Back in the day people questioned who was the better guitar player so who was better Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen?
I don't think this is a fair comparison, honestly.
Of course Eddie can play Jimmy's material because he grew up listening to Zeppelin records and trying to imitate his style before finding his own voice. Whereas Jimmy grew up listening to blues men and early rock and rollers. This is how musicians have developed since the beginning of recorded music. While I'm not gonna say one way or the other who is better, I think this point isn't a fair one to make because by the time Van Halen became popular, Page was already accomplished and more interested in developing his own craft than imitating the style of others.
Eddie is much more technical.
Comparing Jimmy Page to Eddie Van Halen is like comparing Fred Astaire's dancing to the style of a Breakdancer. EVH completely redefined what an electric guitar could do. I prefer the style and grace of Fred Astaire, but I never saw him headspin or windmill, know what I mean?
It would be a more fair debate if Van Halen hadnt been held back by the artistic and technical limitations of his band. I mean the closest (and first to my mind) apples-to-apples comparison is "Heartbreaker" to "Eruption." One is a clear creative win while the other is pure technical win.
Jimmy has so much prowess and is able to convey so much through his playing, both musically and emotionally . When was the last time you heard EVH put a guitar in an open tuning and whip up something like The Rain Song or Black Mountainside/White Summer? Eddie was a teen when LZ1 came out. He saw them at the LA forum. EVH was raised in the 60's, he blossomed in the 70's. He was there as a listener to all the great 60's bands as it happened.
My conclusion is that EVH is one of the most technically gifted guitar players of all time, but Zep made better music in my opinion.
It's almost mythological. They did their thing in the 70's, stopped doing it, and now all we have is what they were. We got a reunion concert in 2007, but that's about it.
They don't create new content, so all we can do is appreciate the old, and that's bittersweet. I'm glad they don't mess it up with "here's our new album", and it be really bad and ruin the legend.
- They're just great at what they do. Every single one of them individually, which makes them fantastic together.
- I like the blues, and they're heavily blues influenced. Their first album more so than any other, but definitely later stuff too. "Since I've Been Loving You" has to be one of my favorites, if not my favorite. So heartfelt.
Here's a band who never gives any interviews and writes songs about mythology/debauchery, so they might as well be living in Olympus or Asgard for all we know.
I really like the "light and shade" aspect of their music, how they can go back and forth between loud, heavy and menacing and slow quiet and beautiful.
Led Zeppelin are heavy and light, fast and slow and immature but mature at the same time. They have music for almost everyone to enjoy.
They are all extremely talented musicians.
This is a fact that is not lost on the younger crowd either. My niece had her sweet 16 a couple of months ago and I was just floored when they started to play LZ, I just never knew that she liked it or had anything to do with the music.
After that we had a long talk. Yup, she is a fan!
Secondly, each of them are pretty much gods in their own way: A blonde-maned, attractive god of singing and love, a dark-haired god of guitar (and love as well), a well-built god of drums, and an understated god of pretty much every other instrument.
To have this much talent in one place almost seems illogical/mythological.
I like the fact that they are a four-man band that's a power trio a lead singer, which is also why I love Black Sabbath as well. That's kind of a badass band layout. I also love their diversity, and also what you said about them stopping in their prime.
Usually bands have one stand out musician and everyone else is adequate but with Led Zeppelin they are all amazing.
I also like the variety of musical styles they tackle.
From the short and energetic hard-rocking "Communication Breakdown", to the lengthy and mythical jam "Achilles Last Stand" with classics such as "Whole Lotta Love" and "Black Dog" in the middle; Led Zeppelin are undeniably one of the best hard rock bands of all time, and that's not starting on some other songs such as "Immigrant Song" or "The Ocean". Their massive influence cannot be denied either, how many of the biggest metal bands have cited Zeppelin as an influence?
Even more progressive groups such as Rush started on Zeppelin inspired music.
They could've just been a one trick pony and stuck with heavy blues rock but they experiment with sound throughout their career and have such a diverse sound that I may get tired of a song or even an album but I can never be tired of their whole catalog because it is so rich and diverse.
Quite frankly I never understood why it was included on the album. Especially since the actual song 'House of the Holy' was not included on the album. I agree that it was a nod to funk, and it's about as good a tribute to funk that a band of English white guys can pull off.
Bonzo started just playing a beat from James Brown, and Jimmy joined in. It just developed from there.
But that's not to say it is a failure.
As someone fascinated by music, this song thrills me on many levels. Bonham's off-time drum shuffle is infectious, I love listening to JPJ's bass and keyboard work, and I love how Robert's vocals (on first listen) sound like they're cut from a completely different song, but then you hear the the vocal mesh together with the music, and it is wonderful to hear.
I could listen to that song anytime.
I like the live versions of the song a bit better, because they can jam a bit while playing it.
But like all of the early 1970's 'Classic Rock' bands, Zep was influenced heavily by the 1960's Motown and Funk bands, like James Brown. So this song is an homage to James Brown.
But the song does not play so well with Zep's original demographic group - people who were teens in the 1970's.
Please note, this is when Jonesy started being more prominent with his keyboard. Yes, it was getting more traction in IV, but Jimmy let him start to shine in Houses Of the Holy.
I enjoy the groove of it, but I just don't think it fits the rest of the album, which is actually my favorite zeppelin album.
Were you alive in 1972/1973? If you were, then you would know that this song captured the zeitgeist of the times. When every 12 year old boy and girl who picked up an acoustic guitar would end up learning to play the melody.
The music combined with Robert's lyrics/melody is pure musical bliss. The ending is powerful as hell. Not to mention it has one of the, if not THE most iconic guitar solo of all time. Bonham is fantastic on the song too - reserved, yet strong. Not a lot of drummers can pull that off.
Is it overplayed? yes. Overrated? Hell no. It's a remarkable achievement. Maybe you just don't like it. But that doesn't mean it's not good.
I've listened to it several thousand times including probably 1000 times just last year (2016). You have to listen to the song the whole way through and let it take you where it takes you.
But I admit that I have heard the song about 2000 times too many. But once every few years when I happen to hear it again it makes my eyes misty thinking of the years gone since then.
Check out www.thestairwayproject.com for more Stairway related resources -- lots of stuff there that might help you understand what's so important about that song.
Still I like Dazed and Confused better for the tempo change aspect, and the Battle of Evermore better for the folk aspect.
No Quarter is probably the best song from Celebration Day. The opening bars and the keyboard/guitar solos are haunting, and then that ending is epic. No other song can quite reach its level.
Yet, in all honesty, you're not missing all that much by skipping Celebration Day. The more I've listened to it, the more that it's flaws and shortcomings become more and more apparent to me.
I'll start with some pros:
- Plant's voice is Plant's voice, and there isn't much that can be done about that. You can tell that the songs are downtuned to match his new vocal range. But, I'd say he actually does pretty well and his newer voice works better on a few tracks like No Quarter and Since I've Been Loving You. He pulls out all the stops on Kashmir, which is probably the highlight of the show.
- JPJ is the star of the show. You can tell that he's been consistently active in music since LZ broke up. He gets a A for his keyboard and bass work.
And for the cons...
- Page clearly lost a step between his age, not being all that active since LZ's breakup and I'm sure breaking his finger weeks before the gig didn't help either. He isn't necessary sloppy, but you can tell he takes a few shortcuts (his SIBLY solo being a big example). I also think his limited playing ability determined the setlist. As you listen to the album, you realize that not only are the songs downtuned, but they're slowed down as well. It's not by much, but it's definitely noticable. And, when you look at the inclusion of slower, simpler songs like For Your Life, In My Time of Dying, Ramble On over more technical and faster songs (Immigrant Song, Communication Breakdown, Achilles Last Stand), it's starts to add up that Jimmy lost a step.
- Jason Bonham is fine. My biggest gripe is that most of the drumming sounds kinda robotic and lifeless. Bonzo wasn't the most technical drummer ever, but the man could make a beat fucking groove. Jason isn't John, no one is, but it's just not the same. The drumming feels programmed rather than played on here.
- The production of the concert itself is a bit of a mess. I already mentioned how the songs are downtuned to accommodate Plant's vocal range. But, despite already being lower, the bass on the album is really lacking. At first, I thought that because I listen to a lot of hip hop now compared to when I was really into LZ, I was just used to more bass and it was just me. Then, I listened to HTWWW, and the bass guitar and drums are deep and have such a punch to them that they cut through wherever else is being played. On CD, you don't get that same punch and when combined with the downtuned songs, the whole thing just sounds muddy. In all honesty, I think the bootleg recordings from the audience sounds better than Celebration Day itself.
I get asked a lot (this is a lie, rarely is the proper word) what the meaning behing Achilles Last Stand is.
Basically, Achilles last stand is about Plant's vacation in Greece and Morocco after his accident. He wrote the song in and after this trip.
Robert Plant was already going through a pretty rough go of it by the time presence was recorded. The Rock and Roll lifestyle had already taken its toll and his naive attitude toward life that you could see in happy-go-lucky songs like "thank you" and "the ocean" was just gone.
From this point on, you only see darker, more contemplative songs.
Even Hot Dog is really cynical.
Essentially, Achilles Last Stand is a direct allusion to the Iliad, in which the central point is that Achilles was deprived of his concubine and abandoned the Trojan war for a time. At length he returned to fight, but died shortly after.
At the time of Plant's accident, like I said, he was very jaded.
The references to the Iliad is certainly meant to show a parallel between Achilles' boycott of the Trojan War and Plant's leave.
You can see in the beginning he is sort of doubtful about the whole thing.
He's more saying, we can't say no, rather than he wants to go. But eventually he becomes very warm to the idea. In the Iliad, Achilles at first only leaves because he's angry at Agamemnon who took away his sex slave, but eventually decides he's fighting his fate which was that he knew that he was going to have a short life of war or a long life of peace via prophecy.
You can see this transfer in the lyrics to the song.
Eventually he realizes he wants to escape: "Oh, to sail away" and "the shackles of commitment fell". Plant knew by this point that the rock n roll lifestyle will have its consequences, and indeed, you can see that he was unable to be there for his young son when he died and also lost Page to heroin for a long time as well as Bonham permanently.
Essentially, Plant, by the middle of the song, has decided, or at least is considering, that he wants out of the rock n roll lifestyle, and that he just wants to live peacefully, in the sort of happy lifestyle he found in his vacation.
But he can't escape forever. After the idyll establishes itself ("Days went by when you and i, bathed in eternal summers glow"), he feels himself being called back: "Oh, Albion remains, sleeping now to rise again". He is beginning to have the realization that he cannot escape forever, and that he has to return.
For the song up until this point, he's just living large on his vacation and having a good, peaceful time, that's very clean as opposed to the drug-fueled rock n roll lifestyle that he's been living.
In the iliad, too, Achilles finds fate calling him. He loses his friend to the war and has to return.
In that story, fate forces Achilles' hand: He is jolted to action. But Plant has a more subtle approach. He finds the rock and roll lifestyle calling him back, forcing him to return.
He becomes desperate by the end of the song: "What place to rest the search".
He cannot find peace, because he is going against fate. And then, we reach the climax of the song: "The mighty arms of atlas, hold the heavens from the earth". He is seeing the bigger picture. The Atlas mountains probably instilled a sense of smallness in him, that he cannot fight fate and that he has to return some time or another. At length, he tells us that "I know the way, know the way, [etc]".
The fury of the song reaches its capacity, and at last ends. And indeed, Achilles leaves his retreat and fights in Troy, and dies swiftly afer.
The rage and pure power of the song is meant to be Plant's equivalent of Achilles' rage.
He is fighting fate, the very force that pushes down upon us all, that which we cannot fight. He is cutting down the Iliad to a 10 minute song that shows an attempt to defy destiny, in order to escape a fatal lifestyle, but in the end he loses the battle and the fury ends.
Finally, I love that he got the whole myth of Atlas correct.
Many modern-day interpretations show Atlas holding a globe on his back, supporting the Earth. That is, according to the source material, incorrect: Zeus banished Atlas to hold the celestial universe up, keep it from falling down. Literally, hold the heavens from the Earth.
That's my thoughts on the song.