Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The 12 days of Zeppelin: Rod Stewart collaborates with John Paul Jones, Dave Gilmour

On the third day of Zeppelin, my true love gave to me:
Rod Stewart's box set 'The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998'

Why this collection for a Led Zeppelin fan? The inclusion of a great track featuring John Paul Jones on organ not heard anywhere else is only one reason. But what should be the real motivating factor here is the rare opportunity to hear classic songs from the '70s stripped down to their skeletal form before they took shape. Only bootlegs have afforded Led Zeppelin fans to hear tracks like "Stairway to Heaven" and "In the Light" that document how the songs evolved into the unforgettable recordings they are today. As for Stewart's mid-'70s output, we've already seen this once with the release of the remarkable box set Five Guys Walk into a Bar..., highlighting unreleased performances by the Faces. Now, Rhino accomplishes just about the same with a spanner of Stewart's other works.

This box set traces "You Wear It Well" back to an early studio incarnation lacking finished lyrics (the title hook replaced in one occurrence by an ad libbed "your underwear"). As the take progresses, the backing band is still getting comfortable with the arrangement. This all precedes the addition of violin to complement Stewart's voice. The box set is full of other working versions as educational and enjoyable as this, including "Maggie May," "Tonight's the Night" and "Hot Legs," an acoustic guitar version of "You're in My Heart," a piano version of "Forever Young," plus unique covers of "Girl from the North Country," "This Old Heart of Mine," "To Love Somebody," "The First Cut is the Deepest," "I Wish You Would," "This Wheel's on Fire" and "May You Never."

The other particular source of interest for lovers of Led Zeppelin is the track on the fourth CD that finds Jones on organ in a super session with Stewart that also includes Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. It is Stewart's second attempt at a song he first recorded in 1969 sitting in with the band Python Lee Jackson, a crossover from Australia to England. "In a Broken Dream" became an international hit three years after its release. Despite the 1994 studio rendition of the same song by Stewart, Jones and Gilmour being a soulful encapsulation of emotion, it was shelved along with at least five other tracks of Stewart's that would have turned up on an aborted studio album project. These six songs are all included on this box set for the first time.

The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 is available as both a 4-CD box set with a detailed booklet and a less costly digital download.

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