Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jimmy Page was engrossed in voiceless Led Zeppelin trio; speculative band lineup quashed because singer's introduction was 'premature,' Page says in interview

John Paul Jones has used his ample media opportunities in recent months to narrate his version of what ever became of that project he'd promised in 2008, a band with Jason Bonham and Jimmy Page. Ever since Jones has been showcased as a starring member of Them Crooked Vultures, his newfound podium has afforded him the luxury of pronouncing that he and the others "couldn't agree on singers" and so the band "fell by the wayside." This, in turn, leads Jones to change the topic and discuss matters at hand: namely, Them Crooked Vultures.

Bonham has also talked here and there about his participation in that band, but likewise, he is more excited to discuss his next offering, Black Country, and not focus on what was and what should never be.

Even the once-rumored singer auditioning for a spot in a Page-Jones-Bonham lineup, Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, has opened up on the subject of those rehearsals together in 2008 -- to, no less. Once reluctant to speak about the subject publicly, he recounted on Dec. 16, 2009, what it was like to have written new material with members of Led Zeppelin:
"There were two, a couple songs that I remember. For me, that was the biggest thrill because these were songs and pieces of music that no one had heard. And I'm standing in a room, and I'm putting my melodies and lyrics to it. For me as an artist, I don't think anything will ever compare to the feeling that I got from those moments. It felt like you were kind of a part of history for a few minutes there. It was just amazing. It's hard to even put into words, Steve, it really is."

The one voice that was missing on the subject for just as long was Page's. Now, he's given Mojo magazine the cover story for its February 2010 issue, and he's also contributed an interview for the February issue of Uncut. He's detailed his ideas for the genesis of a band with Jones and Bonham that would be missing a voice of its own.

Page admits for the first time that when he was rehearsing his three-piece band, he found it exciting to experiment with their combined sound and content to see what direction it would carry them -- even, it seems, if it meant they would remain an instrumental unit.

In his interview with Phil Alexander for Mojo, Page says he thinks Kennedy "is a really fine singer." What stopped them from proceeding beyond the rehearsal stage, the guitarist proclaims, was a nagging feeling that no vocalist should have been introduced until after the music had first developed further.

"We hadn't really had the time to bring what the three of us had to fruition," Page opines. "I felt that once we'd done that, then that would have been the time to bring in a singer." He says all they needed was "more time," even "another two weeks."

However, forcing a singer in at the stage they did was "premature," he says. "I felt it was somewhat like putting the cart before the horse, because it was bringing in an unknown into an environment of three known elements."

Page says a lot more in that interview, and a little more in the Uncut interview. But first, let's place all the recent remarks -- from him and elsewhere -- in their proper context.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Summer festival schedule no secret for Them Crooked Vultures this year

John Paul Jones is taking his group, Them Crooked Vultures, through Europe in coming months.

In addition to previously announced concert appearances -- including a Teenage Cancer Trust benefit in London next month and a trio of U.S. shows in April -- the band's touring schedule now includes five European festivals set to take place in June and July.

Last August, the newly formed Them Crooked Vultures was in stealth mode, popping up by surprise at five festivals in Belgium, the Netherlands, England and France. This year, we know the same amount of scheduled festival appearances well in advance -- and that's not even counting the one U.S. festival date coming up, Coachella in April.

The band is scheduled to perform during the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park festivals in Germany, held June 3-6. The poster for both events has a certain Shepard Fairey/Mothership feel to it.

The following weekend, June 11-13, sees the group at the Download Festival, held at Donington Park in England. While the highly anticipated festival lineup was already set to include AC/DC and Them Crooked Vultures, the big news of the past week is the announcement that Aerosmith has been booked, its lineup including singer Steven Tyler supposedly intact.

Keen observers noting the location of the Download Festival may recall it was there that Jimmy Page joined Aerosmith onstage in 1990 (while we're still talking about Page's encores from that busy summer). It was the Monsters of Rock Festival in August 1990, and Aerosmith's set included a guest appearance from Page, properly closing the festivities at Castle Donington with a jam on "Train Kept A-Rollin'."

While there isn't video footage of that (but the audio is available), their rehearsal footage shot at the Marquee Club in advance of another performance that week has made its way to YouTube.

I digress; back to Them Crooked Vultures. They're set to appear at the Hove Festival in Arendal, Norway, on June 30; at the Peace and Love Festival in Borlänge, Sweden, on July 1; and the Roskilde Festival near Roskilde, Denmark, on July 2.

Finally, the episode of the series Austin City Limits featuring a performance from Them Crooked Vultures has aired on most PBS stations, and it is now available for online viewing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New official release of 1990 Knebworth set forthcoming

"Wearing and Tearing" is a song Led Zeppelin never played in concert. A really fast-paced stomper, it was something the band laid down during their final studio recording sessions but didn't even release on their album. It finally came out almost four years to the day it was recorded, issued on the posthumous outtakes album Coda.

What a bummer it was not part of the band's repertoire in 1979! Led Zeppelin played two shows in England that year, at the Knebworth Festival in front of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands. They were homecoming shows, the band's first in England in four years, and a lot had changed in that time. Members of the press were rife with suggestions that the band was overhyped and irrelevant in a culture that now favored punk music.

"Wearing and Tearing" was essentially Led Zeppelin's response to punk music. They just didn't issue that formal response at the time. We know there was at some point an intention to release "Wearing and Tearing" as a promotional single distributed exclusively at the Knebworth Festival. That never happened. For reasons never fully explained, the song was left off the album and excluded from their live set.

In 1980, and for reasons that were better explained, the band dissolved. And over the next 10 years, collaborations among the surviving members were sparse. One of those onstage moments, however, was a triumphant set performed by Robert Plant with an encore appearance by Jimmy Page. The date was June 30, 1990, and the setting was a familiar one: Knebworth. And, as if it were some inside joke, Page and Plant combined forces to perform a hard-rocking live version of "Wearing and Tearing" for the first time ever.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of this concert -- which also included Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Status Quo, Phil Collins, Cliff Richard with the Shadows, Genesis, Tears for Fears, Elton John, and Dire Straits -- the label Eagle Rock Entertainment is re-releasing moments from that Knebworth concert.

The double-CD set Live at Knebworth is slated to be released on March 23 (Update: There will also be an MP3 download version). Portions of this concert were originally available on the Polydor label in 1990. Proceeds from this 20th anniversary reissue, just like the 1990 concert itself, are to raise funds for the Brit School of Performing Arts and Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. The latter cause is the same charity that benefited from the Rockwell concert held in London last September, which included a three-song set from Plant, performing along with Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara.

Live at Knebworth includes two three songs from Plant's solo band, "Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes on You)," "Liars Dance" and "Tall Cool One," plus the encore rendition of "Wearing and Tearing" featuring Page. Images of both Page and Plant are pictured on the front cover of the album, although Page's name is curiously omitted in that place.

To remember 2007 reunion, Zeppelin fans make do without official DVD

"A Work in Progress" is a fan-produced assemblage of video clips shot near the stage during Led Zeppelin's 2007 reunion performance at the O2 arena in London. This homegrown release has hit trading circles in recent months without being available on any particular bootleg label.

It is being seen as a visual upgrade to a previously available video source credited to Third Eye Productions. Such is the assertion made in a description of "A Work in Progress" posted on the site Collectors Music Reviews.
A Work In Progress uses fifteen different angles to replicate what can be considered to be a professionally edited concert on DVD. The use of quick edits is able to capture the enormity of the event and to give much more visual information than the Third Eye [release] is able to do.

All of the videos used in this redaction are relatively close to the stage and offer many tantalizing close ups. The careful work is directed by a knowledgable [sic] Zeppelin fan who focuses upon the point of excitement and interested [sic] in any given song. It is a masterful work that moves the production values of the visuals from bootleg quality into a professionally edited live concert as it would have been presented in the nineties. The one camera missing is the roving eye camera used for the show and which appeared on newscasts which presents a more kinetic view of the show.
Presumably, footage caught by this "roving eye camera" is being reserved for the possible commercial release of this show on DVD at long last by the Led Zeppelin members. Preserving this concert with an eventual release is something Led Zeppelin fans have felt strongly about pretty much from the moment the show was announced, long before the planned show date changed from Nov. 26 to Dec. 10.

Two months ago, on the second anniversary of the concert, fans listening to syndicated radio host Carol Miller's daily installment of "Get the Led Out" heard an inside scoop about the possibility of a DVD from Phil Carson, a former Atlantic Records executive and confidant to Led Zeppelin. Now one of the board members of the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, for which the concert raised money, Carson said:
"Well, they've got it [footage]. It's all really on multi-camera, high-tech, high-def, state-of-the-art stuff. They spent a fortune getting it done, and the board of the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund agree it should come out, and as far as they're concerned, they can do what they want with it. It's just a question of what the three guys decide."
As far as what thoughts Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant have on releasing their celebrated one-off performance with Jason Bonham on drums, we have precious few on-the-record insights.

On June 16, 2008, the night Led Zeppelin picked up the Best Live Act award from Mojo magazine, both Page and Jones were in attendance and answered questions from BBC 6 Music about plans to issue a visual record of the concert.

Page's entire reported comment was:
"I hope so, one day, yeah."
That's all.

Not much more from Jones, except some insight into why the delay:
"Yeah, I should think one day the DVD will come out, but there is no hurry to do it. ... It was a special occasion, you know, and we really wanted that just to be it, really."
Really, Jonesy?

For now, fans wanting to relive the moment are making do with non-commercial releases like "A Work in Progress" and the Third Eye Productions disc, some of them possibly recognizing their own concert footage being used in the visuals.

And the Collectors Music Review description of "A Work in Progress" doubles as a pretty good run-down of the concert as it unfolded, even if the author raced through the end of the concert and thereby failed to capture the essence of "Kashmir," that Dec. 10 version rated by some witnesses as the best performance of it ever.

Despite their increasingly suitable bootleg editions, fans are still hoping someday all unofficial discs will be made obsolete by the release of an official concert video -- one that reporter Mark Cunningham, for Total Production International magazine, once offered could be superlative based on the images presented on the screen backdrop onstage:
The video production was essentially delivered by a three-way partnership between director Dick Carruthers (famed for his award-winning work on the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD), video ‘scientist’ Richard Turner and graphics guru Mark Norton, the creative director at London-based agency, Think Farm.

The combination of their acutely intuitive skills resulted in what can only be described as a watershed moment in the relatively short history of large format live concert video production. The creativity applied to the merging of stunning graphic art and animation with Carruthers’ mind-blowing treatment of live camera feeds was incomparable. In fact, I’m confident that December 10 2007 will be remembered as the date when, for the concert video industry, everything changed.
Cunningham also reports that Carruthers operated a console, nicknamed "the Big Kahuna," "whose mysterious fascia echoed that of Lt. Uhura's control panel aboard the Starship Enterprise." With this gargantuan gadget, "Carruthers was mixing eight cameras for the live screen, although there were 17 in total, including two HD cameras, two HD minicams around the drums and three film cameras," Cunningham reports.

He also quotes Carruthers as saying:
"I was looking for a desk that would work in HD and SD, that also had DVE effects and would work live. The Kahuna had it all. ... It's an exceedingly clever beast and its four mix effect busses allow all sorts of different routing and panels, so I could do things like the three-way mix in 'Dazed and Confused.' In the past I've had to use multiple DVEs to do this kind of thing, but here it all was in one big desk with native HD resolution as well.

"Once I found the Kahuna and the shoot expanded for archive purposes, I knew we'd need to get an OB truck in and shoot on Hi-Def, so we hired CTV's OB9 with Jim Parsons at the controls."
I take it that, in layman's terms, it would suffice to say if this thing ever comes out, it would be rather phenomenal.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cue the rimshot; Robert Plant's humor comes across even on Twitter

Delivering an entire joke, including the setup and punch line, in 140 characters or less has become an art form. Relaying comedy on Twitter is possible, and Twitter user @johnrags mastered the craft yesterday, when he shared a story about meeting Robert Plant while out for lunch in Nashville. Succinctly, he writes:
@Jereme_ & I are eating & Robert Plant sits at the table next to us... I say "I love your music." He says "I do too". sweet #onlyinnashville
Rimshot, please!

Plant's been spending time in Nashville in recent months, readying his ninth solo album. Tentatively titled It's Rude to Say No, the disc is produced by Buddy Miller, who played guitar and sang backup while Plant was on the road with Alison Krauss in support of their 2007 release, Raising Sand.

Plant and Miller played together twice in October 2009, and last year also saw the release of Miller's album with wife Julie, featuring a guest vocal from Plant recorded backstage during the Raising Sand tour.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Them Crooked Vultures concerts have habit of yielding nice posters

Have you noticed the fine line of concert posters from Them Crooked Vultures?

If not, you may be interested in checking out three of the latest, on sale right now at the band's official online store. Two are from shows held earlier this week.

This one is from last night's concert at the Fillmore in Charlotte, N.C., and it looks like a poster for an old horror flick:

Here's another in remotely the same vein, this one of the "King Kong" subset, promoting Monday's gig at the Roseland Ballroom in New York:

The last one online for sale now is from Nov. 22, 2009, at the Roseland Theater in Portland, Ore.:

That last one is also available for sale as a signed lithograph by artist Kii Arens. The same goes for the poster from the band's record release concert, held Nov. 17, 2009, at the Wiltern in Los Angeles:

The band's appearance at the Roseland Ballroom in New York on Oct. 15, 2009, also yielded another nice poster, this one by Emek. This particular run of limited collectable posters was very highly sought after:

This week's pair of Them Crooked Vultures concerts followed the band's U.S. television network debut on "Saturday Night Live" last weekend. The group performed "Mind Eraser, No Chaser" and "New Fang."

A word that is usually bleeped out on U.S. television aired on NBC as Josh Homme sang it as the last word of "Mind Eraser, New Chaser." It was barely discernible, however, and as it was after midnight when the song aired, the censors clearly did not give a s---.

"Mind Eraser, No Chaser" from "Saturday Night Live"

"New Fang" from "Saturday Night Live"

Them Crooked Vultures will appear on the next episode of "Austin City Limits" aired on PBS. The show's Web site is previewing a clip of "New Fang" as performed during a visit to the television studios on Sept. 30. An hour's worth of the band's performance from that night is set to air on the show beginning Saturday; check your local listings for time and channel.

The band plays tonight at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga., and that is all that's known of their plans in the United States for the time being.

A single Them Crooked Vultures show is scheduled for London next month as the band offers a concert in the series at the Royal Albert Hall benefiting the Teenage Cancer Trust. Depeche Mode starts the concert series on Wednesday, Feb. 17. Acts including the Who, the Arctic Monkeys and Noel Gallagher are set to perform their own nights in March. The show featuring Them Crooked Vultures is set to take place March 22. The charity said on Feb. 5 that tickets to this concert series were the fastest to sell in its 10-year history.

A return to the United States is planned for April as Them Crooked Vultures is scheduled to play more than just the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 16. The group is also scheduled to appear at the Joint in Las Vegas on April 17 and the Fillmore in Denver on April 19. Tickets to those two shows are to go on sale to the public Saturday morning, although details on a presale beginning this morning were included in yesterday's official Them Crooked Vultures newsletter.

Finally, another festival appearance is also in the band's future. That's the Download Festival, to be held June 11-13 in England's Donnington Park. AC/DC is the headliner.

Robert Plant solo album reported coming this year, produced by Buddy Miller

Update: can report that Robert Plant's 2010 solo album is tentatively called It's Rude to Say No.

The first indications of what Robert Plant will do in 2010 have now been reported. Freelance writer Tom Netherland gets his scoop published in the Herald Courier, in a feature on one of the musicians reported to have played on recording sessions with Plant in Nashville just before Christmas.

"Look for Plant's Buddy Miller-produced album later this year," Netherland writes, nonchalantly dropping the first official confirmation published anywhere that the former Led Zeppelin singer was indeed working with Miller in Nashville shortly after Plant hand-wrote and signed the lyrics that fetched $2,225 for the Americana Music Association.

The musician profiled in Netherland's piece, published Feb. 11, is singer-songwriter Darrell Scott, "who played such instruments as mandolin and glockenspiel" for the forthcoming Plant album. He is one of a few key players in a tight-knit band appearing on the record, Netherland reports.

While the other musicians comprising Plant's new studio lineup have not been identified, Scott does provide a few insights from the sessions. One is the revelation that Plant was singing classic songs including "Cindy," a traditional bluegrass number also recorded and performed under the title "Get Along Home, Cindy."

In the article, Scott discusses his impressions of working with Plant in the studio. He tells Netherland:
"Those two-plus weeks were some of the most memorable times I've ever had in the studio. ... The number-one thing is that Robert loves music. You think they're posing and just getting through it, but I was humbled with how Robert Plant loved the music -- old country, blues, rockabilly."
Scott has an album of his own on the way, tentatively a double album called A Crooked Road. In the meantime, his latest disc was Modern Hymns, released in 2008 by Appleseed Recordings. That album includes an appearance by Alison Krauss.

Scott also appears on Back to Love, the latest album by fellow American singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman. She will be alongside Plant onstage as his next scheduled live set, at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, takes place Feb. 25 and creates a musical first for Plant: namely, performing onstage with a 72-voice choir.

That ensemble is the London Oriana Choir, which featured on Chapman's DVD release If Love Could Say God's Name, released in England in 2007.

The occasion is a concert called Sound & Vision, with funds to be raised to support the charity Cancer Research UK. The show is also scheduled to see sets from David Gray and Newton Faulkner. A patron of the charity, BBC Radio 2 DJ "Whispering" Bob Harris, is set to host the evening.

Harris, when he was host of BBC television's The Old Grey Whistle Test, interviewed Plant backstage at a Led Zeppelin concert in Brussels, Belgium, on Jan. 12, 1975. That historical moment is included on the official Led Zeppelin DVD, released in 2003.

Plant is quoted in a statement offered by the charity's publicity firm earlier this month. He says:
"Performing at Sound & Vision is something I'm really excited about. Cancer Research UK is a very worthwhile cause, and when Bob asked me to get involved I didn't hesitate. My set is quite different from anything I've ever done before, as I'll be performing with Beth and a full choir on stage. Cancer is a disease that affects so many people and Sound & Vision is a great way to raise money to fight it."
Harris also issued a statement on Plant's participation, saying:
"I'm thrilled and proud that Robert Plant is taking part in this year's Sound & Vision. We have a lot of history together -- he even performed an impromptu gig for my 60th birthday party -- so it's great to have him on board. It's truly inspiring to see him and so many other respected names from the music and photography industry come together to help raise money for Cancer Research UK's lifesaving work."
Three days remain in an eBay auction for two tickets to the event plus an official program autographed by Plant.

Chapman says she is looking forward to her performance with Plant:
"I'm so excited about performing at Abbey Road with Robert Plant and a 72 voice choir on Feb 25th! Also be performing will be David Gray & Newton Faulkner. It's to raise money for Cancer Research UK. It's going to be some night!"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Them Crooked Vultures: How the Band Started, Part 1

Them Crooked Vultures presents Part 1 of "How the Band Started." Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones talk about their beginnings together, and Josh Homme adds his two cents about his prior work with Grohl.

Friday, February 5, 2010

John Paul Jones fired from Them Crooked Vultures?

"Saturday Night Live" cast member Fred Armisen is set to replace the outgoing John Paul Jones in a revised lineup of Them Crooked Vultures, according to a commercial promoting tomorrow's episode of the comedy series.

Update: Jones appears to be back in now, as Armisen isn't even cool enough for Dave Grohl to hang out with him after the show.