I had this friend, back in junior high, named Matt Bryant (his real name was Matt Bryant). He was (is?) a phenominal musician. He loved to go to the library and pull out the microfiches for old issues of Rolling Stone and other rock review magazines. It was cool to go back to 1969 and find out what jagoffs like John Mendelsohn thought about Led Zeppelin 1. The critics always hate the really good bands when they first come out.

Rolling Stone took a long time to make their album reviews usable online, but now they've gotten it right. Check out their archive of reviews. It's hard to search, but you can find the real gems if you look:

f70b63a716e9f1688384c66f39752a49c67af1f6John Mendelsohn's review of Led Zeppelin 1

Here's a tidbit: "In their willingness to waste their considerable talent on unworthy material the Zeppelin has produced an album which is sadly reminiscent of Truth. Like the Beck group they are also perfectly willing to make themselves a two- (or, more accurately, one-a-half) man show. It would seem that, if they're to help fill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have to find a producer (and editor) and some material worthy of their collective attention."


This review came out in March of 1969, so your mom had plenty of time to tell me about it.

I'm starting a new category of Blog posts: TYMTMA.

It stands for "Things Your Mom Told Me About." I know this guy named Abe Lincoln (his real name is David T. Libby) and he always wants to tell you about all the latest stuff on the intersweb. The problem is that he's always about eight days late with his news. This weekend he'll be telling everyone about how Lawrence Lemons (the guy who used to get snacks for Bruce Springstern) just died. The standard response when honest Abe gives you news is this – "Yeah, I read about that when your mom sent it around a few days ago." His mom is a really nice person, and it turns out that she's incredibly well connected to the latest trends.

So, here's the idea: when I hear about something cool, even if it's something that I'm pretty sure that 99% of everyone has already heard about, I'll post it here so all the latecomers can catch up. Perhaps I'll be the latest comer, and then everyone can make fun of me.

So here's something that's only been viewed 3,800 times (at this writing). I account for about five of those views. It's a great cover of "The Rain Song" by Led Zeppelin (from Houses of the Holy).

This cover is so accurate that you can start the album cut and the Youtube video at the same time and they will stay in sync (for quite a while, at least). I can't even fathom how much time and effort that must have required. This video was produced by the bass player from Osaka Zeppelin, which is a Led Zeppelin tribute band from Osaka Japan. They're phenomenal – here's what's wrong with this effort.

First, the guitar is all wrong. It's spot on accurate in terms of the notes & sound, but just listen to the way the acoustic guitar comes in. It's too precise. Where are the Jimmy Page sloppy, heroin-stained strokes.

The second problem is the bass. You can hear the bass. John Paul Jones had some great bass riffs in a lot of Zep tunes, but in the album version of this song his bass gets absolutely swallowed by the Mellotron (synthesizer). That said, where's the high bass fill? On the album, at about 6:04 (right after Plant sings "wonder of emotion"), Jones has a nice fill that starts way up there and then gracefully comes back down. On Osaka's version (at about 6:10), he doesn't climb to the same heights or exhibit half the grace. I don't think this is a proficiency issue (he can clearly match Jones on this song), but maybe attention to detail? I find it hard to write that, after witnessing the amazing detail of this cover, but what else could it be?

Osaka's Mellotron is also a little brassy compared to the original. To be fair, it might be tough to reproduce the 1960's Mellotron sound. It kinda sounded like reguritated feces, but they were mellow feces. Osaka's synth sounds better, richer, throatier, but slightly choppy and inauthentic. The notes don't flow as well.

Finally, drum machine. DRUM MACHINE? Yeah, I guess I get it. I might take the better part of three months to really learn a Zep drum line, and this is a seven minute song. But with the amount of effort on the rest of the song, the drum machine seems like a bit of an ABOMINATION. You'll certainly notice the other percussive element missing – where is Robert Plant's mouth noise? I'm not talking about his singing, which is wonderful on the original, I'm talking about the smacks and pops you get every time he opens his mouth.

If you have it, queue up the original Zep to 0:45. Robert sings "the sunlight in my growing," and then you hear the following:

  • "Gnohf" – the sound you make when you close the back of your soft palate and force air up through your nose; almost like a mini-clearing of the throat
  • "mlup" – the sound of a moist mouth opening
  • "kEH"  – the sound of the back of the throat opening and a little air escaping

Then Robert hits the next line – "So little warmth..."

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the mouth noises; they're a part of the whole Zep experience. In fact, I miss them on Osaka's cover. If anything, he should have programmed them into the drum machine. 

This is a great song though, and great cover. The guitar is incendiary (hi A.W.). Your mom will probably call soon to let you know about it.


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