Friday, March 26, 2010

Robert Plant to tour with Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller; 12 summer dates announced for Band of Joy

Robert Plant will be joined on tour in a new lineup featuring Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller, according to an announcement posted this morning on Plant's official Web site.

His new band, given the recycled name Band of Joy after a pre-Zeppelin band he fronted and that at one time featured his future Led Zeppelin bandmate John Bonham, consists of the musicians who appear on his upcoming album, mentioned in today's statement not by name but tentatively scheduled for release on the Rounder label late this summer or early in the fall. Miller is listed as a co-producer of the album.

A dozen concerts have been announced for the Southern United States, opening July 13 in Memphis and so far continuing only until July 31. This is only the first leg of tour dates, according to the release. Onsale dates vary between March and April; links posted below contain more specific information.
  • July 13: Memphis, TN - The Orpheum Theater Information available in May
  • July 15: Little Rock, AR -  Robinson Center Music Hall Ticket Info
  • July 16: Tulsa, OK - Brady Theater Ticket Info (on sale already)
  • July 18: Albuquerque, NM - Sandia Casino Amphitheater Ticket Info
  • July 20: Phoenix, AZ - Dodge Theater Ticket Info
  • July 21: Tucson, AZ - Anselmo Valencia Amphitheater Ticket Info
  • July 23: Dallas, TX Meyerson Symphony Hall Ticket Info
  • July 24: Houston, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Ticket Info
  • July 26: Austin, TX - Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater Ticket Info
  • July 28: Mobile, AL - The Saenger Theatre Ticket Info
  • July 30: Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall Ticket Info
  • July 31: Miami, FL - Bayfront Park Amphitheater Ticket Info
The full list of musicians joining Plant, Griffin and Miller in the Band of Joy, both in the studio and on the upcoming tour, also consists of:
  • Darrell Scott, multiple instruments and vocals
  • Byron House, bass and vocals
  • Marco Giovino, drums, percussion and vocals
Miller is to play multiple instruments and sing, and Griffin is to sing. The Band of Joy is to be playing material from the new album. It would be Plant's first disc since Raising Sand in 2007, with Alison Krauss, who is mentioned in the release.

"Oh yes," Plant is quoted, as if responding to a question, "Alison and I get together quite often -- and sometimes we dance."

Of the new album, Plant says:
"It's been a blast working on these new songs -- and I'm enjoying such creativity and vitality. It's been a remarkable change of direction for all of us and as a group we all seem to have developed a new groove."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vultures to release rare single next month

In support of next month's Independent Record Store Day, Them Crooked Vultures will release a 10-inch picture disc single on vinyl, consisting of "Mind Eraser, No Chaser" and "Highway One" backed with an audio interview.

It is just one of many special releases scheduled to become available in the United States when Independent Record Store day takes place April 17.

In this video, Joshua Homme of Them Crooked Vultures explains what Independent Record Store Day is and how customers can participate.

In the meantime, the band has also contributed a live version of "Mind Eraser, No Chaser" to support Twestival, a community-oriented education fundraising event to be held in multiple locations this Thursday, March 25.

This minute, Absolute Radio is currently broadcasting some live tracks from Monday night's performance at the Royal Albert Hall; now playing is "New Fang." DJ Ben Jones has just pronounced the gig officially the loudest ever held at the famed London venue.

Them Crooked Vultures winding down temporarily

Just before Them Crooked Vultures took the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London last night, Ben Jones of Absolute Radio conducted a revealing interview with the band in which John Paul Jones, Josh Homme and Dave Grohl had nothing to hide.

There were no secrets as the three of them answered questions about what plans are still ahead for the band. Their current touring takes them through the beginning of August, after which point the two younger members of the group are to tackle other projects. Ben Jones didn't ask John Paul Jones what was in his own future, and there was no suggestion of a Led Zeppelin reunion either.

A concert review for NME reports on the event, the first night of a week of shows benefiting the Teenage Cancer Trust, whose patron is Roger Daltrey. TBL/Web provides a rundown of last night's proceedings from the perspective of superfan Dave Lewis, who contrasts the Royal Albert Hall then and now, weaving in the fact that the venue was home to one of Led Zeppelin's most famous gigs 40 years ago.

A second Them Crooked Vultures album has not been recorded by this point and no one should expect a second album this year, the interview for Absolute Radio makes apparent. Reuniting their band eventually to go about another set of tour dates in support of a new album is still in the cards, as they've long said. Homme employed an interesting turn of phrase, saying it was like playing a game of calendar roulette to see when all three would be available again.

At least 15 shows remain before the band's current bout of activity winds down, and announcements of added shows within the pre-August time frame have been popping up in the past week. Fans in the Los Angeles area can now expect to see the group at Club Nokia on April 14. A third Canadian date, May 16 in Windsor, Ontario, was announced to complement the previously announced pair of dates in Quebec City (May 11) and Montreal (May 12). Further shows in the United States and Canada in April and May might be announced as well.

This band's planned hiatus comes at just about the right time for Rodrigo Davies, who covered last night's gig in an article appearing this morning on the Web site of BBC Radio 6 Music. That writer suggests that Them Crooked Vultures is on the verge of wearing out its welcome riding on the coattails of the music from its one brilliant album:
Now we're seven months and an album on from the initial impact of such an imagination-capturing musical experiment, one can't help wondering whether stages like this would be a fitting moment to wrap up this round of solos, however impressive they are. ... [I]f the talent of its members is proven by anything, it's the way in which their musical projects have evolved so impressively over time. More Grohl, Homme, [supporting onstage musician Alain] Johannes and Jones please, just maybe not more of the same.
For anyone who was looking to the "Fresh Pots" video released online last week for clues as to whether the band had been recording a second album -- and some news sites reported the video proves they were -- Grohl confirmed that not only was all that footage from the 2009 recording sessions but the bit about seeing a doctor related to his coffee intake was true.

The video states:
Two weeks after this video was shot, Dave was rushed to doctor due to the onset of unwanted physical effects caused by too much caffeine.

For reals. He was kind of a mess.

Since then, he has reduced his intake of the super delicious hot beverage to a healthier level.
Interviewer Ben Jones asked whether that actually happened. Grohl wasted no time in saying, "Yes." He followed up with:
"'Fresh Pots' -- that was a year ago. The 'Fresh Pots' thing was about a year old, and we were in the studio making our record, and I was drinking a lot of coffee. At one point, I was doing Vultures stuff at night, Foo Fighters stuff during the day, and I had a newborn at home. And so, I was sleeping maybe, like, two or three hours a night on an air mattress in a guest bedroom --"
Homme interjected, "The air mattress was actually filled with coffee."

Grohl laughed and continued:
"Yeah, I had too much coffee, and I started having chest pains, so I went to the hospital, and they told me to stop drinking so much coffee."
For future reference, I suppose we should start taking the phrase "for reals" seriously.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Joe Bonamassa adds postcard from Greece to Zep-inspired catalog

If Led Zeppelin fans are at all aware of Mississippi Fred McDowell, it is probably because of his lyrics to "Shake 'em On Down" and "Drop Down Mama" having been appropriated for the Physical Graffiti track "Custard Pie." (Robert Plant had also sung "Shake 'em On Down" on the closing number of Led Zeppelin III, "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.")

With songs like "Custard Pie" -- as well as "Whole Lotta Love," "When the Levee Breaks," "In My Time of Dying" and "Nobody's Fault but Mine" -- Led Zeppelin seemingly made an art form of copying lyrics and creating unique musical arrangements with a heavy rock edge. One of the better examples of an artist following in their footsteps comes from guitarist and singer Joe Bonamassa on his steady 2004 album, Had to Cry Today.

He does it twice on that disc, once with another set of lyrics from McDowell, titled "The River," which is played in a heavy, electric accompaniment with a straightforward rock rhythm and howling harmonica. If it sounds like I could be describing the flood-themed "When the Levee Breaks," that's because you're right. Bonamassa knowingly mimics Led Zeppelin on that track. He thoughtfully explained in the CD liner notes at the time:
"I wanted to write a mystery blues folklore song like the blues greats did in the 20's and 30's. What I wanted to do is take a song that could easily be played on the National Triolian alone but make it heavy. With that said, I wanted to keep all the soulful elements and the authentic feel intact. Masterful harmonica by the legendary Jon Paris adds a unique flavor to the song. This one is also best when played loud."
Perhaps even stronger on that album is the other Zeppelin-inspired piece, which takes the lyric of "Reconsider Baby" by Lowell Fulson. Bonamassa and his studio band recreated the sound of the Led Zeppelin III blues "Since I've Been Loving You." He writes in the liner notes that he's trying to take us right back to the Royal Albert Hall in London, circa 1968. (Give him a break; he's off by only a year or two.) Bonamassa's style of playing on these two tracks -- both contained on the album Had to Cry Today (the title track being his cover of the Blind Faith song) -- is very reminiscent of Jimmy Page's.

There's no doubt from listening to either of those two tracks that Bonamassa is a Led Zeppelin fan and a student of Page. His follow-up album, 2006's You & Me, had Jason Bonham on drums and contained a cover of Led Zeppelin's blues track "Tea for One." Also, this was the first album of Bonamassa's to feature the production work of Kevin Shirley, who by then had become the sound man of choice for Jimmy Page on any of his musical projects, including Led Zeppelin live releases. Despite the collective studio unit's best intentions, the guitar playing on "Tea for One" is rather busy compared to the original, and the excessive string arrangement provides too much connectivity in a song that was originally meant to sound staccato.

However, Bonamassa's next live album, the 2008 double-disc set From Nowhere in Particular, contained two tracks that more than atone for any past transgressions. They're the only two that exceed the 10-minute mark.

The first is a medley beginning with Bonamassa's own instrumental, "India," which could easily be mistaken for the Page instrumental "White Summer," and transforming into the vocal track "Mountain Time" -- the same way Page used to play "White Summer," on electric guitar, to introduce the full band with "Kashmir."

The other is the longest track on either half of the live album. Clocking in at 17:53, it is another medley opening with an instrumental, this time "Django." It is used here as a three-minute introduction for a full-band rendition of the ZZ Top tune "Just Got Paid." As a lengthy guitar solo proceeds, you can eventually a rare guitar sound that has become quite familiar to Led Zeppelin fans: a bow being used on the fretboard. Slowly but surely, Bonamassa is building up to something; what that is becomes clear by the 15-minute mark as he and his band have launched into the instrumental sections of "Dazed and Confused." It's there as a bonus, the title not listed on the album jacket, which may be why some fans have missed it. This is not to be missed!

Last year, Bonamassa released another album, this one titled The Ballad of John Henry. The title character is described as a workingman hero, using a name that's commonly been invoked in fictional literary works. There was no apparent intent to name the album after the John Henry Bonham who drummed for Led Zeppelin. It did have some standout tracks, including "Funkier than a Mosquito's Tweeter," with its array of James Brown-inspired brass hits, and a deliciously blue song in "The Great Flood" unveiling some drawn-out improvisation and guitar/saxophone interplay.

A New Dose in Black Rock

The history of Bonamassa's discography suggests advancement over the years, and the latest release is no exception. Released tomorrow, Black Rock showcases some of his finest vocal delivery, particularly on his cover of Otis Rush's two-minute straight-ahead blues, "Three Times a Fool." He also hones his guitar chops as he covers the Jeff Beck Group for the second time in his studio output. This time, it's the Rod Stewart vocal track "Spanish Boots"; before, the Jeff Beck Group's "Blues Deluxe" from Truth became the title track to Bonamassa's 2003 blues album. (A great live version of the Beck-Ola instrumental "Rice Pudding" also graces Bonamassa's earlier A New Day Yesterday Live 12-21-01, also available on DVD.)

Black Rock takes its name from the studio in Greece where it was recorded, and part of it serves as a postcard from Bonamassa's visit to the country. Songs like "Quarryman's Lament" and Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" bear the foreign stamp with instrumentation never heard before on any Bonamassa disc -- or any of Led Zeppelin's either. Audible right from the beginning along with Bonamassa's acoustic guitar is the clarino (think clarinet) of Thanasis Vasilopoulos, and joining in shortly thereafter on bouzouki (think lute or mandolin) is Manolis Karadinis. Neither of these Greek musicians spoke any English, producer Kevin Shirley recently revealed to Mix magazine.

But the Jeff Beck Group is not the only British blues-based rock band he's evoking on Black Rock. You guessed it! There's some Led Zeppelin in there. The disc kicks off with a Zeppelin-style guitar riff that appears once and then inexplicably drops off to segue into "Steal Your Heart Away," a Bobby Parker song that Bonamassa acknowledges was suggested to him personally by Robert Plant. The heaviest song on the album is "Blue and Evil," which has sort of the feel of "The Ocean" as filtered through modern imitators like Audioslave or Wolfmother. Here, Bonamassa again stretches his muscles far beyond the blues of his past records and conjures up about as fitting a guitar solo as could be there. He says it was inspired by Jimmy Page. (Go ahead and download "Blue and Evil"; it's free from Amazon MP3!)

Two minutes into "Bird on a Wire" starts a familiar drum sound. While drum duties on Black Rock are split between Bogie Bowles and Anton Fig (Late Show with David Letterman), one might almost swear it's a sample of John Bonham. That's not the first time for a Bonamassa track either; check out Fig's drumming on "Ball Peen Hammer" from Sloe Gin in 2007, and again you'll think you're hearing Bonham sampled, much more so than anything his own son laid down for You & Me in 2006.

Eric Clapton fans will also find some things drawn from that guitarist's past. The aforementioned "Three Times a Fool" bears some musical resemblance to Clapton's version of "I'm Tore Down" on From the Cradle from 1994. Quotes from the 1960s follow on "Wandering Earth," which draws musically from Cream's cover of "Sitting on Top of the World," and on "Look over Yonders Wall," as Bonamassa's guitar part seconds into the song quotes from Clapton's unforgettable solo in his take on Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" with Cream.

Mentioning these sources of inspiration likely does no injustice to Bonamassa, who has frequently in the past made it plain whenever he was quoting something. Take, for example, his insert of a few bars from the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" on the live version of "If Heartaches Were Nickels" (written by Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers) on From Nowhere in Particular; it fits right in because the song always screamed out for it, right from the very first time Bonamassa recorded it, for his 2000 album A New Day Yesterday, as a vocal duet between Leslie West of Mountain and Gregg Allman.

Those guest appearances, and another spot by Rick Derringer on that same album, are about the only special guests Bonamassa has welcomed over the years. (Clapton did sit in, however, as the 2009 DVD Live from the Royal Albert Hall was recorded, as did singer Paul Jones of Manfred Mann.) Bonamassa's most notable in-studio guest appearance to date occurs on Black Rock as B.B. King helps to cover the classic blues number "Night Life," lending both guitar and vocals. What's refreshing on this take is that their voices don't exactly blend; there's been no attempt to synchronize their vocals. It is simply a case of leaving it the way it sounded, which is pretty much a Led Zeppelin thing to do.

Bonamassa does many Zeppelin things, it seems, and it also seems this new disc is definitely worth the investment for readers here. Physical copies are selling at Amazon for $9.99.

John Paul Jones guests on Robyn Hitchcock album released today

John Paul Jones is a special guest on the new Robyn Hitchcock album released today in the United Kingdom. The album is called Propellor Time, credited to Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3, and appears on Sartorial Records.

A news release about the album says the music was recorded during six-day sessions back in 2006.

Artist management for Jones could not confirm exactly which tracks he played on, nor what instrument or instruments he played.

From what I would guess listening to it, Jones may have played mandolin on two of the songs, "Luckiness" and "Born on the Wind." I would love to receive confirmation of this! Update, May 29: I was right, and the CD's printed liner notes happen to be wrong: full story here.

The album can be downloaded in MP3 and FLAC (high-definition) formats from Hitchcock's official store, which also has compact discs and vinyl available for purchase. Update, March 25: Purchases in Europe and the United Kingdom can be made online here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Options abound for Jimmy Page, last seen without a band

When Jimmy Page was sitting next to Show of Peace organizer Rick Garson on a couch addressing Chinese reporters' questions for nearly 20 minutes in January, one of the first was who would be singing for Page. The guitarist was quick to reply, "I don't know."

Hmmm, he really was undecided, wasn't he? So, there's a vacancy?

So much time has passed since then, which Page has acknowledged. "It's been two years! Two years since the O2. It's time to do that," he told Sky News in December, in an interview that touched on his intentions to play music live in 2010.

But did he really enter the new year without even the slightest clue of who would be singing for him at his only scheduled major appearance? You won't find the answer here. What you will find is a number of people who've shown their support for Page and said they would love to work with him.

Roger Daltrey sounded sincere on BBC Radio 6 Music this morning when he said in a pre-taped interview that his blues singer voice would complement Page well. However, it seemed as though the idea was really contrived by host Shaun Keaveny and then exaggerated on air for maximum impact. The host recapped by saying, "You heard it here first. Jimmy Page, Roger Daltrey, 2011. We'll look into that."

Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, who attended the Led Zeppelin concert at the O2 arena in December 2007, was asked on the Feb. 6 episode of "That Metal Show" on VH1 Classic to name another musician he'd like to collaborate with. He didn't hesitate to say, "Jimmy Page." He explained:
"What Jimmy did with the guitar was very snark. If you listen to it stripped down, it's not like these wussies that play today and they've got 40 rhythm tracks because they can't play rhythm. You know, you listen to Jimmy Page, you know he was gettin' it. I mean, he had the -- back then -- enormoballs! You know what I mean? To make a guitar that's sounding that weak sound that big, you know, that's an art form. Plus, I mean, you know, he's Jimmy Page!"
Then there's David Coverdale, who in December 2008 volunteered to front Led Zeppelin in a revolving-door vocalist scenario since Robert Plant wanted no part of a reunion tour. Coverdale said in an interview posted on the official site of his band Whitesnake last month that he liked being his own boss but would love to work again with Page given the proper amount of time and resources:
"I have nothing but positive feelings for people like Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore for the inspiration and motivation I received from working together with musicians of their incredible talent. ... Personally, I am thrilled I had the opportunity to work with one of my musical heroes, and to maintain a healthy, loving friendship with him."
The question is posed as to whether he and Page would ever consider recording a follow-up album to their 1993 disc Coverdale/Page, the singer replied:
"No, not at this time. EMI have recently been making overtures to me about putting a 'special edition' together after they heard there were several unreleased tracks. But time and resource is the problem.

"We've been archiving lots of tapes, cassettes and videos at home recently, and we have discovered a ton of the demos Jimmy and I made, which could be very interesting for some people to hear.

"We also filmed a lot of our writing and recording sessions. So, I feel we could put a terrific 'special' together that would be a treat to have. But in reality, JP and I have never discussed reissuing, or making another C/P album. There is always the possibility of something happening. I just can't see it in the foreseeable future as I am busy with all things Whitesnake."
Coverdale is too busy to make another attempt at singing for Page? Surely, he jests.

Another singer who might jump at the job is Paul Rodgers, whose legend only grows with each passing year as he blends his voice with new projects such as the reunited Queen. He has eight U.K. dates with Bad Company next month, followed by nine shows in the United States and Canada from April to July.

But coming later this month is a new U.K. compilation titled The Very Best of Free and Bad Company Featuring Paul Rodgers. It is a career retrospective that includes four tracks from his stint as singer of the Firm with Page as guitarist. Notably, two tracks on the disc, set for a March 29 release, are their band's live takes of "Live in Peace" and "Midnight Moonlight" recorded in 1985.

As to what Page's performing career holds in store for the immediate future, his head could be anywhere at this point. Let him weigh his options -- but not for much longer!

If he was going to play at the Show of Peace, he now has a six-month reprieve to decide who's going to comprise his concert band.

But it sure would be great to see Page out and about long before October.

Jason Bonham joins new band for public debut, sans official name

Joe Bonamassa used his solo concert in Riverside, Calif., on March 17 to debut the band formerly known as Black Country, which also consists of singer/bassist Glenn Hughes, keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham.

Their now-unnamed group -- the reasons why that is the case after the jump -- performed two songs at the guitarist's solo gig at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium.

One is titled "One Last Soul," and the other was the Deep Purple cover "Mistreated."

Coming this Monday on A preview of the latest solo offering from Joe Bonamassa, Black Rock, in stores Tuesday.

One day only: Sale price for Them Crooked Vultures album download, free single

Haven't gotten your copy of the debut album from Them Crooked Vultures yet? Then download it Sunday for only $2.99!

Just head over to Amazon MP3, where you can download "Scumbag Blues" for free and then get the rest of the album for under three bucks. That's 13 studio tracks from Them Crooked Vultures for just $2.99!

This special price is good only on Sunday, March 21, 2010. The normal MP3 album price is only $7.99, which isn't bad either. The physical disc is $9.99.

You'll want to be heading over to the band's Amazon artist page that day anyway to see the "new 'in the studio' footage" that's been promised all week long.

Roger Daltrey seems genuinely pleased with supporting role

The thought of having only 40 minutes left to perform still seemed to jar Roger Daltrey two songs into his at the BankAtlantic Center in South Florida on Thursday, March 11.

This was even though it was the 10th night of an 11-date tour opening for Eric Clapton. You'd have thought that by then, he'd be a little more used to it.

"I'm getting all these requests from down front here," he told the audience in the 20,000-seat indoor concert venue. "Sadly, I am in a support role tonight, and we only have 50 minutes."

Some of the crowd did not approve.

Daltrey continued, name-dropping with some proper nouns that made everybody cheer. "I have to say that the last time the Who were in a supporting act was in 1964 and we supported the Rolling Stones after we'd just supported the Beatles. And they both did all right, didn't they?"

Within Clapton's 90-minute set that night, he spoke little more than a repeated pair of words after each song: "Thank you!" Slowhand's career-spanning set was enjoyable, with the way he gelled with his touring band including two female backup singers accounting for many high points spread throughout the evening.

Somehow more satisfying, however, was the genuine feeling that Daltrey really loved being out singing, even if it was for less than an hour and even if it was with Simon Townshend, brother of the Who's guitarist, on his right. It seemed like Daltrey didn't even consider this lineup the second best. It seemed, instead, like he didn't want to be doing anything else at that moment.

"This has been a privilege to do this tour. I've really enjoyed it," he said. "It's interesting to know how all those bands -- all these years [that] I've been doing those kind of tours headlining with the Who -- it's interesting to know how the other half live." The crowd enjoyed his remark.

"But it's been really good fun," Daltrey said, segueing into a hint that the Who might return for more tour dates later in the year. He said his solo tour dates have been "keeping me singing so that when the old tart [Pete Townshend] wants to pick up his guitar and get back on the road, which might be later in the year, I've still got a voice to give you."

Judging from the ovation that ensued, this announcement must have come as good news to a large number of audience members who appeared to be keen on attending should the Who play in the United States again. One thing that could jeopardize any potential tour plans is Townshend's physical state. He said in a Rolling Stone report a month ago that if his tinnitus worsened, "We're finished."

From the same Rolling Stone piece:
Neil Young put Townshend in touch with an audiologist who recommended an in-ear monitor that may prevent any further damage. Townshend will give the device a test drive when the Who perform at their only scheduled gig of 2010, a March 30th charity show in London where they'll play Quadrophenia in its entirety.
That gig is coming up, part of the concert series at the Royal Albert Hall benefiting the Teenage Cancer Trust. The series begins Monday night, March 22, with Little Fish opening for Them Crooked Vultures. Discussing that group in an interview recorded last month for an episode of Shaun Keaveny's "Breakfast Show" on BBC Radio 6 Music that aired this morning, Daltrey had high praise for members John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl despite their classification as a "supergroup." He said, speaking generally at first:
"I don't like supergroups. I just don't. For me, it doesn't work. You put a band together where the musicians gel musically. Just because people individually could, musicians don't necessarily make a great band. ... Them Crooked Vultures seems to be working. I haven't seen them live, but from what I have seen ...

"And I love Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones I think is one of the most underrated musicians. Never, ever got enough of the plaudits from Zeppelin because he was such a big part of that sound. ... The musical style that they played, you know, everybody -- Page and Plant seemed to have got all the accolades. But John Paul Jones was a really big part of the band. I really am so pleased with him. And, of course, Dave Grohl is a magical drummer. He's just a rock 'n' roll animal. He's great. He's funny. Lovely, lovely dude."
With Daltrey having slipped Page's name into the conversation, host Shaun Keaveny interjected that he had just interviewed Page just before Christmas. This was for a two-hour special on Led Zeppelin's BBC sessions. It was Keaveny who offered to Daltrey that perhaps he and Page ought to be teaming up.

The only quotation from the interview released a month ago at this time, just after it was recorded, was one from Daltrey that seemed to suggest he wanted to work with Page. It was highly resonant and quoted widely as a hint toward something in the making:
"I'd love to do something, I'd love to do an album with Jimmy Page. He needs a singer to drive him. I'm a great blues singer. I don't sing the blues with the Who, but that's what I used to be before Townshend started writing. I was a great blues singer."
Note that what Daltrey actually said in that last sentence is, "I was a great blues singer," and not "I used to be a great blues singer," as it was originally cited online. The difference is subtle, but "used to be" implies he can't be anymore, whereas "was" implies it happened and could happen again. Daltrey still is a great blues singer. He treated his South Florida audience on March 11 to a fine rendition of Taj Mahal's piece "Freedom Ride," and he introduced "Who Are You" as "a Shepherd's Bush blues song."

Later, when he let smooth-toned Simon Townshend take the mic to sing "Going Mobile," one of his brother's vocal workouts but never attempted live by the Who, Daltrey belted out a fine harmonica part.

Introducing his Taj Mahal cover, Daltrey described his diverse taste in music and sounded as if he was about to echo the statement about wanting to work with Page. He said:
"For a long time, I've been looking for a different kind of music, for something that fuses a lot of my past and the history of the blues and the kind of stuff I used to play when we were in the clubs in London along with Eric, and all those people, the Stones. And we used to do a lot of blues stuff. I used to also like a lot of bluegrass music, country music, and traditional music, but I love rock 'n' roll as well."
Who knows what Daltrey might have up his sleeve for the rest of 2010? Maybe there is something to that nugget of his saying he hopes to work with Page, or maybe it was hyped up by Keaveny. If there is some truth to it, Daltrey's certainly not the only one who fancies being Page's singer.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The trouble with being a music critic

"I didn't want to be a critic, in the strictest sense of the word. I wanted to write about music. I wanted to talk about music. I wanted to share every song I loved and discuss every song I hated. What I did not want to be was a pretentious, smug critic who writes year end reviews for famous magazine where you make not so much a list of albums you loved, but a sampling of bands and songs that prove your indie cred and show just how smart and hip you are, knowing full well that the majority of those reading your article will have heard of maybe two bands on your entire list."
So writes Michele Catalano in a post published today by the site True/Slant.

Michele's not alone. Remember the name Danny Goldberg? He was Led Zeppelin's publicist for a few years in the 1970s and was promoted to an executive position with Swan Song Records.

In 2008, he authored a memoir called "Bumping into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business." In it, he tells multiple stories including that of his short-lived and uncomfortable rendezvous with being a rock music critic. He disliked it for reasons other than the ones Catalano cites today.

Goldberg also shared that story last year when recording an interview for Carol Miller's syndicated U.S. radio spotlight on Led Zeppelin. Here's what he said during that interview. His story takes you through his the transition from being a rock critic to soon thereafter working as Led Zeppelin's publicist.

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"I never was really a great critic. Part of my problem was that I just didn't like criticizing rock musicians. I was too much of a fan. There was a time when I wrote a critical review of the Rascals. I loved the Rascals, but I said that their guitar player, Gene Cornish, was just twanging the guitar -- because he was just kind of an average guitar player compared to these amazing guitar heroes of the late '60s like Jeff Beck and [Jimi] Hendrix and Eric Clapton. So, he called me and complained about the review, and I felt terrible that I had hurt this guy's feelings. I mean, I'd seen his picture on album covers and he was part of this band that made these songs that I love like 'I've Been Lonely Too Long' and 'People Got To Be Free.'
"After that, I had a hard time writing anything critical, which was a real problem if you were a critic. The rock writers were getting more and more cynical and critical because rock radio was emerging as sort of the direct pipeline between the groups like the early Led Zeppelin and this mass, growing audience -- the equivalent of Woodstocks all over the country. And so, the critics decided their identity was more to be critical, to have standards to tell a subculture of, sort of, intellectual rock fans what was good and what wasn't. And although I loved being friends with a lot of these people, and still am friends with a lot of them today, I wasn't one of them. I was too much of a fan.
"So, P.R. -- public relations -- became a much better place for my energy because that's a job where being a fan is a plus instead of a minus. Soon after I went to work for a big P.R. firm in New York that wanted a rock 'n' roll guy in their employ, Led Zeppelin became a client."
There are more great stories like this in "Bumping into Geniuses," and a whole lot more in his radio interview. This includes recollections from Goldberg's days providing management to Nirvana about how big a fan drummer Dave Grohl was of John Bonham:
"Dave Grohl loves Led Zeppelin, and he loves to hear stories about Led Zeppelin. He just wanted to hear stories about John Bonham. My relationship with Dave Grohl consisted primarily of trying to think of John Bonham stories to keep him entertained. I think to this day if he could go out with Jimmy and Robert and Jonesy, he would do it in a minute."
At the time of this interview with Goldberg, Grohl's band with John Paul Jones, Them Crooked Vultures, had just been formed but had not yet been made known publicly.

Anyway, Michele Catalano starts off the piece on music criticism by mentioning Led Zeppelin in the first paragraph: "I needed for the world to know exactly what I thought of the latest Led Zeppelin album."

Well, Michele? Here's your invitation! What is it you'd like to get off your chest about Led Zeppelin albums? What were you doing the first time you heard Houses of the Holy? What memories and emotions of yours are attached to "Kashmir"?

May shows scheduled for Them Crooked Vultures in Canada

May was looking like it would be a month away from the road for Them Crooked Vultures, perhaps giving the group some studio time to put finishing touches on what would be their second album.

But now, May will include a trip to Canada for at least two shows. The band announced yesterday two shows in the province Quebec on May 11 and 12. Tickets to both shows go on sale tomorrow.
Further Canadian dates in May appear very likely to follow, as the official announcement yesterday said, "These dates mark the start of the groups Canadian tour ..."

This leaves a large gap of dates between a brief string of U.S. shows and the Canadian tour. So far, only three U.S. shows have been announced:
  • April 16 at the Coachella music festival in California
  • April 17 at the Joint in Las Vegas, Nev.
  • April 19 at the Fillmore in Denver, Colo.
It would only be natural to fill up the itinerary in late April and early May with more U.S. shows.

The band is also set to perform a handful of European festival dates in June and July before continuing on to Japan for an appearance at Naeba Ski Resort, which could be Them Crooked Vultures' farewell for a while.
Before all of that, however, there's still tons of time for fans of John Paul Jones and Them Crooked Vultures to find out about other band activity.
  • We await to hear if any more April or May tour dates might be in the works for the United States and Canada.
  • Of course, there's whatever "new 'in the studio' footage" will debut this Sunday on the Amazon artist page for Them Crooked Vultures. Will this signal some promise for a new album?
  • Even if it's not a second album they're angling to dish details on, there may be some other kind of new release in the near future. The band has been toying with the idea of releasing an EP with some of the songs they recorded that did not make it onto the album. The titles of six songs already copyrighted late last year are "Bombs Away," "Break Glass," "Dead Wrong," "I Should Have Let Them Go," "Orca" and "You Can’t Possibly Begin to Imagine." Plus, there's "Highway One," which the band has been playing live regularly ever since a show in Boston last October. That's plenty of material for an EP!
The remaining months before Them Crooked Vultures goes on a supposed hiatus look to be full of activity.

In the meantime, the band's latest YouTube video, "Fresh Pots," now has been viewed more than 263,100 times. Some of the footage is almost definitely taken from the same sources that went into their in-the-studio compilation for "Elephants" that debuted in August 2009.

In addition to Grohl's "mug shot" as seen in yesterday's post, has now spotted another clip that has been used in both videos. It is the shot when Grohl, seated at a drum set, twirls a stick in his right hand and then crashes down on some cymbals.

So, if "Fresh Pots" itself includes new "in the studio" footage, not all of it is.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Them cryptic virals update: Dave Grohl coffee vid catches on

Monday's YouTube upload by Them Crooked Vultures has caught on, having attracted over 180,500 187,700 views in only two days. Group insider Lee Martin reports via Twitter that "Fresh Pots," starring Dave Grohl, has become the No. 12 video on YouTube, confirmed in the following screen shot.

The reason probably has most to do with the comedic factor of this sketch. In fact, watching a caffeine-fueled drummer in this video is funnier than "Saturday Night Live"'s pre-taped Tooter commercial segment that included Them Crooked Vultures but never made it to air when the band was the musical guest.

Some of the mainstream attraction could have to do with a probably unintended pop culture reference. As Gustavo Turner pointed out on an L.A. Weekly blog, Josh Homme looks at certain times in the video like he could pass for one of the cat people in "Avatar."

For hardcore fans of Them Crooked Vultures, "Fresh Pots" holds some additional appeal because it might actually contain some footage from recording sessions for the band's second album.

While the band has not confirmed reports that the recording of a sophomore disc could be completed by this summer, subtle hints suggest this could be the case.

For one thing, there's that official newsletter from the band issued two days ago that says "new 'in the studio' footage" would become available on the Amazon artist page for Them Crooked Vultures beginning Sunday, March 21.

Another clue may be the length of Dave Grohl's hair as worn in the video. Fony Fontana, in a post Monday on the Led Zeppelin discussion group For Badgeholders Only, points out, "In some shots Dave's hair looks shorter then [sic] before so looks like this is new footage and they are in the studio again."

To suggest that the group may have been in a recording studio during their recent off time is not completely unfounded.

Of course, the footage in the "Fresh Pots" video might also be only of Them Crooked Vultures during rehearsal sessions rather than recording sessions. For one thing, some of the new video's footage was already seen in the "Elephants" clip released Aug. 26, 2009.

This still from the studio footage released by Them Crooked Vultures in August 2009, showing Dave Grohl raising one eyebrow and with a mug in hand, hints toward the video that was yet to come half a year later.

Furthermore, the "new 'in the studio' footage" set to be shown on Sunday could be from the same recording sessions from last year, from more recent rehearsal sessions that don't amount to recording sessions.

Lee Martin, the group insider who is responsible for the band's Crooked Times e-mail distribution, announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he's been "working on the most important Crooked Times yet." To sign up for the newsletter, visit the band's official Web site.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Them cryptic virals: Dave Grohl's 'Fresh pots' addiction

At first, it was anybody's guess as to any intended meaning behind an image appearing online today, which rock band Them Crooked Vultures accompanied with only the words "Coming Soon."

The cryptic image, shown at right, depicts a vulture, standing upright and dressed in a shirt and tie, pouring a pot of coffee straight into its mouth. After the Twitter account of Them Crooked Vultures linked to the image today, the image went viral, accruing nearly 4,000 views in five hours.

As to what exactly was "coming soon," a few theories abounded initially, although fans' guesses typically had little to do with the image of the coffee-slugging fiend.

Since Them Crooked Vultures is about to play some sporadic concert dates over the next few weeks, some fans predicted it would be another announcement of further shows that was "coming soon."

Another popular theory held this had to do with the second Them Crooked Vultures album promised in press interviews. Even though drummer Dave Grohl has expressed plans to end the hiatus of his other band, the Foo Fighters, and rejoin them for album recording sessions in September, a follow-up to last year's self-titled debut from Them Crooked Vultures is still said to be in the works.

The above guesses notwithstanding, the answer came within five hours, after fans had been given some time to stew over the coffee pot. It was a comical new webisode about Grohl's java intake. Barking his orders for the supply of joe to be replenished by an aide named Justin, the drummer repeatedly shouts, "Fresh pots!" The video, made public this afternoon on YouTube, is paced similarly to a segment of a typical reality show.

Depending when the scenes were shot, this video may indirectly signal the recording of a new Them Crooked Vultures album has been already proceeding. However, these could be scenes culled from footage of the rehearsals and studio sessions that led to their first album.

Members of the band, during an interview of the syndicated radio show Rockline last year, indicated a "documentary thing" had been shot about their rehearsals that took place before the band's existence was ever revealed publicly. Also, some in-the-studio moments were also featured on previous uploads on Them Crooked Vultures' YouTube page last year, while portions of new songs were being debuted online before the release of their album.

At any rate, an official newsletter from the band issued only this hour says "new 'in the studio' footage" would become available on the group's Amazon artist page on Sunday, March 21.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Change of plans: Show of Peace in Beijing sidetracked until October

The multi-artist Show of Peace touted as an upcoming concert taking place in Beijing has been given a six-month postponement, reports a Chinese news outlet citing a brief official statement released by the event promoters in which the original concert date of April 17 is rescheduled, little over a month in advance, to Oct. 10.

The postponement, first reported Friday by the Beijinger, follows major confusion over the acquisition of big-name artist bookings in the final remaining weeks before the event was to take place.

The full statement included by the Beijinger in its article published March 12 reads:
"With the agreement of Ministry of Culture, the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and the organizers of the International Show of Peace Concert have discussed and decided to change the date of the concert to October 10, 2010 - 10/10/10.
"The concert, originally planned for April 17, will be held at Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium. The CPAFFC has considered all aspects. To ensure the absolute success of the concert, the leaders concerned have deliberated and decided to adjust the date of the concert to October 10th, 2010."
Jimmy Page, who spoke in person at a Beijing press conference on Jan. 19 to assist in announcing the musical event, has not clearly stated publicly whether or not he would perform. Separately, the Led Zeppelin guitarist has announced in multiple interviews that he intends to be seen this year, with new music and a visual biography both on the way.

Also linked to the Show of Peace is Joe Perry of Aerosmith, who expressed support for the show as he appeared via satellite in a message broadcast at the press conference. First responding to reports that Aerosmith would perform at the concert, a spokesperson for the band clarified that the band was not booked but Joe Perry was to appear. However, a subsequent statement from Perry's publicist, disclosed earlier this month by China Daily, calls into question whether or not the guitarist would perform: "The scope of his involvement is being determined," his publicist was quoted as saying in an e-mail.

The March 2 report by Patrick Kearns for China Daily also concerned the scheduling of two other top names invited to participate in the concert, those of modern pop acts the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga. At that time, the newspaper said organizer Rick Garson likened the status of the concert "to having a party at your house, where you invite 1,000 guests and only 100 show up."

The original Show of Peace date of April 17 was selected to coincide with Earth Day events due to the concert's "green" theme. If any particular significance is attached to the newly announced date of Oct. 10, other than the date being internationally recognized as "10-10-10," it is unclear at this time. The new date falls on a Sunday rather than on a Saturday.

Yesterday's article by the Beijinger casts doubt upon the concert taking place, partly based upon a history of Western acts being unable to carry through with plans to play in the city. "Don't hold your breath, Beijingers," the article concludes. "It's a long wait till October, and we all know what happened to Oasis... and the Buzzcocks... and the Killers... and Dylan. Still, at least the Back Street Boys have made it to town."

The news outlet also reported on confusion about the exact location of the concert in Beijing:
"The Beijinger has heard whispers that the organizers have faced pressure to move the concert inside the Bird's Nest National Stadium (rather than staging it beside the stadium as originally planned). Word is that a crowd inside the stadium is considered easier to control. Fair enough too – you never know what could happen at a concert for world peace."