Saturday, December 01, 2007

What I just bought This CD:

For years, as playlists and multidisc players put Led Zeppelin tracks into a mix, there was a perpetual need to adjust the volume when Zep came on. Their tunes languished in the haze of substandard remastering--until now, at least for the 24 tracks on Mothership and the final fullness of the new Song Remains the Same reissue. For its part, Mothership's crisper, warmer audio owes its heft to the troika of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who helped oversee the mastering, bringing out untold shades even in the throes of "Heartbreaker" and the sinews of "No Quarter." It's an impressive sonic leap. Where tinny high-ends and muffled lows used to co-exist, fatter and louder depths prevail. It's ever more astonishing that Zep got on with just four blokes. You can quibble with the 24 tracks here (where's "The Ocean"?), but the band picked each track here, from the stone-cold locks ("Communication Breakdown" and "Stairway to Heaven," no, duh) to the robust throb of "When the Levee Breaks." As for "The Ocean," you can find that in fantastically full form, along with five other gems on the newly remastered Song Remains the Same, which shows up for 2007's holiday season on DVD, too. Only rarely have four lads from England made so memorable an auditory and visual blast.

Sounds great so far. The audio quality is way better than the iTunes version of In Through The Out Door (ITTOD) that I described earlier (can't locate post). I never got too much into Zep in the late '70s except for ITTOD. I'm really diggin' this though.

But that's not what this post is about. It's really about Comcast's On Demand VH1 Classic Albums. Can't find a link to that either though. It's a great feature, despite a couple of glaring inadequacies. It's probably about a 30-40 minute documentary on individual albums, usually those from the '70s and '80s but later ones too. They've done Nirvana's Nevermind, Steely Dan's Aja, and the one playing now is Deep Purple's Machine Head.

The neat thing about it is that they have the musicians and engineers who recorded it doing all the talking; it's largely about the production of the album rather than its influence outside. What makes it entirely different and more interesting than other music documentaries is that they go into some detail on the recordings themselves. They'll usually have the people sitting at a mixing board in a recording studio going over individual tracks and explaining how they came up with them, why particular sections are interesting, and then mixing in other tracks to show how it fits together. You really get to hear stuff that you would mostly skip over when just listening to the recordings on the radio, LP, CD, or whatever.

Much of the time they'll go to the actual locations the recordings took place in; I never knew, for example, that at least one track of Nevermind was recorded in my beloved Madison (WI).

The major irritant is that they split it up into 5-6 individual programs of 5-15 minutes each so you can't just sit and watch the whole thing through. A second irritant, no doubt related to the first, is all the advertising they stick in the beginning of each one. Probably why they do 5-6 instead of one, so they can make you watch the adverts. Happily, there is a FF feature.

Heartily recommended.