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Led Zeppelin

Once again I've been very busy but must mention last month's Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters show at The Greek Theater.  With guitarist Justin Adams (Tinariwen/Sinead O'Connor) keyboardist John Baggott (Massive Attack/Portishead) bassist Billy Fuller (Massive Attack) guitarist Liam Tyson (Men from Mars) Juldeh Camara on the Gambian ritti, a one string violin, and a phenominal young drummer from London, Dave Smith, Plant was able to re-invent his songbook by exploring the modern, and the deep past.  Plant has often said that the music of North AAfrica is directly related to deep delta blues.  Hence Black Dog was transformed into a grio dirge, Rock and Roll became a physchedelic delta blues, and so on.  Plant has big ears, as musicians used to like to say.  Like all music greats, he leads by listening.   

One of the most enjoyable things to me about the creative process is being open to new ideas, and re-evaluating old opinions.  I was not a huge Led Zeppelin fan the first time around.  By 1970 Jimi and Janice were dead, with Jim Morrison to follow the next year.  Rock felt tired to me.  And there were exciting things happening with Miles, Weather Report, Mahavishnu, and music from Fela, Paco, Shakti, Ravi and the whole world music explosion.  It was impossible not to be aware of Zep, of course.  Stairway was played in every Guitar Center on Saturdays to the point of actually being banned.  And their musicianship was obvious.  But there was something about the big hair, bare chests with no muscles, and cigarettes dangling from lower lips that felt posed and old to me.  And so I remained blissfully ignorant, until no less a musician than my dear friend Benny Rietveld said to me a few years ago: "Greg, Led Zep were the ones!"  Like Saul thrown from his horse on the way to Damascus, it was a revelation to me.  I had assumed the debate was still Stones vs. Beatles.  And then I realized that Benny, who with Santana has the honor of playing with the best rhythm section in the world to my view, was speaking of Zep as a totality, especially Bonham and John Paul Jones. I became a huge fan on the spot.  By the time Walking into Clarksdale was released, I was also a fan of Plant and Page's post Zep projects.  And I've written earlier of all the amazing studio work Jimmy did before Zep.  So now I'm the happiest late convert on the planet.  Benny, by the way, is also an extremely gifted writer, and recently published an extensive essay on Bond film music in the Herald de Paris.

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