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Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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4.56 | 141 ratings

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5 stars Well five years later the record hits the racks. And, while announced for the 19th November internationally it hit the Wellington, New Zealand record shop on the 16th. Goodie.

As most Zeppelin know this concert was in tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, head honcho of Atlantic Records, the distributor of Zeppelin product over the past couple of centuries, well this one and the last, and for all we know, the next. The first Led Zeppelin release to not feature John Henry. But Jason does a fine job with his own drum voice.

Once upon a time (before the idea of rock legacy and political correection) the idea of rock artists over 30 was a bit shock horror. How would those punks have felt about the sixty somethings putting on a show that blows the bejeesus out of most oh, well EVERY other heavy rock act out there. We'll calm down one day...

I do find it interesting (as in ironic) that in an age when bands tour to make money and not release material Led Zeppelin make a whole lotta fuss about not touring for five years, do trans Atlantic / Pacific press conferences (even solo ones) to announce - no tour! Or rather, no tour again. It's a rock tease. But instead they release a live album instead no less. Of one concert. The shape of things to come? Saves on tour costs; Peter Grant would have been well proud of this tactic.

Proceeds of the gig went to charity, now comes the pay day for not touring then, by not touring now. Very funny the whole back story is; or so I find it. We devoted fans get footage, audio, bonus footage (rehearsals) / concert audio and the price is quite reasonable for the goods on sale.

16 tracks (Blu-Ray, DVD and 2 CD), a full dress rehearsal on the bonus DVD and plenty of versions from which to choose, one with a T shirt and even a 3 LP set. But not one with everything. Hmm. Still, not overly expensive. The visuals are directed by the visuals producer for the earlier this century DVD of footage from last century and he and his 17 cameras do very well.

For me the essence is in the music. The sounds are superb. No cymbals distorting then upper frequencies and the performance is tight - for the most part. Really, it is a beautiful rock concert production. And for those of us who contributed bandwidth to the most downloaded bootleg concert ever it shows that the song remains the same. The Garden Tapes guy - as Jimmy page called him has no overdubs or edits to analyse here. The whole thing, slightly warts 'n' all but near perfect really is out of this world.

So what of the performance? The backing vox in Good Times Bad Times for some reason irritate the hell out of me. The only person to do vocals, indeed backing vocals as well something that Peter Grant found schizophrenic) is R.A. Plant. But he did 'em so well, that's the thing. But they are there so I'll have to live with them.

This time Black Dog is complete, unlike the the version that turned up on The Song Remains (new version) - that thing misses 3 minutes of music, this version just has Page (possibly deliberately for performance purposes) missing two beats on the end of a riff to throw in a guitar fill. (I would have suggested another way but I'm fussy like this...)

Now the big question for me and this is where the Garden Tapes guy must have been waiting with anticipation is the third verse of Dazed. Just after the lead guitar break the band return to the main theme and - evident on the boots, make a complete hash of it. A real train wreck - what would happen here? Well, it's there... warts and all. They weasel their way out of it but this is improvisation at it's best. Anyone can solo over a well constructed backing track but making a complete foul up sound good takes real talent. When Plant is singing "C'mon, c'mon. c'mon" this is his frustration with the band taking ages to get back into the groove. They don't really, and end the piece reasonably effectively instead to the adoration of the 18,000.

So no over dubs, no editing in the rehearsal instead of the live version, so it's very honest, very brave very Led Zeppelin.

So what new stuff do we have? First complete concert performance of Good Times Bad Times (a Japan '71 medley and '69 intro to Communication Breakdown are the precursors), first Zeppelin performance of Ramble On (Pagey and himself did it in the 90s), the first live performance (by a Zeppelin or related act) of For Your Life (though I think I still go for the original guitar solo as one of Page's most original guitar statements) but this version is close in spirit if not the same sounds (understandably). I do find his vague acoustic sound for Ramble On a bit of a - quick - solution (instead of what, say, Steve Howe might do and switch between guitars to convey the full spectrum of music a piece requires) but there we go. Not many versions to edit together this time around.

The power of Kashmir climaxes the concert. Long decided by the band that this is their shining light this was a number generated by John Henry from the rehearsal floor and serves as as unstated tribute to him as well as Ahmet Ertegun. Jason Bonham is superb on the changes, the secret to this somewhat enigmatic number is in listening to it from the drums upward. I would really have liked Achilles Last Stand (as well, no instead of) but.... maybe some other time soon, huh?

This concert was such fun for so long. Following the concert on line at the time, the boots, now this multi-media event of a one shot deal. Good for the 20 million who didn't get in, now it can be enjoyed from cinemas to home theatres to iPods the world over. Even underwater personal stereos...

Other than Stairway, no ballads, no All My Love. (JP had never really sorted a suitable arrangement for the guitar on that number, live, anyway). Jones shines as ever on bass and keyboards - Trampled Underfoot, No Quarter and Kashmir highlight his keyboard versatility and virtuosity). Indeed his work on Kashmir gives Plant plenty of atmosphere to express himself. Jason Bonham kills on the drums. Frankly, this work is almighty awesome. The mighty arms of Atlas turn up anyway... the audience go mad and not just the ones in the O2 Arena.

Whole Lotta Love is performed a la Zep 2 the drums come in on the second verse. And it's the closest to a real improvisation as the middle section turns up. I always did like the second arrangement - the "new" one from Knebworth '79 on DVD but this time it's the original arrangement.

Conclusion; a superb concert, well played despite my nit picking over details. Probably going to be hyped for years to come. Celebration Day? Bring it on home. Rock and roll ends as energetically as the concert begun...

P.S. as ever a killing Nobody's Fault But Mine - they never did a less than stellar version and the song remains as ever.

Essential Led.

uduwudu | 5/5 |


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