Music

Led Zeppelin: Mothership

More Songs About Groupies and The Lord of the Rings.


Led Zeppelin

Mothership

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2007-11-13
UK Release Date: 2007-11-12
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iTunes

Since Christmas is coming, let's take a consumer-centric view of the latest reissue of Led Zeppelin material. If we can trust the word of the Cult's Ian "Wolf Child" Astbury, then 2008 might be the year Led Zeppelin, the one-time biggest band in the world, takes America all over again.

If so, 2007 will be seen to have been a year of astute preparation almost worthy of the late Peter Grant. First there was Raising Sand, the genre-hopping collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Then there was the announcement that Led Zeppelin's three remaining members would reunite for the first time since their less than impressive cameos at Live Aid (1985), the Atlantic Records' 40th Anniversary concert (1988), and their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1995). This time, the press releases said that the band -- with Jason Bonham filling in on drums -- would be playing a proper full-length set at London's O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome).

Then, after ticket applications for the reunion show had the promoter describing it as "largest demand for one show in history", Jimmy Page fanned the flames further with coquettish hints that the band might record new material or set off on a world tour in 2008. Which brings us back again to Astbury, who recently announced at a Cult show in Cincinnati that his band would be opening for Led Zeppelin on their 2008 tour.

Whatever the truth of it, all this hullabaloo has certainly reminded the world that Led Zeppelin was and remains the greatest rock band of all time. My own personal most-listened to, Led Zeppelin has inspired me to create one of the most celebrated mix CDs of all time: More Songs About Groupies And "The Lord of the Rings". But my deep and abiding love for the best of Led Zeppelin doesn't make me blind to their faults and excesses, or compel me to rush out and buy everything that's released in their name without engaging my brain. Oh no.

BBC Sessions? Absolutely. One of the finest rock 'n' roll sets you could ever hope to find.

How the West Was Won? How could I resist?

But Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Volume One and Latter Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Volume Two? Why would I need those? And why would I want the early 1990s remixes when all Page did -- essentially -- was turn up the guitars and boost the drums a tad?

However, Mothership, a bargain-priced collection of two CDs and one DVD, released in the midst of the O2 frenzy, is a different kettle of worms altogether.

There are several reasons not to buy Mothership. First, it looks like the packaging was designed by a nine year-old with just two working crayons and a handful of thumbs. As if that wasn't enough, the packaging also seems guaranteed to wreck your disks within a month at most. And then there's the choice of material.

President Carter, as Mark E Smith once remarked, might love repetition but I'm more than a little tired of it. The Mothership DVD appears to be an extract of live performance footage from How the West Was Won. And musically, if you compare Mothership with 1990's Remasters box set, you'll see that the songs, essentially, remain the same. Mothership has simply dropped "Celebration Day", "The Battle of Evermore", and "Misty Mountain Hop" to make room for "When The Levee Breaks" on CD1 (very sensible), and replaced CD2's "The Rain Song" with "Over the Hills and Far Away" (not so very sensible). Clearly Messrs. Plant, Page, and (if they let him have a say) Paul Jones have a very clear idea of what they think is their best work. As a fan, for what little that's worth, I often disagree.

For example, according to David Fricke's informative but indiscriminating liner notes, Robert Plant thinks that "Kashmir", rather than "Stairway to Heaven", is the definitive Led Zeppelin song. My arse, it is. "Kashmir" may be a work of shuddering greatness, but the truly definitive Zeppelin song is almost certainly "Nobody's Fault But Mine".

Recorded for the exceptional, though often over-looked, Presence, "Nobody's Fault But Mine" was ... um ... "inspired" by Blind Willie Johnson's song of the same name -- which is pretty definitive in itself. Further, it's based around an earth-shaking blues riff, and features a Zeppelin-trademark duet between Plant's voice and Page's guitar, triple-tracked here for extra effect. Throw in the almost arrogantly tight rhythm work from the Johns and some of the most swaggering guitar work ever recorded, and "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is absolutely definitive of the work of Led Zeppelin.

Further, a considered best of Led Zeppelin, I contend, would include songs like "Your Time Is Gonna Come" rather than the easy choice "Communication Breakdown" from the band's magnificent 1969 debut album. And either "The Lemon Song" or "Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just a Woman") rather than "Whole Lotta Love" from Led Zeppelin II, which was also released in 1969! Similarly, my jury would vote for "Gallows Pole" or "Tangerine" at the expense of "Immigrant Song" (Led Zeppelin III, 1970), and for moments of sheer genius from Physical Graffiti -- surely the best rock album ever made -- such as "Custard Pie", "Ten Years Gone", and "Down By the Seaside" rather than tired compilation staples like "Ramble On", "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "All My Love".

To get back into the festive spirit, so far the best we could say about Mothership is that it would make a nice Christmas present for the teenage boy in your life who hasn't already discovered Led Zeppelin. But there's an additional dimension here that should make any committed aficionado of the band also consider purchasing Mothership. Because this time the remixes are, at the very least, impressive.

Most obviously, Mothership does some very remarkable things to some of the earliest Zeppelin songs. The new version of "Good Times Bad Times" adds a little extra depth, texture, and punch to Page's uncompromising guitar slams and brings out the bass. Similarly, remixing seems to have doubled the depth of John Paul Jones' bass at the beginning of "Dazed and Confused".

Moving on through the canon, "Whole Lotta Love"'s theremin section still sounds like a self-indulgent bag of shite, and the searing guitar solo at the end of it still makes up for it. Meanwhile, Page was somehow able to mix more vitality into the drums of "When the Levee Breaks", better separate the multi-tracked guitars on the extended introduction to "The Song Remains the Same", clarify the enormously amusing lyrics of "Trampled Underfoot", and render John Bonham's drums at the beginning of the otherwise entirely disposable "D'Yer Mak'er" utterly remarkable.

While I have some unresolved concerns about the honesty of remixing, there can be no denying the overall effectiveness of what Jimmy Page has done with Mothership. On almost every song the informed listener will notice new patterns, textures, or shades. If Page takes the time and the trouble to remix all eight original Led Zeppelin albums, then I will happily sign up for the complete box set. Mothership, however, is a very close call. QED.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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