Friday, December 2, 2011

Leftovers (Reproductions): Kashmir

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant: Kashmir


For our Reproductions theme, the idea was to post remakes of songs that rendered the original in a bigger arrangement. How can you do that with Kashmir? It’s a fair question, because the Led Zeppelin original already has a huge sound. Not only that, but the original Kashmir was an epic, clocking at 8:28, and going through some remarkable changes.

Led Zeppelin used to talk about how their sound was influenced by the music of the Arab world, and that was never clearer than in Kashmir. Still, 20 years later, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page reunited to create an album that revisited 13 of their songs from Led Zeppelin days, and made the Arab musical connection explicit. Here, Plant and Page are fronting a nine piece rock band, with instruments including mandolin and hurdy-gurdy. Add to that the string section from the London Metropolitan Orchestra. But the kicker is an ensemble of Egyptian musicians led by the great Hossam Ramzy. The album, No Quarter, is a record of a concert, and Kashmir was the grand finale. Now the song clocks at 12:23, and the extra time includes Egyptian percussion breaks. Amazingly, the sound is even bigger than the original version, and the song is even more of an epic than before. And yet, it doesn’t feel overdone at all. By this time, Robert Plant could no longer hit the highest notes that he was once famous for, but his voice still had all of the power he needed to pull this off.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Leftovers (Star Maker Debut): Tina Dico

Tina Dico: Break of Day


Zero7 (ft. Tina Dico): Home


I'm commonly surprised at some of the artists who we've missed along the way, and so I had some in mind for Star Maker Debut week. Even then, I never got a chance to post anything by Tina Dico, someone who caught my ear a few years ago. I don't know much about her: She's a Danish singer-songwriter who's had some success in Europe. She's got a clear, beautiful voice and some pretty decent songwriting talent. She's won reams of musical awards in Denmark. And the rest…yeah, say it with me…I learned on Wikipedia.

Still, I do know what I like: these two great songs. One's from an early EP, Far, and the other's by trip-hop artists Zero7 that features Tina on vocals. Both were released in 2004.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leftovers (Creepy Crawlies): I’m a King Bee

Slim Harpo: I‘m a King Bee


Muddy Waters: I‘m a King Bee


I had big plans for Creepy Crawlies week. I started off with Praying Mantis, and then… our internet service went out for the remainder of the week. I’m a King Bee was one of the songs I never had a chance to post.

I first heard I’m a King Bee on the Rolling Stones’ first album. In their early days, the Stones covered a lot of American blues, and they always encouraged their audiences to seek out the blues artists who had inspired them. When I eventually did that, I found the original version of the song, by Slim Harpo. I’m a King Bee was Harpo’s first single in 1957. His version emphasizes the groove, and he and his band lay down a fine one. Harpo sounds quite a bit like Jimmy Reed, who had emerged from the Chicago blues scene a year earlier. But Harpo was actually from Louisiana, and he never came north, except to tour. I’m a King Bee, however, did go north to Chicago. Muddy Waters recorded the song on his last album in 1981. Waters’ version has a much more layered sound, with guitars and harmonica prominent in the mix. The song takes this treatment very well indeed. It’s hard to believe, listening to this, that Waters was very ill at the time he recorded it.