Posts Tagged ‘The Hobbit’

For the 60’s it was hard to choose between Led Zeppelin’s first two albums. Enter the 70’s and the choice was even more difficult. Surely there is plenty of disagreement if you were to poll your table at the pub.

On a rough wall hangs a painting of an elderly man in a field with a large bundle of sticks tied to his back.I nearly chose In Through the Out Door which boasts In the Evening, Fool in the Rain, the very different Carouselambra, All My Love and I’m Gonna Crawl. I think it is an under-rated album.

But the one I ended up choosing should have no arguments- IV. I chose it despite Stairway to Heaven, not because of it. Perhaps it has just been overplayed (the way some people feel about Smoke on the Water). This album has much better songs, as is often the case with a band’s signature song.

This album was produced by Page. The band, driven by the lukewarm response to III took a break from touring to focus on the album. The more relaxed atmosphere allowed them to try out different arrangements for the songs. The release was delayed after the mix didn’t meet Page’s standards. Between short tours he took a month to mix it, for which we are all thankful.

The album rushes out of the gate with Black Dog. A bit of reverb and Plant singing before the instruments flood. It is the blues rock that made them famous with all the expected elements. Including cow bell. Okay, just kidding on that. It comes across as ready for a single but is a tick under 5 minutes which is long for a single. This is in part thanks to the additional Page solo that closes the song as Plant “ooooohs”. It is a song all about sex, so not the most imaginative of topics or treatment. But the music rocks.

Hey, hey mama said the way you move
Gon’ make you sweat, gon’ make you groove
Ah ah child way ya shake that thing
Gon’ make you burn, gon’ make you sting
Hey, hey baby when you walk that way
Watch your honey drip, I can’t keep away

Rock and Roll is good musically. The lyrics are so-so. It was a promotional single rife with double entendres. It could refer to their much-needed lay off, or a lack of sex. It became a popular song in concert.

It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled
It’s been a long time since I did the Stroll
Oh let me get it back let me get it back
Let me get it back baby where I come from

Page wrote The Battle of Evermore on Jones’ mandolin. The instrument dominates the song, giving it a very different feel. But with Plant’s vocals it is also clearly Led Zeppelin. It fits in with the other songs that reflect Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythology, though Plant’s lyrics were influenced by his reading a book on the Scottish wars for independence. It doesn’t break from the mandolin for a guitar solo (though there are sections with acoustic guitar). Oddly enough, Heart did a great version of this song live as they paid tribute to their influences.

The album continues with the slower pace for the beginning of Stairway to Heaven with more non-typical instruments for a rock band not named Jethro Tull. Acoustic guitar and recorders begin the song. People have tried to make sense of the lyrics, usually to make them promote satanism. I still don’t know what in the world the song is actually about.

Finally the song erupts with electric guitar, drums and electric piano. Of course it takes over 4 minutes for Bonzo to start playing anything of merit, and 5:56 until Page begins his legendary solo. The solo was played on a Telecaster that Jeff Beck had given him. This really is a song suited for headphones to catch the nuance. The song became one of their concert highlights. To capture the two phases of the song, from a guitar standpoint, Page would use the now iconic double neck guitar, one of which was a 12-string.

The second side begins with the airy melody and pounding drums of Misty Mountain Hop. Plant alternates between the nearly spoken lines and the nearly screeching ones. The melody is dominated by the electric piano. The seemingly dormant guitar enters for the solo. It is a song of opposites, but it works for me. The title is taken from Tolkien’s The Hobbit but it is about clashes between students and police over drugs. Well, Gandalf like the Hobbit’s weed (tobacco).

Four Sticks is dominated by the guitar riff. The percussion is more subdued. For the interlude the electric guitar drops out and the acoustic takes over. Bonham played the drums with 4 sticks, and hence the name. It is a song about needing to leave a relationship in the past and put some geographic distance between you.

‘Cause you know I gotta get away from you babe
Oh baby the river’s red, ah baby in my head
There’s a funny feelin’ goin’ on
I don’t think I can hold out long

Going to California features the acoustic guitar and a broken heart. Plant sings as a man who has lost a love who taken him for all he has. But he hopes to find new hope there.

Spent my days with a woman unkind
Smoked my stuff and drank all my wine.
Made up my mind to make a new start
Going To California with an aching in my heart.
Someone told me there’s a girl out there
With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.

Then Bonham’s drums hit the forefront, joined by a moaning harmonica. We’ve back to the blues with When the Levee Breaks. This is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs. Impending doom is captured well by the music and lyrics. For some reason the remastered edition, the transitional guitars are muted and the guitar solo too loud. Perhaps my settings are messed up but this seems to have a very different mix than the rest of the album.

The album was well received by critics and fans. It hit number 1 in England but only peaked at No. 2 in America. But it was their best selling album and continues to sell well for the band. It would be difficult to top the success of IV, and they wouldn’t. But they were the biggest band in the world that could only be derailed by substance abuse issues after a series of smaller tragedies. Thankfully we can still enjoy their music.



Read Full Post »

It was precisely 30 days, 6 beds and 4 states after our arrival in Newark.  As the plane descended that day, CavGirl shouted “Green!” with glee over seeing so much green that is decidedly missing in the desert.  It was a great vacation.  My one complaint was that I didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted (and I didn’t get to go to Fenway).  This was partly because my in-laws don’t believe in using shades, blinds or anything else that blocks the light from entering the windows.  This means the CavKids got up early.  They would inevitably decide to wake me up.

This morning was no different, though a little bit earlier.  For government work, I’d say around 6:30 or so they roosted me from my slumber.  It would be the beginning of a long day, that would not end until about 3:30 in the morning after crossing the country.  It was not as strange the first trip, but strange in its own way.

After our good-byes, we climbed into the Envoy for the long trip to NJ.  Deciding to save CavWife from car sickness, I sat in the middle section.  I thought that after we got out of the mountains we’d switch.  I … was …. wrong.  This meant I spent about 4 hours unable to stretch my legs except for the stops at rest areas necessitated by traveling with 2 young children and 2 retirees.

Finally we arrived at one of CavWife’s sister’s home.  She fed us a late lunch.  The kids were able to get some exercise in the pool.  Soon they beckoned me to join them.  I dragged my aching back into the pool while CavWife spent time talking with her parents and 2 of her sisters.  At one point I inadvertently ran CavGirl over with the raft CavSon was in.  She was a trooper, hanging on and bobbing back up without getting scared.  Ah, progress.

Then back into the car for the ride to Newark and the airport.  This time I lodged myself into the front passenger’s seat.  No, didn’t call shotgun.  After another hour or so in the car, we arrived and were dropped off.  We paid the sky caps to take care of our bags rather than wait in a long line.  He must have been new because our boarding passes took forever.  His name was long, and unpronounceable.  “Welcome to America!  Here, have a job checking our bags.”  He must have thought us a strange culture.

We made our way through security, and then the fun started.  We were in the same terminal but all the things we didn’t notice in our previous exhaustion soon became apparent.  It is a smaller terminal.  Operative word here is smaller.  There was precisely one sit down restaurant.  We didn’t want to sit down for dinner.  It was around 6 and we wanted something to carry on to the plan.  Mrs. Obama would be happy, there was no McDonalds.  We were not so happy.  There was only a newstand that sold $8 sandwiches.  Yes, $8 for prepackaged sandwiches you could get at 7-11 for half that.  You have to love the whole captive passenger thing.


Read Full Post »