty amusing to programmers that singers are offering their services to the Led Zeppelin members should they be looking to record an album and a tour.
That alone isn't a horrid proposition. But what jars is the idea of calling whatever results Led Zeppelin.
Come on, can a revolving door of performers sitting in with Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham really be considered Led Zeppelin?
What would all the singers travel in? A clown car?
You can just forget the goal of being tight but loose. Doesn't this just come off as loose but loose?
Don't forget that going out under the name Led Zeppelin without Plant being involved is something Page has said, through his management, his current plans do not include. That would be the case even if Page hit the road with Jones and Bonham, three-quarters of the group that billed themselves Led Zeppelin when playing in London last year.
Still, Coverdale may not be one to play by Page's no-Zeppelin-without-Plant rule. As a previously undiscovered singer in 1973, he first broke into the professional music scene fronting British rock heavy Deep Purple following the departure of Ian Gillan, who had sung on all the band's prior hits including the 1971 smash "Smoke on the Water."
Deep Purple split up two-and-a-half years into Coverdale's tenure with him, after which the singer launched a solo career from which he ultimately formed the band Whitesnake. In the 1980s, the band earned repute for its own version of the faux-sentimental hair-band persona. Coverdale placed himself as an equal to Robert Plant, but the former Led Zeppelin singer chided Coverdale for his lame mimicry of him on Whitesnake songs like "Still of the Night" (see video below). Plant even dubbed him "Coverversion" as the two singers verbally sparred with one another in the press.
Whether or not Coverdale ever was Plant's equal, he sure gave off the impression that he was for a short time in 1993, when he successfully teamed up with Jimmy Page for a full album of new material and a handful of tour dates highlighting the musical past of each.
Although the Coverdale/Page collaboration played out on stages in Japan with their band striving to provide the antidote for Zeppelin-starved fans, the tour did not proceed beyond Japan as planned. Theirs was apparently not a successful enough relationship to stand the test of time, and its existence was completely overshadowed before long, by Page's next project: performing regularly again with Plant for the first time since the Zeppelin breakup of 1980. Their work between 1994 and 1998 was not Led Zeppelin either but, with the participation of its two most visible members, provided both the authenticity and temper the Coverdale/Page unit lacked.
The Page/Plant tours, which leaned heavily on the revered music created in Led Zeppelin, were highly profitable. That had a lot to do with the music, not the personalities. Handing over the Led Zeppelin reins to the man whose Whitesnake fame was based on golden locks, a large ego, and a huge voice with a mouth that won't refrain from cursing? That just won't cut it.
Led Zeppelin was a group of four musicians who bonded to create a unique fifth element. If Page and Jones go into a rehearsal studio with Bonham, their newly indoctrinated drummer, and create some fifth element with another singer and another voice, or multiple singers and multiple voices, it will still be some different fifth element -- not the one that was born in the Gerrard Street room in 1968. It won't be Led Zeppelin. And it shouldn't be called Led Zeppelin.
I can only hope Page and Bonham agree with Jones, who said in October:
"We don't want to be our own tribute band."
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
"It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Davy died yesterday amongst friends and family from a massive seizure at home after a short battle with lung cancer. There will be a private family funeral held in the next few days and a public memorial in January; details of which will be available at www.lescousins.co.uk shortly. Davy will be missed by those of us who loved him. The many fans who came to see his last concerts gave him much joy and satisfaction and was something he drew great strength from. Messages of condolence can be sent via firstname.lastname@example.org."
Graham was 22 years old when he was performing a piece titled "She Moved Through the Fair." Its melody was derived from a traditional Irish tune and sometimes credited to Herbert Hughes. Graham adapted it to the acoustic guitar, playing it in the alternate guitar tuning DADGAD. In live versions, he sometimes combined it with another piece, "Blue Raga." One recording of this made in London in May 1963 was released that year on a four-song EP on the Decca label, called The Thamesiders and Davy Graham: From a London Hootenanny.
Upon hearing Graham's "She Moved Through the Fair," anyone familiar with Page's guitar instrumental "White Summer" would recognize the influence immediately upon hearing that piece. (Graham's original recorded version can be found among the bonus tracks on this remastered version of his first album, Folk, Blues & Beyond....)
Page would very soon be getting into session work in London at that time, and so it would take a few more years for his developing guitar style to manifest itself in front of a wide audience. In the final days of April 1967, when the Yardbirds were spending some time at De Lane Lea Studios in London, Page took the opportunity to record his own arrangement of the same guitar instrumental, which he was now calling "White Summer." Over two days, Page recorded it once on electric and another time on acoustic. A studio musician by the name of Chris Karan provided the exotic tabla drums on this studio effort. (Page's original released version can be found on the Yardbirds' Little Games; the other take can be found on the Yardbirds' outtakes collection, Cumular Limit.)
Page was using the DADGAD tuning, which was becoming common primarily among folk guitarists at the time since Graham's first use of it early in the 1960s. Among rock guitarists, this alternate tuning was unheard of. For the most part, it has stayed this way, but Page went on throughout his career to contribute some of those few exceptions.
The next one was recorded the following year, with Page on acoustic again and assisted by another session tabla player, this time Viram Jasani. That track was "Black Mountain Side," released on Led Zeppelin's first album. When Page played it live with Led Zeppelin, he inserted it into his longer solo showcase of "White Summer," adding rhythmic support from drummer John Bonham. One live version of the two was broadcast live on BBC Radio One's "Playground Theatre" in June 1969, with that performance finally seeing its release on Led Zeppelin's four-CD box set in 1990.
The live performance of "White Summer" and "Black Mountain Side" shown above is taken from the Led Zeppelin performance on Jan. 9, 1970, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was included on Led Zeppelin's DVD in 2003.
Page turned to DADGAD again in the 1973/1974 recording sessions for Physical Graffiti. This time, it provided him with two completely original compositions, the better known being "Kashmir." That song, originally included on Physical Graffiti in 1975, is on the above-mentioned box set as well as nearly every Led Zeppelin compilation released since then. A remarkable live version recorded at the Knebworth Festival in 1979 was released on DVD in 2003 and is included below.
The other of Page's two known DADGAD compositions from the mid 1970s was then called "Swan Song," although at the time it did not survive beyond the demo stage. Page revisited it nearly a decade later, by which time Led Zeppelin had disbanded. Then collaborating with Paul Rodgers who helped to provide lyrics, they called their shaping composition "Bird on the Wing" in their early performances of it in 1983. Again, the piece was later retitled, this time to "Midnight Moonlight," in time for its first official release on record. It was included on the self-titled debut album of Page's band with Rodgers, The Firm. A live version is included below.
Davy Graham was not responsible for inspiring every note of Page's work on these songs, but without his influence, Page would not have developed these songs as easily. Graham's death, reported today, must deliver some sadness to Page, who recently mourned the passing of his one-time bandmate, drummer Michael Lee.
As further information becomes available about the public memorial currently being planned for Graham, LedZeppelinNews.com will deliver it.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Citizen-Times quotes Haynes as saying Jones had traveled farther than anybody else participating in the annual event.
A mini-set on Friday with Warren Haynes on acoustic guitar and Jones on mandolin saw the two performing "Soulshine" and "Going to California." The latter might actually be better titled "Going to Carolina" due to a lyrical adaptation by Haynes. The photo at the right, credited to Paul Balicky of the Citizen-Times, is from this set and may be purchased by clicking here.
Jones didn't join the Allman Brothers Band until sometime after 3 in the morning, the Citizen-Times reported. He helped the set reach its climax with a performance of "Dazed and Confused" within the context of a unique "Mountain Jam," which utilizes the melody of "First There is a Mountain" by Donovan.
On the second day, Jones played two near-complete sets, first on several tunes performed with Michael Franti and others, and finally several Led Zeppelin songs with Gov't Mule.
Earlier on Saturday, he joined Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 for a set-ending "Good Times Bad Times."
Before a final encore jam of "When the Levee Breaks," Haynes told the crowd, as reported by the Citizen-Times, that in 20 years of having the Christmas Jam in Asheville, N.C., this year's was the best without a doubt.
The complete set lists can be found below.
2008 CHRISTMAS JAM
NIGHT ONE SETLIST (12.12.08)
Bad Little Doggie
Blind Man In The Dark
Sco-Mule w/ Tal Wilkenfeld on Bass and Robben Ford on Guitar
Fallen Down w/ Karl Denson
IVAN NEVILLE'S DUMPSTAPHUNK
Livin In A World Gone Bad w/ Matt Grondin & Karl Denson
Badboy w/ Warren Haynes & Eric Krasno
Thank You Falletime Be Mice Elf w/ Tal Wilkenfeld, Eric Krasno, Warren Haynes, Danny Louis
DEL MCCOURY BAND
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Squirrel Hunter w/ John Paul Jones
Little Georgia Rose w/ Travis Tritt
Old Kentucky Shore w/ Joan & Travis Tritt
My Love Will Not Change w/ John Paul Jones
Celebrate w/ The Lee Boys
To The One I Love
Help Me w/ Warren Haynes
Christmas Time In New Orleans w/ Ron Holloway
Leave My Girl Alone
I Walk The Line
Pickin' At It
Pressure is One w/ Warren Haynes
Movin On Over w/ Warren Haynes
WARREN HAYNES & JOHN PAUL JONES
Going To California
THE DEREK TRUCKS BAND
Down In THe Flood
Can't Sleep At Night w/ Susan Tedeschi
Anyday w/ Susan Tedeschi & Eric Krasno
ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND
Don't Want You
Cross To Bear
Stone Me w/ JJ Grey
Who's Been Talking w/ Robben Ford & Ivan Neville
Dreams w/ Karl Denson
Liz Reed w/ Tal Wilkenfeld
The Weight w/ Ron Holloway, Danny Louis, Susan Tedeschi, Joan Osborne, Ruthie Foster
Mountain Jam Intro
Dazed & Confused w/ John Paul Jones
Mountain Jam w/ John Paul Jones
One Way Out w/ Roosevelt Collier & JJ Grey
NIGHT TWO SETLIST (12.13.08)MICHAEL FRANTI & JAY BOWMAN
Love Don't Wait w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford & Mickey Raphael
Sweet Little Lies w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford & Mickey Raphael
All I Want Is You w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford, Mickey Raphael & Eric Krasno
Hey World w/ w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford & Mickey Raphael & Eric Kranso
I Got Love For You w/ John Paul Jones, Robben Ford & Mickey Raphael & Ron Holloway
BEN HARPER & RELENTLESS 7
Number No Name
Fly 1 Time
Keep It Together
Dressed In Black
Up To You Now
Good Times Bad Times w/ John Paul Jones
Southern Man w/ Patterson Hood
Lively Up Yourself w/ Karl Denson & Robben Ford
Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just a Woman) w/ John Paul Jones
Since I've Been Loving You w/ John Paul Jones on Keys
No Quarter w/ John Paul Jones on Keys & Audley Freed
The Ocean w/ John Paul Jones on Bass, Ben Harper & Mike Barnes
When The Levee Breaks w/ Ben Harper & John Paul Jones on Bass
As the story is told, John Bonham once explained his way out of a speeding ticket, enchanting the officer who'd pulled him over with a look under the hood of his brand new souped-up sportscar. In the process, he explained that he had just come off of the natural high of having played a "blinding gig."
Those words came to me last night after I was winding down from my third Houses of the Holy show with Classic Albums Live. I never played a gig in my entire life that was more blinding than Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Paradise Live stage at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
Even a gentleman in the front row who'd seen the Thursday show told me last night there was a considerable difference in the band's performance at those two particular shows. For the most part, we did everything right at that first show, and we gelled. But at last night's show, we not only played it right but did so with a fluidity among us. We were graceful and articulate and heavy and emotional and powerful, all the things that make a Led Zeppelin performance, in addition to the precision that defines a Classic Albums Live performance. This was probably an appropriate mix of tight and loose.
This front-row attendee also commented that I seemed looser onstage. That went without saying. I definitely was. Feeling at home in this band helps out. Craig Martin and Nick Hildyard both made me feel welcome and important with their comments about me to the crowd. But what really made me feel like I was doing something over and above myself was the healthy supply of adrenaline running through my body when I was playing. I mean, here's a guy who can't dance at all, and I'm swinging and swaying through "D'yer Mak'er" and the choreographer's nightmare that is "The Crunge." Not that Merce Cunningham would be impressed enough to recruit me or anything, but I'm just letting the music be my master and heeding the master's call.
Of the most important things that stick out in my mind from the encore set, one is my spontaneous physical reaction while playing a number we hadn't performed at either of the preceding shows or even in rehearsal. Its title, "Since I've Been Loving You," was mentioned in a group e-mail a month ago as one to be prepared to play, but that's it. No further word of playing it until it was the next song, with 10 seconds to go before launching into it.
But I was prepared. I selected the organ sound Nick had shown me on Thursday afternoon, labeled "Soul Man." I had tried out a few seconds' worth of licks on the sound at that time and, finding it to my liking, moved on to something different. Now that sound was coming in handy. We're doing "Since I've Been Loving You" live.
(The physical reaction thing is coming up. Honest.)
I sit down to play the tune. It's an organ I'm playing, and whenever I play the organ I'm sitting. I used to play church organ, after all. And this is no different. The song starts out all somber and delicate. It's fitting to be seated. But there's a point in the song, at its climax, where it becomes necessary to, er, adjust. And that's what I did. The Lemon let loose and sprung up from the stool, simultaneously kicking it backward at a monitor. It was as unanticipated as the song suggestion itself.
And totally unlike John Paul Jones! That's one guy I've never seen throw stuff around onstage.
But I have heard him crack some dry humor at shows. Almost every night on his first solo tour, in 1999, he was having comical exchanges with audience members based on "Fe fi fo fum" and other quotes associated with him. So I tried my hand at some humor last night. Crickets! Yeah, I think I'll stick with the music.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We are working up a particular number from Presence. We are looking forward to all three of our remaining gigs at Paradise Live, but we'll have extra reason to play it at the last show, since it really will be the last Zeppelin show ever at that little theater. Classic Albums Live will be moving to another South Florida venue in 2009, but we are sure to go out with an unforgettable gig on Saturday the 20th. Probably another "blinding gig."
Update: I added a YouTube video above of the first minute or so of "Stairway to Heaven" from our finale performance on Saturday, Dec. 20.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Led Zeppelin never played "In the Light" live. But Classic Albums Live did, and we nailed it. That's what we kicked off Friday's post-album encore set with, after band introductions by Craig Martin. So it was right after the audience found out I was making my debut with the group this concert series that I gave my best performance of the night.
The only thing done differently from the album version of "In the Light" was I didn't have the delay effect on my lead for the intro and the reprise halfway through the song. I'll probably use that the next time we do the song, after I try it out. This is all new to me, these fancy effects and stuff.
John Paul Jones was in Asheville, N.C., with a bevy of folks jamming on "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "Going to California." In Hollywood, Fla., we had our own crop of celebrities at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for a Biker Bash afterparty. Richie Sambora and James Belushi were around. We thought we were going to face the proposition of being asked to jam with them. In a way, I'm very glad it didn't happen.
That's because it kept things on track with our band. All but one of the other encores we played were things we ran through only on the day of the gig. The difference between the first and second shows is the crowd. Thursday audiences are all ages, so with the kids there we tend to play more of the radio staples, the Mothership list. Like on Thursday night, "Stairway to Heaven" and "Whole Lotta Love" were a must.
But the more mature Friday night audience allows us to dig out lesser heard Physical Graffiti and In Through the Out Door cuts, for example. "Fool in the Rain," another one Zeppelin never did. I played the jangly piano of "Hot Dog." The guys ran through "Heartbreaker," and I joined for backing vocals on "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)." Things ended with "How Many More Times," which the band played as a fourpiece to finish things off.
The only encore we repeated from Thursday night was "Moby Dick." Both nights, I watched from the side of the stage mindful of something I recently read, probably on the For Badgeholders Only discussion group: that Robert Plant tended to be attentive to John Bonham's solo at Zeppelin shows because he loved watching his friend reinvent rock 'n' roll drumming on a nightly basis. That might even be an exact quote of what I read. Isn't that a great concept?
We still have a few more surprises in store for the next few shows, which will naturally include the full album of Houses of the Holy. But we have a Presence surprise coming up! I don't even know if Houses of the Holy is legitimately the main attraction anymore, the way these encores are coming along. The four remaining shows are gonna smoke!
Update: This thread on the Classic Albums Live message board is dedicated to the show from Friday, Dec. 12.
Second update: I added a YouTube video above featuring the performance of "In the Light" from our finale performance on Saturday, Dec. 20.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Some last-minute scurrying to figure out a way to get myself to play the keyboard parts of Led Zeppelin's pivotal album Houses of the Holy, and a few other songs we included as encores, paid off. Yesterday was a wonderful day, meeting some very talented and very professional musicians and having the immediate chance to play a proper show with them to an attentive audience.
Now I just have to keep the momentum from that initial experience alive for another week and two nights for the five remaining performances on our schedule. Classic Albums Live tackles the fifth Zeppelin album in its entirety again tonight and tomorrow at 9 p.m. and then again next week with the same schedule (Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 19-20 at 9 p.m.) on the stage of Paradise Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
The only band member I knew at all before yesterday was Nick Hildyard, who executed lead vocal duties for Classic Albums Live last month when I saw and reported on their handling of Led Zeppelin's 40-year-old debut album, note for note, cut for cut. And I knew him only because after he read my critical analysis of their performance, he contacted me, figuring I have a pretty good ear and must be a musician. When I told him I was indeed a keyboardist, the first thing he did was rejoice at having discovered another local keyboardist.
Then, without hesitation, Nick invited me to try my hand at Houses of the Holy, which I of course jumped at. For one thing, I'd just moved down to South Florida, and all the musicians I knew were still 1,000 miles north of me. An opportunity not only to get onstage again but to play a better gig than I'd eve had before? Sure, it was going to take some work to ready myself, but it was a challenge I would have been foolish to turn down.
Nick and I got together a couple times between early November and yesterday, and he also often checked in on my progress by e-mail while he was off flying around to distant Classic Albums Live shows in Canada and the United States. Busy guy, but accommodating and also pretty relaxed. I told him I was worried about some keyboard sounds not being totally accurate, but he said not to worry. He lent me a midi console with hundreds of instrument sounds on it.
Unfortunately for me, I never was able to practice with that console on my own because it was incompatible with my primitive keyboard equipment at home! In fact, we discarded my keyboard altogether yesterday because of its limitations. We were at a professional gig, so we were going to use only professional equipment. Nick provided me with some good stuff, and I took some time onstage at our afternoon onstage setup sorting out what sounds would be good for what songs and making copious notes to boot. Now I was starting to sound like the John Paul Jones Orchestra.
As I auditioned this plethora of sounds in my headphones, most of the rest of the group rolled in straight from the airport, where they'd just flown in from Toronto, home of a six-night stint playing nothing but AC/DC's Back in Black. They were jet-lagged and complaining of ringing in their ears and admittedly in need of showers, but it was time to get themselves musically ready first. I was told that we were on an accelerated rehearsal schedule because normally we meet each other a day in advance of our first show rather than the day of it. That wasn't possible this time, so we wouldn't be able to run through everything before showtime. I don't think anybody wanted to anyway.
These guys were getting in, and I shied away from interacting with them except just to introduce myself by name and say it was good to be making my Classic Albums Live premiere with him. I honestly expected them to be inaccessible and arrogant, but no: They were as friendly as Barney the Purple Dinosaur and as neighborly as Fred Rogers. Then, when they heard me play, they were as complimentary of me as my mom!
In Classic Albums Live, these performers don't specialize in any one particular group. They're jacks of all trades. The seasoned veterans have each played dozens of different albums by a wide variety of artists. One Houses of the Holy guitarist, Tom Mcdermott, was pretty new to the thing but already had performed albums by the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. But they are as competent and fluent in Led Zeppelin's music as any Zep tribute band member I've ever encountered. This made it as awesome to talk with them as it was to play with them.
Of course, I don't think they were expecting to hear that this unknown 29-year-old keyboardist had interviewed John Paul Jones seven years ago, almost to the day. Our bass player, Johnny B., was tickled to find out from me that he's not the only bass player in the world who likes to stay close to the drums when performing live; Jones says the others in Zeppelin would encourage him to play at the front of the stage but he would find himself drifting back toward Bonzo's kit within a song or two.
In the case of our drummer, Rick Vatour, it's with good reason. He and Johnny B. play off of each other unbelievably well. They possess the same chemistry that Jones and John Bonham did, and that Jones evidently has rediscovered with Jason Bonham for quite some time. Johnny and Rick form a tight rhythm section, one that really can't be described as tight but loose like Led Zeppelin's was. This is only by virtue of the fact that Classic Albums Live reproduces with precision the run-through of every song as it was laid down in the winning take in the studio. They aren't improvising; they're faithfully reciting the improvisation that was rendered on tape and played back on home stereo systems and on radio stations billions of times through the ages.
At the show last night, I sat onstage, unoccupied at two keyboards that were useless to me for seven minutes or so, while the band around me ran through an encore version of "Dazed and Confused" when it occurred to me, during Dom Polito's violin bow section with vocal responses, that the real action was happening on the bass and drums. These two guys were essentially playing a duet with each other, not taking their eyes off of each other. They had it all meticulously written out for them in their minds and memories, and the playbook was 40 years old. It was incredible to see, and I look forward to seeing that again soon.
The show wasn't without its gaffes, the majority of which can be blamed on the rookie on the keys. They were things I recognized right away and did what I could to correct them or file them away for future reference. A few notes into my "No Quarter" introduction, I recognized that I didn't have the phase filter on my Rhodes piano sound, but fixing that was just a quick switch away. I inserted one clavinet phrase too late at the ending of "Over the Hills and Far Away," but I won't make the same mistake tonight.
And I committed a song structure error during "Kashmir" that also used to trip up John Paul Jones during live performances to the point that he would have to refer to his own handwritten notes about the song structure at his keyboard to help him from getting off track. Perhaps that's good advice for me too!
I went over some of these blunders with my bandmates after the show, but they were more interested in congratulating me on doing certain things that I did that most keyboardists they've worked with don't. For one, Johnny B. said I was correct in playing low notes on the Rhodes piano sound during the verses of "Stairway to Heaven." He said most keyboardists wrongly believe that's a bass on the record, and he said he was surprised to have finally found a keyboardist who agrees with him that there's no bass in the song until the third verse after the 12-string and Rhodes enter.
Meanwhile, the only constructive criticism I received from Classic Albums Live founder Craig Martin wasn't musical at all. It was on my wardrobe! I shouldn't have exposed the Foo Fighters T-shirt I was wearing underneath my button-down, and socks and shoes should have replaced my flip flops. (Hey, the guy's Canadian, not Floridian, so I'll give him a break!) But Craig did tell me that I had "big eyes and big ears." By this, he meant I was capable of following the other musicians' lead, being ready to interpret musical cues whether by listening or keeping my head up, and blending in accordingly. Craig said, "That's what it's all about." Yes, it is.
And that's something I've been trying to convey to all my bandmates throughout my years of playing. It's the ability that made Led Zeppelin a band of such great performers, and it's what kept them together all the years they were. It's probably what Jimmy Page is experiencing with the Jones-Bonham rhythm section of the 21st century and is drawing that trio back to wanting to work together again, whether or not they're joined by Robert Plant. It's a good thing that magic was there for Tom Mcdermott and me as we worked with the polished band of Nick Hildyard, Dom Polito, Johnny B. and Rick Vatour for the first time. Since our rehearsal time was so limited, it was excellent to go out onstage at showtime and be able to present our magic act to "The Ocean" that had gathered to witness it.
Update: This thread on the Classic Albums Live message board is dedicated to the show from Thursday, Dec. 11.
Second update: I added a YouTube video above of about a minute from our performance of "The Rain Song" on our final night, Saturday, Dec. 20.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
- It's true that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are hoping to start up a musical project with Jason Bonham on drums. No plans are firm yet, but they want to go into the studio and record some new material and then take it on the road.
- There have been statements to this effect from Jones directly and from a representative for Page's management. Bonham even commented back in August, when he was ending his commitments with Foreigner, that he was freeing up his time so that he would be well rested if the call of duty ever came from Page and Jones.
- In fact, Page said in September that Led Zeppelin does not exist without all four people. He said that since the reunion concert, there had been jam sessions with Jones, Bonham and himself, but not with Plant. So, that was not Led Zeppelin.
- Then came the comment from the representative for Page's management company, QPrime, to Rolling Stone, that whatever band is in the planning stages is not Led Zeppelin.
- This was shortly followed by a new remark by Robert Plant, who in September had said he was not planning to tour or record with Led Zeppelin for at least a two-year period. Plant now added that he wishes his former bandmates well with their project that won't be called Led Zeppelin.
The only thing that could change that is Plant having a change of heart, followed by Page, Jones and Bonham welcoming him back with open arms.
But, given the plans that have already been announced to the press, there is no way that Page, Jones and Bonham are planning to replace Plant and go on the road as Led Zeppelin.
Yet that's exactly what Page, Jones and Bonham have been wrongly accused of considering.
Take a look at the words of Jeff Beck:
"I really don't think it's a good idea, not if Robert doesn't want to. I was there at the one-off show at the O2 Arena and it was fantastic. But I think they should just leave it there.Beck probably doesn't read LedZeppelinNews.com and would not have known Page's true motives. So, where did he get his misinformation from? Probably whoever interviewed him and copied down the words. Oh no, did the journalist responsible for this interview misinform Beck?
"They will have been offered loads of money and it'll be tempting but that's not a good enough reason to me.
"It would be different if they all wanted to do it and record new material but that's not the case."
Paul McCartney attended Led Zeppelin's concert a year ago, and he praises Plant's performance at that show. And in a recent interview, he wonders aloud why he would not want to take it on the road with his more than capable bandmates: "What's happened to Planty? He was great at their gig. It's such a pity." That all makes sense.
But the same article begins with the premise that Led Zeppelin had decided "to reunite without frontman Robert Plant," which is untrue, and that "McCartney has expressed his disappointment at" the decision.
There's no supporting quotation from McCartney on that subject, although it says that the "former Beatle ... concedes it won't be the same without Plant." No need to worry, Paul! It won't exist without Plant!
How about Paul Weller?
"There's no point to it. I don't understand the need for nostalgia. I don't get it. I don't know where it's come from. Someone offered me a ticket to see Led Zep.How about forming a new band and recording new material with that new band? Weller has been doing that long since his first big band, the Jam, ended in 1982. But Weller seems to mean he doesn't want to see a Led Zeppelin victory lap, no matter who the singer is. That's just nostalgia, which he doesn't see the need for.
"I've no interest whatsoever to go and see people reform, you know. I'm happy with what they've done at the time and the records and your memories and that's it really."
You know who else doesn't want something like that? John Paul Jones! While he was discussing his hopes for touring again with Page and Bonham with BBC Radio Devon, Jones said:
"It's gotta be right, you know. Just trying to recreate -- or just find another Robert, I mean, you could just pick somebody out of a tribute band. I mean, what's the point of that, you know? We don't want to be our own tribute band."Someone ought to make those statements known to people like Paul Weller, Paul McCartney and Jeff Beck, and ask how they would feel about Page, Jones and Bonham starting a new band with which to record new material and tour.
Would they still feel it would be too much like a nostalgia act for one of the world's greatest guitar players and one of the world's greatest bassists to start a new band with the son of the world's greatest drummer just because they had all already played together in the world's greatest band?
And who can ever possibly take Jack Bruce of Cream seriously anymore?
Back in October, promoter Harvey Goldsmith advised against "a long, rambling tour ... as Led Zeppelin." He said he didn't think it would be right and that he didn't believe it would happen.
That was before the disclosure from the Page camp to Rolling Stone that a Led Zeppelin tour without Plant is not being considered. That disclosure, in effect, proves Goldsmith right.
The longer this drags on without any further announcement from Page, Jones and Bonham as to what their plans are (and aren't!) for recording and touring in 2009, the more Led Zeppelin's name is going to be dragged through the mud by people who don't know what they are talking about.
All the more reason for Page, Jones and Bonham to pick a singer and a new name and announce their new project to the world as soon as possible!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Directed by Davis Guggenheim and produced by Thomas Tull and others, the film makes its second festival appearance following its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September. It is destined for wider distribution next summer, having recently been purchased by Sony Pictures Classics.
"It Might Get Loud" successfully unites Page, White and Edge for the first time, as the film's official Web site explains:
"While each guitarist describes his own musical rebellion, a rock 'n' roll summit is being arranged. Set on an empty soundstage, the musicians come together, crank up the amps and play. They also share their influences, swap stories, and teach each other songs. During the summit Page's double-neck guitar, The Edge's array of effects pedals and White's new mic, custom built into his guitar, go live."Sony describes "It Might Get Loud" as "a musically and visually uplifting love letter to the electric guitar told through the experiences of these three major figures across three generations of rock 'n' roll."
Back to the official Web site:
"The musical journey is joined by visual grandeur too. We see the stone halls of Headley Grange where "Stairway to Heaven" was composed, visit a haunting Tennessee farmhouse where Jack White writes a song on-camera, and eavesdrop inside the dimly lit Dublin studio where The Edge lays down initial guitar tracks for U2's forthcoming single. The images, like the stories, will linger in the mind long after the reverb fades.What's particularly notable about this film for Jimmy Page enthusiasts is the fact that it contains new music from him, created on screen. He had gone all decade, from 2000 on, without releasing any original material -- a point he addressed in an interview with David Cavanagh for Uncut magazine earlier this year: "That doesn't matter!" said the guitarist. "No! What does that matter?"
"'It Might Get Loud' might not affect how you play guitar, but it will change how you listen."
The Sundance announcement arrived Dec. 4 by way of a press release pertaining to films that to be screened at the festival that are not taking part in the competition.
Despite its seemingly Led Zeppelin-related title, another film slated to run at Sundance has nothing to do with Led Zeppelin. There's a film called "Over the Hills and Far Away," directed by Michael Orion Scott, that "chronicles the journey of the Isaacson family as they travel through Mongolia in search of a mysterious shaman they believe can heal their autistic son." Again, it has nothing to do with Led Zeppelin; I'm sorry I mentioned it.
The festival runs Jan. 15-25 in Utah. Ticketing information is available here, and other information about the festival is available here.
Update: It Might Get Loud is now scheduled for five screenings at Sundance. The first and second are on Jan. 16, at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. The other screenings are on Jan. 17, 18 and 24.
The piece culls together never-before-seen interview quotes about Page from fellow musicians and past collaborators such as Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Paul Rodgers and Jeff Beck. In portions already posted online, Andrew Loog Oldham and Donovan reflect on their earliest encounters with Page in the 1960s and their impressions of him then and through the years.
Oldham, who was an early manager of the Rolling Stones, places the first time he was introduced to Page as around April or May 1964, which seems to be a year before he founded the Immediate Records label. Oldham recalls in an interview with Rob Hughes:
"The first time Jimmy Page came into my life I was already doing sessions with either Marianne Faithfull or Vashti Bunyan or The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. Charlie Katz was our musical fixer at Immediate, a lovely old Jewish gent, and our main guitarists at that time were Big Jim Sullivan, John McLaughlin and Joe Moretti. One day Charlie said to me, "You know, I've got this new young lad. I think you'll like him, Andrew.' And I think he may have said, 'He doesn't read [sheet music].'Page had the ability to communicate with other musicians easily while playing, Oldham recalls: "It was all in the nod, the look in the eye. And I saw that in Jimmy. It was apparent that he knew that too." He says the sly guitarist, who would have been turning 21 in January 1965, eased his way into the session world, doing so modestly, rather than taking it by storm.
"So there Jimmy was, in Pye Studios or Olympic or wherever ... we were, sitting next to Big Jim and the others. And that was the first time I saw him. I think he might have just left Carter-Lewis & The Southerners. So Jimmy's there on most of our sessions, basically from 'As Tears Go By' onwards. I'm not sure if he was on the Gene Pitney stuff, but we're talking April or May '64."
Oldham also comments:
"Jimmy and I never really socialized. I ran into Jimmy about four years ago on the streets of Soho and that was the first time I’d seen him since back then. I never really saw him through the Led Zeppelin period. But Zeppelin changed so much about the record business. I mean, that was the first branding, wasn’t it?"Page joined the Yardbirds full-time in June 1966 but continued doing session work whenever he could get around to it. Some of his sessions placed him with bassist John Paul Jones, who would later join him in Led Zeppelin. One of those Page-Jones sessions was in April 1968, recording "Hurdy Gurdy Man," which became a hit for Donovan. In an interview by Nick Hasted, the singer remembers what Page was like in those days:
"I didn't know him socially, because in those days sessions were three songs, three hours. He was long-legged, not-so-long-haired then, dark clothes, bohemian but quiet. Who would've thought this guy would become a giant - the great treasure of the Pagan Celtic Rock of Britain, Ireland, Scotland and Wales."Donovan recalls how the musical director instructed Page at the session:
"John Cameron told him [Page], 'All you've got to do is listen to Donovan's guitar. Although it's acoustic, the way he's hitting it is the way the power-chords would go.' Rather than plug in, I was hitting driving chords on the acoustic in such a way that they buzz. So I guess Page listened. Jimmy added power and pagan rock. To this day, everyone wants that sound. And John Paul Jones arranged it, he gave the shapes to those sounds. And of course we really should have stopped the guitar solo, because I had another verse to sing that George Harrison had given me. But when we heard this thing that Page was doing coming out, we just said, 'Keep playing …' That might have been the first power-chord solo."Uncut expects to post the rest of the feature about Page online too. Page is quoted in the magazine about himself, and also interviewed is Steve Albini, who produced Page and Plant's 1998 album Walking into Clarksdale. This issue of Uncut is on newsstands now.
It is one of two albums to be released in March that feature guest vocals from Plant.
The Galway Advertiser in Ireland last week published a long interview that mentions several things Matthews has in common with Plant. Besides both being singers from the Black Country and fans of the Wolverhampton Wanderers football club, they share some common musical influences.
Both name Jeff Buckley as a powerful and emotional singer, and Matthews's voice has been compared to the late singer's.
As attributed to Matthews in the Galway Advertiser:
"My dad's record collection had a lot of 1960s classics and my mum liked Motown. ... There was always good music in the house. I got into the guitar and discovered Led Zeppelin. I was really into their acoustic stuff like Led Zeppelin III. I got a lot of inspiration from that and the kind of ethnic stuff they did as well.Starting tonight, Matthews plays three consecutive nights throughout Ireland, and he says he hopes to play a lot of his new material. He is booked to play at Dolans in Limerick tonight, at Roisin Dubh in Galway tomorrow, at the Spirit Store in Louth on Dec. 6, and at Auntie Annie's in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Dec. 8.
"I have some issues with my vocals. ... Maybe it's a little insecurity on my part but a lot of people tell me that my voice suits the kind of music I do. Robert Plant himself said that was one of the things he noticed and that he really liked my voice. That was such a good thing to hear and a real boost to my confidence.
"I got to know him before recording the second album and I had a song in mind for him called '12 Harps.' It has leanings towards acoustic Led Zeppelin with mandolins. For me to be singing in the same room with Robert Plant - I was so scared. With [Jimmy] Page, [John Paul] Jones, and [John] Bonham behind him, what he did with his voice back then in Zeppelin is pretty untouchable. The sheer range and dynamic he’s got. He’s 60 now and his voice is more mature and has a real resonance in it. It's one of the stand out tracks on the album!"
The other track Plant has recorded for another album set to drop in March is called "What You Gonna Do, Leroy." It will be included on Buddy and Julie Miller's Written in Chalk, due March 3 on New West Records.
The track is described in a Dec. 2 press release as "a swampy stomp written by Mel Tillis and originally performed by Lefty Frizzell."
Plant joined Miller onstage on Sept. 18 for a live performance of that song.
This year, Buddy Miller played guitar and pedal steel backing Plant and Alison Krauss on their Raising Sand tour. While Plant and Krauss earned Americana awards in September for Album of the Year and Duo/Group of the Year, Miller earned his own Americana award for Instrumentalist of the Year.
Their second single, "Please Read the Letter," is up for Record of the Year against some other entries by artists including Leona Lewis, who joined Jimmy Page onstage at the Olympics closing ceremony in August, and Coldplay, which was nominated in seven Grammy categories.
As expected, Raising Sand is up for Album of the Year, squaring off in this category with some heavy hitters: Coldplay again, rap artist Lil Wayne (who tops the number of nominations at seven), R&B singer Ne-Yo (who has six nominations) and Radiohead (which has five nominations).
The feat of earning five nominations was also achieved by artists John Mayer and Jazmine Sullivan.
Raising Sand's opening track, "Rich Woman," was nominated in the category Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, affording Plant and Krauss the opportunity to repeat their win in the same category at this year's ceremony. That win in the 2008 Grammys was for their cover of the Everly Brothers' "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)," the only track of theirs eligible for nomination at this time one year ago.
Representing a genre shift for Plant, their version of Roly Salley's "Killing the Blues" is up for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals. George Strait is nominated twice in this Grammy category: once for a duet with Kenny Chesney and also for another with Patty Loveless.
Raising Sand is also up for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album against the latest from Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, Ry Cooder and Rodney Crowell.
The Grammy winners are to be announced in February. The 51st Annual Grammy Awards is set to be broadcast live on Feb. 8.
In addition to the earlier Grammy, the Plant-Krauss collaboration on "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)" earned the Musical Event of the Year award last month at the Country Music Association's annual awards ceremony. The video for that song won a CMT Music Award in April in the Wide Open Video category.
In September, Plant and Krauss received two awards from the Americana Music Association, for Album of the Year and Duo/Group of the Year.
Right about now, any musician who might want to be hitting the road big-time in 2009 ought to have made up his or her mind as to how to go about making that happen.
Yet in the land of Jimmy Page, no decisions have been made about what's in store for 2009. John Paul Jones wants to go out and make some loud music with Jimmy as soon as possible, but he is already planning to get some work elsewhere too.
And remember that guy Myles Kennedy, the Alter Bridge singer-guitarist who's been rumored to be the front-running candidate to sing for Page and Jones in a new touring band? This virtual limbo has left Kennedy in a precarious situation.
While he's waiting to find out what his own destiny holds in 2009, his bandmates in Alter Bridge may not be as patient. As the three other guys in that band were also members of Creed first, it's been reported that an announcement regarding a possible Creed reunion -- with singer Scott Stapp at the helm -- is "imminent."
Rolling Stone attributes this statement to multiple sources who say the band would tour in 2009.
The whole idea of a Creed reunion came about as possible only when Kennedy's name was outed as the singer rehearsing new material with Page, Jones and Jason Bonham, who were reportedly seeking to tour as either Led Zeppelin or as a new band with a new singer.
If Kennedy was going to be tied up with another project, it would free up the rest of Alter Bridge to earn some money on a Creed reunion tour, which is anticipated to be a lucrative effort. Now that there seem to have been talks to reform Creed, it may be the way to go, no matter what happens between Kennedy and the Page camp.
But remember, no deal has been inked for Page to hit the road with Kennedy or anybody else in 2009. It's possible Page and Jones could overlook Kennedy and tour without him in lieu of another lead singer or an instrumental project. It's also possible, unfortunately, that Page and Jones would not go out together at all.
Either event, combined with a reformed Creed, means there is a slight chance Kennedy would be left out in the cold by both sets of musicians next year.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I wonder if a Creed reunion would formalize without Kennedy's future with Page first having been solidified.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music's Spring Gala is to feature the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on April 16, along with "the world premiere of a dazzling evening-length work" that saw Jones joining forces with New York-based underground rock group Sonic Youth, along with mixed-media sound composer Takehisa Kosugi.
The performance is scheduled to repeat on April 17, 18 and 19. Tickets to these events, priced between $25 and $75, are to go on sale to the general public on Jan. 21 and one week early for Brooklyn Academy of Music donors. Click here for more ticketing information.
Multiple reports have surfaced that Jones and Sonic Youth have now been in rehearsals. Pitchfork Media, Australia's Undercover, the United Kingdom's Guardian and Uncut have all reported on this collaboration.
This seems to be the first time Jones has worked with Sonic Youth, but Jones and Kosugi teamed up previously for another Merce Cunningham Dance Company event. On June 14-19, 2005, when the dance troupe performed at the Barbican Theatre in London, Jones and other musicians improvised music for each show. Jones recalled in a blog post afterward:
"The Merce Cunningham event was brilliant, 75 minutes of free improvisation was pretty exciting, and it was good fun working with the other musicians (Steven Montague & John King first show, Takehisa Kosugi & Kaffe Mathews the second). It was a really interesting experience and artistically more food for thought."
It has been disclosed that Lee was epilectic, and a postmortem examination determined Lee had a fatal seizure.
An article by Lauren Pyrah of the Northern Echo states that Robert Plant provided flowers for Lee's funeral. Plant's written message for Lee is quoted as saying:
"What a waste. Too soon. I'm so sorry, I always enjoyed your enthusiasm and ideas. Robert P"Lee accompanied Page and Plant on tour and in the studio during their years performing together in the mid '90s.
The funeral took place Dec. 3 at Darlington Crematorium in Darlington, England. Page is seen mourning in a photograph published along with the Northern Echo report.
An earlier statement by Daniel Stanton of Coallier Entertainment says:
"The results of post mortem was a seizure, apparently the worst one he could have had.
"Michael passed away at his flat (home) in Darlington. He was found at his home by his friend and police on the floor beside his bed.
"Michael was out the night before [he died]. He said he wasn't feeling well and went home to rest it off. When he didn't answer his phone the next morning, a friend had the police enter his home.
"Michael will sadly be missed.
"I have received endless calls from fans, friends and family members surrounding Michael's death.
"The guys in Thin Lizzy are crushed, I have spoken to people in the Robert Plant camp who have also expressed the same. Spike from the London Quireboys has been dedicating their shows each night to Michael. Dave Ling from Classic Rock magazine is said to be doing a feature on Michael Lee in an upcoming issue.
"We will all miss Michael. His boyish smile, his humor, his love and his talent, [but] most of all, we will miss his friendship.
"Michael died way too young. He shares his death with Freddie Mercury of Queen and drummer Eric Carr of Kiss, who also passed away on the same date.
"We love you, Michael. You are forever in our hearts and your music forever in our souls."