Monday, August 30, 2010

The Only Sound that Matters (Band of Joy song of the week, No. 10 of 12)

Anybody who's only tangentially aware of Buddy Miller's hard-earned reputation as the go-to guy for musical assistance in Nashville might assume he grew up surrounded only by country music. That would be an incorrect assumption (Update: For more on this, check out this cover story from the Nashville Scene). Take, for instance, Miller's claim that he watched Led Zeppelin perform at the Fillmore East in New York on the band's first tour. Miller was there in the third row center, he says. He would have been 16 years old at the time, and half of Led Zeppelin was 20.

One of those 20-year-olds was Robert Plant, whose name unsurprisingly comes up in an interview with Miller published in the September 2010 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine. The interviewer, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, comments, "It's a revelation to hear Robert Plant sing so softly on Raising Sand," to which Miller replies, "I know, but he sang softly a lot back then -- you just don't think about it." Miller's right. Back then, Plant sang softly on songs like "Tangerine" and "That's the Way."

Those two particular songs were both on Led Zeppelin III, which isn't soft the whole way through. It starts off with the Viking wail on "Immigrant Song," which certainly is not the only heavy electric number on Side A. Fittingly enough for the album's 40th anniversary this October, Plant will have a new CD out that was inspired by reflecting on that disc. "I was thinking about Zeppelin III," he said recently. "I was thinking about the mixture of acoustic and powerful electric."

Of all the cover songs that made the final cut for the Band of Joy album, the lightest in its original form is "The Only Sound that Matters," from the 2003 album Westernaire by the band Milton Mapes. "It's certainly been a song that, from the Milton Mapes catalog, has resonated with a lot of people, and it's always been one of my favorites -- one of our favorites -- to play," says singer and guitarist Greg Vanderpool in an interview for Lemon Squeezings.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Harm's Swift Way (Band of Joy song of the week, No. 9 of 12)

Not even two minutes into the documentary "Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt," the musician declares, "I don't envision a very long life for myself. I don't think my life will run out before my work does. I've designed it that way."

How right he was: Van Zandt died on New Year's Day 1997 having just started demo sessions for an album he envisioned but never completed.

Time has done little to diminish the profiles of certain musicians whose lives were cut too short, like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Buckley. When Van Zandt died, he was 52, so he had almost two decades on the oldest of those cats. Consequently, his life gave him the longest musical career of those four, stretching over 30 years while the others' were mere flashes in the pan, comparatively speaking. It would be hard to contest that Van Zandt's career was the least celebrated of the four.

Yet those who profess any respect for that singer, songwriter and guitarist often place him at the top of the trade. It is only in recent years that Robert Plant has come out as one such advocate. Now that he's about to cover Van Zandt on an album for the second time in three years, Plant opens up about what attracts him to the late musician. "The whole enigma and story of Townes Van Zandt continues to open more and more to me on a daily basis," he says. "His whole vision of compromise by just the daily grind about what you have to do to get through was spectacular, and the sensitivity and also the futility of it. You know, does it really matter? Do we take it all in?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Robert Plant suggests little in common with Led Zeppelin bandmates; likely no chance of repeat performance, he tells Telegraph

One of these guys is not like the others. Robert Plant, second
from right, suggests his entertainment goals differ from those of
Jason Bonham, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page.
The reason Robert Plant says he will probably not be seen working with Led Zeppelin again, as he did for one night only in 2007, has in part to do with things he feels he does not have in common with the other musicians.

In a new interview published by the U.K.'s Telegraph on what happened to be the singer's 62nd birthday, Plant discusses several aspects of his career from the original Band of Joy to his modern-day incarnation. That band has a pair of London dates on Sept. 1 and 2, but of course the article diverts several times into a discussion with Plant about Led Zeppelin.

Of that group's classic and historic run from 1968 to 1980, Plant tells reporter Neil McCormick, "We were never a middle of the road band; we were really quite fearsome."

In his article, McCormick overviews some of the highlights, twists and turns Plant has embarked upon since 1980, including "the vintage R'n'B of The Honeydrippers," "a wild concoction of hybridised world music with his band Strange Sensation," and his ventures into Americana, first with Alison Krauss on their "extraordinary, ethereal album" Raising Sand, and now with the wide range of genres one can expect at a Band of Joy concert, including "hints of wild psych rock to keep old fans entranced."

McCormick was one of the few journalists who spoke to Page in 2009. When they met at the London headquarters of Gibson guitars late last year, their conversation was about the instrument, of course because it is the subject of the movie It Might Get Loud, whose U.K. premiere Page was promoting at the time. Their conversation delved into Page's own beginnings with guitar and his eventual innovations, plus his current musical leanings and even his goals. As to the question of a possible Led Zeppelin reunion, Page gave McCormick direct orders: "You'd better ask Robert Plant what the future of Led Zeppelin is."

He even brings that up in his article, that he was under the advisement of Page to ask. The reunion concert happened once; would Plant agree to another?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sept. 27 announced as new publication date for Jimmy Page's book

Jimmy Page's pictorial autobiography now has an announced publication date of Sept. 27.

Genesis Publications, the U.K.-based publisher of collectable luxury books, sent an alert today advising customers of the specific publication date.

The book will now include more than 650 photographs and illustrations on over 500 pages, says an official microsite launched at The number of photographs has increased by 50 since a June announcement that publication was being delayed three months so as to incorporate additional images and captions written by Page.

While all 350 copies of the deluxe edition were said to have sold out within two days of going on pre-sale in April, reservations are still being taken for the collector's edition. Page is signing and numbering every one of the 2,500 books in the limited run.

The book covers Page's entire professional career including moments before and after the Led Zeppelin years. One of Ross Halfin's photos of Page's "Whole Lotta Love" performance atop a bus with Leona Lewis for the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics represents a recent shot. Of it, Page comments, "I'm told that it was the most watched guitar solo in TV history."

Jimmy Page, at right, with Red E Lewis and the Redcaps;
Copyright © Jimmy Page Collection
One of the earlier moments captured in the book comes from Page's own collection, showing him playing guitar in 1962 with Red E Lewis and the Redcaps, one of his first bands. Several other photos can be seen at, and The Sunday Times of London is to publish an exclusive interview with Page this weekend, with a video of it to be available on the newspaper's website beginning Aug. 22.

Monday, August 16, 2010

30-ish tour dates announced for Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience; drummer seeks opportunity for Zep members to help him pay tribute to John Bonham

Jason Bonham plays a custom drum kit during the Led
Zeppelin reunion concert in London on Dec. 10, 2007.
Photo by Ross Halfin; used with permission of MSO.
The tour promoted as Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience will appear for a limited run of about 30 shows in North America this fall, according to the concert itinerary announced this morning. The significance of the number 30 is that this fall marks 30 years since Bonham lost his father, and Led Zeppelin its drummer.

He says his tour is a tribute to John Bonham. What's more, he said last week he hopes the surviving members of Led Zeppelin might join him in his cause of paying tribute to his father. They'll have about 34 about 30 chances to do so.

Some details about the concert, such as the intended set list and of course what musicians are to be joining Bonham onstage, remain to be seen. The drummer insists the musicians won't be revealed before the first concert so as to shield the group from prejudice.

And of course, there's also the whole issue of whether live audiences might be seeing any special guest appearances from the likes of Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones or Robert Plant. In his interviews last week, Bonham said it's his wish that they would.

The span of these concerts overlaps Plant's European tour with the Band of Joy, so while that particular singer -- who has given his blessing to the tour -- is unavailable for most of the dates, the timing may be ideal for the other two Led Zeppelin members in question.

Jones's touring project with Them Crooked Vultures has ended just this month, and he's already shown no interest in gathering any moss. Granted, the last time he was planning a touring act with Jason Bonham, he said he hoped it wouldn't become a Led Zeppelin tribute band. But keep in mind that this is a limited-time concert tour, Jones is under no obligation, and he speaks fondly of playing the music with the young Bonham, who's now 44. For Jones, it would be just like the last time he played out live with Dave Grohl before they formed Them Crooked Vultures, when they performed two Led Zeppelin numbers at Wembley Stadium with Taylor Hawkins and -- wait a minute, who was on guitar? Oh yeah, Jimmy Page.

Page has thus far kept his 2009 promise to "be seen" more often in concert settings by going to numerous other people's concerts rather than appearing onstage, but the other part of his promise -- published one year ago on Aug. 13 -- was to be "doing some playing." If he's been doing some playing, it hasn't been public. And now that he's launching his own official website at and an official Facebook page to go with it, he's bound to have some news he's ready to unleash. Some concert appearances, even as a guest of Jason Bonham's, may be a good way to kick off his own return to live activity.

This represents an honest assessment of what could happen. What you won't see on Lemon Squeezings is bullheaded know-it-all prognostication. If you want that, go to Prefixmag, where the commentator insists he's sure the Zeppelin members have better things to do with their time than sit in with Jason Bonham.

The complete listing of Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience tour dates follows after the break.

Angel Dance (Band of Joy song of the week, No. 8 of 12)

"Angel Dance," the first single from Robert Plant's album Band of Joy, was released July 27. It is currently No. 21 on the Triple A radio airplay chart as compiled by Mediabase, on the rise from No. 30 last week. Even more impressive is that during both weeks, it was Triple A radio's No. 1 most added song. Still more impressive is the number of times the song has been played using the "Hear It Now" section of The amount is reported to be not only the most ever but also triple the No. 2 track.

Not bad, especially considering "Angel Dance" is a 20-year-old song. The product of composers David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez of Los Lobos, "Angel Dance" first appeared on that band's 1990 album The Neighborhood.

Both guys were happy to star with Plant in the video for this song, shot this June in a Chicago neighborhood.

"'Angel Dance' is very confident and proud," says Plant. "With a lyric like that coming from Los Lobos, it's a major way of opening the door to this particular stage of my very odd left-and-right career." And what does he mean by this particular stage? "The [original] Band of Joy represented an attempt to create, diversify and celebrate the great dynamics of the music scene of the 1960s. I just wanted to bring it back into now, you know, to this point in my career. ... I wanted to bring my personality with other people's songs, kick the door open a little bit -- or edge it open with my hips. I sing the way I sing, and to attack those songs, I can only do 'em Plant-like."

Might I add that I've been listening to the new Los Lobos album, Tin Can Trust, which has been out since Aug. 3. The disc is really good. Their cover of "West L.A. Fadeaway" has made me dig out my copy of the Grateful Dead's In the Dark to hear the original again. The rest of the songs are all brand new. They have some catchy songs like "On Main Street" and "The Lady and the Rose," but it seems their best work was on the Spanish-language "Yo Canto." There's also a story about the gloriously run-down recording studio they used, and you almost can't tell it wasn't a state-of-the-art facility -- until you start hearing phantom doors creaking between lines of lyric, and cymbal crashes seemingly vanishing into thin air (listen for that toward the end of the Dead tune).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

John Paul Jones sits in at Africa Express concert in Spain

John Paul Jones at left and Elíades Ochoa at right
John Paul Jones sat in with Cuban singer and guitarist Elíades Ochoa at the Africa Express concert on Saturday, Aug. 7, in Galicia, Spain. Jones played bass on the song "Chan Chan," a song Ochoa helped to make famous outside of his home country in the 1997 recording "Buena Vista Social Club" and the 1999 documentary of the same name.

Jones also sat in during the headlining set by Rachid Taha, which also featured Damon Albarn, who with his band Gorillaz recently replaced U2 at the Glastonbury Festival instead of Led Zeppelin. The set also included Taha's frequent collaborator, Mick Jones, formerly of The Clash, who brought the house down with an all-star performance of "Rock the Casbah."

John Paul Jones's bass was unfortunately drowned out by all the other musicians on that tune. He can at least be seen a few times during fan-shot footage of the song "Ya Raha."

The show took place little over a week after the last concert by Them Crooked Vultures before that group went on hiatus following a year's worth of live activity.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Robert Plant tweaks European tour schedule with Band of Joy

After scrapping shows in Copenhagen, Berlin and Brussels, plus changing the night of his Paris show, and adding some more U.K. dates including one in Belfast, the European itinerary for Robert Plant's tour with the Band of Joy currently looks like this:

Jason Bonham one week away from tour announcement

One more week, says Jason Bonham.
Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience is hitting the road in October, and the 30 dates for the tour may be announced as early as next week. Bonham spoke about his concert tour, a tribute to his late father, in an in-studio appearance on the Fox News show "Red Eye."

The drummer reiterated that he wasn't going to spill the beans in advance about what musicians would be joining him onstage on the tour. Bonham didn't mention that the bass player's identity was slipped in an online interview published yesterday (spoiler alert).

Two U.S. concerts for Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience have already been announced: Oct. 20 in Milwaukee, Wis., and Oct. 21 in Merrillville, Ind. Tickets to the latter show are already on sale, and the Milwaukee date goes on sale Aug. 20 (with a pre-sale on Aug. 18).

Watch the full interview here.

In the meantime, Bonham's other band -- Black Country Communion -- has released its first single in advance of the album release slated for Sept. 20 in the U.K. and Sept. 21 in the U.S. Free downloads of the song "One Last Soul" are available for a limited time, with a promo code, at the group's official website.

In the U.K., pre-orders of the group's debut album have made the disc No. 6 on Amazon UK's album pre-order chart (with Robert Plant's Band of Joy at No. 3).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Even This Shall Pass Away (Band of Joy song of the week, No. 7 of 12)

The closing track on Robert Plant's Band of Joy album is one of four credited to Plant and co-producer Buddy Miller. As soon as part of the lyrics were published by one of the journalists who attended the first private airing of the album on June 1, it became clear that the words were originally penned by poet Theodore Tilton in his 1866 work called "The King's Ring."

In the poem, a tale unfolds of a Persian king who drew lessons from the fact of man's inevitable mortality -- that fame and fortune are temporary, yet so are pain and disease. If this message is reflective of anything from the Led Zeppelin story, it is probably the quotation Ritchie Yorke, in his "Definitive Biography of Led Zeppelin," attributes to Robert Plant's father just after his grandson Karac died in July 1977: "All this success and fame, what is it worth? It doesn't mean much when you compare it to the love of a family."

The wonders of the Internet reveal Plant is not the first musician to have incorporated Tilton's words from "The King's Ring" onto an album. He was beat to the punch by Chuck Berry on what remains 31 years later the last studio album he's released, Rock It, from 1979. For the final cut of the album, Berry recites a somewhat modernized version of "The King's Ring" over a slow blues progression with piano and slide guitar. He called the track "Pass Away" to draw attention to part of the message.

Another track on the same Chuck Berry album includes further thoughts on mortality. It's on the upbeat blues tune called "Oh What a Thrill" that Berry sings, "Baby, you're so beautiful to want me here to stay/I would be here forever, but I gotta die someday/But I will be loving you, baby, when I pass away." Berry's still rocking and rolling today at age 83.

Plant's take on the poem is retitled "Even This Shall Pass Away." According to the same write-up on June 1 (by Richard Smirke for Billboard) that included a mention of the lyrics, Plant sings the lyrics. Berry merely spoke them, so it looks like Plant has written a melody line with which to carry the lyrics. Also, the track "culminat[es] in an extended instrumental outro." Well, so does Berry's "Pass Away." Perhaps this is to be interpreted as a tip of the hat to the old man, who did share the bill with Led Zeppelin at the Atlanta Pop Festival and the Seattle Pop Festival, both held in July 1969.

Band of Joy is the second studio album in a row on which Plant closes with a set of lyrics about death. Raising Sand, with Alison Krauss, ends with "Your Long Journey," which is about the preparation one undergoes at the time of losing one's partner, originally recorded by the husband-and-wife team of Doc Watson and Rosa Lee Watson.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Black Country Communion releases song 'One Last Soul' to radio

The first song from Jason Bonham and his talented colleagues in the highly touted band Black Country Communion makes its radio debut today.

"One Last Soul," one of the tracks from the album expected in September, is to be released to the world today with the recording's broadcast premiere set for tonight's "Nicky Horne Show" on Planet Rock.

The song features the soaring lead vocals of Glenn Hughes, who was the Trapeze frontman and also had stints in Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. On guitar is Joe Bonamassa, and on organ is Derek Sherinian. Bonham joins them on drums.

Their album is called Black Country, the group's original name before "Communion" was added for legal reasons. Its release is scheduled for Sept. 20 in the U.K. on the Mascot record label and on Sept. 21 in the U.S. with the imprint of Bonamassa's label, J&R Adventures. A limited-edition double-disc pressing of the album is to include a bonus DVD with interviews of the band members, along with behind-the-scenes footage of the band in the recording studio with producer Kevin Shirley.

House of Cards (Band of Joy song of the week, No. 6 of 12)

On an album consisting of a lot of Americana covers, "House of Cards" is an exception. Its authors are Richard Thompson and Linda Thompson, two folk musicians with London upbringings. However, some characteristics of the song make it a perfect fit for the new album from Robert Plant. There's more to this selection than the simple fact that Plant is a longtime admirer of Richard Thompson's -- and that by covering a song of his, he is returning the favor Thompson paid him about 18 years ago when he guested on the recording sessions for Plant's Fate of Nations: Thompson is one of three guitarists who can be heard on the song "Come into My Life."

Richard was a one-time member of one of Robert Plant's favorite British bands, the folk group Fairport Convention; he was a founding member of the band and served as one of the two guitarists (alongside Simon Nicol) from 1967 to 1971, recording five albums during that period. After going solo, he began to release albums with his newlywed bride, singer Linda Thompson. In the mid 1970s, the couple's strong religious convictions sidetracked their recording career in the mid '70s, and they withdrew completely from the music world for a few years. Their return followed in 1978, when their next album, First Light, was poised to be their comeback. It is on this album that "House of Cards" appears, stuffed away near the end of the album, just before the title track concludes it. From time to time, this position is where vinyl gems are mined.