Lucifer’s Friend – Banquet

I can’t believe the difference in sound between Lucifer’s Friend’s 1970 eponymous debut and their fourth album, 1974’s “Banquet”. It’s hard to realize it’s actually the same band. Gone is the metal crunch of the overdriven guitars and Hammond B3 organ that put them in league with Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and Black Sabbath. Those sounds are replaced here with more rounded guitar tones and a Fender Rhodes electric piano. Oh, and don’t forget the full horn section. All that, along with the free-flowing extended solos, leaves “Banquet” having much more in common with the progressive, jazz-rock fusion sounds of Traffic, early Chicago, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and ELP than it does with any metal band. About the only things consistent between this and Lucifer’s Friend’s debut album is the incredible musicianship and John Lawton’s amazing voice.

Then again Lucifer’s Friend was a band that seemed to strive to sound different on every new album. I think the diversity in their sound from one album to the next is a big reason they had a hard time gaining popular traction outside of their native Germany. Their fans never knew what to expect from them from one album to the next. The thing was, that’s what I admired about them.

Greta Van Fleet – Anthem Of The Peaceful Army

One of the things I really liked about Greta Van Fleet when I heard their first EP was that they sounded a lot like Led Zeppelin. One of the things I didn’t like about them is they sounded almost too much like Led Zeppelin. One of the things I really like about Greta Van Fleets first full length LP is that it doesn’t sound quite so much like Led Zeppelin.

Does “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” remind me of a good Zeppelin album? Absolutely…at times. But it also has so many other influences, from so many classic rock bands I’m not even going to try to list them all. There is no doubt in my mind that had this album been released back in the ’70s. It would have been at the top of the AOR charts. Coming out in the 2010s, it’s like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the stench of the music factory’s pollution.

On “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” Greta Van Fleet prove they are not a wannabe band by any stretch. I’m sure with how young they are, they grew up listening to their parents rock records – and they loved them. It’s still music they love listening to, so when they pick up their instruments, it’s the music they love to play. When they pick up a pen it’s in the songs they love to write.

As I listen to Greta Van Fleet’s “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” now, I’m listing to music influenced by bands that I love from the past, but I’m also listening to new music that I know I will still love in the future.

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remais The Same (soundtrack)

In the short time between when I first saw the film “The Song Remains the Same” and bought the double album soundtrack, I didn’t remember the music from the movie well enough to realize all of the differences between the two. Then again, when I first saw the movie, I was probably in a great state of mind for listening to music; not so good for remembering all of it.

I’m not going to go into all the specifics between the music in the film and on the album – you can Google that easily enough – but in a nutshell, there are songs in the movie that didn’t make it to the record and one that’s the other way around. Also some of the same songs on both are not from the same performances. Sure, both the film and soundtrack were recorded in 1976, during three nights of sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York, but Zeppelin liked to make each of their concerts a unique experience for the audience. They always played their songs differently from one night to the next. When I listen to “The Song Remains the Same” today, I cant help but remember all the differences between the songs here and the music in the film. It’s so significant, I don’t know if I even consider this to be the soundtrack to the film; just a great live album.

The Hollies – Hear! Here!

The Hollies are a British band that were far more influential than they often get credit for.

If you’ve heard of the 1960’s British Invasion then you undoubtedly know of The Beatles. When you listen to the harmonies on those early Beatles songs, thank The Hollies. They were pioneers for that style at the time. Are you a fan of Crosby Stills, Nash (and Young)? Thank The Hollies. They were Graham Nash’s first band. How about the music of Elton John and his long musical legacy? Thank The Hollies. He was the session keyboardist for them in the ’60s. Were you into Led Zeppelin in the ’70s? Well thank The Hollies for the early session careers of Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

“Hear! Here!” was the Hollies’ second album in the United States. It’s basically, with a couple of track changes, a U.S. version of their third album in Britain, simply titled “Hollies”. Even though the Hollies were very popular in Britain and “Hollies” broke into the top 10 on the U.K. album charts (peaking at number 8), Their U.S. record label was wary of its success here so they didn’t release “Hear! Here!” until two moths after its British counterpart, and only then, only after replacing two of the songs with the Hollies’ currently released U.S. singles. Despite the changes, the album only made it to the 145 position in the U.S. charts, its sales dwarfed by the popularity of albums by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Box Of Frogs

What would the Yardbirds have been without either Clapton, Beck, or Page on lead guitar? Well, in 1984, they were known as “Box of Frogs”.

In the 1960’s, the Yardbirds were at their core, Jim McCarty on drums, Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar, and Paul Samwell-Smith on bass – and they had a knack for picking awesome lead guitarists. Unforfortunately those lead guitarists had a knack for pursuing solo careers. First Eric Clapton, then Jeff Beck. By the time Jimmy Page joined for their third go-round, the founding members decided to call it quits. In the wake, Jimi Page went on to form Led Zeppelin, which he nearly called “The New Yardbirds” (but that’s another story).

Perhaps realizing that great music is not created by lead guitarists alone, McCarty, Dreja, and Samwell-Smith regrouped in the ’80s along with guitarist and vocallist John Fiddler, rebranding themselves on their self titled album as “Box of Frogs”.

Perhaps realizing that this was magic in the re-making, they were joined on some songs by Beck and Page. Sure, Clapton didn’t participate in the reunion, but Rory Gallagher jumped in on a couple; even better, in my humble opinion.

Led Zeppelin – Live at the Olympia

One of the greatest things about the resurgence in the popularity of vinyl is bonus content.

Just like when albums started to be reissued on CDs, sometimes the record companies feel the need to include incentives to get music lovers to buy – or rather re-buy – recordings that may already be in their collection.

So how do you get someone who already owned an original copy of Led Zeppelin’s debut album to buy it on vinyl again? You include a previously unofficially released live recording with it as a bonus second album. And if you didn’t still have the original vinyl copy of “Led Zeppelin” because you had a cheap turntable that wore it out way back in the day?

Well…bonus bonus!

The bonus records here is from a French radio broadcast in late 1969 of a Led Zeppelin concert performed in Paris about a month before. Zeppelin’s second album had just been released and the show included songs from both albums, including the John Bonham drum solo extravaganza “Moby Dick”. Bonham’s solo here differs significantly from what appeared on Zep’s first official live album, “The Song remains the Same”.

The thing I find funny, and what is unique with the bonus content included with This vinyl re-release of Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut, is that there is more bonus content than original material – four sides compared to two. This live recording could have easily been released as a stand-alone new release, and I would have still bought it. But hey…bonus, bonus!

Greta Van Fleet – Black Smoke Rising (EP)

Frankenmuth Michigan, about an hour and a half drive north of Detroit, has for as long as I can remember, been known for its German cultured shops and the infamous chicken dinners served at Zehnder’s and The Bavarian Inn restaurants. But in late 2017, Frankenmuth became known for something else – Greta Van Fleet – one of the hardest rocking quartets since … dare I say … Led Zeppelin.

The comparisons between Greta Van Fleet and Zeppelin come with no apologies from the band members who are huge Zep fans. But they are also quick to point out that they are not by any stretch, a Led Zeppelin cover or tribute band.

Still, if you like Led Zeppelin, and wish there were more bands around today that recorded that kind of music, well, you need to pick up either “Black Smoke Rising” their debut four song EP or “From The Fires”, their first full length LP.

Right now, my vinyl collection only includes the “Black Smoke Rising” EP, but trust me, that will soon be rectified.

…Stay tuned…

Lucifer’s Friend

In my opinion, “Lucifer’s Friend” has got to be the worst name for a band, unless they worship the devil, which these guys did not.  Maybe they wanted to one-up Black Sabbath in that area because they thought it would sell. But Black Sabbath took their name from the title of an old Boris Karloff horror film. “Lucifer’s Friend” had no other connotation. I don’t know why they chose “Lucifer’s Friend” as the band’s name, but I think it was a bad choice that cost them much deserved success.  Especially since they were a band that could have out-heavied any band that was around in 1970, when their eponymous debut came out.

Picture Black Sabbath meets Uriah Heep mixed with a combination of Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple. Now picture how cutting edge and heavy that was back in 1970. The only bands that maybe equaled them back then were Sabbath and Zeppelin and that’s a maybe.

So why has almost no one ever hear of Lucifer’s Friend, at least not outside of Germany, where they hailed from?  I can’t say for sure, but I really think it came down to their name. It was just too dark, too evil sounding. I think too many people didn’t want to listen past the name.

Regardless of the reason, Lucifer’s Friend Is a band I am glad to have been turned on to in the early ’80s. They were a band that was too far ahead of their time for their own good – and in my opinion, a great band that chose a terrible name.

Led Zeppelin IV

There are some albums that should be in everyone’s record collection…

There is a reason Led Zeppelin’s fourth record is so iconic. It is an incredible collection of songs that few bands have been able to equal. The album practically defines rock and roll from the ’70s – the golden age of vinyl. It has become an influential and inspirational focal point for generations of rock band. It became the goal of almost every rock guitarist to learn how to play “Stairway to Heaven”.

Led Zeppelin’s fourth album was the first record from the band that was well received by most critics, their previous album “Led  Zeppelin III” being the most severely panned. Record buyers obviously agreed with the positive reviews, as it has become one of the biggest selling records of all time.

Referring to the album as “Led Zeppelin IV” is actually inaccurate. But then,  how do you refer to an album that has no name?  Zeppelin decided to officially not give it one. They even deferred from putting the band’s name anywhere on the album cover.

Fans often refer to it as “Led Zeppelin IV” for a couple of reasons. First off, It’s Led Zeppelin’s fourth album and it came out following “Led Zeppelin II” and “Led Zeppelin III”. Secondly, the inner sleeve shows four symbols that were created by each of the four band members. The album is also commonly referred to as is “Zoso” because the first of the four symbols was created by guitarist Jimmy Page which dolts that word.

Although it has sold millions of copies, it can be hard to run across an original copy of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album that is in excellent condition.  Partly because many people in the ’70s did not know how to properly care for vinyl records (vinyl takes a little more TLC than CDs) and also because when CDs came out, unless someone decided to get rid of their entire collection, this was one of the few the had to hold on to. After all, there are some albums that should be in everyone’s record collection.

Robert Plant – Carry Fire

So I’m sitting here listening to Robert Plant’s new album, “Carry Fire”, which just came out today, and I’m wondering…how do I describe this? It’s not bluegrass, at least not in the traditional sense. There’s not a lot of fast picking in it. But there are certainly bluegrass roots in it. But then again, it’s got a very modern feel to it as well. These are songs that fit right in more with Arcade Fire, KT Tunstall, The National, Alison Krauss, Blackfield, and Radiohead than they do with bands from the classic rock era, when Led Zeppelin ruled. That’s not to say there’s not Zeppelin elements in here as well. But it’s more of the acoustical, eclectic, and experimental side of Zeppelin.

No, this isn’t an album you want to listen to if you’re in the mood for the Sonic bombast Led Zeppelin was known for. But it is the album to put on if you want to be absorbed by the sounds radiating from your speakers. This is an album worthy to be cranked up when no one else is home – but not for the purpose of playing air guitar like a fool because you think no one is looking. You want to let it surround and envelop you.

I have to say I was somewhat skeptical pre-ordering “Carry Fire”. A lot of classic rock era performers that are still making music today just try to rehash what they’ve done in the past. And that’s not to say they put out  bad music. It’s just that a lot of the time, it feels like the same old same old. But then there are those performers who are true artists. They believe in branching out and trying new things. Sometimes what they do works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Whether it does or doesn’t, I always respect the effort and risk they took try something new. In the case of Robert Plant’s new album, it really, really works.