Monday, June 09, 2003

I spent all day Saturday at a volunteer strategy session for my professional association, which was as exciting as it sounds. At least I was downtown, so I got out during the lunch break and browsed through A&B. Not much excitement to be found there. White-tagged stuff was 20% off, so I'd brought a short list with me. Unfortunately they didn’t have most of it. This happens more and more to me. Either A&B is narrowing the variety of stuff they order or my tastes are getting more obscure…it’s probably some of both.

I don’t think anything on Relapse Records is all that obscure, so I was disappointed not to find the new Dysrhythmia album. Guess I’ll go to Scrape for that one.

I walked out with a copy of Sad Days, Lonely Nights by Junior Kimbrough. I felt like some more Junior, having enjoyed his first, All Night Long, for the past year. After one listen, Sad Days… definitely has the goods. I also got the impression that there’s not much variety between songs, resulting in an album-length blues dirge more suited to autumn than the summer-like weather we’ve been sweating through recently. I’ll keep spinning it, though, knowing that its time is gonna come.

Which brings me to Led Zeppelin, a band for all seasons. I picked up How the West Was Won a couple weeks ago. Any Led Zeppelin release is a household necessity, and How the West… has installed itself in our apartment as permanently as the fridge, the mousetraps, and the belter’s bucket of nail polishes.

This new release features a less jaded Zeppelin than their other live album (or original motion picture soundtrack). They’re nevertheless prone to bloating the songs to prodigious length and girth. I think this album has more interesting epics than The Song Remains the Same. “Dazed and Confused,” for example, breaks into “The Crunge” (from the then-unreleased Houses of the Holy) at one point, while the 23 minutes of “Whole Lotta Love” features a more extensive blues/rock ’n’ roll medley than the version on TSRtS.

Other plusses: “Stairway to Heaven” hasn’t yet become Robert Plant’s personal musical albatross, and he performs it with fewer asides and minimal scatting. The acoustic set that closes disc one represents an aspect of the Zeppelin sound that TSRtS entirely neglected.

Possible minuses: No “No Quarter” or “The Rain Song,” so the album downplays Zeppelin’s more ethereal side somewhat. I’m not sure if there’s a stretch of music on here that can equal the panty-removing properties of TSRtS’s side three. And the packaging, as Steve Newton in the Straight pointed out, is pretty chintzy.

The sound is spectacular. John Paul Jones could always be louder in the mix, but that’s a personal preference. The whole band sounds great, and you can clearly hear what’s going on at all times.

To sum up, it’s the new Led Zeppelin album, and it’s a crusher. Don’t take it for granted. Bring it on home.

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