Blues, Led Zep, Led Zeppelin, music, Music Reviews, Rock Music, Uncategorized

Music Review of Greta Van Fleet – From The Fires EP (2017)

It’s been a while since I wrote an album review. I think the last one I did was for Them Crooked Vultures, which ironically has a member of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones, in the line up. Anyway, I think that it’s a commentary on how dull and unimaginative most music of late that I haven’t been compelled for critique a band for a while. Have you ever noticed how the mainstream of pop music is pretty-much cookie-cutter, formula-driven drivel? Yes, there are exceptions. And sure, I’m an old fart and as a rule we always say stuff like that. The old farts of my time said the same about the music I grew up with. But the other day I happened upon something kind of exciting and exceptional, in a throwback sort of way. It’s bluesy and hard driving, and what the heck, Josh, the lead singer, sounds more like Robert Plant than the Led Zeppelin front man has for decades.

21879685_527459540922665_5084051898940522496_n.jpg

The band is called Greta Van Fleet. They’re out of a little town in Michigan called Frankenmuth. The name is borrowed from a town matriarch whose real name is Gretna. The octogenarian attended one of group’s concerts and gave the band her blessing on using the modified name. Three members of the band are brothers:  Joshua Kiszka, Jacob Kiszka, and Samuel Kiszka, along with Daniel Wagner on drums. The brothers grew up listening to the blues. Their father plays a mean harmonica, from what I hear, and has an extensive vinyl collection that the boys all but wore out as they were growing up.

22802223_288124985027601_5099295111536181248_n.jpg

The band has two current recordings available, the first is a four track EP titled Black Smoke Rising (4/2017) and the second an 8 track EP that combines the previous work with 4 additional tunes, titled From The Fires (11/17). Note, original drummer Kyle Hauck appears on some of the band’s earliest live recordings with the present drummer, Danny Wagner appearing on the most recent studio releases. Most of the songs on the EP are original material, which is exciting, since the band could have easily been a successful tribute band covering Led Zeppelin classics. But the fact they are going their own direction portends good things coming along in the future.

As a diehard Led Zep fan I was taken aback when I first heard a live version of Highway Tune. I’m still not sure whether the studio version or the live version is the best, and that probably doesn’t matter. Have your pick, they’re both tasty. The live track demonstrates the musicianship of the band members, which the studio version only modestly enhances. I get the feeling the band records stuff live, for the most part, because, having watched full concerts available on YouTube, the integrity of the sound doesn’t suffer in live venues.

Honestly, I was never a huge fan of Led Zep’s live stuff, mostly bootlegs, but especially The Song Remains the Same (10/1976), which was the soundtrack of a movie by the same name, that includes tracks recorded during the band’s heyday mid-seventies tours. Led Zep’s studio recordings, especially the later albums, relied heavily on effects and overdubs to achieve the sound and that makes it difficult to replicate in concert. A more recent reworking of TSRTM’s soundtrack with different concert recordings patched in here and there makes the album more listenable, though I question whether the trickery is a fair and honest representation of what the band really sounded like when performing live. Please don’t get me wrong, Led Zep were innovators, especially their early work and they paved the way for a lot of blues-influenced, harder-driving rock bands that followed. And most fans who attended their concerts would quickly argue that the concerts were memorable events driven by excitement bordering of mass hysteria.

21879271_1666866640053137_4710609144002904064_n.jpg

What I like best about Greta Van Fleet is the faithful homage to the band’s blues roots. The 8 tracks of the EP include covers of a Sam Cooke tune, A Change Is Gonna Come and Fairport Convention’s gospel-esque Meet On The Ledge. There isn’t a throwaway song in the mix, though my favorites are the aforementioned Highway Tune, Safari Song and Black Smoke Rising. Why no Led Zep covers? That is the elephant in the room with a voice like Josh’s fronting the group. Maybe the band will do one or two songs in the future, but from where I sit it is not necessary and would only confuse the band’s brand that is still forming and gathering a following. Certainly, they could do a set with covers of Rock and Roll, Black Dog and D’yer Mak’er– to name a few and I’d certainly buy in. The band’s musicianship is definitely up to the task.

23098504_629545417436218_4074251714092335104_n.jpg

One question I would have is how Danny Wagner’s percussion work would match up with John Bonham’s original counter-rhythmic, avant-garde style. Wagner is more traditional in his approach, which isn’t a bad thing because the backbeat throughout the EP is solid and driving.

22582422_838270056346018_8579170081106296832_n.jpg

Also, I am sure Jake could cover Jimmy Page’s guitar work but at the risk of offending Led Zep purists who might take exception when he deviates or modifies the original licks to incorporate his own flare and interpretation. So, staying away from what is already a natural comparison of sound and styles and sticking to original work, for the most part, is a much better tact.

 

22637206_2019688558267165_551987143887552512_n.jpg

Check out the band on YouTube or, if you get the chance, see them live. I think they’re going to be around on the music scene for a while and that makes me happy.

From The Fires EP Tracks:

Safari Song

Edge of Darkness

Flower Power

A Change Is Gonna Come

Highway Tune

Meet On The Ledge

Talk On The Street

Black Smoke Rising

Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday – Deep Purple’s Machine Head

Machine Head

Really you can’t talk about the 70’s music without mentioning Deep Purple and 1972’s Machine Head, the band’s most iconic and successful LP. It featured the band’s Mark 2 combination of Ian Gillian, Roger Glover on lead vocals and bass guitar, respectively, along with founding members Ian Paice on drums, Jon Lord on keyboards and Ritchie Blackmore on lead guitar.

DeepPurpleMk2

Although the group released several albums before and after that produced singles registering on charts, and receiving airplay on FM Radio, it was Machine Head’s Smoke On The Water that became the signature hit, peaking at #4 on Billboard’s Top 40 during the summer of 1973. What is also noteworthy is that the live version of the song that appears on the Made In Japan live double album that was released later that year and also ranked on Billboard’s chart.

Made In Japan

The story told in the song is true. The group was recording the album in Montreux, Switzerland in December 1971 using a rented mobile studio truck that belonged to the Rolling Stones. Frank Zappa and the Mother’s of Invention were performing at the same entertainment complex where Deep Purple was supposed to record the album when someone in the audience fired a flare gun that ignited the venue’s rattan ceiling. The title of the song came from Roger Glover’s dream about the event a few days later.

Ironically, Deep Purple did not think of Smoke On The Water as a hit song at the time of recording and it was almost a year after the release of Machine Head that the song was issued separately and began to receive airplay. The song’s simplistic four note blues progression and Blackmore’s guitar riff at the intro made the song one of the most widely recognized Rock songs of all time.

#DeepPurple #SmokeOnTheWater #MachineHead #MadeInJapan #70sMusic

Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday – Steely Dan’s Debut Album ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’

61dx2Iu7IoL

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s was all about music. It seemed there was always a new group not he scene with an innovative twist and sound. 1972’s Can’t Buy A Thrill by Steely Dan was a good example that fused jazz and rock with complex arrangements and exceptional musicianship.

Core members Donald Fagan and Walter Becker met in 1968. Although they worked together on several musical projects including a musical score for a low budget Richard Pryor movie it was not until 1972’s debut album that the duo receive success. Along with Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, Denny Dias, David Palmer and Jim Hodder, Fagan and Becker recorded Can’t Buy A Thrill which featured two Top-40 hits, Do It Again and Reeling In The Years and Dirty Work that receiving FM airplay as well.

The_Doobie_Brothers_-_Jeff_Skunk_Baxter

Although the band toured for several months eventually releasing Countdown to Ecstasy which was not as commercially successful as their debut. Blaming the album’s performance on a rush job to record it while touring, Fagan and Becker decided to become more of a studio only venture bringing in session musicians to complete their recording projects, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, Royal Scam and Aja. Steely Dan alumni appear in several other popular groups of the era such as Toto and the Doobie Brothers.

Steely_Dan_-_Donald_Fagen_-_Luzern_2007

In 1981 Fagan and Becker split for more than a decade to reunite in 1993. in 2000, they released the multiple Grammy Award winning album Two Against Nature. In 2001 they were inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame.

1889034_649223701799378_6304224278962847836_o

#Music #SteelyDan #CantBuyAThrill #70sMusic