Latest Music Reviews From George Starostin
This was a Guitar players album. I had a lot of friends forming bands and I was learning to play. I was learning stuff on All Things Must Pass but everybody else was learning Stairway To Heaven and Black Dog. Remember that part in Wayne's World with the sign in the music store? NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN! That was so true!
I play guitar, so occasionally I try to impress people by playing the opening bars of Stairway, but there are surprisingly few who recognize it. Makes me worry a bit about the sort of people I hang out with. Anyhow, when I was 10, I recall trying to work out the theme with a friend of mine, it is one of my best memories from childhood. There is something magical about that simple melody.
There seem to be a lot of bands you have warmed up to over the years (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Band, The Beach Boys, etc.). Are there any former favorites that you look back on less favorably these days?
On the old site you claimed something like "Led Zep defined the 1970's like The Beatles the 1960's". I think that's incorrect. The 1970's hardly had begun and Led Zep had already the most important part of their catalogue behind them, as this album shows. Already the next year they were surpassed by Deep Purple and Uriah Heep in western Europe and in 1975 (only two albums further!) they were dinosaurs. When I got interested in pop/rock (I'm from 1963) they were already something from the past - a glorious past, but still past.I also question their influence on hard rock and heavy metal in general, exactly because they largely stuck to bluesrock. From 1975 on exactly the blues elements were removed in the genre. You won't find them back in NWOBHM, nor in thrash, nor in hair metal."maybe the only time in recent history when people like Aleister Crowley actually did have a strong cultural impact"In fact this already shows that Led Zep were not that innovative anymore. Black Widow had charted with their debut album Sacrifice in 1970 (it's not worth checking out as it's utterly boring and Black Sabbath did the shock effect much better anyway). Another example is the classic Stairway to Heaven, which reacts to Child in Time (immensely popular in western Europe from the very beginning). The solo on the studio album is indeed fantastiwastic, but my favourite version is on the BBC-Sessions.As an incurable headbanger my take on IV is slightly different: exactly because Led Zep were superheroes everyone with some selfrespect must like at least one album of the band. And IV is the most likeable, because at one hand it's less offensive than the first two; for instance Plant's shenanigans at the end of You Shook Me manages to piss off many a listener until today. IV doesn't have anything like that. Also IV contains less shit than III (no Out on the Tiles and no Hats Off). Also because of the classic Stairway to Heaven IV is the safe choice.And exactly that makes IV Led Zep's important album. But I think it's not as strong as the three previous ones. Misty Mountain Hop is more stupid than any AC/DC song (and the fun is missing), Going to California is about two minutes too long and I never managed to remember Four Sticks. That means only five good (or excellent) songs, while III contained seven (even if the shit on that one smells worse than on IV).
Black Widow is the best thing ever. not because its very good or the musicianship is of a high standard, but because its Spinal Tap without the knowledge this is parody, for example http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/come-to-the-sabbat-1971
"ʻBattle Of Evermoreʼ: for some reason, I used to hate this (probably Plant's vocals - whenever there's grounds for LZ hatred, it's mostly always Plant vocals)," Amen to that. This is the one song I had to skip, although not until the end when he does all that "Oh now, oh now" dissonant caterwauling.Stairway: To me it's all about the progression from solo acoustic to recorders to electric 12 string to pounding drums to electric rock meltdown. It's just great construction, and my favorite riff at the moment is the churning chords that back up "And as you wind on down the road..."Misty Mountain: "That half-spoken verse melody, alternating with Plant's yelling, is just not very musical, isn't it?" Yeah, probably his worst lyrics on the album. Just wal-kin-in-the-park-makinup-words-that-make-no-sense...And then screaming like a hooornyyy dawwwwg!" Then again, there's sort of a story behind it, but not one that I really care about.Levee: I have to admit, there's nothing else in 71 that sounded like that. It's like bad club music, or something that NWA or somebody would sample. Did not know about the stairwell story, but it makes sense. Also never considered the apocalyptic angle.My feelings on this album are pretty much my general feelings on the band. When on top of his game in 69-71, Page was the master of recording the guitar, the Les Paul of his generation. His riffs might be repetitive and gratuitous, but he could create worlds with a few overdubs, mics, and wizardry. His soloing also was in a class of its own. Bonzo and Jonesy somehow carried his music to another place. If you disagree I suggest listening to Walking into Clarksdale to see just how boring Page and Plant are left to themselves. And even Plant disavows his antics in the glory days. Songwriting? It comes off as Robert screeching and babbling over Page's riffs, which is not much different from the Ozzy/Iommi method but because Ozzy was more straightforward and had Geezer to fall back on, works better to my ears. And just to complete the LZ/BS comparison, Bonham was a bludgeoner whereas Ward was more diverse and interesting. But I like them both.
LZ get the kudos because they were the first to get enough of the elements together of what a rock band should be.
This is great reading. There was also a proto Zeppelin band called 'Band Of Joy' from 1967 with Plant and Bonham who made a few demos,can be heard on the Youtube. The core sound was already created, that sound that is so distinctive, the timings and the inflections, its really remarkable.
I have a diffucult relationship with Led Zeppelin. There are times when I want to listen to it every moment and enjoy the music immensely. Kashmir is likely to blow me away every time I hear it. But on some level I undestand that LZ music is boring and repetive-sounding for me. As for LZ IV, it is a great Led Zeppelin record, but not the best. For me that would be LZ I.
Have to come to the defense of Misty Mountain Hop and Four Sticks and I hope to do so in an entertaining way rather than just gainsay what GS says. A closer look at these 2 songs and what sets them apart from the others in Untitled reveals to me the following: Plant's vocals almost reach an inhuman quality (particularly in 4S when it could straddle the boundary of unlistenability) in both of these. My response to this is uneven but I am usually be able to take it and when I do, these 2 songs form the core of the album. You could take the other 6 and stick them into a compilation album and they will sit there fine, but MMH and 4S seem to belong exclusively to Untitled and hence my special appreciation to these unique and inimitable creations. The almost demented repetitive phrase in 4S is a personal favorite of mine (especially when it returns after a brief respite) and I usually am very impatient with the synthesizer section in the middle that unnecessarily delays the return of the thundering wave.Happy to see George coming around on Battle for Evermore, his original invective against it is a heartbreaker. Page and Plant released a video in 1994 (No Quarter Unledded) with some very interesting variants on Evermore (teaming up with Najma Akhtar in a curious Indianization of the song) and Levee (shot in a stunning Wales location with a scary black dog and a hurdy gurdy player in accompaniment). Worth checking out even if it may turn off some of the old faithful.