Thursday, November 27, 2008

Led Zeppelin and Myles Kennedy - Thornley Mention

Just some long stuff I wrote about the whole rumor thang.

A bit of a summation of RP's uniqueness and the thoughts of new material. (There's an Ian mention too...)

Black and Gold wrote:
"As much as people like to bash Robert Plant's solo career, Jimmy and John Paul's post-Zep careers have been far less prolific, successful or memorable. Clearly not because of lack of musicianship but more lack of good songwriting partners. I can't remember the last time I heard a song by the Firm or Coverdale-Page. The songs just weren't that good.

In my opinion, there has to be new material and there has to be at least a couple of really good songs, otherwise it could all backfire and they look like old men reliving their past. They need a great singer that can handle the Zep tunes without trying to sound like Robert. He or she hopefully adds something special to the creative process and isn't just singing the songs."

Some great points you made. The writing is a key factor in this project. The RP/JP factor in Zep music was/is one of the greatest ever. Robert was the perfect foil for Jimmy's powerful musical themes. They were both hungry absorbers of new sounds and foreign musical rhythms. It was a key factor in keeping Zep fresh throughout.

Their work had a brash playfulness and joy even when the music got heavy. They had a "feel" that expressed itself beyond the notes. I couldn't wait to hear what new sound Jimmy would bring to the table. What new riff he could write that would be a game changer that others would follow. There was an innocence about abducting Eastern melodies back in the day. Now that it's been done, it's hard to go there again; at least on a massive pop scale like Zep did. Although Jimmy was the architect, all four stellar members comprised the Architecture. Besides bringing the "hippy drippy" lyrics, Lord of the Rings references, historical blues themes Robert had a way with "selling" it vocally that none in my opinion have ever had. It's an actor's ability.

Robert had a passion in his voice that goes beyond just singing. Plant was born out of Janice Joplin's crushed passion and Billie Holiday's incredible pain. It was off-putting to some, for sure, but for me it was the icing on the cake. His studder on N'N'N'N'N'Nobody's Fault But Mine; his scat singing on What is and What should Never Be, and all his vocal gymnastics were "sexy" in some orgasmic way. I can't think of one singer today that carries that off without sounding forced or trite. The last guy who could, passed away 11 years ago (Jeff Buckley). As I've said before, I think it has more to do with this age of music, the public's acceptance of that type of expression than it has to do with the capabilities of the singer on the market.

The generation of musical children, that Zep spawned; in particular the ones inspired by Robert, could only copy/mimic the more earnest bombast of his style. Most missed the point. The Viking warrior Robert embodied in the Immigrant song spawned a whole genre of metal seriousness. What they missed entirely was the sexiness of Robert's vocal nakedness. His courage and naivete to to expose himself and be cool in the process. NO BODY does this today.

Maybe it's by contrast alone that Plant/Zep could flourish. From the uptight John Wayne tough guy comes the sexy wailing banshee, that fems it up but is somehow even more male! Robert had a confidence that would broadcast at full volume. In todays world his 70's stage persona is a gay prima dona. Even though our society has "opened" considerably our art has constricted/narrowed in how it relates. As a past revisited he's accepted. Copiers are scorned. Imitators are tossed off as children wearing dady' shoes. I guess it's just a natural course of things.

A lot of who I think are today's best (within the last 15 years or so), (Cornell, Myles, Ian Thornley all have Plant-like facets -that's why I like them) are of a different dimension than Plant's 70's man. They all do angst - extremely well. They all do "personal sensitive" into "overwrought anger" really well. They all "get" the blues in a modern age influenced way. They all hit the operatic wail and dig deep for the personal pain. I think that Blue Train is almost a nod by Robert to the personal pain that today's best seem to do so well.

If you take Alter Bridge as an example. They are musically borne out of a strong love of late 80's metal (Metallica/Slayer) employed in "lighter" pop themes. From a business standpoint they are capitalizing on a market they created with Creed (A Perl Jam sound-alike with spiritual overtones - both loved and hated for the same reasons) and at the same time distancing themselves from it. Big Ballady Journey numbers with Metallica chops and bombast. Myles is bringing them more towards the blues that's in his blood, but he also has a knack for writing the big blustery ballads inspired by none other than Stairway. His songwriting seems very familiar at first listen and can be easily dismissed as tribute until you realize that he has tremendous craft. He can write a catchy melody. He's a top notch player to boot. One of his first incarnations was called Citizen Swing. Myles admittedly cringes at some aspects of his young performance but there are portions that expose some early strengths and only underly his current vehicle AlterBridge.

Listen to Motor Mama and Can't Complain
Citizen Swing:

He digs the classic R&B and can refer to the 40's swing feel that Jimmy always incorporated into his live repertoire. I think that that is the connect. They all share a reverence for classic Jazz and R&B. It's what MADE Bonham. Myles albiet a generation removed. Having a common musical language when writing is essential to communicate composition.

Myles, by experience, does not necessarily have the vocal playfulness that Robert brought, but I do think he's earnestly passionate enough to "sell it" if given the chance. It's not just about the chops. It's what Steven Tyler has; that over-the-top-jazz-rooted-scat-singing freedom, but he is just over the hill IMHO.

I do GET the idea that Jimmy needs someone to challenge him musically. Myles might be too generic/of today for most. Not exotic enough and Jimmy falls too easily into the sophomoric. I LOVE the Coverdale/Page CD, musically, but it's cringeworthy in moments because of that 80's poser metal mentality that DC falls into. I definitely think that should avoid the 80's altogether.

JpJ is the "Arranger". He takes the pieces and embellishes and augments. He's the glue that will make the new stuff last. He's a riffage/proggey leaning musician's musician, that's as comfortable in R&B as he is in Country music. That's a broad range to be fluent in. His impact will be immeasurable. I look forward to wonderful instrumentation and intricate interplay. I only pray that they don't low-tech the approach. I want layers and deep listening.

Jason needs to crawl out of the box on this one too. Stop trying to fill his Dad's shoes and just be Jason. He shares much more with Myles than he does with his uncles Jimmy and John. I think that will be key in writing in this environment. How open will the old guys be to the "youngster's ideas? Who will challenge who? Who's instincts will win out? How "forward" will the new stuff be? How "backward"? How will our narrow pre-conceptions be? How do you create innocent joyful music when you're a hard worn veteran in a jaded cynical world? This for certain will be interesting.

Sorry for being so typey.

1 comment:

Steve Sauer said...

Great observations. I have some catching up to do, in terms of acquainting myself with Myles Kennedy. What I would like to know is how Jimmy and John Paul got hooked up with him. There's probably a great story behind that.