Saturday, September 17, 2016

Led Zeppelin - BBC Sessions (Atlantic, 2016)

This is an update and expansion of the 1997 release with the music handpicked and re-mastered by Jimmy Page, adding another disc’s work of unreleased material, making it a fine collection of the mighty Zeppelin during their lean and hungry early years 1969-1971. They are steeped in the blues during this period, borrowing and in some cases even lifting wholesale from the past masters in their creation of their music. White-hot blues manifests itself on impressive versions of “Travelling Riverside Blues” and their version of Otis Rush’s swaggering “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” There own material is as impressive as their covers with “Whole Lotta Love” witnessing Plant’s erotic moaning against Jimmy Page’s scalding guitar riff’s and John Bonham’s thunderous drumming. Sewing together the shorter sessions that the group played for radio leads to improvised jams like “Something Else” which apes Eddie Cochran to fine effect, especially with John Paul Jones adding barroom piano to the mix. There are several versions of “Communication Breakdown” seemingly played at each session, but it is interesting to see how the song evolves and tightens to a blast of pure energy by the end. It’s a riot to hear them go from that song into another slow jam of “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” The addition of multiple versions of songs is worthwhile, since it shows how their band evolved when playing both their original material, but blues standards as well. The music becomes heavier and more powerful as time moves forward, with elements of psychedelia creeping in as the bluesy “You Shook Me” is twisted and alerted as the band adlibs and improvises, and Plant adds some generous harmonica. There is some epic bass playing laying the foundation for “How Many More Times” which sets the stage for Page and Plant to take flight and play off of one another. Plant improvises lyrics (clichés, but they work) and Page responds with thunderous riffs, ending up quoting Albert King’s “The Hunter.” The group tears into “Immigrant Song” with enthusiastic abandon then rip into the popular “Heartbreaker” before a very excited studio audience. Subtle guitar explorations and eruptions echo throughout “Since I’ve Been Loving You” that show that the band is capable of moments of delicacy amidst the bombast, also demonstrated on the obligatory “Stairway to Heaven” and “Goin’ to California.” Overall this is a very interesting set and will be a treat to hardcore fans of the band. BBC Sessions -

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