Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Black Country Communion - Afterglow

A random thought passes as I listen to Black Country Communion's new album Afterglow: with the recent bad blood between bassist Glenn Hughes and guitarist Joe Bonamassa, if Bonamassa was on fire, would Hughes put him out?

Answer, not on Afterglow he doesn't.

afterglowThroughout the band's third studio album in as many years, Bonamassa's playing is smoking: Big Train's wah-wah infused rave up; the white hot solos on Midnight Sun and the Giver; the guitar intro to Midnight Sun; or the slow burning slide on Cry Freedom. Bonamassa lights the album up with his best playing to date with this band. Hughes response is to fuel the flames with a collection of songs of great licks and words that twist and turn, offer loud and soft (light and shade?) moments throughout.

If, as has been allowed as possible through various media outlets, this is the end of the line for Black Country Communion, it will prove to be a great pity. On reviewing their first album, I offered a number of times their influences came to the top, on their second album, I noted less of this. On this album, they sound from start to finish uniquely like themselves. Hey are a band that has found an identity. Moments like the dual Hughes/Bonamassa vocals on Cry Freedom or the tight, super-funky groove Hughes and drummer Jason Bonaham get on the Bonham penned piece Common Man sound like Black Country Communion and no one else.

You can't talk about Afterglow without also mentioning Derek Sherinian, who takes a greater role than the first two albums, playing a couple of organ solos that are exceptional. His playing throughout is top notch.

Black Country Communion's Afterglow, which was released yesterday is a great rock and roll album that will improve with time and listenings. It is what these guys do best, flat out rock.


  1. Big Train (Hughes)

  2. This is Your Time (Bonham/Bonamassa/Sherinian) (Lyrics Bonham/Hughes)

  3. Midnight Sun (Bonham/Bonamassa/Sherinian)(Lyrics: Hughes)

  4. Confessor (Hughes)

  5. Cry Freedom (Hughes/Bonamassa/Bonham/Sherinian)(Lyrics: Hughes)

  6. Afterglow (Hughes)

  7. Dandelion (Hughes)

  8. The Circle (Hughes)

  9. Common Man (Bonham) (Lyrics Bonham/Hughes)

  10. The Giver (Hughes/Bonamassa/Shirley) (Lyrics Hughes)

  11. Crawl (Bonamassa/Bonham/Hughes/Shirley) (Lyrics Hughes)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rediscovering Zep

Below is a piece I wrote for my general interest blog At Home in Hespeler. I thought it apropos here.


In the winter of 1976-77 I was a minor Led Zeppelin fan: I obviously knew side 1 of Led Zeppelin 4 and had recently taken to stealing my brothers Led Zeppelin III, which was at the time my favourite album. But BTO’s Not Fragile and Kiss Alive had been my “favourite album” before that, so that didn’t mean much. No, I liked Led Zeppelin, but I liked a lot of bands.

led-zeppelin-48vc_o_tnThen one snowy night a friend and I crossed town, from the northeast end of Brampton (Bramalea) to Shoppers World shopping mall in the southeast to watch the weekly showing of The Song Remains the Same.

It starts innocently enough, a gangster shoot-up, manager Peter Grant’s “fantasy sequence,” then a young man on a bicycle delivering something to each member of Led Zeppelin at their home (remarkable considering those homes ranged from Wales to Scotland). “Tour dates” John Paul Jones announces happily to his wife upon reading his. The smile changes to shock as he reads on, “it starts tomorrow.” Airport, jet, tarmac and limo ride with police escort past a traffic jam then through a tunnel the streets of Manhattan.

Yardbirds bassist Chris Dreja, talking of seeing Led Zeppelin for the first time in 1969 said, “Jesus Christ, there were four guys. it sounded like a war.” If Led Zeppelin live is like a war, The Song Remains the Same up to this point is the long march into battle. The final scene before the “four guys” unleash themselves on New York City is from the stage. Looking out on a dark stadium, the occasional lighter flickers and lights from the doorways out are the only glow in the darkness, like the night fires of the invading army from the vantage point of the villagers.

The attack starts as every self respecting attack should, with the drummer. Specifically John Bonham, who shouts in the darkness, “alright lets go,” before launching into his drum intro to Rock and Roll. Two-minutes into the song Jimmy Page steps in front of the camera and plays lick that starts his blistering solo, fingers flailing across the fretboard seemingly out of control. It was the moment, the very second where I got it, I got Led Zeppelin. No longer a mere fan, no longer just another band I like, I became a Led Zeppelin fanatic.

I learnt what most Zeppelin fanatics learn at some time, to experience Led Zeppelin live is to truly appreciate how good they are. Whether actually being at a a concert (preferred), on a movie screen, at home or even just an audio bootleg of an otherwise unreleased concert, Led Zeppelin’s live experience is almost always better than they were on record.

3463_4310304830564_662414255_nTheir latest live release, Celebration Day, chronicles their Dec 2007 union concert at the O2 arena in London. Put out as a limited theatrical release, it opened Wednesday the 17th of this month at a variety of theaters. The second and last showing was last Thursday, and it was this one my university aged daughter expressed an interest in going to.

She was obviously raised with Led Zeppelin in the background, but like the rest of the family treated my level of enjoyment of the band with amusement. They’re OK, but that’s all, was her general attitude. For her, Queen or The Who, whom she knows from CSI. Lately, the boyfriend is a Stones fan, and 70’s Stones has also been found to be too her taste. But on Led Zeppelin she was acting the role of rebellious daughter, allowing that they were OK but refusing to be a ‘fan.’

Leaving the theatre Thursday she expressed the opinion that she liked it, it was, she thought, really good. A pretty good self taught pianist, she was pleasantly surprised by the amount keyboard playing in the band, surprised that John Paul Jones supplies the dual role of bassist and keyboardist so well. We discussed how Zeppelin often treated songwriting more like classical composers do, adding in breaks, preludes, interludes and codas, moving the songs through a variety of tempos, volumes and, most importantly, feels.

It wasn’t until she came home Friday for her usual weekend of quiet study away from the residence parties: where she could get her mother to do her laundry her father to bake her banana bread for her, that the depth of her appreciation became clear. “While I’m home, I want to go over some of Zeppelin’s older live stuff, to see what they were like when they were younger.”

“Oh, no!” cried out the wife. “Not another one,” while I ran to open the special occasion Champagne I had been saving. She got it, she really got it, as Goldie Hawn might have said in my shoes. The hook was in, and a few hours closeted away with The Song Remains the Same (complete with fairytale fantasy sequences that she will love despite their obvious cheesiness), and their 2002 DVD release will no doubt set the hook. The first Knebworth show and Seattle ’77 sit in my basement, virtually pro-shot bootlegs that will mesmerize and amaze.

The path is now clear, from the videos to the three live albums, then sometime with the turntable listening to the originals as they were meant to be heard, finally, onward to the 100‘s of bootlegs. Oh the joy of buying her first turntable for her, hitting the record shows with her and having someone in the house to eagerly anticipate the re-release of all those albums in 2013, as Jimmy Page promised this week. Oh the joy.

Now, about the boy and his rap music…

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Influencing Jimmy Page for Record Store Day

Record Store Day's now annual "Black Friday" event this is year on November 23rd at record stores around the world.

418455061341In the past couple of years, Record Store Day has featured the -release of some Jimmy Page era Yardbirds singles. This year, it is one of Page's main influences that gets the record store day re-release: a limited edition 7" single of Bert Jansch's Blackwater Side.

From the Record Store Day webpage:

2 track 7" of previously released but long out of print Bert Jansch recordings. Mastered exclusively for 7" by Paul Stubblebine. Liner notes edited from the transcript of an unpublished interview with Neil Young, as told to Sylvie Simmons. Strictly limited to 1000 copies.

Blackwater Side is based on the traditional tune Down by Blackwaterside and is very similar to the arrangement Jimmy Page would use for Black Mountain Side on Led Zeppelin's first album three years later.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Robert Plant Live Downloads

Last July, Robert Plant made his Sensation Space Shifters HMV forum show in London available for online download. The experiment on online marketing seems to have been a success. Plant is making the shows on his current South American tour available to purchase via Live Download.com.sss_rp1

Last nights show on Rio De Janeiro is already available for download in a number of formats, including CD - which is not an option for the July show. Songs are also available for individual download in MP3 format.

Here's the setlist for last nights Sensational Space Shifter show in Rio:

  • Introduction

  • Fixin' To Die

  • Tin Pan Alley

  • 44

  • Friends

  • Spoonful

  • Somebody Knocking

  • Black Dog

  • Bron-Y-Aur Stomp

  • Enchanter

  • Another Tribe

  • Ramble On

  • Witchdoctor

  • Who Do You Love? > Whole Lotta Love > Steal Away > Bury My Body

  • Going to California

  • Gallows Pole

  • Rock and Roll

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Celebration Night

[caption id="attachment_2060" align="alignright" width="292" caption="Photo: Nech Tytla - Used By Permission"]548221_4310221388478_1398527056_n[/caption]

It was Celebration Night around the world, and certainly in my little part of it where no less than 5 theatres within' a 25 minute drive were showing Celebration Day. I must say, minus a few quibbles, it was as good, better, than I hoped for: a magical recreation of a magical night.

The movie is the concert, full bore. A few edits to keep the pacing going, a few small parts of the show where cut for brevity. But ultimately, it was the show. They didn't mess too much with the music, although they tried to fix the little mess in "Dazed and Confused when the rhythm section seemed to not be connecting." But otherwise it was the show, just the show, and nothing but the show. On that note, here's what I said about the show at the time:
...I won’t equivocate: this was a great concert by a great band that was in great form. I simply can’t imagine how good these guys would be after a few shows to get the groove going. If they do tour, and it would be a crime if they don’t, I want to see them again mid tour. They would be an unimaginable force of music.

Too bad about that last bit.

Now the quibbles. First, I would have set the stage, given the movie some context. concert-006An intro in which the camera is outside the O2 before the show, so everybody understands it was London. Further I would have replaced the old Tampa TV news clip that started the show with one from the O2 show. My feeling watching it was, if I didn't know better, I'd think I was seeing Led Zeppelin in Tampa in the 70's.

Others have commented on the 35mm footage used in the movie, and it was too much. It's a cool effect used half a dozen times through the movie: they used it 3 or 4 times a song. Way too much. And the film was edited to MTV standards, which means it was far to jumpy.

But again, these are mere quibbles, disagreement over choices, not commentary on the performance itself. The truth on the performance itself is, it holds up extremely well, and Celebration Day is a must see movie for music fans, and a must see more than once for Led Zeppelin fans.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jimmy Page Says The TIme For a Reunion Has Passed

In the last podcast I was fairly clear on how I felt the guys in Led Zeppelin had been doing a poor job of communicating what seemed obvious to most observers, no reunion is coming:

[caption id="attachment_2053" align="alignright" width="179" caption="Photo: Nech Tytla"]3463_4310304830564_662414255_n[/caption]

For the life of me, at this stage I don't know why they just don't say..."at this time we have no plans. we see no foreseen circumstances in the upcoming future... so the short answer is no! However, we don't rule out the possibility of something somewhere down the road. Of something coming up somewhere down the road that we feel is big enough, important enough to do.

The answer to "will there be a reunion?" has been no for some time time, no. And while I understand they don't want to shut the door 100%, they don't have to. Just be honest, and say, no reunion that we can foresee, but never say never.

With those words ringing in Jimmy Page's ear, he talked recently to Rollin Stone, and on teh issue of a reunion, he said:
I think if there had been any more concerts to be done, we'd already be talking about them. So I don't see it.

See Jimmy, that's all you had to say.

John Paul Jones at Hardly Strictly

John Paul Jones joined Robyn Hitchcock on stage at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Fransisco's Golden Gate Park to play the song Glass Hotel yesterday.

"Just imagine your listening to this out doors, on a sunny day in the park," Hitchcock told the crowd.

Watch at 1:45 to 1:55, where Hitchcock says something to Jones which makes Jones laugh and stop playing for a second.

The free festival takes place every year and features a number of acts. Hitchcock performed on the Porch Stage, which Jones also played on with Seasick Steve later in the day.

Last year Robert Plant and the Band of Joy opened the Banjo Stage on the Friday night of the festival. Plant also joined Patty Griffin during her set on the Saturday portion.

Update: Robert Plant also made an appearance at Hardly Strictly this year, joining both Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin during their sets. He sang a song he wrote with Patty during her set:

With Buddy Miller he joined Griffin and Emmylou Harris for Somewhere Trouble Don't Go, which Plant played harp on:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ramble On Radio Episode #22

Led Zeppelin held a press conference and I have all the details, plus: Black Country Communion at war; Jimmy Page out and about; Did Robert Plant do a movie soundtrack? John Paul Jones jams with Alfie Boe and more, on the only Led Zeppelin podcast on this, or any, known internets.

Listen here


Subscribe on iTunes



Shawn Sarazin's Mystery of the Quotient

Dony Wynn's blog post on Modern Drummer

Buy Carol Miller's Autobiography on Amazon.com

Pre-order the Celebration Day LP:

Jason Bonham's son, J-Swagg's Facebook page.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Carol Miller - Up All Night: My Life and Times in Rock Radio

I picked up Carol Miller's autobiography, Up All Night: My Life and Times in Rock Radio for the Led Zeppelin stories. Miller has been a staple of the New York radio waves since the early 70's, founded the much copied radio format Get The Led Out and was for her entire career the go-to Led Zeppelin DJ in New York. Her book would have, one could be sure, lots of Stories of debauchery and mayhem from backstage at Madison Square Garden, no doubt.582887706

One would be wrong, and on the Led Zeppelin front, Miller's book is a disappointment. Which is not to say it is not a good book.

First, the Zeppelin content, or lack thereof. While Miller was the Zeppelin DJ in New York and dated both Paul Stanley and Stephen Tyler, she never actually met the band in their heyday. Part of this was intentional, as the bands reputation preceded them, even early on, and she was not enthusiastic about getting caught in their web.

Her Zeppelin stories are really later, and mostly concern Robert Plant: for Live Aid she was working for Entertainment Tonight doing live on-camera interviews and, as such, had first access to the artists after they performed. Plant's first words to her where that he had just called home to England and his daughter told him their performance "was less than stellar." Ouch!

Later she would run into him at a club in New York with an Indian woman named Shirley:

"Strange, I momentarily thought. Didn't I read that Plant's wife of Indian background, Maureen, had a sister named Shirley?"

As much as the book disappoints from a Led Zeppelin perspective, it is an interesting, well written autobiography. Miller walks you through her life, including a failed marriage, a few interesting relationships and a battle with cancer. If you are looking for dirt on the 70's rock scene, Miller is, in fact, scrupulously fair to everyone in the book, and nobody comes off really poorly. It speaks well of her as a human being but must have drove her publishers and editors nuts.

But for the reader interested in the 70's and 80's New York rock scene, the rise of rock, and then classic rock, radio and MTV, it's an entertaining read, even if it doesn't spill any blood.

Getting the Milwaukee Led Out

I spent the weekend a few weeks ago in Milwaukee, catching up with some Led Zeppelin pals, namely, Steve, the Lemon, Sauer, proprietor of Lemon Squeezings, and Paul Hammond Get The Led Out's guitarist extraordinaire and supplier of fine acoustic guitars to Jimmy Page (well, one guitar - one day I'll get that story on here).

[caption id="attachment_1959" align="alignnone" width="452" caption="Paul Hammond (left) and Jimmy Marchiano"]Paul Hammond (left) and Jimmy Marchiano[/caption]

I last saw Get the Led Out at Irving Plaza in New York with Steve Sauer, this time I was seeing them with Steve Sauer on keyboards. It was fun all round.

Before the show Paul took me to see his guitar rig, picking out guitars and mandolins and noodling on them while he talked. He is an impressive player, with a very light  touch and flawless technique. Onstage, that light touch translates into a player who never misses a note. His attention to detail was apparent in everything he showed me backstage, his amp set-up, his pedal set-up and the why's and wherefores of the myriad guitars he uses through the night.

[caption id="attachment_2027" align="alignnone" width="491" caption="Fools in the Rain: Steve 'The Lemon' Sauer and Jimmy Marchiano"]Fools in the Rain: Steve 'The Lemon' Sauer and Jimmy Marchiano[/caption]

On this night I had a good opportunity to watch the other half of Get The Led Out's guitar heroes, Jimmy Marchiano. Post-show it was mentioned to me that while Paul is an excellent technician, Jimmy is a brilliant pure rock and roll guitarist. If you don't take "technician" to mean "unmusical," that's not far from accurate and between the two they deliver a powerful dual guitar attack. Marchiano was particularly impressive on In My Time of Dying, giving a stunningly soulful slide guitar performance while Hammond took a break.

How good are these guys? I went with a pal of mine who had never seen them before. When we arrived I bought a t-shirt, and He was eyeing me suspiciously. You could almost hear him asking, "a t-shirt for a tribute band?" At the intermission I got up to go to the bathroom, and he says, "I'm going out to buy a t-shirt." Half a show and he was sold. The bottom line is, Get the Led Out is that good, full stop. Combining a note-for-note authenticity of the original recorded material and that magic live Zeppelin energy, they are absolutely as good as it gets.


Get The Led Out perform mostly in the North East (they are based in Philadelphia), and if they are coming to a town near you, be sure to see them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Celebration Day Premieres

via LedZeppelin.com
314275_10152082455220276_1350235277_nFilm To Debut At Ziegfeld Theater In New York On October 9;
Press Conference With John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, And Jason Bonham To Precede New York Premiere

Hammersmith Apollo To Host London Premiere On October 12

Premieres In Berlin And Tokyo Also Scheduled In Advance Of
Global Theatrical Release On October 17

Led Zeppelin have announced upcoming premieres in four countries for Celebration Day, which documents the band’s 2007 concert at London’s O2 Arena.

Join John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at London’s Hammersmith Apollo for a special premiere screening of Celebration Day on October 12th 2012. Very limited number of tickets available here: http://bit.ly/QEiIJR

The film of Celebration Day will see a worldwide theatrical release on 1,500 screens in over 40 territories on October 17. Celebration Day will then be available in multiple video and audio formats on November 19 from Swan Song/Atlantic Records.