REVIEWS: Led Zeppelin’s (untitled 4th album) & “Houses Of The Holy” (Deluxe Editions)

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Two new Led Zeppelin deluxe editions will be released this Tuesday, and one wonders if they will be worth the cost of admission. It depends on how much you value Led Zeppelin’s music and whether or not the contents will be worth your time and money.

First and foremost, the albums concerned are 1971’s (untitled 4th album) and 1973’s Houses Of The Holy, with one being the band’s biggest selling album and the other being my all-time favorite Led Zeppelin LP. The albums were remastered by Jimmy Page himself, so if you didn’t pick up previous remastered editions or you simply want to hear what this version sounds like, you will enjoy the clarity of the familiar. Of course, what you want to know is the unfamiliar.

Considering what exists for the (untitled 4th album) in bootleg form, it’s a shame that what exists on the 2CD/2LP deluxe editions is underwhelming, at least to me. It’s primarily alternate mixes, and what you get to hear is an alternate version of the same album in the exact order. Nothing wrong with that, so you’ll hear the Sunset Sound Mix of “Stairway To Heaven”, which was said to have been made when Page was not satisfied with the mixes done in London, or that he simply wanted a different audio perspective of what was created elsewhere. There’s also an Alternate UK Mix of “When The Levee Breaks” and a version of “Black Dog” described as “Basic Track With Guitar Overdubs”. As for the alternate mixes, are they thrilling? To be honest, not really. There may be a portion that is instrumental in nature, or a track that is pushed around differently, but it’s not exactly a different take or an outtake. It’s interesting upon first listen, but more on the curiosity side to wonder what the differences are. It would’ve been nice to have heard a different take of “When The Levee Breaks” at its proper speed, as the studio version was slowed down to give it the sound we are familiar with.

The deluxe of Houses Of The Holy is what I wanted to hear but once again, I left wondering “is this all that they’re giving me?” Hearing “The Rain Song” without the piano track may be nice, but not much. Hearing the backing guitar track of “Over The Hills And Far Away” is nice too, but not much. Hearing John Paul Jones’ keyboards pushed up into the mix for “The Crunge” is decent, but not by much. Hearing a working mix of “The Ocean” is interesting, but again, while hearing different mixes is more than welcome, you can’t tell me that this is what was decided to release. There had to be songs with completely different mixes. How about songs recorded during these sessions but were not released on there? We know that some trackss done for Houses Of The Holy ended up being saved for Physical Graffiti, would it have hurt to put two to three of those songs? No demos for “D’yer Mak’er”?

It seems that you’ll be paying big money for the packaging and design, but how about those who really listen to the music? Led Zeppelin are one of the most bootlegged bands in rock’n’roll and it seems if you really want the raw guts of these albums, you’ll have to find the outtake albums in varying levels of sound quality. In other words, the alternate versions of these albums are decent the first time but whether or not they will have repeated value remains to be seen, especially when we know there are other things that remain unheard.

REVIEW: Delfeayo Marsalis’ “The Last Southern Gentlemen”

 photo DelfeayoMarsalis_cover_zps41b526d1.jpg The Last Southern Gentlemen (Troubadour Jass) isn’t just a way Delfeayo Marsalis kindly calls himself or members of his family, but a number of people in New Orleans and perhaps a state of mind that may be slowly disappearance. The music represents the last of the tribe, perhaps heading into the sunset for one last right or maybe it’s a celebration of being a gentlemen, or merely having manners and let eveyrone know that this is what classiness is and sounds like.

Outside of Delfeayo playing his trombone with finesse, he welcomes his father, Ellis Marsalis, to play the piano throughout the album and that in itself is class of the highest order. When you hear these songs, you’re not only hearing the warmth of the Marsalis family but the sound, people, and charm of New Orleans. Son and father are also joined by drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith and bassist John Clayton, playing in a way that may bring to mind the feeling and scents of the outdoors (“I Cover The Waterfront”) or seeing things that may be enjoyed but are meant to be told in an intimate manner (“My Romance” and “But Beautiful” are two examples). As the liner notes say, the music may represent a bygone era but through music, it is still very much here if you know where to find it. When played by four of the remaining gentlemen of the south, you will wish that there were more people like this spreading the movement to a bigger level. Then again, that will definitely bring to mind what The Big Easy is all about, in its purest form.

REVIEW: Frayser Boy’s “Not No Moe”

 photo FrayserBoy_cover_zps94931d95.jpg Not No Moe (Select-O-Hits/Phxieous Entertainment/B.A.R. Muzik/Wyte Music) is Fraysey Boy rapping about the day in the life of himself, his family, friends, and everyone within his vicinity. Sometimes his way of living is nice, othertimes it’s an everyday struggle but he deal with it in a way that allows him to live the best way possible. If there’s only one thing that makes this album work sharper than it is, it’s that most of the songs have a similar vibe and keeps itself at the same BPM (beats per minute). I like the laid back feel but I would’ve liked something more uptempo at least once, just to show how diverse he could be. With that said, what he does have to offer is satisfactory and if you’re into that intoxicating frame of mind, this is that hip-hop album for you.

REVIEW: Tom Teasley’s “The Love Of The Nightingale”

 photo TomTeasley_cover_zps4721a772.jpg If you’re looking to travel around the world without leaving your easy chair, the easiest way to do it is with music and one person who will help you out is Tom Teasley. The Love Of The Nightingale (self-released) is said to be a “Greek/Balkan fantasy world” and he plays fifteen different instruments to get his point across, from the entrance of the marketplace to leaving on an ocean to find a new world and civilization. The world he creates is one from his own mind, but it sounds like it was played by five or more people, whether it’s something that is meant to sound sensuous to something that could be the origins of an evening party. The album shows the world as a beautiful place, despite what you read in the headlines and news.

REVIEW: The Black Watch “superplum fairy, sugarplum fairy”

 photo TheBlackWatch_cover2_zps17fe147e.jpg The Black Watch play some decent rock here on the indie side of things, which also has a nice pop approach to it, but one has to warm up to these songs to get a full feel of it. Once the songs get to a warm level, as it does in the second song “There You Were”, it gets a bit blisterning but doesn’t move for awhile. Eventually it gets locked in a nice place but when it does, it left me wondering “what had taken these guys to get up to the hill?” The music is good but the way the album is programmed doesn’t work for me. When I adjusted the playlist, it worked fine as if it was goth-y or new wave-y and it sparkles nicely, but only nicely.

REVIEW: Moonlight Towers’ “Heartbeat Overdrive”

Heartbeat Overdrive (Chicken Ranch) by Moonlight Towers is an album consisting of good ol’ rock’n’roll music without any complications. It’s direct and to the point, it’s straightforward, and it sounds like songs that you could play at family gatherings and in your long evening drives without fear or regret. Some of it reminds of that gutsy music that seemed to always be around in the late 70’s and early 80’s, where people like Bruce Springsteein, Southside Johnny, The Hooters, and The Producers would record just because it felt good, and perhaps that’s why it’s called Heartbeat Overdrive (or one of the reasons why), you’ll feel this where it counts but you think it’s too much for you, too good for you. Nonetheless, it’s satisfying and you don’t want to let go of that feeling. Moonlight Towers are out of Austin, Texas but they’re not going to remain there for long, for they’re going to do some serious traveling with this release.

(Heartbeat Overdrive will be released on November 11th.)

REVIEW: Stephen Doster’s “Arizona”

Here’s another interesting album that fits in along with what I’ve been listening to as of late. It’s rock’n’roll that doesn’t get too much of this or that, nor does it lack the qualities that makes rock’n’roll so moving. It also has a sense of pop sensibilities that would make this work in a number of markets, as if a lot of musicians are realizing what’s missing in the mainstream, and many of them are pushing it forward to get people back into that frame of mind. That may be what Stephen Doster is doing with his new album Arizona (Atticus). The music sounds like some of the best moments in your favorite songs by Billy Joel, Chicago, Loggins & Messina, and even a bit of Squeeze. I hate to say this sounds like American music, as that incorporates a wide range of different styles from different places, but there was a time when that style of music was plentiful, not only on the radio but everywhere. When it’s no longer there, you realize how much you miss it, and perhaps this is why people want to hear and feel it again. Doster has created music that has an essence, and I hope more people will understand why it’s here and keep it active for a long time.

(Arizona will be released on November 4th.)

REVIEW: Melvins’ “Hold It In”

 photo MelvinsHII_cover_zpsc7b39747.jpg What can you say about a band who has made over 5392 albums in their career, and they decide to release another one? You dive in to fine out what happens. In truth, you can say that Hold It In (Ipecac) is Melvins’ nth album, and to be honest I’ve pretty much lost track of how many albums they’ve released so far. What I can say that for this album, Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover are joined by Butthole Surfers’ Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus to create music that sounds distinctly like Melvins music, a pinch of the Butthole magic, but also something else entirely. WHat makes this magical in a Melvins sense is that it retains the heaviness and sludge everyone has come to know and love but for these recordings, some of the songs reach a level not unlike the Foo Fighters or Queens Of The Stone Age, in that they’re, dare I say it, almost accessible. That comes through how Buzzo sings in portions of the songs, as if he’s trying to present himself as an all new man. Well, at least for some songs. What also makes this work is how Pinkus and Leary also share lead vocal duties, which also helps bring it a Foo/QOTSA vibe partially because it doesn’t stop stereotypically Melvins-ish, if that makes any sense. All of a sudden, they’re turning themselves inside out to do a country song. With songs like “Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad”, “Sesame Street Meat”, and “House Of Gasoline”, you feel like it is an “anything goes” thing but it’s a Melvins album, you have to come in expecting unpredictable titles, stories, and arrangements.

Loosely, you could say that this is the album Melvins has been holding back from releasing, if they wanted to make big hits. Want to hear the Kiss influences? It’s still there. Want to hear something on the level of The Swans? Still there. Then again, this is Melvins, they’re far from the big hit band and yet they know they’re capable of doing something on that level. A part of me wants to say they’re holding back from being a hit machine but they’ve done the major label thing before, and I think at this point in their careers, as long as they’re still having fun, they are going to churn out whatever they want. They could be funky and groove happy like Big Chief for the next album, or do some music that sounds like a cross between Paula Abdul and Kim Gordon on the next one. No matter, for if you love Melvins, it doesn’t matter what they’ll do next, you’ll bow down and follow, as we all should on a regular basis. Hold It In is what it sounds like if they allowed themselves to let go for awhile. Like a wet water hose.

REVIEW: Andrew Judah’s “Monster”

 photo AndrewJudah_coverSML_zps62f00cb3.jpg Andrew Judah is an artist who likes to include folk qualities within his pop flavored music, helping his songs to have a bit of depth with accessible sensibilities, which is what he does throughout Monster. However, folk qualities aren’t the only thing he includes in his material, for there are hints of blues, rock, and even occasional soulful qualities, which I hear in some of his vocal harmonies. I like what he offers here because as I become comfortable with what he may be doing in a song, he’ll head elsewhere (if not a few places) in one section and he’s turning himself into a multi-headed monster. I mean that in a complimentary way, and I would compare him to someone like Lindsey Buckingham, ready to unveil is influences and dish a number of them at the same time to offer new shades of color in his songs. “I Know You Know”, “Better & Better” and “In The Sun” each have the potential to become bigger productions than what exists here. If he isn’t careful, he could become this generation’s Todd Rundgren. Eh, he’s careful, I believe he knows exactly what he’s doing and I hope he continues it for awhile.

REVIEW: Sleepmakeswaves’ “Love Of Cartography”

 photo SleepmakeswavesLOC_cover_zps43fa6675.jpg If post-rock has spokesmen, Sleepmakeswaves would be a band that would stand amongst some of the best spokespeople around. Love Of Cartography (Waterfront) is the latest album from this Australian group who pound the shit out of their instruments with harmony and kindness, which is a way of saying that while they are a powerful band who use volume and strength to carry their electricity to the next level, they also understand the in between steps to create wonderful songs. As with previous efforts, this album is completely instrumental and they do things in a careful manner, step by step, so that each listener will be able to travel along with them slowly but surely. When you know something is about to happen, you may or may not feel it. When you’re let go out of an airplane and meant to fall, you’re unsure of how you will land but take the ride anyway. It’s also a great album for those who love their music riff driven, which evenly balances out for those who may prefer textures, bridges, and other things that are a way for them to go on different journeys. It’s a wonderful ride from start to finish, especially for those who prefer to hear music without words, or to know of a song with nothing but just a title as an identifier. Love Of Cartography is an album that holds up well and will remember long after its final notes leave the speakers.