Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TBL in the mail

Issue 18 of the fan magazine Tight But Loose ( has arrived in my mail hot off the presses in the United Kingdom. There's a whole slew of news on Robert Plant activity in 2007, including discussion of some recent and upcoming concert appearances (a new Strange Sensation song is said to have debuted live!), some previously reported info on his album with Alison Krauss to be released in October (pre-orders onsale now), and something that was new to me.

Namely, Plant contributed two tracks that will be included on a compilation to be out in September that will benefit Fats Domino's foundation, established to help rebuild some portions of New Orleans that are still in poor shape from Hurricane Katrina two years ago. TBL details the track names plus where and when they were recorded and with whom. Also, Plant performed a set including both songs and some Elvis Presley songs as well as some Zep material onstage just after recording the album. I'll leave it to Dave Lewis to provide those details rather than repeating them here.

The Plant-Krauss coverage in TBL, while mostly stuff I'd seen elsewhere and even reported myself in the Aug. 20 edition of my newsletter, does reveal one detail that was new to me, although precise details are still pretty sketchy. There is talk of a single to be released from the Raising Sand album, probably prior to its release. Again, I won't reveal here which track Dave Lewis cites as most likely. TBL promises the next issue will go behind the scenes with the making of Raising Sand, and personally, I can't wait!

I did get some song samples from and also on the album listing at From what I've heard, I'm particularly excited about the Everly Brothers track, "Gone, Gone, Gone."

Something Plant said in an interview for Rounder's electronic press kit struck me as particularly cool: that it was with this project that he was first paired with a singer of equal talent who could follow him. Look back through his history: Who all else has dared to sing harmony with Robert Plant? It's a short list. But probably nobody has done it as well as Alison Krauss did. Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself here. I haven't heard the full album yet! Thirty-second song clips and testaments from those who have heard the album, however, tend to support this statement.

Somebody just politely prodded on John Paul Jones' official discussion group that he's overdue for another update. They are pretty infrequent at that site; the last was in December 2006. Jonesy told me in December 2001, in a four-hour interview conducted in Philadelphia during the "budget tour" with King Crimson that preceded the release of his album The Thunderthief, that he wanted to interact with fans much more often than he was doing at the time. Jonesy soon handed off his Web design and maintenance to Canadian fan Sam Rapallo, the guy behind the Electric Magic site at (yes, I was jealous, but he had a better résumé, and I still no nothing about making Web sites). They launched a new site, and JPJ's resolve to post more often quickly waned. Granted, maybe it's partially because he updates readers almost entirely on his solo activities, like progress on a new studio album that's been in the works for a long time but keeps getting shelved for other projects.

Jonesy has had his hands full, though, no doubt. There was producing Uncle Earl's album, there are bluegrass festivals, there's improving his skills on a mandolin and other assorted string instruments. But he did show up at Bonnaroo, the jam band festival in Tennessee earlier this year. A former coworker of mine texted me from Bonnaroo and told me he was watching JPJ play "Dazed and Confused" onstage. I thought my buddy was just messing with me! But I checked it out, and it's all over Youtube (in two parts). JPJ looked young -- way younger than he should, by comparison to Page and Plant anyway -- and he really appeared to be enjoying himself while revisiting this song he might not have played in front of a crowd since 1975 (verification/corrections, anybody?). Full coverage of this and his other Bonnaroo onstage guest spots in TBL.

The magazine also has a nice rundown of what to expect from the Mothership and TSRTS releases in November. As far as Mothership, I will go out on a limb and agree with Dave Lewis that the real prizes will be on the limited edition versions, especially the collector's edition. I might just happen to have a little inside information on this project myself. Stay tuned to my newsletter for anything I can reveal about that.

While there was nothing particular in this TBL about the ever-elusive Page other than a brief at-press-time mention of his role in testifying in trial against a man in Scotland who subsequently pled guilty to a charge of profiting from the sale of unauthorized live recordings of Led Zeppelin and other bands, TBL promises the next issue will have an interview with Page and info on a biography. Very ambiguous. Do they mean autobiography? It would be very interesting to read Page's own words on himself.

Finally, Dave Lewis discusses those Led Zeppelin reunion rumors and even points to the seemingly errant one-off rumor of a reunited Beck/Page Yardbirds. As for Zep, Lewis feels -- as do I -- that getting together for a once-only tribute show for Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegün is not far-fetched; anything further than that, on the other hand, is unlikely. For one thing, Plant will be touring with Alison Krauss to support Raising Sand! This much is sure.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Robert Plant at 59: A look back, and a glimpse forward

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

On this day in 1948, Robert Anthony Plant was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. Leaving his home in his teens, he promised his parents he would return to enter into accounting in the event that his desire to make a living off of singing would not be realized by his 20th birthday. What fulfilled that goal was his eventual calling to front a band featuring John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. With the group that came to be known as Led Zeppelin, Plant's career choice was no longer in question, and he is still singing today as a result.

Now at age 59, he appears to be a much more toned down version of the golden god he was when his image was first displayed on LPs and posters in the bedrooms of nearly every hip teen-ager in the civilized world. While the Robert Plant of today may not be heaving as many televisions from hotel lofts or hitting as many high notes as he once did, the breadth of his voice and passion for music have perhaps never before been better realized than in recent years, mainly with his current band, the Strange Sensation.

The coming months are set to unleash a new chapter in Plant's long journey. On Oct. 23, Rounder Records is set to release a new album pairing him with bluegrass icon Alison Krauss. The label says this record will be "a revelation for the listener" that "spans the intersections of early urban blues, spacious West Texas country, and the unrealized potential of the folk-rock revolution."

Artists including Johnnie Ray, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Smokey Robinson, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Little Walter and, posthumously, Robert Johnson all made initial impressions on Plant's development as a student of music. He also imported psychedelic rock from America and incorporated the look and sounds into his own act before he ever performed outside of his home country.

Once he developed the means, Plant traveled great distances to establish kinship with likeminded musicians from across genres and borders. Most notably, he has done so by taking Jimmy Page in 1994 to rekindle some of Led Zeppelin's spirit alongside street musicians in Marrakesh, Morocco. On a return trip to the African continent in 2003, he brought his two Strange Sensation guitarists to the Sahara desert for a four-day music festival that showcased many of the most expressive performers from the region. Plant and accompanying musicians had been attending such festivals for years, and he is now adding his own unique piece to it.

His upcoming album with Krauss, called Raising Sand, approaches obscure songs by the Everly Brothers, Tom Waits and contemporary singer Sam Phillips, among others. The label tells us that this collaboration "defies genres in favor of a wide open brand of seismic soul music" and "uncovers popular music's elemental roots while sounding effortlessly timeless."

Plant's 59th birthday today reminds us that he was fortunate to have fallen into the scope of Jimmy Page back in 1968 to deliver a lifetime's worth of music that continues to confront standard classification while evoking a wide range of emotions in its beholders. May the fans be grateful today and always for Plant's enduring achievements. We all wish you a happy birthday, Robert!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

'The Song Remains the Same' destined for reissue in November

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Fourteen songs from Led Zeppelin's three nights at Madison Square Garden in July 1973 have been remixed and remastered in 2007 for release this November on new DVD and CD sets.

"We have revisited The Song Remains The Same and can now offer the complete set as played at Madison Square Garden," Page said in a statement issued on July 27, 2007, the 34th anniversary of the first of those New York concerts. "When it comes to The Song Remains The Same, the expansion of the DVD and soundtrack are as good as it gets on the Led Zeppelin wish list."

The reissued packaging of The Song Remains the Same, set for release on Nov. 20 from Warner Home Video, is to include liner notes from Cameron Crowe, whose film Almost Famous closely resembled his own journey to near-stardom when he traveled with Led Zeppelin and struggled to land an interview with Page.

The limitations of the LP format in 1976 prevented the double-album soundtrack from containing all 14 songs. In fact, six were missing from it: "Black Dog," "Over The Hills And Far Away," "Misty Mountain Hop," "Since I've Been Loving You," "The Ocean" and "Heartbreaker." These tunes will be included on the CD soundtrack for the first time this year.

"This differs substantially from the original soundtrack released in 1976," said Page, "and highlights the technical prowess of Kevin Shirley, who worked with us on How the West Was Won." That album, capturing live performances from two dates in June 1972, was released in May 2003 alongside the visually spectacular career-spanning live set simply called Led Zeppelin DVD.

As with that release, the new "The Song Remains the Same" DVD will benefit from 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. One deluxe edition will be in high-definition DVD. Another edition will be in the Blu-ray format. All will contain complete versions of songs featured only partially in the film's original theatrical release, as well as clips from television interviews and a radio show involving Crowe.

November will also see a repackaging of Led Zeppelin's greatest hits with newly prepared liner notes by Rolling Stone's David Fricke in the two-disc Mothership. This new collection is to be released Nov. 13 from Atlantic Records and Rhino Entertainment.