Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Led Zeppelin Covers

Went to a Robert Plant concert last night... Wow. I'm majorly impressed that he can still wail like he used to, even though he's pushing 60. Kudos to his backing band too, The Strange Sensation, who ploughed effortlessly through his new material and major reinterpretations of classic Zeppelin tracks. Led Zeppelin is one of my favourite bands, so it was very exciting since this would be the closest I get to seeing them live (outside of that DVD they put out a while ago). The new versions of the Zeppelin songs were tinged with Middle Eastern and African influences, and in some cases were nearly unrecognizable. One guy behind me said "What was that... no, that wasn't a Zeppelin song" after Plant & company ripped through Four Sticks, which either showed how different these new incarnations were or revealed his ignorance of all things Zepp. I'll go with the latter since, after all, Four Sticks is off of Zeppelin IV (of all albums). They even played some non-Zeppelin cover songs with Bob Dylan's The Girl From the North Country and a psychedelic earth-shaking version of Hey Joe. The opening band from Nova Scotia, The Trews were good too and closed their set with a pretty sweet rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. My funniest part was when the show ended and Plant said something into the microphone that sounded mysteriously like "See you at Denny's".

As Plant understood last night, there's generally no point in revisiting old tracks unless you've got something new to add. Here's some of my favourite Led Zeppelin covers in some unexpected genres:

Goldbug - Whole Lotta Love [originally from Zeppelin II]
This sweet electronic version of Whole Lotta Love uses samples of Tina Turner's vocals and what sounds (to me) like part of Macarthur Park(?!).

Rasputina - Rock and Roll [originally from Zeppelin IV]
This cello-rock version rocks the socks off those string quartet tributes.

Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra - Black Dog [originally from Zeppelin IV]
Black Dog works surprisingly well as a big band swing song from this Canadian swing band.

Stone Temple Pilots - Dancing Days [originally from Houses of the Holy]
As messed up as Scott Wieland appears to be, he and his bandmates consistently put out some of my favourite covers.

Other related songs:

Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes - Hey Hey What Can I Do
I'm hesistant to call something a cover song if any member of the original band appears. Armed with Jimmy Page, The Black Crowes do a more than ample job rocking out Zeppelin tunes and more on their Live at the Greek double-disc album. The original song was not on any of Led Zeppelin's albums, but was released as part of a boxset I think.

Dread Zeppelin - Viva Las Vegas
Dread Zeppelin performs Zeppelin tunes in a reggae style with an Elvis impersonator lead vocalist. It probably shouldn't work, but it does. In a way, they sort of performed mash-ups before they became fashionable by infusing Zeppelin riffs into covers of other classic rock songs (or even original songs). They manage to do something new with their renditions with a good sense of humour. For instance, lead singer Tortelvis recites a passage from Meville's Moby Dick over the extended drum solo from Zeppelin's Moby Dick. Another example is their combinations of Heartbreaker/Heartbreak Hotel or Black Dog/Hound Dog. The track I've posted combines Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas with riffs from Zeppelin's Custard Pie (plus some sort of Godzilla overtones). Best cover since the Dead Kennedys.

Jake Holmes - Dazed and Confused
Alas, Led Zeppelin is pretty notorious for ripping off other artists and not giving credit where due, which has led to a number of lawsuits and settlements. Here's the original Dazed and Confused by Jake Holmes, which is actually quite awesome in its own right. In an interview I read with him, he was surprisingly not all that bitter about the whole deal despite not getting any credit or money whatsoever. Apparently he did write a letter to the band in the early 80s about getting credit on the song, but never got a response...

Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe - When the Levee Breaks
The classic Zeppelin track has its roots in this old recording by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, now available from public archives.


Anonymous said...

You've gotta check out the version of When the Levee Breaks by Albert Kuvezin and Yat-Kha. It features Tuvan throat singing and is one of the most freaked-out covers I've heard in a long time.

Fongolia said...

Thanks. I just listened to it and it's pretty groovy. Albert Kuvezen's vocals are incredible.

If anyone else wants to check this out, there's a streaming version of it here.

Also, check out Yat-Kha's website, which has info on their CD of covers and a mp3 sample of their take on Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart.