Reviews: Music DVDs
Zeppelin Flies Again
garage band the world over has dreams of making it big. Every young
lead guitarist, every drummer, every singer, every trio, quartet, you
name it, every fledgling band practicing their chops in their parents
garage or in some smoky room, has dreams of being called "the greatest
rock and roll band ever." I did when I was young, playing guitar
in a small band in a friends garage. Every band does. But few
actually make it.
Ive heard people call The Rolling Stones the greatest rock and
roll band ever. Ive heard The Beatles, The Doors, The Grateful
Dead, even The Bee Gees given this much coveted title. But there is
another band that has often been dubbed "the greatest". They
are no longer together and, like the other bands just mentioned, one
of the members has passed on to that great jam session in the sky. Led
Zeppelin certainly qualifies for that honorific title of being "the
worlds greatest rock and roll band." Those who doubt this
or have need of further proof and convincing can check out the new two-disc
Led Zeppelin DVD recently released by Atlantic.
I saw Led Zeppelin twice. I saw them once in March of 1970 and again
in August of 1971. I saw them when, I think, they were in their prime
as a performing rock band. Watching this new video, which is made up
of footage from concerts in Royal Albert Hall in 1970 and Madison Square
Garden in 1973 among others, (the same time frame that I saw them),
just re-confirms for me that, indeed, those four guys together on stage
were at the top of the art form known as rock and roll.
Like most good live acts, a Led Zeppelin concert was more than just
a concert. It was an event. You didnt just listen to Led Zeppelin,
you encountered Led Zeppelin. You felt a Led Zeppelin concert reverberating
in your ribcage. It was a physical experience as well as an aural and
visual happening. Though I now know that this may not be a good thing,
I remember my ears ringing as I walked out after seeing "Zep",
as we called them back then.
Led Zeppelins music drew heavily on the blues set against a thundering
rock beat. They re-did such old blues classics as "You Shook Me"
and "I Cant Quit You, Babe" by Willie Dixon. Jimmy Page
could tear out a screaming, wailing guitar solo filled with feedback
and distortion as well as any of his contemporaries, Clapton, Beck,
Hendrix. Jimmy Page even used a violin bow from time to time to create
intense, otherworldly washes of sound. Robert Plant took blues/rock
vocals to a new, higher dimension. He used his voice as a second lead
guitar. There are several moments on the video where he and Page trade
searing vocal and electric guitar riffs between each other. One thing
all lead guitarists need is a solid rhythm section and Page, as a great
lead guitarist knew he had that in John Paul Jones on electric bass.
He also knew that John Bonham could not only keep the beat, thus keeping
the storm in line, he could also go off on his own forays as a Wildman
rock drummer. His drum solo on "Moby Dick" from the 1970 concert
is a case in point. Led Zeppelin could send a tsunami of sound so thick
out into a concert hall that it would almost physically lift you out
of your seat. It would pummel you and leave you "Dazed and Confused."
But Led Zeppelin could also do the softer side of rock and roll. On
songs such as "Since Ive Been Loving You" and the huge
hit "Stairway To Heaven" they played almost ballad-like and
sweet, with Plant singing poetic lines and Page strumming nicely, that
is until the song picked up speed and intensity and they were screaming
again. People can say what they will about "Stairway to Heaven".
It may be one of the most overplayed songs in the rock and roll canon.
Every guitar player learns it. I did. I can still play it. But it is
a great song with mesmerizing lyrics and tuneful music. It is probably
one of the best songs in rock and roll.
I remember watching, and can now watch again on the video, as Page would
hit the strings of his Les Paul guitar with that violin bow and point
it skyward as it echoed around the arena, distortion throbbing into
my bones and his high-pitched lead runs and Plants voice soaring
and that constant pounding of Bonhams drums. A Led Zeppelin concert
was more than just a concert. It was an event. You didnt just
listen to Led Zeppelin, you encountered Led Zeppelin. They were and
possibly still are the greatest rock and roll band ever. If their music
was an important part of your life back then it can be so again. Check
out the new Atlantic DVD and encounter Led Zeppelin all over again.
© Jeffrey A
Beyl August 6th 2003
all rights reserved