Thursday, November 29, 2007

Led Zeppelin: Mothership

Written by Fumo Verde

Here’s a groovy little three-pack for all of us Led Zeppelin fans out there. Mothership has two CDs and a DVD that contain twenty-four audio tracks and twenty live-performance video tracks. It also comes with a sweet liner-note booklet bringing us a quick history of the band and the music they played. Those who love the music of Zeppelin will truly enjoy this, and though I bitch about music we already have being re-issued, this set shuts me up because it is that good.

The CDs sound as if they were compiled by radio DJs playing the band’s top-requested hits from over the years. Disc One covers the first four albums. It starts with “Good Times Bad Times,” a timeless rock song about love and friendship, and ends with “Stairway to Heaven” with its haunting strings and mythical words (forwards and backwards). In between are “Dazed and Confused,” the bass-driven rant of lunatic love, and “Immigrant Song” with its lyrics from the old Viking legends of fighting for Odin and Valhalla. Plants voice echoes the attack horn the Vikings would blow as they raided their neighbors. “When the Levee Breaks,” another blues track, rolls by like an easygoing freight train. With that harmonica blowing time and those worrisome lyrics, one gets the feeling of desperation; now that’s a blues song.

Disc Two drops “The Song Remains the Same” as its lead-in track followed by “Over The Hills and Far Away.” “No Quarter” with its disturbed keyboards played by Jones and infused with bizarre lyrical effects has to be one of those “I think I’m tripping on some really weird acid” songs, or at least that’s the vibe I get when I hear this tune. Down the line is “Houses Of The Holy,” a tough, motivated rock song where bass, drum, and guitar collide to get us up onto the dance floor.

Amongst some of the best Zeppelin songs of all is another winner that needs to be played more often, “Kashmir,” one of my favorites. It has this building climatic symphony, lifting you off of the planet and taking you out past the stars. Plant’s vocals take lead and effortlessly directs the orchestra as the song slings you out into the unknown universe. If you popped either of these music discs into your changer and hit random, you would never be disappointed when the laser eye stopped on either one of these discs.

The DVD pulls twenty tracks from the Led Zeppelin DVD set that came out in 2003 and was a five-hour session. This disc isn’t as long but it does have some of the most memorable tracks played like “We’re Gonna Groove,” a hard rhythm-and-blues jam, and “Going to California” with is soft guitar chords contrasting well against Plant’s sobering voice. “White Summer” where Page gives us one of his amazing guitar solos.

The DVD also includes some deep blues like “I Can’t Quit You Babe” and “Bring It On Home” featuring Plant’s golden tones, and to give Bonzo his time to shine, “Moby Dick” was placed on here as well. Though rumor has it that Bonham played a forty-five minute drum solo on acid, this track only gives us about ten minutes of his incredible percussion talent. Jones thumps his way through many tracks but “Dazed and Confused” seems to be his signature song. All four of these men have a great sense of each other while on stage and it shows at every performance from the colossal stadiums in the U.S. to the show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The magic Zeppelin created electrified their audiences wherever they played.

This would be a great gift for any Zeppelin fan, or any fan of classic rock music. Yes, if you have all their albums and the DVDs, then this pack is redundant, but if you don’t, then this is the set that should satisfy the Led for your head. Zeppelin didn’t dissolve like other bands as the years wear on; they just stopped playing after Bonham died. They didn’t break up because they were all mad at each other or stupid shit like that. The three remaining members felt that the collective soul of the band just wouldn’t be there. Mothership is a testament to their music and to the fans that still love them. Long live the music of Led Zeppelin.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Written by El Puerquito Magnifico

The DVD case for this BBC production boasts rare and previously unseen footage and an intimate glimpse inside the phenomenon that was Beatlemania. Through interviews, personal photographs, and home movies, it would supposedly give the viewer a deeper insight into the band. Turns out that what is advertised and what is actually delivered are two different things.

This mini-documentary, clocking in at a scant 65 minutes, focuses on the early days of the group up until their final show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966, and attempts to shed some light on why they quit touring. It doesn’t. At least, no more than any of the other hundreds of thousands of movies, TV shows, and books covering the Fab Four. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad or poorly made film; it simply does not live up to its claims. It’s probably quite interesting, if you’ve either (a) never heard of The Beatles or (b) seen literally every single piece of archival footage concerning The Beatles but are still dying for more. It’s the type of thing you want to show a young kid who’s not familiar with the band, or perhaps a gift you’d like to give to the Beatles completist in your family. Maybe your younger brother Michael, who has heard a few songs and expressed a bit of interest in the band, or Uncle Ernie, who just has to have every single piece of Beatles memorabilia that has ever existed. Otherwise, I’d say don’t waste your time with this one. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been covered before, and more in-depth somewhere else.

The only real note of interest was this: despite the many interviews with roadies and press managers which claimed the contrary, I found these four lads from Liverpool to be anything but humble in the early days of their careers. In fact, the only real insight I gleaned from this little film was that these boys loved their hair, and loved to show it off. I speak, of course, of the “unseen” portion of the flick, which basically consisted of a few minutes of grainy footage of Paul backstage, smiling and running his fingers through his hair; John at poolside, his locks bobbing up and down as he shook his head with wild abandon; and Ringo in a hotel room, his hair flopping about as he manically gyrated his head. Make no mistake, The Beatles knew full well the vast quantities of power which perched atop their domes, and they loved to mug for the camera.

Extras on this disc include extended versions of all of the interviews used in this film, a photo gallery and that same grainy footage of The Beatles hamming it up.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live at Monterey

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Jimi Hendrix, today the name is known far and wide, but back in early 1967 that wasn’t the case at all. The name “Jimi Hendrix” was whispered among the rock underground and barely few had seen or heard him before he left the states for England. It was there that he perfected his craft and image, waiting for a triumphant homecoming. The groundbreaking Monterey Pop Festival would be the vehicle for his return to the shores of the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.

The Monterey Pop Festival was a first itself in many ways. For the first time a variety of rock and pop bands would be brought together for a three-day extravaganza. From pop hit-makers like The Mamas and The Papas, folkies Simon and Garfunkel to hard rockers such as The Who and Hendrix himself, all would be in the spotlight of the same showcase. Music was played to the crowd over loudspeakers to keep the vibe going as the stage crew set up the next act, the fact that one could hear the music being played and the bands themselves clearly was a first for many of the performers. Rock acts became used to venues with bad sound equipment as most places still took these bands and their music lightly and looked at them as teenage nonsense.

Many of the bands on the line-up that weekend would hold lasting fame and be considered among rock’s best. Yet Jimi Hendrix would become something more, something eternal and earth moving. He was on the verge of changing rock music and becoming a legend. Jimi followed The Who at Monterey and was well aware of their climactic stage destruction, so he had to pull out all the stops to make his performance stand above all others. And to accomplish this, he knew that a sacrifice must be made.

After shaking the crowd with covers of “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Rock Me Baby,” the blues classic “Killing Floor” and his take on “Hey Joe,” Jimi hit ‘em hard with his self-penned gems, burning the speakers with “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Foxey Lady” and “Purple Haze.” The entire time displaying his guitar mastery, playing on his knees, with his teeth, and behind his back with ease. Jimi made it all look so easy while the Experience set the stage smoking with Mitch Mitchell’s fast and thunder-loud drum kicks and Noel Redding’s groovy bass licks.

Yet Jimi felt that even this was not enough. So in loving tribute to the crowd and the rock gods he offered up the thing he loved most and the one thing that he would forever be identified with, his guitar. As the band ran through the rock anthem “Wild Thing,” Jimi made love to his guitar one last time before gently laying it on the stage and stepping off. He returned with lighter fluid and began to douse his guitar in it. Giving the instrument one last look, he struck a match and lit his beloved on fire, watching it burn for a while from his knees and coaxing the flames to dance higher. Next, Jimi raised her over his head and began to bring her down hard, again and again, smashing her into the stage with the fury of a lover gone wild with desire. A desire to transcend the moment and reach into the future giving himself to the world like a god on high while stunning the crowd and giving birth to his legend.

This performance was all caught on film and is now available combined with the documentary American Landing, which features good interviews with people who knew Jimi and were there that night in Monterey, California. The documentary is about 30 minutes long and bookends the footage of Jimi’s sacrifice at Monterey perfectly. Bonus features include the ability to watch the whole show from multiple angles and giving the option of watching just the live portion, making the DVD all the better. There is also some black and white footage of “Stone Free” and “Like A Rolling Stone” from a London concert.

Combining the documentary with Jimi’s classic performance makes for an extremely entertaining and informative watch, music and history are blended together perfectly. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Monterey is more than footage of a legend or a damn good DVD, it’s a document of the time and place that music changed and would never be the same. Many would and do imitate Jimi’s style and sound but very few can get away with adding to the guitar style that Jimi Hendrix mastered and will always be known for.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Jah Cure: True Reflections…A New Beginning

Written by Fumo Verde

Spark one up, crank the volume to 12, and kick it while Jah Cure unleashes his fourth album True Reflections…A New Beginning. This may be his fourth record but it’s the first one to be released since Cure himself was released from prison. Soulful and sincere with deep roots of reggae, True Reflections contains powerful messages and viewpoints of a man ready to start over. If this were the ganga, it would have that full body smell and that outdoor fresh taste.

The title track is number one for a reason and should be listened too carefully. Cure lets us all know that he’s changed, and though actions speak louder than words—the lyrics laid out on this very important piece is full of genuineness, “Behind these metal bars to Jah Jah I’m chanting / ‘Pray for your love divine’/ I’m oh so sorry a man, deeply I’m hurting / The price ordained to be mine.” A song sung so emotionally reveals the inner feelings of this man. Just like the acoustic track “I Love You,” the pain in Cure’s voice echoes the feelings of his love with a real honesty.

These aforementioned songs may not sound like your average reggae beats but I assure you that Cure has dropped some fine Natty Dread jams that will get you in “chill out” mode, songs like “Same Way” and “Jamaica” – a tribute to his home country. Still, Cure takes the rasta beat into new and diverse directions with tracks like “Conga Man,” which mixes reggae drumbeats with electronic sounds giving the song a symphonic vibe.

True Reflections…A New Beginning shows the maturity of Cure. Iron bars can change a man, and that change seems evident on this album. Whether he can live up to his own expectations is another thing. This CD has a lot of passion and is worth giving a chance, just like the man who created it. For Jah Cure—this is his new beginning and I wish him the best of luck.