Thursday, April 30, 2009

John Paul Jones and Sonic Youth to extend collaborative performances in Spain

What can be said about the music John Paul Jones played with Sonic Youth and musical director Takehisa Kosugi at performances of "Nearly Ninety" earlier this month?

It's tough to ask someone who wasn't there, especially considering the use of recording devices was strictly prohibited. Still, the rule didn't stop one YouTube user from making "A Ravels in Motion Production" video documenting the April 18 performance. In under two minutes, we get brief glimpses of the event with some audio. Listen for Jones on bass and make up your own mind about the music.

Another fair question to ask, now that the production is set to resume in Madrid, Spain. Will the music played at today's performance, or any of the others through May 3, be anything like what was heard between April 16 and 19 in Brooklyn?

In a newly published review for the Wall Street Journal, dance writer Robert Greskovic listed off the musicians by name and then posited, "The combined effect of this mix is a maelstrom of amplified metallic sounds that fades in and out and sometimes subsides to a complete silence that resonates with the rhythmic footfalls of the dancers."

The first performance took place April 16, on the 90th birthday of choreographer Merce Cunningham. Reviewing that show for The Moment, a New York Times blog, Jordan Hruska focuses less on the sound and more on the improvisational qualities of the performance. He said the music "began and ended in medias res, with the sinewy discord of Sonic Youth’s guitar strings. According to the band member Thurston Moore, the most structured part of the whole performance was the group bow that ended the show."

Hruska also provides some insight as to the structure on which the musicians stood to play for 90 minutes (with an intermission) each show: It was "a three-level cantilevered form that at once resembled a bionic heart and a pirate ship."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Robert Plant's Womad finale

See for a report on Robert Plant's gig last night in Abu Dhabi with Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara.

This morning, I think I heard Robert Plant's name on the Speed network's coverage of the Formula 1 race in Bahrain. I know the announcer said Eric Clapton was there, but I think he said Robert Plant was too. Their fellow countryman won the race.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jason Bonham adds Airrace concert dates to summer schedule

Drummer Jason Bonham is becoming increasingly in demand again, now having been booked to play a few shows in England reuniting him with the members of his first professional rock band.

Bonham was 17 years old when he joined Airrace, which released an album called Shaft of Light on the Atco label in 1984. The album was put to CD for the first time in 2003 by the reissue label Wounded Bird Records. The hopes of selling more CDs appear to have prompted the group to get back together.

Classic Rock magazine reports that three other original members are to join Bonham (shown on right in picture) in the reunited Airrace: guitarist Laurie Mansworth (left), singer Keith Murrel (center) and keyboardist Toby Sadler (not shown). In addition, new member David Boyce is to play bass with Dean Howard on second guitar, completing the six-piece lineup.

Three British concert appearances by Airrace, with Bonham on drums, are currently scheduled for this June and July, with Mansworth telling Classic Rock magazine a more permanent reunion, including a new album, could be in the works.

On June 19, Airrace is to headline a show at the Pitz in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. The band is also set to support British rock group Thunder at Sheffield City Hall on July 4 and in Cambridge on July 5.

One more Airrace date is to take place Oct. 24 at the Firefest in Nottingham, although it has already been announced that Bonham would sit out for that show due to scheduling conflicts. Classic Rock's report does not specify exactly what commitments are keeping Bonham from playing this date, which once again leads one to wonder.

Of course, it could be as innocuous as a previously scheduled family outing for the Bonhams. But on the other hand, with John Paul Jones saying last week that he hopes "to be everywhere this summer" with "a couple of other people" who've been "working [with him] on some other music, which is more rock based," one cannot help but wonder what other plans are on the horizon.

Bonham's June and July concert dates with Airrace surround his only other announced live appearance this summer, a June 30 headlining set at Norway's Quart Festival combining him with Slash, Ozzy Osbourne and Ron Wood. No other performances by this de facto supergroup lineup have been scheduled.

Last August, Bonham left Foreigner as its regular drummer while the band was very busy touring, stating that he wanted to spend some time with his family in the short term before returning to the music scene. At the time, it seemed possible to him that a few jam sessions earlier that year with Jones and Jimmy Page would allow him to continue playing with them, as he had onstage at the Led Zeppelin reunion in December 2007. Page's manager said in January 2009, however, that auditions for a new singer to join a touring and recording band with Page and Jones had concluded, without anyone having landed the gig.

Meanwhile, the natural selection for any group including Page, Jones and Bonham -- Robert Plant -- spent last year touring with Alison Krauss, with their joint album Raising Sand deemed a commercial and critical success. A potential follow-up album is already in the works, but Plant is already dabbling in at least one other project: He is scheduled to take part in this Saturday's headlining act at the three-day Womad festival, which is already underway in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Robert Plant to make Arab appearance at world music festival

Robert Plant has sung from '66 to Timbuktu, and now he's on his way from Nashville to Abu Dhabi.

He played one concert with Led Zeppelin in 2007 and 55 with Alison Krauss last year before picking up five Grammys for their recordings.

Now, Plant's next concert appearance was announced today: He'll be performing later this month as a special guest on the closing day of the World of Music and Dance festival in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Plant appeared at an installment of the Womad festival in Reading, England, on July 29, 2005, with his band the Strange Sensation. That show kicked off a European tour in support of his disc Mighty ReArranger. He and the Strange Sensation were previously slated for a Womad appearance in Redmond, Wash., but the band withdrew its appearance due to scheduling conflicts, the festival and Plant's management said at the time.

Now, Plant is to take part in Womad's headlining act in Abu Dhabi on April 25, which fuses together blues and African roots. This lineup incorporates Strange Sensation guitarist Justin Adams and his more recent musical collaborator, Gambian singer and musician Juldeh Camara.

This just proves you can never predict with great accuracy where Robert Plant's next move will take him! Krauss nailed it last summer when she told her hometown newspaper that Plant's "constantly on the move for inspiration." She likened him to a snake with an unpredictable path:

"He's going to go around this curve over here, and maybe he got a CD in Seattle and that made him turn this other way. Or maybe he shook somebody's hand in Istanbul and that's why he's turned to the right now."
In a similar turn of events, Plant sat in with Tinariwen in April 2007, performing the Strange Sensation blues song "Win My Train Fare Home."

John Paul Jones hints at summer tour, begins week in New York

Summer touring plans may be starting to develop for John Paul Jones, who appeared on TV last night performing with Sara Watkins for his first of five gigs in New York this week.

The four upcoming gigs, which run Thursday through Sunday, will see Jones playing with Sonic Youth and violinist Takehisa Kosugi at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Jones also spent some time at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on Monday backing Watkins on her first major media appearance as a solo artist since last Tuesday's release of her self-titled album.

He played bass on their rendition of "Long Hot Summer Days" for the new NBC show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. They also brought in Sean Watkins, Sara's brother and Nickel Creek bandmate, as well as Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, the drummer of Fallon's house band, the Roots, who previously jammed with Jones at the Bonnaroo Festival in June 2007.

While it appeared last week that none of the participants in Led Zeppelin's December 2007 reunion would likely be making any music this summer, plans have since emerged for at least one concert date involving drummer Jason Bonham as part of a supergroup also involving Slash, Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie Wood.

But that may not be all. John Paul Jones says he's hoping "to be everywhere this summer" with "a couple of other people" who've been "working [with him] on some other music, which is more rock based."

This comment comes from an interview printed in today's issue of Women's Wear Daily. When prompted to reveal some details, Jones tightened his lips, offering only:
"It’s a secret, actually. I shouldn’t have even said that, you know? There are some exciting projects coming up, let’s put it that way."
It's the first time this year that Jones has offered any public comment on his musical plans for the near future. Last October, Jones confirmed he was working with Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham and "trying out a couple of singers" for a record and a tour. Jones also said they were keen on playing loud music.

Talk of this possibility halted in early January, when Page's manager said singer audtions hadn't resulted in any selection.

So, what does this mean? Is Jones teaming up with the Slash-Osbourne-Wood-Bonham supergroup? And if he is, will Page join him too?

Could the "couple of other people" Jones mentioned be Page and Bonham? Furthermore, have they finally persuaded Robert Plant to do a 360 and participate in a Led Zeppelin reunion tour despite his most recent and insistent refusal last September?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jason Bonham to perform in really awesome supergroup

Dude, no way! This has to be bullcrap. Or maybe just mistranslated.

We have a Norwegian paper and a festival Web site that both seem to be claiming our friend Jason Bonham is going to hook up with some really famous musicians for a show in Oslo, Norway.

On guitar, you have chain-smoking Gn'R axeman Slash. On vocals, you have the Sabbath-crooning, bat head-chewing, obscenity-spouting pater familias Ozzy Osbourne. And on bass or guitar or whatever he damn well pleases, we have the O'Doul's-swilling Faces and Stones vet Ronnie Wood.

Imagine how lucky these stars of the '70s, '80s and '90s will be to have the direct descendant of Zep skinsman John Bonham pounding away for them!

Good for Jason, good gig!

The show takes place June 30 at the Quart Festival in Oslo, Norway. In case that's all this lineup does, you may want to check into flights now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No summer tour plans announced for any Zeppelin members; only a rumor of Jimmy Page joining Jeff Beck

  • Jeff Beck, newly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is on tour right now. The first date was last night in Scranton, Pa., and he's set to visit Philadelphia's Electric Factory tomorrow and New York's Irving Plaza the next couple of nights. From there, he's off to New England, the Midwest and California, before a U.K. tour in June and July, with some Canadian dates and a short European tour rounding out that month.

    As for a rumor reported today by Boston Herald's Inside Track that says Jimmy Page may join Beck "on tour later this year," it's not a rumor I could find anywhere else recently. Of course, we did hear back in July 2007 another reported rumor -- that time courtesy of Rolling Stone magazine and others -- that Page and Beck were going to join up with the already-touring original Yardbirds members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty, and that hasn't happened.

    But you never know if Jimmy Page might show up at Jeff Beck's concerts. Check out those tour dates here and decide for yourself.

  • Sara Watkins just released an album produced by John Paul Jones, and she'll soon be out on tour. It looks like she's booked to open for Old Crow Medicine Show for a few dates in the South, starting this Thursday. She's supposed to play on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" next Monday night and then head to Minneapolis for shows on April 15-16 that kick off her first-ever headlining tour.

    Jones will not be a regular in the touring lineup although he is scheduled to appear with her on Monday's TV spot, which will tape in New York. Jones is committed to being in New York to perform with Sonic Youth on April 16-19, during Watkins's headlining shows in Minneapolis, Naperville, Ill., and Nashville. But if Jones sticks around in New York for just a few days more, he would still be around when Watkins performs at the Mercy Lounge on April 22. This may be the best chance of Jones sitting in during the tour, but you can view all the tour dates here and decide for yourself.
Side note: While Watkins is out touring, she will presumably take with her Pete Thomas, who drummed for Elvis Costello in the Attractions lineup that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and again later for Costello's Imposters lineup. That lineup also included bassist Davey Faragher, who was said to be one of the members of the Watkins solo band (also called the Works Progress Administration -- and, previously, the Scrolls) back when it was lining up in December 2007.
  • But it probably doesn't bother Elvis Costello when his former bandmates find new things to do. He has a new band now called the Sugarcanes, and he'll be using them on a dozen or so tour dates this June and August. The band includes Stuart Duncan on fiddle and banjo and Dennis Crouch on bass; both toured last year with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Also in Costello's Sugarcanes lineup is Jerry Douglas, who's a member of Krauss's Union Station. They'll be supporting Costello's June album release, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, which (also like Plant and Krauss's Raising Sand) is produced by T Bone Burnett and features him on electric guitar.

  • There was speculation late last year of a new studio project by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss leading them to some tour dates this year. However, nothing more currently appears on the horizon. Heck, there hasn't been any indication that any recordings proceeded beyond the "pre-production" stage as Krauss pronounced it. No word even if Krauss will be out at all this year.

    And whatever happened to Plant's band the Strange Sensation? I always thought it would be natural for him to return to that group once he was done with Krauss. That's the group that helped him record the albums Dreamland and Mighty ReArranger, and he went out on tour with them several times between 2001 and 2007, right up until Raising Sand was released. All throughout Plant's association with Krauss, the front page of his official Web site had a link to biographies of his band members, who were listed as the guys in the Strange Sensation. But last week, his site was redesigned for the first time in four years, and the Strange Sensation stuff has disappeared.

  • Tour dates for Foreigner continue without Jason Bonham on drums anymore. They've had Bryan Head on drums ever since Bonham's departure last summer, which he explained at the time he was doing so he could rest up with his family in the event he was suddenly called into action by Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. Foreigner's out playing all the time and currently has shows booked through October.

  • The surviving members of former Swan Song recording artist Bad Company have reunited again and will be playing 10 shows in late June and early July. I'm a fan of the fact that this band's first reunion of the original lineup reunited in honor of Peter Grant, their manager and Led Zeppelin's, after his 1995 funeral. They played a show last year, and they're returning to the same venue to kick off their limited tour and sell a DVD of the 2008 appearance.

    Perhaps it's a plan the Led Zeppelin members ought to consider since they have a DVD to release and seemingly don't have very much else to do in the near future.

John Paul Jones listed for TV appearance with Sara Watkins next week

Stay up Monday night (or set those newfangled or oldfangled recordin'-machines) to catch John Paul Jones sitting in with Sara Watkins on NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Monday, April 6, 2009

John Paul Jones-produced solo debut of Sara Watkins sounds great

A new album produced by John Paul Jones hits music stores and online retailers Tuesday, containing the solo debut of Sara Watkins.

Jones also plays a little bit of bass, a few keyboard instruments and mandolin, and why not a little bit of backup singing in for good measure. From a production standpoint, the John Paul Jones stamp is all over the 14 songs on this disc, but he limits his playing time to less than half the album. And what's more, you'd be hard pressed to find very much here that's reminiscent of his days in Led Zeppelin.

Most of the songs on this album are either slow or very soft, but the arrangements are appropriate. Having an ear like that of John Paul Jones was a huge asset to this record. The fact that none of these songs fades out makes it really sound less like a studio creation and more like a band performing for listeners' enjoyment.

Here's my track-by-track assessment, followed by some closing thoughts.
  1. John Paul Jones is one of two harmony singers backing up Sara Watkins on the first track, "All This Time." The other is her brother and fellow Nickel Creek bandmate, Sean Watkins, who's also playing guitar. Greg Leisz plays a pretty steel guitar. Benmont Tench, the famed keyboard player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, lends a delicate piano line, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions drummer Pete Thomas lays down a subtle drum line. Sebastian Steinberg plays a fine acoustic bass.

    The real treasure here, as on much of the album, is Sara's sexy lead vocal. There are few people who can make these words sound so sultry: "You're still in my cupboards. Get out of my cupboards. Get off of my walls. Get off." I mean, I think the only other time I've heard those words, it was my 90-year-old great-uncle having hallucinations. Sara makes it sound great, and because the song ends rather abruptly, it makes for a good opening track because it leaves you wanting more.

  2. "Long Hot Summer Days" is the song that inspired my April Fool's Day joke last week. Sure, the tune has a similar chord progression to that good ol' traditional tune we Zeppelin fans call "Nobody's Fault but Mine," but songwriter John Hartford gave it a different melody and some lyrics about ways to blow off steam after a manual labor job in the sun.

    Sara Watkins and Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl both play fiddle on the track. Billy Cardine is on Dobro. Sean Watkins plays guitar. Gillian Welch plays electric guitar. The bass is from Byron House and the drums from David Rawlings (Sara describes them as "caveman drums"). They are all responsible for the solid backing on this, and at the 4:22 mark one of the musicians even lets slip a "Whew!" It may have been Tim O'Brien, who sings backing vocals, but it's definitely not this writer. No, I'm really not on this album at all. If you still want to hear the track sung my way, you can -- at least until the cease-and-desist order is received. But forget all that because Sara's version is superb.

  3. "My Friend" is a light song whose lyrics form sort of a prayer. This could easily be the companion piece to "Give Me Strength" on Eric Clapton's 461 Ocean Boulevard. Imagine the protagonist of that song was badly wounded and was praying for strength. In Sara's song, she is a female friend praying for hope and relief to come to him.

    What's especially neat is that both songs include that fine instrument known as Dobro, in this case played by Michael Witcher. Sean Watkins plays acoustic guitar, and Mark Schatz is on bass.

  4. So far, three out of three tracks have had both Sara and Sean Watkins on them. So, other than the absence of Chris Thile, there hasn't been much different from a Nickel Creek album. And this track adds to the similarities. At right about this place on a Nickel Creek record, we'd be listening to an instrumental. Well, that's what happens here, four tracks in.

    "Freiderick" is the first truly upbeat track on the album too. Chris Eldridge opens the track by laying down the rhythm and chords on acoustic guitar. It has a spirited and folksy melody, sounding almost Celtic in nature. Sara Watkins takes the lead on fiddle, with Ronnie McCoury following her closely on mandolin. This one doesn't have either bass or drums.

  5. Pete Thomas delivers a lovely 6/8 rhythm for "Same Mistake," the majority of which Sara Watkins sings as a duet with her brother. Sara also plays some smooth fiddle here. Greg Leisz plays steel guitar throughout but never dominates. Benmont Tench is back on piano for this track again. And our fourth bass player, Sebastian Steinberg, takes over on this track and the next.

    The song was written by Sara's fellow Largo regular, Jon Brion, who oddly doesn't appear on the track, although he does on four others, including the next two.

  6. "Any Old Time" is a particularly catchy song, originally recorded by Jimmie Rodgers. I keep playing it over and over because it's so enjoyable.

    It's partly because of the backing band, which is the same as on the last track except with Jon Brion on an additional guitar in place of Benmont Tench on piano. This track provides the best instrumental playing on the entire album. Leisz lets loose on a great solo with some jazzy chord substitutions, and Sara follows up with an equally compelling fiddle solo. Leisz adds a great "choo-choo" sound in the last verse.

    Not only that, but Sara and backing vocalist Tim O'Brien do a great job singing it. It's a song of forgiveness and second chances that is sure to put a smile on any face and halt any further straying from this forgiving lover.

    Seriously, if you're thinking of downloading only one or two tracks from the album, this is one not to be missed. See also No. 12.

  7. Remember John Paul Jones? We haven't heard him since the first track! Well, he's back playing bass on this Tom Waits song, "Pony." Now, the bassline is nothing like what he played on "What Is and What Should Never Be." In fact, all he's doing is playing single sustained notes on the roots of the chords. I'd be willing to bet his track was added only as an afterthought to provide a previously missing bottom end to this really subtle song.

    Sara Watkins plays ukulele on this track for the one and only time on the album, and steel guitarist Greg Leisz resumes his role in the background. Jon Brion and Chris Eldridge share guitar duties.

  8. John Paul Jones plays bass again on "Lord Won't You Help Me," which stops just short of the three-minute mark. Sean Watkins plays acoustic guitar and sings harmony while both David Rawlings and Gillian Welch play electric guitar and sing harmony. There's an uncredited bass drum on this track. The guitar solo here could pass for one of Jerry Garcia's on Workingman's Dead. The song was also recorded by Norman Blake.

  9. "Jefferson" is the second and last instrumental on the album. Sara Watkins takes the lead on most of this track with her fiddle. Ronnie McCoury plays mandolin. Mark Schatz delivers a heavy acoustic bass guitar, bowing it halfway through the song to great effect. And yes, you guessed it, Sean Watkins plays acoustic guitar.

    So, where's that other guy from Nickel Creek? Oh, he's on the next one!

  10. It's on this track that Chris Thile makes his only appearance on the album, playing mandola. Sara Watkins plays fiddle again, and joining her on vocals are Jenny Anne Mannan and Luke Bulla. But here's where Watkins is singing her absolute best.

    The song is the spiritual "Give Me Jesus," handled particularly well in this three-part harmony setting.

  11. "Bygones" opens with a pair of fiddles played by Sara Watkins and Rayna Gellert. The tune is dirge-like, almost medieval-sounding. One minute in, Sara's singing is joined by Aoife O’Donovan and Claire Lynch. Soon, John Paul Jones joins in on organ, specifically what sounds like bass pedals. Though his instrumental contribution to this song is so slight, it's an important part of what makes the song work. He strays from the roots of the chords and adds some intriguing counterpoint.

  12. So, if "Any Old Time" was a must-download, "Too Much" is its little sister. And guess what, Led Zeppelin fans? John Paul Jones plays bass on it! Written by David Garza, this is a catchy lighthearted pop tune that would be destined for some radio airplay if only that entity known as modern corporate radio could stray from the latest Hollywood-created Disney sensation and give us something out of Nashville instead. But given the proper promotion, this should chase Raising Sand in the charts.

    Pete Thomas tosses in a rhythm on "Too Much" that couldn't possibly sound any more straight, but that's acceptable because that's how John Bonham played on "Black Dog" and "Kashmir," right? Don't forget that Thomas accompanied Jones on some of his solo work, so he knows a little bit about satisfying the guy who's producing this album.

    Sean Watkins on acoustic guitar combines with Benmont Tench on piano to create a simple yet really integral facet of this pretty little song. Jon Brion is on electric guitar and really shines on his solo and through to the end. Aoife O'Donovan returns to sing a little backup in the middle chorus.

  13. "Will We Go," a danceable swing number, starts off with only Sara Watkins on fiddle and her brother on guitar. There's a gradual buildup throughout the entire song. Sara sings the first verse, and then John Paul Jones joins in on what is at first a very simple bassline. Chris Eldridge and Luke Bulla eventually contribute harmony vocals. At Sara's fiddle solo, Jones comes in on a separate track, playing mandolin, and his bass part becomes more complicated. Then, when the vocals return, Jones adds a third track; this time, it's a tasty electric piano, not unlike what he played on "Down by the Seaside." The buildup having been completed, the song ends with a cute little tag line, with Jones having the last laugh on bass.

  14. The album's closing song is not only the slowest but also the sweetest, although it's a breakup song. To the tune of a line from U2's "All I Want is You," Sara intones, "When my thoughts no longer comfort you, and my heart no longer moves you, when my voice no longer soothes you, where will you be?"

    Jon Brion plays some lush tremolo-filled electric guitar that would make Link Wray blush. Sean Watkins adds support on acoustic guitar. John Paul Jones is responsible for bass, again, and piano. Pete Thomas limits his playing to the bass drum only.
The following applies not only to this track but to all 14 of them. Each of the instruments on this album sounds like it was carefully and deliberately chosen. Nothing is here that shouldn't be, and nothing is obviously missing either. This is to the credit of John Paul Jones, who obviously knew what he was doing when he put it all together. The fact that the original tunes are worthy of listening to at all, however, is to the credit of songwriter Sara Watkins, who has made a fine solo debut. My guess is she'll never want to make a record without John Paul Jones giving this much assistance!

Recording sessions took place in Los Angeles at Henson Recording Studios, and in Nashville at the Sound Emporium, engineered by Dave Sinko at both locations. He then mixed the tapes at Nashville's Studio 5. Eric Conn mastered the album at Independent Mastering LLC in Nashville.

Some past comments from Sara Watkins on her album and how John Paul Jones's involvement came to be can be found here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Suggestion of Page-Beck album not a bad idea

While Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were taking questions from the press backstage at Public Hall last night, one quick exchange took place that has stuck in my mind for the past 24 hours.

Beck and Page had just come off the stage immediately following their performance of "Beck's Bolero" with the "Immigrant Song" interlude, and Beck's solo performance of the "Peter Gunn" theme.

The all-star jam on "Train Kept a Rollin'" with both of them was yet to come by another hour or so.

For now, the reporters gathered there had a few questions on their mind, like the unimaginative yet obligatory "How does it feel to be inducted?" But here was one that came out of left field:
Q: "Do you see an album in the future?"

[Raucous cheers of "yeah" and applause]

Q: [Another faint comment from the gallery]

Q: "When?"

Jeff Beck:
"What's he saying?"

Jimmy Page:
"Haven't heard what he said. I didn't hear that. It was so enthusiastic we didn't get the question. Ha ha ha!"

Press agent:
"Do you see an album coming out? Do you see an album coming out?"

Jeff Beck:
"Who, me?"

Press agent:
"The two of you."

Jeff Beck:
"All right. I don't see no album coming out."

Jimmy Page:
"You've got an album coming out."

Jeff Beck:
"I just started. I get this release phobia, you know. When I get halfway through a project, I just go, 'Eh, that's no good. I don't think that's going to work.' And then I listen to it in about a year, and I just think, 'Eh, it would have worked, but it's just too late now because it's old-fashioned.' So it never gets done. But I will. Having [drummer] Vinnie [Colaiuta] and [bassist] Tal [Wilkenfeld] and [keyboardist] Jason [Rebello], there's no excuse for there not to be a release."
At least a couple of things can be gleaned from this. For one thing, both guys might have missed the point entirely, if the point was to suggest a collaborative album. It beats me if that was the point, but it's a heck of an idea.

What Jimmy Page likes about Jeff Beck's solo career, according to the speech he had just given, is how progressive Beck's sound is:
"... you'd sort of listen to Jeff along the way, and you go, 'Well, he's getting really, really good, Jeff.' And you'd hear him a few years later, and he'd just keep getting better and better and better, and he still has all the way through, and he leaves us mere mortals, believe me, just wondering."
And Page says Beck's nowhere near finished either:
"... he's done so much for rock 'n' roll, and he always will."
Meanwhile, Page's 11-year dry spell without releasing any new music is set to end this August when a movie comes out with a couple original instrumentals of his in it. Wouldn't it inspire Page to have someone so closely aligned to him at his side?

They both seem to suffer from that "release phobia," as Beck puts it, although Beck's output of new material over the past 10 years eclipses Page's. Well, that would be true of most active artists, but Beck was releasing a new album every other year between 1999 and 2003. Not to mention the fact that he's been on the road and has released two live albums and a concert DVD in the past three years!

So, Beck may not be the most productive artist in the world, but he would provide Page with some reason to get off his couch and get back into the studio!

Oh, and by the way, in case you couldn't tell already, you can add a collaboration with Jeff Beck to my list of concert lineups I'd like to see Page in. Page has been on the road only once during the creative dry spell that began once Robert Plant backed out of continuing their partnership past 1998. Now, granted, Page did have a back injury during some of that time, and that's what cancelled his first tour early and kept him off the road for a while after that. But he's too great of a talent to be in hiding year-round when older guys like B.B. King are out there with non-stop tour itineraries.

We fans just want so much more from Page than what we've got. And please don't misinterpret that. We love the Led Zeppelin albums. We're all about what happened 40 years ago. We're all about what happened 30 years ago. We love what we have from Page. But excuse us if we feel time Page spends with a beating heart should be spent converting a thumping beat into something else we can all listen to and enjoy for another 40 years.

Would an album with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page be a good idea? Sure, it would!

But so would just about anything from Page right about now.

Please, Jimmy?

Jimmy Page joins induction ceremony's all-star finale for 'Train Kept a Rollin''

Having just performed "Beck's Bolero" together a few minutes earlier, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck strapped on guitars for the second time Saturday night, to join the newly inducted Metallica and Ron Wood, and others, in an all-star jam on "Train Kept a Rollin'."

James Hetfield handled vocals for the song, introducing "Mr. Beck" as the first guitarist to take a solo. Wood appeared to stay in the background alongside Page, while Kirk Hammett and Joe Perry of Aerosmith seemed like the other guitarists responsible for solos.

For one moment, it looked as if somebody was behind Page, perhaps helping to reapply his guitar strap. Hopefully, I'll have some confirmation of this later. For now, see the picture to the right, taken from the YouTube video below.

Immediately following Beck's induction was Metallica's, which saw two members recognize Page and Beck by name.

Bassist Robert Trujillo was the first to drop their names, saying:
"Wow. This is extremely special, amazing. All of my favorite superheroes in the audience tonight -- Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck. This is a wonderful moment for me."
Trujillo then mentioned his parents by name, and his father in particular, "for turning me on to such great music of all styles -- no rules on music: Whether it is mariachi music, flamenco, James Brown or Led Zeppelin, we had it in the house."

After Hammett thanked several people, he turned his attention to Beck and Page and two others in the room:
"I'd also like to throw a message to Jeff and Jimmy and Joe [Perry] and Ronnie [Wood] over here because you guys have helped shape my own musical talent. Thank you, guys."
Metallica's original guitarist, Dave Mustaine, attended the Led Zeppelin concert at the O2 arena on Dec. 10, 2007.

Page, Beck jam on 'Beck's Bolero' with 'Immigrant Song' section

Jimmy Page joined Jeff Beck onstage at Cleveland's Public Hall Saturday night for the first of two instrumentals following Beck's solo induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Beck and the members of his current touring band opened with "Beck's Bolero," the B-side of his 1967 single, which included Page on guitar.

Halfway through the piece, Beck introduced Page as "a big chunk of Led Zeppelin," and they launched into a jam based on "Immigrant Song." Beck handled the viking call melody on lead electric guitar, with Page concentrating on an ostinato F# line in the background on his electric guitar. Beck soloed for a while on that rhythm.

Upon Beck's signal, the band segued into the middle section of "Beck's Bolero" and finished that instrumental.

Page was no longer on the stage when Beck's group finished off with a version of the "Peter Gunn" theme.

Before the performance, Page said he and Beck knew each other since they were 14 or maybe 13. Beck later said backstage they went to 11.

Also during Page's speech, he namechecked Beck's album Blow by Blow as an example of an album that would keep him on his toes:
"Jeff started making solo records, and I carried on with the Yardbirds for a while, and we both started to continue in our own sort of way. I sort of had Led Zeppelin, and Jeff kept going, and I've gotta tell you -- I've gotta tell you that you'd sort of listen to Jeff along the way, and you go, 'Well, he's getting really, really good, Jeff.' And you'd hear him a few years later, and he'd just keep getting better and better and better, and he still has all the way through, and he leaves us mere mortals, believe me, just wondering. ...

"I have so much respect for him because Jeff's whole guitar style is just totally unorthodox to the point that anyone was taught, and he's just developed a whole style of expanding the electric guitar and making [it] into something which was just sounds and techniques totally unheard of before, and that's just an amazing feat, believe me. But, you know, he's done some amazing sets, some amazing fusion records -- um,
Blow by Blow, for a start, was just a solo record that, you know, just established him as the most incredible soloist of our time, you know? And he just doesn't stop! He gets better and better and better.

"I tell you, I'm really honored to be here to induct Jeff into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because he's done so much for rock 'n' roll, and he always will."

Once during the speech, Beck was hiding his blushing face. When Page concluded his speech, he called Beck to the stage ("Come on, Jeff"). Beck rose from his chair, applauding jubilantly with his arms raised in the air at Page. The two embraced for several seconds onstage, and Page walked out of the spotlight to allow Beck to say a few words himself.

Prior to Page's speech, a clip was shown of Beck's prior induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1992, as a member of the Yardbirds. At that time, he remembered he had been kicked out of the group.

(Here's that clip.)

Backstage at the ceremony, Beck commented backstage that it felt better to him this time around, being recognized by the Rock Hall for his solo work.

Beck, in his speech, recognized two of Elvis Presley's sidemen who were present: drummer D.J. Fontana, who had earlier been inducted along with late bassist Bill Black, and guitarist Scotty Moore,
a previous Hall of Fame inductee and the first guitarist whose work impressed Page enough to pick up a guitar:
"To stand here in front of Scotty is just more than I ever could believe ... Jimmy, you'll back me up on this. You know, we used to sit and just, you know, dribble over your playing. You're fantastic. Thank you for that."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Guitar summit rumored for Rock Hall induction

Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Ron Wood may be among guitarists jamming on "Train Kept a Rollin'" at the end of tonight's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, if you believe the rumor just reported online by the Cleveland Plain Dealer's ongoing live backstage coverage of the event. If you're lucky enough to get Fuse TV, keep your eyes on it tonight.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Any requests for Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck's Saturday jam session?

How about that April Fool's gag yesterday?

So, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck are to share a stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony held in Cleveland this Saturday.

No word if they plan to jam together, but I'm hopeful. In the event that they do, what should they play? There's a list of likely choices.
  • "Train Kept a Rollin'" or "Stroll On"
    "Train" was a favorite that all Yardbirds guitarists had to do, and it became so much the group's trademark tune that even when the rights weren't in place for them to perform it for the film Blow Up, they took credit for a basic lyrical rewrite of it called "Stroll On." Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith took "Train" to greater heights, but it's that riff that Beck and Page are playing the only time they were ever filmed playing together as Yardbirds members.
  • "Shapes of Things"
    Beck's first big tune from the Yardbirds days provided fodder for his Rod Stewart-led Jeff Beck Group lineup on the album Truth. Page evidently liked Beck's arrangement of it as he brought it out on tour with the Black Crowes in 2000.
  • "Beck's Bolero"
    It doesn't matter which one of these guys wrote the chords or the melody. The point is they played it together, and it's gone on to become one of the biggest B-sides ever laid to vinyl. The recording sessions for it led to the development of the name "Led Zeppelin" by either John Entwistle or Keith Moon (again, it doesn't really matter which).
  • "You Shook Me"
    It was a prerequisite for any British rock band inspired by the blues to use a Willie Dixon song or three. Both Led Zeppelin and the Jeff Beck Group went with this one (with John Paul Jones on keyboard on both). Here's a track that wouldn't need much rehearsal.
  • "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago"
    Here's the only Yardbirds single that featured both Beck and Page on it (Page on bass), but by the time it was released, Beck was out of the band. The song features a chunk-a-chunk rhythm guitar and one fireball of a guitar solo, both courtesy of Beck. But it was Page who carried the song on over the course of the Yardbirds' final year and made it become one of those heavy Yardbirds tracks now revisited as having foreshadowed the musical direction Jimmy was destined to go in with Led Zeppelin. The tune is made complete with a maniacal insult that pointed out the typical criticism of the long-haired rocker. People used to laugh at musicians and their effeminate manner of dress. Now who's laughing?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

John Paul Jones produces new version of Zep song with Steve 'The Lemon' Sauer on vocals

Robert Plant, eat your heart out!

Here I am on vocals tackling "Nobody's Fault but Mine" at a recent session produced by John Paul Jones.

Not to mention the nice Dobro solo from Billy Cardine in the middle of it all.

It was just great being produced by Jonesy! As you could tell during the last couple of verses, the excitement just got a hold of me. It was ... what's the word ... oh, yeah ... surreal!

--Steve "The Lemon" Sauer
April 1, 2009