Dread Zeppelin: Since the release in 1990 of their debut cd “Un-Led-Ed” for IRS Records, Dread Zeppelin have continued to play to diehard fans and confused faces in crowds around the world for 20 years. While the make-up of the band has gone through a few member changes, the main forces of the band have remained to reveal new and old sounds, and look for a new generation of Led Zeppelin fans and anti-Led Zeppelin fans. Dread may always be considered to most, purely a novelty act. However, some may argue that unlike a number of those acts, the bands longevity is due to their ability to actually play. On their latest release, Bar Coda “, they managed to step back in time with their camp approach they are known for. Tortelvis, has made a career of imitating the vocal style and mannerisms of the late Elvis Presley. However, “the times they are a changin.” Kinda! While Tortelvis still carries some of the Elvis inflections into his own style, the music seems to be more timeless when not reverting to the use of fat, food or drug references, although their use of weaving many songs and riffs together make for laughs of their own.
Dread Zeppelin's latest relerase produced and recorded by Spice (Dread Zeppelin's longtime drummer), Bar Coda reveals possibly a more mature sound, laced with rhythmic oriented beats but still somehow sticking with the classic DZ formula. Butt-boy's guitar adventurism is also evident when challenged to create more unique versions of familiar songs like That's Alright Mama and The Lemon Song. At times the guitar echoes a sonic tone not unlike that of 'Korn' and 'Mashuga'. Drummer Ziggy Knarley's beats reflect an almost jazz / rock hybrid, mostly evident in tracks like No Woman No Cry and Out On The Tiles. Spice has taken over the reigns as Bob Knarley relinquishes his producer to role and as brings it on home with Bar Coda. A recording that takes it's roots from "the old" Dread Zeppelin, (Led Zeppelin, Elvis and reggae). Who knew!
Celebration Day, The Lemon Song, No Woman No Cry, The Ocean, The Rover, Suspicious Minds, Out On The Tiles, That's Alright Mama, Thank You and title track Bar Coda. One thinks that Mr. Plant will be "thanking" Dread Zeppelin for their version of Thank You and even preferring it over his own just like in the old days.
Like the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio's paintings, Dread Zeppelin's latest release “SoSo” is a work of skill and inspiration. It's true that a 17th century artist and Dread Zeppelin have little in common, except perhaps a love of Italian pastries. The parallel is simply that Caravaggio made copies of his popular paintings on demand for patrons. Each copy had it's own character but stayed true to the theme of the original. This is what Dread Zeppelin has accomplished with “SoSo”: The familiar Dread Zeppelin songs are revisited all the while staying true to their sound. Each song is true to their style but is reworked with a master's hand giving each song new character.
“SoSo” is a continuation of their tradition with a maturity and breadth of sound that has become the Dread Zeppelin hallmark. The title cleverly begs for jokes about the CD being “so-so”. Far from mediocre “SoSo” is a demonstration of their peculiar genius for making Led Zeppelin and Elvis standards fresh. This is what Tortelvis calls “pure innertainment.”
“Bring It On Home” is just one of the many surprises on “SoSo”. The fusion of “Return to Sender” as counterpoint to the melody is so fluid that it almost goes unnoticed. The marriage of these songs is so obvious, so natural, that it's a wonder that it took so long to put them together. Another fun surprise is “Whole Lotta Love”, a staple of Dread Zeppelin's live performances, updated with Elvis' “Burnin' Love”.
Butt Boy's chops are as tight as ever throughout “SoSo”. “Black Mountain Side” is a freewheeling variation on a theme that might seem far-removed from the acoustic version. The melody is infectious, almost lyrical and is a little closer to Bert Jansch's Irish folk song than it might seem. Fans of Butt Boy's shredding style won't be disappointed either. Be sure to turn up “Heartbreaker” to appreciate a master of the fretboard at work.
“I Can't Quit You Babe” has long been a showcase for Tortelvis' dramatic vocals. “SoSo” includes an updated version enhanced with Elvis' “Love Me” and a fine reggae-toasting performance by Ed Zeppelin. The result is a practically joyful undercurrent to a well-known blues standard. Ed Zeppelin also appears on “Your Time is Gonna Come”. It's always a pleasure to hear Ed Zeppelin who adds so much to Dread Zeppelin's sound.
Long-time Dread Zeppelin member Spice produced “SoSo” with a deftness and passion that Dread Zeppelin fans have come to expect. Every song benefits from Spice's ingenuity. The “Immigrant Song” is a standout, an expertly mixed song from beginning to end. The song begins with Tortelvis' wailing war cry over a full-throttle tempo and evolves into a driving mix of guitars, bass and keyboards. The song is at full force when “In the Ghetto” is masterfully added giving a new twist on a Dread Zeppelin classic.
It's fitting that “SoSo” conclude with “The Rain Song”, described by Dread Zeppelin as “very special.” Special is an understatement. It's by far the most impressive song on “SoSo” and “The Rain Song” is destined to become a show-stopper. This is the first time Dread Zeppelin has recorded this moody Led Zeppelin ballad and the band obviously relished this opportunity to make it over in Dread Zeppelin style. The arrangement is perfect, complete with keyboards mimicking the orchestral-like Mellotron of the original. The guitar, bass and percussion all perfectly complement the song as it builds into a Phil Spector-like wall of sound.
Tortelvis' really puts his heart into “The Rain Song” giving a bravura performance that is as close to an aria that is ever likely to be found in a rock ballad. Tortelvis' voice has gained in resonance and range over the years and this song is a perfect vehicle for his talent.
After more than 20 years of making music together Dread Zeppelin has nothing to prove to their fans but that doesn't mean they've stopped trying to entertain. The affection the band has for each other is evident throughout the recording. “SoSo” is not so-so. It's great and at times brilliant. Dread Zeppelin does it again.
“SoSo” is produced by Spice.Vocals: TortelvisGuitars: Butt BoyBass: Bob KnarleyPercussion: Ziggy KnarleyAdditional Vocals/Reggae Toasting: Ed Zeppelin
Track List: Black Dog, Heartbreaker, Livin Lovin Maid, Your Time Is Gonna Come, Bring It On Home, Whole Lotta Love, Black Mountain Side, I Can't Quit You Babe, Immigrant Song, Moby Dick, and a very special version of The Rain Song
Fat Stash: Los Angeles' first Mash-Up Live experience. Sounds from Zepplin to Snoop Dogg... Chili Peppers to Dr. Dre... mixing live rock with the turn-tables. JDiddy on vocals, Mickey GoGo on bass, El Sid on guitar and Kid Kellogg on the drums.