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ROBERT PLANT ON THE OCCASION OF HIS BIRTHDAY/LZ NEWS/BOB HARRIS 50 YEARS OF BROADCASTING/PAGE & PLANT UNLEDDED 26 YEARS GONE/WHO ARE YOU/DL DIARY BLOG UPDATE

19 August 2020 1,634 views 6 Comments

Robert Plant on the occasion of his 72nd Birthday:

Robert Plant is 72 years old on Thursday, August 20…

From his initial forays in the Midlands scene in the mid 60’s leading to his first record being released in 1966, through to his vital contribution to Led Zeppelin and on to an always compelling solo career, Robert Plant has occupied a unique position at the forefront of the music world for over five decades…

During the past 12 months he has continued to delight with his Digging Deep podcast – providing an opportunity to reflect on key songs in his vast catalogue. This has proved an enlightening insight into the creative process.  There’s more reflection due with the release of his first compilation in 15 years – Digging Deep Subterrania due out in October. Further ahead will be the release of a Band Of Joy 2 album.

Happy Birthday Robert from all of us to you…

To mark the occasion – here’s a couple of playlists

Playlist 1:

Firstly the top ten I compiled for the Classic Rock website in 2016– an impossible task of course to get it down to just ten – apologies in advance if your fave is missing!

The Top Ten Robert Plant Solo Songs:
By Dave Lewis

Outside of his Led Zep legacy, Robert Plant has enjoyed a highly successful solo career – encompassing synth pop, blues, folk and African influences along the way. All performed with a vocal conviction that ranges from delicate fragility to full on rock power. Here are ten of his best solo moments…

10. Tye Die on the Highway (1990)

This is Plant’s nod to the peace and love generation he was a part of in the 60s. For extra authenticity, it includes samples direct from the Woodstock stage of the legendary hippie peace activist Wavy Gravy (‘’we must be in heaven!’’). An uplifting throwback to his hippie flower kid days.

9. In The Mood (1983)

Early on in his post Zep career, Plant was more than keen to step outside his comfort zone. This very 80s sounding synth led piece is one such example. Plant cleverly works around the hypnotic quality of the song with a vocal performance of deft agility. It also made for a great opening live number on his early solo tours.

8. Song To The Siren (2002)

For the mainly covers led Dreamland album, Plant took on several of the songs he had as he put it, been keeping in his back pocket. This stunning arrangement of the Tim Buckley classic, tests Plant’s’ vocal control to the max. To his absolute credit, he never wavers once.

7: Calling To You (1993)

Opens with some minor key strumming before this exhilarating rocker really kicks in. Plant stamps his authority with a relentless vocal attack. At the fade Nigel Kennedy enters proceedings to add a quite manic violin solo and is that a cry of ‘’Oh Jimmy!’’ from Plant right at the close?

6. Big Log (1983)

Robbie Blunt’s precise guitar work, a lilting drum machine rhythm and an assured Plant vocal were the ingredients that took Big Log into the UK top 20 in 1993 and on to Top of The Pops. Its mellow radio friendly qualities have made it an evergreen staple of the airways ever since.

5. Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down (2010)

This compelling spiritual croon from the 2010 Band of Joy album unfolds in a sparse traditional setting. Plant builds the tension verse by verse while behind him a plaintive banjo offers a jaunty counterpoint to the dark theme of the lyrics. The final lines are delivered with daunting menace.

4. Slow Dancer (1983)

This track marks one of the few occasions in the early 80s that Plant stared right in the face of his Zeppelin past. Built on an exotic loping churning riff, Plant’s full on vocal attack measures up to the Olympian grandeur of his former band. The late great Cozy Powell adds the percussive kick that drives it along.

3. Embrace Another Fall (2014)

A truly epic work from his last album Lullaby…and the Ceaselss Roar. There’s an African undercurrent throughout the arrangement and even a touch of Celtic tradition with Welsh Julie Murphy reciting a 14th century poem. Proof that musically, Plant still has new places to go.

2. Come Into My Life (1993)

The Fate Of Nations album saw Plant drawing on a variety of influences and inspirations. Folk rock of the highest order is the agenda here. Enter Fairport legend Richard Thompson who contributes some achingly beautiful guitar lines while Marie Brennan from Clannad supplements Plant’s deft turn of phrase. An outstanding performance.

1 Ship of Fools (1988)

1988’s Now And Zen album was something of a watershed for Plant. It was the point he was able to successfully reconcile his past with the present. This dynamic ballad is a masterclass of vocal restrain. Guitarist Doug Boyle’s sublime intro paves the way for Plant to vocally twist and turn the song at will. Masterful.

Photos by Krys Jantzen  for TBL.

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Playlist 2:

Here are 72 vivid examples of his vocal supremacy accompanied by memorable key lyrics and relevant comments:

From 48 to 2020– he remains the definitive rock vocalist – make sure you play some of these and your own Plant faves this weekend in celebration:

 

Our Song, (‘’It made us fall in looooove’’)

Laughing Crying Laughing (‘’Jack loves Jill she don’t care’’)

For What it’s Worth (Something’s happening here..’’)

Good Times Bad Times (‘’I know what it means to be alooone’’)

Babe Im Gonna Leave You (‘’I ain’t jokin’ woman you gotta ramble’’)

Whole Lotta Love (‘’Shake for me girl!’’)

What Is And What Should Never Be (‘’And if I say to you tomorrow’’ – that gorgeous opening line…)

Thank You (‘’And so today my world it smiles’’)

Ramble On (‘’Gotta find the queen of all my dreams’’)

Immigrant Song (-‘’Ahhhhhh…Ahhh!!)

Since I’ve Been Loving You (‘’Said I been crying..’’)

That’s The Way (‘’And so I say to you that nothing really matters…’’)

Black Dog (‘’I gotta roll can’t stand still’’)

Battle of Evermore (‘’Bring it back..’’)

The Song Remains The Same (‘’I had a dream’’)

The Rain Song (‘’Upon us all..’’)

Over the Hills And Far Away (Live anytime in 1975 – ‘’Acapulco gold!’’)

In My Time of Dying (‘’Doncha make it my dying…dying…’’)

Kashmir (’ Trying to find, trying to find where I’ve beeeeeeen’’.)

In The Light (‘’Eveybody needs the light’’)

Down By The Seaside (‘’ Do you still do the twist’’)

Ten Years Gone (‘’Holding on…’’ pure emotion)

Night Flight (‘’ I received a message – that opening line is vocal bliss)

Tangerine ( Earl’s Court May 24 1975 – ”To think of us again….”)

Going To California (Earls Court official DVD version ‘’Oh she sings’’)

Dazed And Confused (Earls Court May 24 1975 ‘’We’ve got to get ourselves…back to the garden’’)

Stairway To Heaven (Earls Court May 24 1975 ‘’That’s all we got’’)

Achilles Last Stand (‘’the devils in his ho-o- o-o -le’’)

For Your Life (‘’When you blow it, babe, you got to blow it right’’)

In The Evening (Knebworth August 4 1979 – ‘’It’s gotta stop it’s gotta stop!’’)

All My Love (Outtake with full ending – ‘’Sometimes…sometimes…sometimes oh oh ’’)

I’m Gonna Crawl (‘’She give me good lovin’’ and that final scream…)

Moonlight In Samosa (‘’Time and again I see you walking down the street’’)

Slow Dancer (‘’To the heights… to the heights’’ – the point he knew he could do it all again)

Far Post (‘’Sure as winter follows fall, sure as maybe I will call’’)

Pledge Pin (Live in Dallas 83 ‘’As the cavalcade begins to thin, do you stop and look around’’)

Big Log (Live Dallas 1983 ‘’Oh my love oh my love oh my love…is in league with the freeway’’)

Sea of Love (‘’Come with me’’)

Sixes And Sevens (‘’Am I at six ,am I at six, am Ieeeee!’’)

Ship of Fools (‘’Crazy crazy fool’’ – absolutely stunning vocal)

Tie Dye On The Highway (‘‘With the messengers of peace and the company of love’’)

Anniversary (‘’What is this land that I have found’’)

Calling To You (‘’Oh Jiimmmy!’’)

Come Into My Life (‘’ Oh when you get there, well you know ‘’- another of his very best…)

The Greatest Gift (‘’ Everything I do, yes I do for my love’’ Peerless delivery)

In The Mood (Live at Paradiso club Amsterdam 93 –stunning medley)

Wonderful One (MTV Unledded – ‘’The queen of love has flown again’’)

That’s The Way (MTV Unledded ’’I can’t believe what people saying’’)

Blue Train (I been waiting on a corner’’- the best recorded moment of the Page and Plant re-alliance)

Little Hands (‘’Come let us meet them’’ – birth of a new style)

Life Begins Again (‘’This is the day and the hour’’ – at his most exotic)

Flames (Brilliant Priory Of Brion psych fest )

If I Ever Get Lucky (‘’Win my train fare home’’ Live in the desert)

Skips Song (‘’If you’d seen the naked dream I had of you… would you care’’- another vocal masterclass)

Dirt In The Hole (‘’Pretty flowers in sweet array, picked to die and fade away’’ Brilliant)

Seven And Seven Is ( ’When I was a boy I thought about the times I’d be a man’’ Live anywhere – a magnificent SS tribute to Love and the late Arthur)

Tin Pan Valley (‘’Like this!’’)

Freedom Fries (‘’They were moving fast –they were raising sand’’)

Stick With Me Baby (‘’Everybody’s been talkin’ ‘’ – in perfect harmony with Alison)

Kashmir ( Live at the 02 Arena – the whole event could never have worked so well without such total vocal commitment )

Angel Dance (‘’Yeah yeah yeah – Dance!’’ –Ushering in another new dawn)

Monkey ( ‘’Tonight you will be mine…’’ Masterful Band Of Joy performance)

Embrace Another Fall (”You walked into my life, Awoke my spirit soul, You saved me from my deep….”)

Turn It Up (‘I’m lost inside America, I’m turning inside out, I’m turning into someone else”)

A Stolen Kiss (”I am drawn to the western shore, Where the light moves bright upon the tide, To the lullaby and the ceaseless roar, And the songs that never die”)

Somebody There (”The road calls to my heart, Your love will warm my blood, The sun will shine down evermore”)

Season’s Song (”Crazy love..ah ah ah seasons song”)

New World (Escape the old world…embrace the new world”)

Dance With You Tonight (”If there’s one more time I can dance with you, let me dance with you tonight”)

Carry Fire (”I’ll carry fire for you – here in my naked hands”)

Your Long Journey  -Saving Grace in perfect harmony with Suzi Dian

and finally…

Charlie Patton Highway (Turn It Up Part 1)

Charlie Patton Highway (Turn It Up Part 1) from the forthcoming Digging Deep Subterrania compilation is a delightful slow burn version of the track that featured on Robert’s Lullaby and the ceaseless roar album with the Sensational Space Shifters released in 2014.

This is an early arrangement cut before the recording of that album. It stems from a post Band Of Joy tour session in 2012 with Buddy Miller recorded in Buddy’s studio in Nashville along with drummer Marco Giovino – one of what Robert revealed was about 13 songs ‘’I had hidden away in my cupboard’’- which are now likely to form part of the planned Band Of Joy 2 album ahead.

This delivery comes in at a Stick With Me Baby/ Raising Sand stripped back tempo with Dick Dale styled echoed guitar. Robert applies the vocal in that now familiar breathy style before literally turning it up for the title refrain. He quickly lays back again never losing the essence or intention of the groove – a masterclass of vocal control.

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This next overview via TBL issue 43:

‘’Carry me back, Carry me back… ‘’

Dave Lewis reflects on the 35 year solo career of Robert Plant and assesses the merits of his new album Carry Fire…

So, to the eleventh Robert Plant solo album – in fact his twelfth if you include The Honeydrippers set from 1984.

Once I started assessing where it all stood in the scheme of things, it led me on to elaborate not just on the content of this new album but also reminisce about this musician who has loomed large in my life and many others for many a year.

As an ardent fan and long-time chronicler of his work, I’ve been with him on every step of this journey – right from the tentative beginnings of a solo career mapped out around the highways and byways of the north of England during The Honeydrippers’ ad hoc gigs in the Spring of 1981, of which I was lucky enough to attended five.

The thrill of placing a white label advance copy of Pictures At Eleven on my turn table on a balmy Friday evening in early June, 1982 remains a very memorable listening experience. It signalled there was life for this particular singer after Zep and we could all prepare ourselves for some very interesting musical times ahead.

From then on there have been many twists and turns. To give it an appropriate football analogy, following Robert Plant’s solo ventures is a little like supporting Tottenham Hotspur, as I resolutely do. Like Plant, the North London club is steeped in tradition and talk of past glory days is always prevalent. The fortunes of the team, however, are somewhat mixed, offering moments of brilliance with the mediocre but within all that, the entertainment value on the pitch is always high.

You could say the same for Robert’s output over these past 35 years. Plenty of highs, a few lows, some marking of time, occasional strange curve ball moments but ever entertaining along the way – and of course, always within the shadow of his work between 1968 and 1980. It’s something of a challenge being a Robert Plant fan – but I am always a little surprised when keen Zep supporters claim no interest in following his solo work – to me, this is still the man and musician who proclaimed ‘’Are you cold?” in front of my very ears as Led Zeppelin kicked into Immigrant Song at Wembley in 1971, held the audience in the palm of his hand at the Forum, the Garden and in Earls Court and thanked us for turning up on a blind date in that field just outside Knebworth all of 34 years ago. His heritage is ever present and ever lasting.

He carries that legacy pretty well I’d say and although his flippancy in interviews often obscures his pride for Led Zeppelin, be assured, for all the one liners, that pride is there deep in his psyche. While we are on that subject, such flippant comments are often, in my view, taken out of context to look much worse than they really are, or were intended. I still believe he cares much more than is portrayed. In interviews, he is never one for much deep reflection. ‘’I do the gig and move on’’ I remember him once telling me with matter of fact intent.

Back to the story: Eleven albums – that’s now more than Led Zeppelin clocked up. From that initial, naive blast of Pictures At Eleven (which still sounds great) with the erstwhile Robbie Blunt as the song writing foil, Robert quickly recorded The Principle Of Moments, a heady mix of 80s synths and riffs. After a weekend of rockabilly fun with Jimmy, Jeff and Nile for the Honeydrippers’ Vol One album in 1984, there was the somewhat difficult third album – the totally offbeat Shaken ‘n’ Stirred which confused audience and band mates alike. Around that time, performing on a stage that looked like a block of cheese only added to the confusion. Too Loud live anyone?

In 1987 he made the first of many a clean band sweep, bringing in Phil Johnstone, Doug Boyle, Chris Blackwell and co for Now And Zen, a refreshing blend of chorus-led songs that reconciled his past with the present in confident manner. At the same time, he hit the Zep legacy head on ensuring more bums on seats on the live circuit by inserting Zep numbers into his set.

Manic Nirvana hit the racks as the early 90s hair metal phenomenon got into its stride. Some of it has not stood the test of time too well but he could still turn a retro trick or two – witness Tie Dye On the Highway and the acoustic Liars Dance. Elsewhere the content was more blatantly big love than big log.

Three years on, there was further reinvention with Fate Of Nations – aided by Francis Dunnery and the late Kevin Scott MacMichael, providing a melodic platform for Robert to present his most pure and organic work to date. Come Into My Life and I Believe are just two examples of a refreshing maturity and depth he was now bringing to his craft.

Just as he appeared in his solo career stride, the call of the past and MTV put him back on the road with Jimmy Page – the ensuing No Quarter Unledded and Walking Into Clarksdale albums providing their own set of anomalies, ripe for discussion another time.

By the time he was back in solo career mode, the song writing muse was, by his own admission, at something of a low – so he took the opportunity to revisit his pre Zep era with the Priory of Brion, working with old pal Kevyn Gammond before forming Strange Sensation with Justin Adams. It was around this time Robert began to develop a much deeper resonance to his voice, leading to the breathy style first deployed on the Skip Spence tribute, Little Hands.

The 2002 Dreamland album was an intelligent blend of covers and new forays –later to expand more fully on the well received Mighty ReArranger. I initially struggled with that album’s over inventiveness but time has been kind to many of the tracks – the likes of Tin Pan Valley and Freedom Fries still hit the mark whenever I return to it.

Career retrospectives Sixty Six To Timbuktu and the expansive Nine Lives box set, conveniently brought together his achievements to date, with the singer noting that the ‘’future was bright ahead’’.

2007 and another curve ball. This time it was into the bluegrass world of Alison Krauss for the enormously successful Raising Sand, an admirable marriage of vocal styling that subsequently swept the Grammys and in doing so helped scupper any plans for a long term Zep reunion after that one night of glory at the 02 on December 10th of that year.

I actually found the ensuing tour with Alison a little disconcerting – the sharing of the stage did not work for me and the Raising Sand album is never high on the playlist.

Given this sidestep into Americana, I’m therefore surprised how much I loved (and still do) the Band Of Joy album and tour that grew out of his penchant for all things Nashville and his working with the great Buddy Griffin. There were some life affirming moments viewing that line up in 2010 and the album retains a warm glow all of its own. As I noted at the time, it was hard to define exactly what it was about the Band Of Joy set up that worked so well but it was undeniable that something did. As I passed my 100 nights of being in front of that Shure microphone with Robert Plant on vocals, gig number 103 at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in November 2010 was up there with the best.

Being around the likes of Buddy Miller certainly bought the best out in him. There was yet more side-stepping in 2012 – or in this case, shape shifting. Off we all piled to the Gloucester Guildhall in May of that year to view another ad- hoc line up debut that saw former Strange Sensations members mix with the African influence of Juldeh Camara. The gig was a heap of fun, although at the more high profile London Forum gig in the summer, the inclusion of now partner, Patty Griffin in the set confused his audience somewhat.

Seemingly happily ensconced with Patty, one expected another Band Of Joy set and there was talk of a project with noted producer, Daniel Lanois. Instead, Robert took the Space Shifters on a tour – one to the far corners of the world, stretching from Australia to Argentina via the US. His wry comment to an Australian journalist that he had ‘’nothing on his calendar in 2014’’ foolishly fuelled the Zep reformation rumours. The wiser amongst us, however, guessed it was a suitable smokescreen, as he ventured into the studio with the Space Shifters unit. The result was the 2013 release of the album lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar.

As we know from the various interviews Robert has conducted, the album found him in a reflective state of mind. After his split with Patty Griffin, he has returned to the UK and principally to the Black Country and Welsh border area – the influence of which was more than apparent. The call of home was strong and there really was a feeling he gets when he looks to the west… Lyrically, it was Robert’s most deep and meaningful album since Fate Of Nations. Such was the confessional nature of songs such as Embrace Another Fall and A Stolen Kiss, one could almost dub this a break up album in the grand tradition of Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks.

It’s worth noting that arrangements combining African roots and ethnic rhythms do not go down favourably with certain sections of Robert’s past audience. He also receives a fair bit of criticism for his live interpretations of Zep numbers – Black Dog coming in for the lion’s share of the stick.

In fact, like a number of fellow fans I’ve spoken to, I would much prefer solo numbers from his past rather than some of the Zep resprays – Pledge Pin, Life Begins Again, Come Into My Life, Skip’s Song and Ship of Fools being on my wish list of tracks I’d like to see Robert and the SSS perform live.

Lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar found Robert Plant reflecting on his past, seemingly content with the present and excited about the future. Like all his best work, it looks back to look forward. Often eclectic but with a strong sense of consistency, it was his most significant work on record for some considerable time. There’s a refreshing openness and honesty in the songs that basically tells us that even rock gods need love… and lots of it. He touches on universal themes of ageing, loneliness, longing and hope.

So to the new album Carry Fire:

’‘All that’s worth the doing is seldom easily done, all that‘s worth the winning is seldom easily won’’

First things first.

Carry Fire pretty much carries on from where Robert Plant’s previous album left off. In fact, it might be a good idea to reacquaint yourself with the last album, lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar to remind yourself where Robert’s head is at.

Those that enjoyed the previous album will find much to enjoy here. As for anyone who has fallen by the wayside and has not subscribed to his recent work – well, there’s nothing here that will influence a change of mind.

Let’s face it, Robert has long since denounced any notions of keeping up with his fellow ‘voice of rock’ veterans His is an entirely different plan of his own making.

On Carry Fire there’s hardly a riff or a vocal histrionic in sight. Those that are looking for that kind of fix would be better off in the direction of the new Black Country Communion album.

However, the good news for anyone checking out this new album is that, vocally, he is singing with mature authority deploying that close-to-the-mic, breathy vocals style that he first perfected on Little Hands, his contribution to the Skip Spence tribute album More Oar.

Having listened to the tracks on Carry Fire, in reviewing the album , I’ve purposely listed songs from the Plant back catalogue that hint at the mood of these new offerings.

The album opener and first single, The May Queen sets the tone for much of the album. Semi acapella vocals over a slight Another Tribish with bendir/ tambourine back beat – drowning out any snare drum presence. As more than one listener to the preview has commented, the opening segment on this track has a passing resemblance to Factory Girl from The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet.

New World is a slightly grittier stomp with a mid tempo riff that sounds like a descendent from the Page & Plant arrangement of Please Read The Letter. A melodic cascading vocal refrain brightens the mood.

The folksy Seasons Song benefits from lush multi layered vocals that reminded me of I Cried For You (off Manic Nirvana). Also, there’s a nicely crooned ‘’crazy crazy fool’’ vocal line in the style of the live arrangement of Ship of Fools. All The Kings Horses (from the Mighty ReArranger album) is a further reference point here.

The oddly titled Carving Up The World Again… A Wall And Not A Fence is another in the vein of Another Tribe – a jumpy urgent nagging affair with some neat bluesy guitar lines.

Bones Of Saints has an effective echo added to the vocal, coupled with some guitar licks in the syle of The Enchanter from Mighty ReArrnanger

A vibey John Baggott keyboard synth sustains throughout Keep it Hid, which could be described as a Tin Pan Valley without the bombast. “Silver key in a golden cup’’ repeats Plant over the incessant synth pattern.

The title track, Carry Fire lends itself to the oft favoured North African influence. Mid tempo, with exotic sounding guitar from Justin Adams, it’s a haunted, tension building affair, not unlike the Unledded track, City Don’t Cry.

The cover of Ersel Hickey’s Bluebirds Over The Mountains (also recorded by The Beach Boys and Richie Havens, amongst others) is, as Robert commented, ‘’put through the Bristol sonic mill’’. This makes for a trip hop, grungy affair that renders Chrissie Hynde’s vocal contribution somewhat understated in the mix. Personally, I’d have rather heard a more simplistic approach.

That leaves three tracks that all return to the reflective themes of ageing, loneliness and hope that featured strongly on the lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar album. A Way With Words is very much in the Stolen Kiss vein, with stark piano and a mournful feel akin to Page & Plant’s BlueTrain, and Seth Lakeman’s fiddle work adds to the dreamlike atmosphere.

Dance With You Tonight harks back to the Raising Sand territory of Killing The Bues. For me, this is the outstanding track. Lyrically, the singer aspires to enjoy ‘’one more chance for the last dance”. He sings it with immense grace and majesty. Down To The Sea and Come Into My Life are reference points to the reflective nature of this superb outing.

The album closes in a downbeat manner with Heaven Sent – a bleak atmospheric piece that reminded me of a slowed down Sixes And Sevens from Manic Nirvana again without the bombast. Robert adds yet more words of wisdom repeating the lines “All that’s worth the doing is seldom easily done, all that‘s worth the winning is seldom easily won.’’ Before it all fades away.

Those lines are a pretty accurate appraisal of the album.

Like his previous album, this one needs working at and getting used to. Play it randomly a couple of times and it’s likely to pass over your head. Give it some dedicated listening time and there are some very rewarding performances.

As previously mentioned, some sections of his past audience will not find the inclination to do so and that will be their choice. As for comparison to his past works, aside from the last album, this new one stands on its own – and all a long way from the days of Fate Of Nations. That was a different era with different players.

In his advancing years, Robert’s muse has become more introverted, less flamboyant and increasingly dignified – all of which is reflected in the music he now produces.

So no, you won’t be dancing around the Christmas tree to this album. However, it will be something of a thought provoking warm pleasure as the winter nights kick in. In fact, for a man who has much empathy for the seasons, this feels like a Robert Plant winter album.

As can be seen by the virtual sell out of the forthcoming UK tour, the attraction to see this signer perform live on stage is plainly still fervent. I for one will be very keen to see, and hear how this new material integrates with his past work in a live setting.

So, to summarise: For all his idiosyncratic traits, being a Robert Plant fan remains a richly rewarding experience. He does everything an artist should do: he enchants, he intrigues, he frustrates, he confuses and above all… he inspires.

Carry Fire carries on that tradition.

Dave Lewis

September 12, 2017

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Robert Plant is a musician who has made his vision real…and he continues to keep it real.

Long may he shine it all around…

Dave Lewis – August 2020

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LZ News:

Led Zeppelin News Update:

In conjunction with the Led Zep news site, each week I will be re- producing highlights from their email update news summary. This goes out periodically. Sign up details are below. Many thanks to James Cook.

Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page

Robert Plant

Upcoming events:

September 4 – “Scarlet,” a track featuring Jimmy Page, will be included in the remastered release of “Goats Head Soup” by The Rolling Stones.
September 9 – A guitar signed by Robert Plant and Tony Iommi will be sold at Julien’s Auctions
September 25-26 – The next John Bonham celebration event will be held in Redditch.
October – The limited edition, signed prints of Jimmy Page’s guitars will be dispatched by Genesis Publications.
October 2 – Robert Plant’s new compilation album “Digging Deep: Subterranea,” featuring three previously unheard tracks, will be released.
October 13 – The affordable version of Jimmy Page’s Anthology book will be released in the UK.
October 20 – The affordable version of Jimmy Page’s Anthology book will be released in the US.
June 18-20, 2021 – Robert Plant will perform as part of Saving Grace at the Black Deer festival in Kent.
September 25, 2021 – The 2021 John Bonham celebration event will be held in Redditch.

Many thanks to James Cook.

The complete Led Zeppelin News email goes out periodically. To receive it sign up here:http://tinyletter.com/LedZepNews

Led Zeppelin News Website: Check out the Led Zeppelin news website at

http://ledzepnews.com/

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Bob Harris – 50 years of broadcasting:


50 years ago this week  on August 19 1970, Bob Harris made his radio debut on BBC Radio One.

Through his long running stint on the Old Grey Whistle Test BBC2 TV show and his many radio programmes, Bob has been a constant pioneer of so much great music and of course a big supporter of Led Zeppelin and in particular Robert Plant.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Bob and interview him on numerous occasions and over the years he has been a great help with all things TBL.

Bob contributed the notes to the 1994 Zep convention programme and I appeared on his GLC radio show a few years back. I also interviewed him for TBL 16 and 29 and sat in the same row as Bob at the Led Zeppelin 02 reunion show in 2007 (see pic above)He is an incredibly warm and affable personality with a music knowledge that crosses so many genres. The pic below of me with Bob was taken at the Band Of Joy launch gig at on September 1 2010.

There are a couple of BBC Radio 2 programmes this week celebrating Bob’s 50 years of broadcasting -The Country Show with Bob Harris on Thursday August 20 Radio 2 9pm and 50 Not Out – Bob Harris in conversation with Greg James on Saturday August 22 Radio 2 9pm.

Long may he reign behind the microphone….

Happy 50th Anniversary Bob…

Dave Lewis, August 19 2020.

To mark this milestone here’s a superb interview I conducted with Bob in 2011 that appeared in TBL issue 29…

BOB HARRIS  THE TBL INTERVIEW:

The whispering DJ and broadcast legend as been a key supporter of Robert Plant‘s recent career moves – as he explains in this recent interview with Dave Lewis

The bearded man I am sat across from on a Tuesday lunchtime at the Heights bar in London, was directly responsible for enlightening myself and thousands of other Led Zeppelin fans, via his announcements from the TV screen on Tuesday and Friday nights back in the 1970s.

He was the man who introduced the stunning sequence that accompanied the premier of a new Led Zeppelin track on the evening of Tuesday, March 20th 1973. ‘’It’s the band’s use of dynamics’’, he said in that calm whispering tone, ‘’And their vision of mood and texture which to my mind along with their stunning musicianship, makes Led Zeppelin just about the best rock band in the world. Their fifth album is almost out and here is some music from it.

‘’This is Led Zeppelin and No Quarter.’’ Two years later on January 17th, 1975 he aired an interview he had conducted backstage in Brussels’s a week earlier with Robert Plant, closing the sequence with the words ‘’The singer in the best rock and roll band in the world.’’

He was equally enthusiastic when playing two tracks from Physical Graffiti on Friday February 21st, 1975 and again a year later on Tuesday April 6th, 1976 when he previewed Achilles Last Stand.  Six months later on November 2nd, 1976, the one they nicknamed Bomber got it spot on when he summarised the exclusive Whistle Test screening of Jimmy’s Song Remains the Same mountain sequence with the words ‘’That’s an incredible piece of film’’

Some 35 years on, his love of Led Zeppelin and in particular the recent work of Robert Plant was well in evidence when I conducted an interview with Bob Harris – the voice of the Old Grey Whistle Test and legendary radio DJ. Our conversation recalls those Whistle Test years and in particular his championing and empathy of the music of Nashville, Alison and Buddy, Patty etc which has had a direct influence on the singer in recent years.

DL: Were did you interest in country music originally stem from?

BH: It really kicked off with listening to albums such as Sweet Heart Of The Rodeo and Nashville Skyline. The Bryds and Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash with Bob Dylan on Nashville Skyline. I mean that the fact that Bob Dylan was exploring Country music and loved country at that time and then I kind of went with The Bryds, so that moved on to The Flying Burrito Brothers then eventually Gram Parsons, Gram and Emmylou Harris. In the early days of the Whistle Test we were actually pitching a lot of left field country because if you categorize country rock as being Poco, The New Riders Of The Purple Saga. Then there was Little Feat, Grateful Dead, it’s all melded in country, so there was that left field country which then lapsed somewhat during the late 70s and early 80s. Then Steve Earle emerged along with greatTexas singers, Townes Van Vant, Guy Clarke, all that stuff was pulling me back into country. This then moves onto alternate country stars such as Sun Bolton, Tudeo, The Jayhawks.. So that whole thing feeds into so many influences. That’s why I love country music so much.

DL: When did you first go to Nashville?

BH: In 1999. I loved it; the level of musicianship there is absolutely unbelievable.

DL: Can you remember the first meeting with Robert back in the Zeppelin era?

BH: I think we’d meet a few times before. I was over at the Swan Song office quite a bit, I remember Marianne Faithful arriving when I was there one afternoon. Dave Edmunds was always there and yeah I remember when we were on the side of the side-stage at Rotterdam (Brussels). That was probably the first interview we done together.

DL: Did you keep in touch with him during the immediate post Zeppelin years?

BH: I hadn’t seen enough of each other during the 1980s because I wasn’t n around that much. I spent quite a lot of time in Italy during the ‘80s but once I got back to Radio One we reconnected; I was doing programmes for the British Forces Broadcasting services and Robert came in to do a big interview with me there and that’s when we really reacquainted.

DL: How did your influence on Roberts move into working in Nashville begin to take effect?

BH: By talking to Robert constantly about it, really that was the first thing. I started telling him about Buddy Miller and he knew a bit about Buddy Miller but he hadn’t really heard very much and so I was telling him about Nashville and how I loved it there. You’ve got all the musicians on tap and it’s such a musicians community.

So I was telling Robert all about this and then crucially Robert told me he was driving home from a gig one Saturday night and he was driving through country lanes and Alison Krauss came on, I played her on my show, and Robert had never heard her before and he loved her voice so much. He stopped the car, turned up the radio, stepped out of the car, and stood under the starlight and listening to her and that was it. That was his first introduction to Alison and that was about probably nine years ago. Then I was seeing Alison on one occasion in Nashville and I remember we talked about Robert because her older brother is a big Zep fan. Then Robert told me he was coming out to Nashville. That was when he first met T. Bone and Alison.

DL: So were you familiar with the players involved in the sessions for Raising Sand album?

BH: Yes I was. T Bone Burnett, Dennis Crouch who is a brilliant stand up bass player.I’d been telling Robert insistently about Buddy, because to me Buddy is the king of Nashville, I used that phrase to Robert as well. So then when Buddy joined the tour band and you could see he and Robert were getting on so well. When Buddy was on the Raising Sand tour with Robert, he was coming under increasing pressure to complete an album that he had started for New West, and he was beginning to fall behind with it because all the on the road stuff. And then he got ill. He got a some mobile recording equipment on the road and that’s where he and Robert, I think they were either in a backstage or in Buddy’s hotel room, that’s where Robert sang on a track on the album.

DL: Were you surprised at the massive success of The Raising Sand?

BH: I was surprised that it became as big as it did but I knew they had made a beautiful album from the first time I heard it. Alison also has a magic touch, there’s no doubt about that and with T Bone on board, the chemistry just worked so brilliantly.

DL: Were you disappointed they did not follow up that success with a second album together?

BH: Well there had a try at it and it didn’t really work. Then T Bones got so busy. I think the songs on Raising Sand represents the A list songs so when it came to bringing in other songs I don’t think anyone felt as strongly about it but there they had a go and just decided the time wasn’t right. They could well come to it again at some point.

DL: With the formation of The Band Of Joy line up again there must have been names in there that you were familiar with, even before they went out. Did you think the combination was right for Robert?

BH: Definitely yes. What clearly has taken root in Robert’s mind is this idea of layering voices. First of all he finds his voice matches so beautifully with that of Alison. Now he has Patty who like Alison has a voice of an angel and additionally you’ve got Buddy and Darrell, both of whom are great harmony singers. So you’ve suddenly got this wall of voices and Robert loves working within that. At certain times he’s not the lead singer anymore as he has all these voices around him that are so strong. Those voices become a texture as much as anything. It was an amazing feeling when I witnessed it. When they played in London I felt so proud.

DL: In adapting these Nashville influences, Robert has opened up a whole new avenue of music to his many fans. What other artist, albums of that genre would you recommend to lovers of the Band Of Joy album?

BH: Oh where to start? Ryan Bingham is really excellent – he sang The Hurting Kind in the film Crazy Heart and got an Oscar for that. The Willie Nelson Country Music album- that’s really good and the John Mellencamp new album. Going back to T Bone, he has this old time sensibility, the sort of analogue warm quite muddy sound, its real traditional American sound that T Bones got. So anything T Bone Burnett has produced in the last few years is worth checking out. He is now working with Steve Earle and that’s a combination I can’t wait to hear.

DL: Robert played at your 60th birthday party in 2005. That must have been quite a night?

BH: It was a completely spontaneous jam. My wife Trudie said to him about half way through the evening  ‘Are you going to do anything? He replied ‘’I need a guitarist’ and Trudy mentioned Bernie Marsden was up for it. So they disappeared for about ten minutes to see what they were going to do and they came out and did Fever backed by The Stories, the house band for the night. It was absolutely magic. I think Robert was surprised how good Bernie was actually.

DL: In 2009 you presented Robert with a Q Award, Outstanding Contribution, how did that come about?

BH: Robert phoned me up and asked me to do it. It was an absolute privilege. I’ve been with Robert every step of the way on this journey he’s taken and equally he’s been a huge source of encouragement and knowledge to me as well. Tianiwren were up on the stage with me to present the award and it was Robert who first told me about Tianiwren and it was so appropriate that they were in attendance. I’d been part of the panel that choose the Mojo Album of the year which Tianiwren won. They were doing a session with me that day on my show, so it was great how it all linked together.

DL: You were at the O2 reunion show, what was your overall opinion that occasion?

BH: It was one of the best Led Zeppelin gigs I’ve ever I ever seen and I was lucky to see quite a few in the seventies. The thing about the O2 was the clarity of it all, it was so clear. The playing was so good and they had obviously really rehearsed to make it work so well. It had to be a five star concert and it was.

DL: Can you see it happening again?

BH: No, I don’t think so. Unless it’s for a very good reason – maybe another special anniversary but no I can’t really see it happening.

DL: What have been the most memorable Robert Plant performances that you’ve seen over the years?

BH: The recent one with The Band Of Joy here in London at that little show case that they did at Mayfair One. Working backwards there was the Americana’s,…the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 2008 with Alison when they did Battle Of Evermore, that was really special. Obviously the 02 reunion concert and all those times in the 1970s. I mean he’s never been anything less than amazing any time I’ve seen him sing live, because he puts his whole heart and soul into it.

DL: You send a lot of times building your radio shows, how do go about searching out new music?

BH: Just listening to stuff that arrives basically; I mean I get loads of post through the letter box every day, so there’s that and recommendations from other people. For instance Robert and I call each other and recommend stuff. It’s funny actually because I got a call from him not long ago asking me about a couple of things and he said ‘What else are you listening to?’ and before he’d finished the question I said I’d just been playing this amazing record by this band called Cherry Ghost and as I saying it he said ‘Because Buddy’s given me a couple of tracks by this group Cherry Ghost!’.

So we are often on the same wavelength. I was in the studio recently having a little session copying the stuff off for him so I made him about three or four CD’s of tracks and things, Cherry Ghost, and some of Patty’s because there was certain areas in Patty’s collection he hadn’t got. In return Robert is definitely a source of knowledge about good music for me.

DL: What you been listening to recently. What recommendation have you come up with lately?

BH: The Decembrists new album is very lovely, Abigail Washburn, there’s a great single by a group called  Mother Mother that I’ve just started playing. The new REM album. Musa Mekconic who I love, a lovely new young band Ahab that were on my show today actually.

DL: On your radio shows is it east to blend in the new music with the heritage of the past?

BH: Yes because the engine to the programme is new music. The thing with that is you’re listening to something on an album and it reminders you of something else and you match them together and by matching them together it always works. It’s giving a sense of the history to something new and fresh.

DL: Your Whispering Bob Broadcasting Company has already won two Sony Awards for Sandy Denny and The Beatles, have you got any future projects in the pipe line?

BH: The next big project is a 16 part history of The Old Grey Whistle Test series, I’m producing and presenting that for the 40th Anniversary. We thought about a book for it but instead we are going for to a three CD set, that’s going to be the main focus together live performances as well.

DL: have you any plans to update your autobiography that came about ten years ago?

BH: Yes I would like to so that at some point.We took the idea to BBC Worldwide with the idea of updating it but the book market has changed quite drastically now with the onset of other technology. But I’d love to do it again in the future as a lot of really exciting things have happened since then.

DL: Finally of all the musicians you’ve championed over the years, what makes Robert Plant standout amongst his peers, in your opinion?

BH: It’s another ‘Where do you start’ answer because there are some many aspects to Robert that I think are so amazing. He is one of the totally great voices of all time. He never stands still and he’s got an amazing mind which inspires him to explore new things. He’s a very exciting person to be around, on every level – things happen when you’re with Robert, it’s incredible. I’ve a huge amount of respect and affection for him, He is one of the big figures in my life.

Bob Harris was interviewed by Dave Lewis on February 1st, 2011. With thanks to Trudie Myerscough-Harris. Bob’s Saturday night into Sunday show airs on BBC Radio Two from midnight. Each week  he raids his personal record collection and plays overlooked and forgotten gems – including rockabilly, early rock and roll, 60s psychedelia and 70s album tracks alongide an eclectic mix of new tracks from the world of Americana, Alt Country, Indie, World, Nu-Folk and Blues. His country show Bob Harris Country airs on BBC Radio Two on Thursdays between 7pm and 8pm. Both shows are highly recommended.

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Jimmy Page & Robert Plant – MTV Unledded – 26 years gone….TBL Archive Special – Part One :

26 years ago this month, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant reunited for two performances filmed by MTV at the London TV Studios for their Unplugged series. Appropriately dubbed Unledded, this saw the pair roll back the years with an inspiring re-evaluation of the Led Zeppelin catalogue.  I was lucky enough to attend both days filming – indeed I was involved in supplying the TBL database for the ballot of ticket distribution. Looking back It was an incredibly exciting period that would lead on into more memorable nights in the company on the ensuing 1995/96 world tour.

This TBL archive special reproduces the passionate review of those two MTV Unledded performances I wrote for TBL issue 10 – it’s incredible to think that it’s all of 26 years ago as once agin it seems like a second ago –but a lifetime. It was another of those truly fantastic times to be a Led Zeppelin fan again…..so let’s travel back to the late summer of 1994 and two very special August days…

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Where to start? I mean, how do you begin to describe it all . . . The shivers down the spine when they did Rain Song with an orchestra . , . Robert’s dedication to Bonzo before Four Sticks on Thursday . . . the spontaneous applause for Jimmy’s solo on Friday’s version of Since I’ve Been Loving You . . . The running good natured banter between Robert and the audience throughout the event . . . the emotional intensity of the new Wonderful One . . . the last five minutes of Kashmir on Friday which was as good a section of live music I’ve been privileged to watch in my entire life .. .
So many highlights … so many disbelieving highlights at that. A clear seven days after it all, my mind is still reeling. Did it really happen? I mean, I’ve dreamed it enough times. But incredibly it DID happen. And what happened proved to be entirely in keeping with the legacy of what Led Zeppelin represented.

To backtrack on to all then: The weeks and days leading up to the timing had been pretty fraught tor me in being given some of the responsibility for assisting with the distribution of invitations. It was a responsibility I was more than happy to take on but the inevitable consequences of dealing with countless calls and demands surrounding the arrangements did prove to be a heavy burden to carry. Never before did the phrase “You can’t please all of the people all of the time” have such relevance. As somebody close to it all remarked to me – you can only get twelve to a dozen and there was always going to be disappointed fans by the size of the proceedings who were not going to be lucky on this occasion. Hearing such disappointments first hand was, understandably, not always pleasant.
My own personal arrangements to free myself to attend were somewhat rushed and flawed and it was only travelling down on the train on Thursday morning that I began to contemplate the enormity of what was happening.

The summary of events thus far had run like this: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had taken most of August to film the long-mooted MTV project, the end results of which would appear as an MTV Unplugged special in October. Location trips to Marrakesh and Wales would now be rounded off with two live performances before an invited audience at a secret London location set for the nights of August 25/26.

Feedback from those close to the project had been very positive. The filming in Marrakesh had gone very smoothly with the airing of three new songs – two untitled and one dubbed City Don’t Cry. In Wales, despite the rain they had managed to film some excellent footage with When The Levee Breaks proving particularly inspiring. A dress rehearsal for the London shows on Wednesday had also gone remarkably well, according to those in attendance. Confirmation of the deployment of a full orchestra and an Egyptian string and drum section certainly whetted my appetite it all sounded almost surreal. A few hours from now it would be a reality.

unledded south bank

Thursday August 25 ,1994 – Festival Pier 5 pm: The pic here is a rather weary looking me plus Gary , Terry and Kam.
This was the meeting point at which invited fans were advised to attend. From here we would be escorted to the location. Amongst the excited and expectant bunch of diehards I recognise and greet many familiar faces. An MTV official duly appears to take us to the nearby London TV studios – formerly LWT studios and home still for countless light entertainment TV recordings. Paul McKenna’s Hypnotism show is one such recording for tonight. An orderly queue awaits entry. “Hope Jimmy doesn’t get called in to appear or he’ll end up an Elvis impersonator”, shouts one wag – aware of McKenna’s penchant for ridiculing his contestants to imagine all sort of crazy roles while under his influence. I remember Paul McKenna myself when he was the morning DJ on the local Beds, station, Chiltern. In fact I used to do a weekly phone-in spot with him in my then role as local pop/rock informant. How strange our paths are crossing a decade later In somewhat surprising circumstances.
The other queue with their minds on more important matters are now being ushered into the studios by the mostly American imported MTV staff. Amongst them are 50 MTV/radio station competition winners flown all expenses paid from the US. They line up excitedly amongst the TBL fraternity and other lucky fans. The waiting in the corridor is long – predictably – but we warm ourselves to such ordeals by recalling the overnight wait at the first Knebworth. We’ve all waited longer for less – no gate-crashing tonight, though. The security is very tight – with everybody subjected to a metal detector test for obvious reasons. Around 7.45 we are finally allowed access to Studio 2. Interestingly enough the billing for tonight’s show on the ticket is “An Evening With Page And Plant”. Friday’s reads: “Plant and Page”… and the laminated passes have Page Plant at the top .. . and Plant Page at the bottom – a subtle method of solving the potential who gets top billing wrangle.

Once inside, the set looks extremely impressive – a lengthy stage set up with stylish and suitable abstract backdrop drapes. The whole thing is exactly like a gig set up bar one factor
everyone is in Block AA because that’s all there is room for – providing an excellent view from all parts of the studio. Above the mixing desk there’s a VIP gallery and already the Plant contingent are present – Logan, Maureen and a pregnant Carmen (no granddad jokes please!). Jason Bonham is also there. A blues album plays inoffensively over the PA: boom cameras glide above us in readiness for what is about to be captured.

Around ten to eight, Alex the MTV co¬ordinator does some cheer leading warm ups. “Let’s hear it for Rex King!’ shouts Alex and an appropriate cheer goes up for the long term Plant/Page aide who is marching around the stage checking last minute details – an appreciative cheer for the man responsible for many of us being here tonight.
Minutes later, with the camera angles tested and the subtle lighting set, a short no-nonsense announcement precedes what we’ve waited for fourteen years to hear. “Please welcome Robert Plant and Jimmy Page’ . . . and it’s a thunderous welcome.

Robert Plant strides on to the stage from the left followed by Charlie Jones and Michael Lee .. . Jimmy enters from behind a black curtain on the right, immediately taking off his suit jacket to reveal a Knebworth style blue shirt.

Robert and Jimmy . . . it’s taken so long. Of course there have been glimpses of them re-united – in particular the spirited spring ’88 jam at Hammersmith, and the Wearing And Tearing nutmeg at Knebworth 90. Separately not all has gone entirely well. Jimmy’s road to Studio 2 has been often turbulent – early ’80s drug busts, low key ramblings with Harper, the mismatch of The Firm, a fine attempt at winning back the audience with The Outrider project, and then, against all odds, the bizarre link with David Coverdale – the catalyst that certainly inspired his best post-Zepp playing. It could be viewed that such inconsistencies have only heightened the adoration within which he is held by the faithful. Mention of Page’s name anywhere and it’s instant legacy time. Still. And such is his fragile demeanour we seem to take a very motherly and protective view of our James Patrick.

unledded three

 

Knowing he can be brilliant and erratic in his performance within minutes of any given time is all part of the near masochistic pleasure in following his career. What we can never forget is, in the studio and on stage, Jimmy Page was the sonic architect (to use a rare warranted Coverdalism) of Led Zeppelin. His ability to create the perfect mood for the group (witness the remastering of the catalogue) was and never is in doubt. He was the true sound chaser – and it’s a title he still carries with much reverence. His ever onward stance in adding to the effects of his self-styled guitar army is also a major attraction for his countless admirers. Think of Jimmy and my most immediate mind picture will be that of him back in Earls Court 1975, flashing that cherubic smile as he emerged from the dry ice on May 24 to layer on that most exquisite solos during No Quarter.
Never as high profile as Robert in the past decade, any sighting is a moment to behold. Tonight’s is doubly so as he reunites with his old sparring partner. And the first thing I notice as he turns around to greet the audience is that familiar cherubic Page smile. He looks in excellent shape – and I d had my doubts after the Buxton show where he was carrying an uneasy amount of excess weight. No evidence of it now – he looks well fit with his hair jet blacked, permed and still with that side parting falling over one eye, ala 1969. Twenty-five years on he is still the quintessential English guitar hero. It’s sheer delight to be in his company again.

And the same goes for Robert Plant. Striding on stage with that angular bounce of his, crooked smile beneath the now customary retro shag pile hair, tonight given something of a new look by being parted to the side, brown leather trousers, overlong long-sleeved Indian top, waistcoat, he looks suitably regal and better than I remember from last year. My, this is all a long way from the jumpsuits and bouffoned hair of 1983 – The Tube. Big Log and all that. A different era. Who could have predicted today’s events back then?
over the past decade, but never less than Interesting. There have been some very odd phases, and some wild accusations and contradictions in his media statements, leading to him eating a sizeable proportion of his words on more than one occasion.

UNLEDDED TWO

But with Robert Plant what you get is what you get. And vocally he has matured like vintage wine. Last year’s Fate Of Nations album and tour was easily his most satisfying work in the post-Zepp period. His vocal prowess has if anything improved in recent years. Careful consideration in looking after this most precious instrument has paid off.
And perhaps the organic nature of the material, preserved on that album, led him to realise the potential there was for this opportunity to rework some of his finest compositions in the company of his former musical inspiration. And that’s how it’s turned out. Six months down the line maybe something of the affinity that he felt for Jimmy when they were ensconced in that cottage way back when has returned to the fore.

“He is the Paganini of the electric guitar – he’s brilliant”. That’s one of the best compliments I heard Robert pay Jimmy on MTV in the mid-’80s. A decade on, here he is linked with the station and in collaboration with the master. I can forgive him anything for making this decision – beatbox Heaven Knows remixes, that female walk-on part in Too Loud at the NEC, miming on TV, pretentious videos, you name it.

Above any solo career moves Robert Plant will always be best known as the voice of Led Zeppelin. It’s a role model he has not always carried easily over the past decade. Tonight, as he strides up to the mike (“one solitary mike and we all know who that’s for* – how I remember writing that statement after Knebworth), I get the feeling he has prepared himself very carefully to carry that status and use its power to happily reconcile the past with the present. Never before has the legacy of what Led Zeppelin represented rested so contentedly on his shoulders.

Looking slightly nervous but ready to do what’s got to be done, they briefly confer in the centre of the stage like newly-weds after signing the register. For this particular re-marriage the ceremony is about to begin.

“Good Evening . .. Let’s get, er, plugged in then” remarks Robert, tongue in cheek and immediately debunking the idea that this will be the familiar Unplugged arrangement. Jimmy straps on the cherry red Gibson and picks out the welcoming chords of Thank You, a tentative run through delivered in the arrangement employed on last year’s Fate Of Nations tour. Jimmy switches to the Gibson 58 prior to his ex-partner uttering the words “and if I say to you tomorrow” right next to him. You have to go back twenty two years for the last time such words were spoken on stage within the vicinity of the pair. What Is And What Should Never Be is a much welcomed if slightly flawed second number – Jimmy being particularly hesitant on the solo. It warms up towards the end as Jimmy scrubs across the strings for that familiar stereo panned Zepp 2 trademark.

Initial thoughts so far: They are understandably nervous and you get the feeling these two early run thoughts are mere warm ups. The sound however is absolutely crystal and the whole atmosphere of the studio feels like you’re almost in their backyard – privy to the best garden party you could wish to enjoy.
For the next song it gets rather interesting. Jimmy settles into his chair (the regal looking upright backed affair used on the Coverdale Page Japan tour and the Take Me video) and straps on an Andy Manson three necked guitar. This I haven’t seen before. Robert introduces Nigel Eaton on hurdy-gurdy, James Sutherland on Bodhran percussion and Pori Thompson on acoustic guitar, and welcomes to the far left of the stage an Indian female vocalist, Najma Akhtar. .. who will sing the duet parts with him. For this is Battle Of Evermore 1994. It’s a joy to hear Jimmy picking out the melody against the whirring Hurdy-gurdy and the interplay between Robert and Nashma is very effective. Towards the close they add a new coda refraining an “ah-a ah-a” sequence, ala Achilles. Never an easy number to project live back in ’77, this arrangement is the first fruits of the ambitious extended Plant Page alliance. And it work supremely well.

“From here to Balies’s is not that far” jokes Robert in a reference to the cabaret circuit they have so far avoided. The same line-up (minus Najma) stays on for Gallows Pole. Long rumoured to be part of the new set, I Ve been really looking toward to this and there is no disappointment. Jimmy strums over the 12 and 6 stringed Ovation double neck, Charlie provides a steadfast bass anchor to the intricate arrangement, Pori handles the banjo parts and Michael Lee storms in, as the pace builds. This is the first display from the drummer that confirms once again his ability to bring just the right amount of dynamics to the rhythm section, striking the drums in a very Bonham-like manner that adds to the whole atmosphere. As the song speeds to a climax Robert really lets go, losing himself in the “Keep a-swinging” repeat refrain before it all dramatically stops.
“We’ll be back in a while” informs the singer, signalling end of part one. As the lights go up we excitedly exchange views. Everybody has been knocked out with the last two numbers and are similarly agreed that the opening pair of Zepp 2 standards had been merely a warm up. But, of course, we really haven’t seen anything yet.

During the break to the left of the stage the European orchestra, as it’s dubbed on the run-through sheet, sets up. A mixture of male and female string players more suited
perhaps to the surroundings of Henry Wood’s Promenade Concerts but ensconced tonight to provide accompaniment to what we might have described in 1969 as the Pop Proms. The orchestra is led by Ed Shearmur who performs on Hammond organ.
Jimmy and Robert reappear with Charlie and Michael. Charlie dons a huge double bass as the principal pair settle down, seated at the centre of the stage. “Perhaps this is how we should have done this song originally, all those years ago”, announces Robert. What happens next sends the biggest shiver down my spine since 1980. Jimmy picks out on acoustic guitar the intro of Rain Song.

UNLEDDED 7

Hang on – I think I’ll write that line again, just to make sure it really did happen. Jimmy picks out on acoustic guitar the intro of Rain Song. Robert comes in with the first verse and then the orchestra majestically glides in to replace the melletron parts of the studio version. This is quite breath-taking. Robert sings the lyrics beautifully and Jimmy plays like mint, fingerpicking in all the right places. As the song beefs up, Michael comes in with suitably dynamic tom-tom injections (early on in the song he’d employed the brushes, adding yet more Bonham authenticity). It’s left to Jimmy to close proceedings with that lilting sequence which he carries of, perfectly.
From one emotional moment to another. Jimmy restraps on the Gibson and picks out another familiar intro. This is Since I’ve Been Loving You and it’s played with all the intensity of 1971. This is a real crystallisation of the power of the Plant/Page alliance, aided subtlety by the string orchestra. On the chorus they strut forward over the mike, ala The Song Remains movie version. Plant is brilliant here, breaking into a fully-fledged mid-’70s pose with mike
in hand and Jimmy’s solo is a crescendo of notes, the like of which we haven’t heard for many a long year. This is almost Led Zeppelin in all but name and the spirit is alive and kicking. Compellingly so.

Proceedings take yet another slant when Robert offers stage right to the arrival of the Egyptian string and drum section, led by Hossam Ramzy who is handed the mike to personally introduce the boys in the band. He develops an instant rapport with the audience as he runs through the team sheet and causes much amusement when humorously he gets a plug in for his brother s Indian restaurant. “I think we should dedicate this to the original drummer with Four Sticks” says Robert, to rapturous cheers. An ambitious arrangement of Four Sticks follows with Michael tearing along with two stick in hand – a lovely tribute. To hear this long lost nugget in a totally new arrangement is another highlight, with Robert accurately interpreting, in a slightly lower register, every nuance and phrase of the original lyric.
Jimmy again derives the riff on acoustic guitar and it all speeds up to a compelling climax as the three sections (European strings/ band/Egyptian strings) compete for authority.

Robert asks Jimmy to introduce the next number and in usual fashion he humbly greets the audience before handing over to the Egyptian section to move into a lengthy intro. This is shades of Bombay orchestra ’72 -and those familiar with the Bombay CG CD will know how the 94 attempt at Friends sounds, with Jimmy awaiting the call to strum out the familiar riff. This is a little unsettled in tempo early on but unravels successfully enough by the second verse. If Friends appeared just a trifle laboured, the next number wipes out any minor misgivings completely.

Robert duly gets into a lengthy and revealing speech regarding this new alliance and their desire to look back and revisit some past glories. And they don’t come any more glorious than Kashmir.

UNLEDDED FOYUR

This is no mere Atlantic-like stroll through. The Pride Of Led Zeppelin is radically reworked for the ’90s, opening with Robert singing the first verse in a slow tempo, accompanied by Jimmy on the Trans Performance Gibson, creating a phased gizmo effect on the pedals. This merges into the Hossum percussion of the East -and then on into the familiar and invigoratingly performed riff and they’re off on that road to tan tan again. What makes this exercise so fulfilling is the interplay between band and orchestra – on numerous occasions Jimmy and Robert halt the band performance and glance over to the Egyptian players who take it all into a different time zone. The finger cymbal player merrily jigs around to the riff, much to Jimmy’s amusement. As we get to the fade and the “Let me take you there” refrains, the whole thing speeds up into a truly memorable climax which sees Jimmy playing a rumbling, Achilles-like, riff off against Michael Lee s stop-start drumming. In turn they pass the riff over to the Moroccan brass and string players, formulating a call and response sequence that threatens to take the roof oft. It the TV cameras have got the right angles, this will look sensational on screen.
With that number successfully captured, they leave the stage together, smiling and waving as they go. That appears to be the end -particularly when the background blues music strikes up again. Bill Curbishley himself signifies otherwise as he rushes up to the mixing desk. “Fade that, they’re coming back on again” he demands. Minutes later they appear from behind the black curtain at the side of the stage and make their way on stage again.

Jimmy straps on the Ovation double neck. Robert makes another little speech. “This was written on the side of a Welsh mountain in a cottage, about half an hour before the young lady furiously taking pictures in front of me was conceived” (a reference to Scarlet in the front row). “Was I there? Possibly!” laughs the man, with Jimmy grinning behind. “See, we’re happy again!” – a memorable statement which the entire audience would certainly endorse.
A lovely lilting laid back arrangement of That’s The Way follows with Michael Lee adding a new drum accompaniment and Pori taking up the banjo. Robert picks up the tambourine and strikes up that classic pose – a pose I’d long since give up ever seeing again. Jimmy meanwhile rocks back and forth as he strums out the chords to a song that was last performed live by the pair nigh on twenty years ago.

Smiles, handshakes, cheers, waves goodbye and it’s all over. “Thanks for coming along – hope to see you tomorrow” says the man from MTV. The crowd begin to filter out, still disbelieving at some of the events that have appeared before their very eyes. “That really was something” an excited Aussie, Peter, tells me near the stage. Scarlet’s there too, beaming with the pride ot her father’s performance.

Predictably there’s a buzz in the air as we disperse – a buzz so strong you can almost touch it. It recalls to mind the afterglow present as we all deserted the Knebworth site after the first night, fifteen years back. It’s a buzz that signifies that tonight has been another very special night – a night that truly encapsulated the affinity Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and its audience still has for the music of Led Zeppelin.

And, incredibly, there’s more to come tomorrow …

Dave Lewis – August,1994

To be continued…

……………………………..

1973 Throwback:

A nostalgic one here…thanks Kevin James

https://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/heritage-and-retro/retro/lancashire-nostalgia-1973-david-bowie-ban-ailing-hospital-and-money-down-drain-2938771

…………………..

It was 41 years ago …

41 years ago on Saturday August 18, 1979 I was at Wembley Stadium for The Who and Friends Roar In event.

My third consecutive Saturday gig coming off the back of the two Led Zeppelin Knebworth comebacks.

A bit of a strange day – some great performances including Nils Lofgren and Bon Scott with AC/DC . However, after the peace and love vibe of Knebworth this was an edgy aggressive crowd and there were a fair few scuffles breaking out where we were down the front notably during The Stranglers set.

As for The Who, this was their first major post Keith Moon gig (they had played a warm up at The Rainbow in May) – some moments of true greatness but I couldn’t feeling it wasn’t the same which of course it couldn’t be. I enjoyed Pete Townshend’s solo Rock Against Racism benefit gig at The Rainbow a month earlier far more, in fact that is right up there in my all time fave gigs list.

It would be another 23 years when I next saw The Who again – a great gig at Watford Town Hall in 2002.

Here’s some nostalgic footage from a very memorable day all of 41 years ago…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qnRTOWcAqQ

……………..

Who Are You, Keith Moon and me…

On the player The Who – Who Are You album as I’ve been thinking of The Who gig at Wembley Stadium all of 41 years ago today.

A year before I bought this new Who album on Saturday August 19 1978 at the then HMV shop in Bedford – there had been a delay in supply and we had not had it delivered at WH Smiths where I worked.

The fact is, I could not wait a day longer for this album – I needed it in my life simple as that and as usual they delivered. Townshend’s songs speaking to me in a way they always did and still do… John Entwistle‘s pair of compositions were also top class, namely 905 and Trick Of The Light.

The Pete song that really resonated most was Love Is Coming Down….

‘’ Surrounded by people, a real heavy crowd, but inside I still feel lonely now’’ sings Roger…I knew that feeling back then and have experienced a fair few times since certainly in the last year …

Three weeks before this album’s release I’d been lucky enough to meet Keith Moon briefly at the opening of The Who exhibition at London’s ICA when my very good friend Dec and I attended the launch.

‘’Not be taken away’’ it says on the chair Keith sits on as can be seen on the Who Are You album cover…sadly that was not the case and within a month he would be gone…

This pic of me with Keith on August 1 1978 is therefore a very treasured memory –Dec is just behind me, friend of The Who Richard Barnes to the right and that’s Ian Dury in front…

42 years ago this month – amazing times I was so lucky to experience…

………………………………

 

 

On The Player:

Sunday August 16: Elvis Presley 43 years gone…

Sunday is silver CD day…I love vinyl records and I also love CD’s –these magnificent Elvis CD sets will be the soundtrack here today remembering The King 43 years gone today…I was in London that day and the shock of his passing was deeply felt.. and still is…

DL Diary Blog Update:

Recent DL vinyl acquisition:

I am a keen collector of the CBS Special Products label – this was an outlet CBS used in the 1960s and 70s to release promotional tie in LPs and singles. Often they would link up with a third party advertiser to spread their word.

I was therefore well pleased to find this sampler in the always excellent Slide Record shop in Bedford last week. Chestnut Mare is a showcase for CBS acts of the time led by The Byrds excellent single of the same name.

There appears to be no obvious tie in other than to promote their 1971 catalogue.

For a mere £1 I was more than happy to add it to my CBS Special Products collection – thanks Warren and Nerys.

Update here:

A packed agenda here with a few projects brewing and work on the Feather In The Wind repackage. I’ve been suffering from a sore back this week which must be age catching up -, there again I guess I will have to get used to that when I’m 64 -in three weeks. Keeping up with the good lady Janet has not been easy on our daily walks as very pleasingly she continues to make good progress in walking unaided after 7 months on crutches.

Some particular inspirations this past week:

The new issues of Mojo and Uncut dropping through the door…

A catch up on the phone with former Bedford comrades Alan Stutz and Barry Farnsworth…

Further phone catch ups with Dave Fox and Chris Maley…

Thanks for listening – stay safe and well you very lovely people…

Dave Lewis –  August 19,  2020

Until next time, stay safe and stay well…

Website updates written and compiled by Dave Lewis

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The TBL/DL Facebook page has regular updates and photos – be sure to check it out

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6 Comments »

  • Ken said:

    Dave, what happened to that movie that was being made about the early years? Thanks for all you do.

  • steven gale said:

    I only agreed with four of your ten choices of Robert Plant’s greatest songs. No Burning Down One Side, 29 Palms or Little by Little. It goes to show that opinions in an artist’s work can be extremely divided!!.

  • Bob Flux said:

    Any news of what Norman Hale – of Jersey Jam fame – is up to these days, Reg?

  • Michaela Tait said:

    What a beautiful read! Thank you so much. That was pure bliss!

  • Danielz said:

    Although not as obsessive as many Led Zep fans, I still consider myself a big enough fan in that I bought all the albums on release, a few vinyl bootlegs, saw LZ on both Knebworth weekends and read numerous books on the band. I grew up listening to them and still find their output staggeringly fantastic and amazing. It’s superb that Dave keeps the flag flying with such aplomb, respect and kudos. Zeppelin will always be one of my top bands, just as they were when I was a teenager. What a band….!

  • Graham Craig Rodger said:

    Exciting news about the possibility of a complete Minneapolis 1975 soundboard.

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