Led Zeppelin - BBC Sessions
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
By Tony BonyataJust last week Led Zeppelin, the 1970's seminal hard rock and heavy metal band, has managed to surpass country music star Garth Brooks as the second biggest-selling musical act in the States (the Beatles are number one with close to 100 million album sales, while Zeppelin weighs in at a respectable 63.8 million sold). That's not bad for a band that hasn't recorded together in over 17 years.
Formed in 1969, guitarist Jimmy Page along with bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones, drummer extraordinaire John Bonham and vocalist Robert Plant exploded onto the music scene with their unique blend of thunderous rock, Delta blues and mystical imagery. Their sound was a fresh kick in the saggy seat of the idealistic hippie movement coming from the west coast in the late sixties; bombastic, psychedelic, unsettling and dangerous all at once. The Zeppelin had landed and took America's testosterone driven youth along for the decade long ride.
Now 17 years after calling it quits as a band, following Bonhams' death in an alcohol overdose, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) have opened up their vaults of previously unreleased recordings of Led Zeppelin on the new double disc set BBC Sessions, which debuted at number 12 on the U.S. pop charts. These recordings offer a glimpse into the meteoric beginnings of this influential band.
Although perfectionists in the studio, Led Zeppelin could play the same song live a dozen nights in row and create a totally different number each night. It was this improvisational skill that inspired the moniker for the band, "tight but loose".
Culled from original British radio transmissions from 1969 and 1971, this set shows how powerful Zeppelin was as a live act. Plant's raw falsetto screams and Page's blistering guitar solos dominate the blues-soaked "You Shook Me", "I Can't Quit You Baby" and a standin'-at-the-crossroads version of Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues". On the unbridled "Communication Breakdown" the band blows through like a runaway train and on the shorter of two showings of "Dazed and Confused", John Bonham's hammer-of-the-gods drumming along with Page's blinding guitar solos and Plant's incessant moaning create an unsettling dirge.
The real treasures for Zeppelin fans here, however, are the two tracks that haven't been officially released in any format, "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair", which is typical Zeppelin blues-crunch, and "Something Else", with an early rock and roll swagger accentuated by John Paul Jones' boogie woogie piano.
All of the songs on disc two were recorded in London, 1971 and are highlighted by the acoustic numbers "Going To California", "That's The Way" and "Thank You" as well as early versions of "Black Dog" and the ever familiar rock saga "Stairway To Heaven".
With virtually no unreleased material to speak of in nearly two decades, not counting their odds 'n sods 1982 outtake album Coda, it's refreshing to hear Led Zeppelin performing on this loud and unabashed collection of early radio broadcasts.
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