Monday, December 31, 2012

Album Review: "Celebration Day" by Led Zeppelin

Do you remember when you first started owning music? I do. In the span of four days I got my first two records. The first was "Live Evil" by Dio fronted Black Sabbath, but the second was "Led Zeppelin III." I wore that cassette out. That began my fandom of the greatest band in the history of the world, Led Zeppelin, not that Black Sabbath was shabby!

I've always had a spot for 70's classic rock really. I could talk about that for the next ten years, but that's not what today is about.

Today is about Led Zeppelin and I just finished watching the blu-ray of "Celebration Day." Page and the boys took a page from the Doors and didn't include what should have been the title track on the release, but I'm not going to judge.

I can remember 2007. Out of nowhere, it was announced that Led Zeppelin, with Jason Bonham on drums, would be reuniting for one night only. Over 20 million people put in for a lottery to get tickets to the show. I always said that I'd give up a kidney to see them play and this is coming from a person who saw Page and Plant and that was awesome, but sadly it was one of the many near Led Zeppelin moments. I remember watching the internets for weeks in the hopes of a tour that never came. Being in St. Louis, I didn't get to see or hear anything. I do realize now that I could've just popped onto YouTube and probably seen bits.

Well, about 2 months ago, the Zeppelin camp started an enigmatic campaign to announce the release of the video and CD of this historic concert. If I couldn't have been there, at least I'd get to see what happened. I was hoping for the moon and I got it. This was such an amazing concert and certainly the best home video release I've ever seen. Of this there is no question.

I'm not going to talk about the set list. Zeppelin has a back catalog of about a hundred songs and thousands of hits that I've heard thousands of times each and there was no way they could have played all of my, or anyone else's favorites. Over the course of two hours, they played sixteen of those songs.

What amazed me was how they sounded like they had never missed a day. Over the course of their set they blazed through the songs. What I really liked was the lack of noodling. On "The Song Remains" the same, they improvised most of the tracks into extraordinarily long songs. Even with Bonzo, no one needs a thirty minute drum solo. At least not in my world. On this day, they played the songs and burned it up. Plant, Page, and Jonesy still have everything they ever did in the seventies. The whole time I was bouncing along and jamming.

Aside from "Misty Mountain Hop," Plant had lost nothing. So many times, when a singer gets a bit long in the tooth, the upper register gets a little lower. Paul Stanley, I'm looking at you. Had Plant lost significant range, well, this would have sucked.

Jimmy Page showed he is still every bit the guitar god he ever was, everything any guitar player should dream of being. Being a Gibson man, I loved seeing him bring out Les Paul after Les Paul. I did wonder how each one of them was wired up. From his "Number One" to his three pickup Black Beauty Custom, to the red number with the strange bridge he pulled out during the encore. It was like a candy store for Les Paul fans. He made my Les Paul Studio look like an idiot, but again, he's Jimmy Motherlovin' Page and I didn't even mention the arch top he pulled out for some slide work or the double neck SG for Stairway and "The Song Remains The Same." By the by, was that a theramin on "Whole Lotta Love?"

What took me aback about John Paul Jones was how much he played the piano. When he was on bass, he was of course the ultimate player. So often bassists get overlooked, but in a live setting like this, they're extremely important. Page referred to the guitars on Zeppelin records as a "guitar army," so Jones had to be able to hold everything together as Jimmy could only play one guitar instead of ten like on the records. I do have to say, I got a kick out of when he broke out the ten string bass.

Of course I have to talk about the drummer. Son of Bonzo or not, this could be a major issue. What made Zeppelin great was the, for lack of a better term, virtuosity of the four players and, as Jason said during the Hall of Fame induction, John Bonham was the greatest rock drummer of all time. Jason Bonham has nearly everything his father had on the kit, save the ability to double bass with a single foot. Jason used a double pedal, but really, can we hold that against him? I can't tune by ear, so I have four different tuners. Jason used a double bass pedal, but he still kicked the holy living hell out of those skins back there. What made John Bonham John "Henry" Bonham was his power and Jason has that in spades. Big. Powerful and he was full of swagger. He was spectacular, and provided all of the back up vocals, not that there were all that many.

Before I watched this, I had said I liked the fact that the boys said enough was enough because they had done it, but this makes me want more. They are getting on in years and damn it, I'd love one last hurrah. Even if it's just an album and a tour that last about 2 weeks. I understand that they could never do a tour that was legitimately satisfying. Here in St. Louis with our metro population of three million, they'd have to do five nights at our football stadium. The tour would take literally at least a decade, but I just want one more something, but I suppose that's the epitome of show business, always leave them wanting more.

Genre: Classic Rock
Year: 2012
Run time: 2:00:00
Playlists: Rock, Arena Rock


Disc 1
1) Good Times, Bad Times
2) Ramble On
3) Black Dog
4) In My Time of Dying
5) For Your Life
6) Trampled Under Foot
7) Nobody's Fault But Mine
8) No Quarter

Disc 2
1) Since I've Been Loving You
2) Dazed and Confused
3) Stairway To Heaven
4) The Song Remains The Same
5) Misty Mountain Hop
6) Kashmir
7) Whole Lotta Love
8) Rock and Roll

Again...this is Led Zeppelin and it's a double disc, two videos.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff there, big fan of LZ, thanks for sharing this, Nik.

    I remember my first album purchases were Ratt - Out of the Cellar & Billy Idol's Rebel Yell!