When one considers the legendary status that Led Zeppelin holds in the annals of Rock Music history they are reminded of how the group not only effectively created a genre but how they also set the guidelines to follow for decades to come. With that being said - anyone who undertakes a tribute album of their music knows full well that it needs to be done not only with the proper levels of respect, but also needs to be something that the listener can get through in one sitting without lambasting the artist who did it. Drummer Frankie Banali, most noted for his work in both Quiet Riot and W.A.S.P. has taken this project and the reservations people might have had about it very serious and the end result is a very interesting album to listen to. It was a heartfelt mission of the drummer who had long been inspired by the band and Mr. John Henry Bonham to do this properly and for the project he would assemble different singers and guitarists from across the Hard Rock scene. If you had ever heard Banali perform over the years then you would instantly recognize many feels and grooves that come from the influence of Bonzo. So how does this come off as a finished product well it very simply is one of the better tribute releases on the market based on how pure and dead on the overall musical output sounds. Having grown up musically in the big eighties I really enjoyed hearing many of the era's luminaries trying their luck at singing the Zeppelin classics. Glenn Hughes is probably the most legendary voice on the album and one of Banali's favorite singers of all time but I admit that I enjoyed Don Dokken and Robin McCauley's takes on "Kashmir" and "Out On The Tiles" most of all. Chas West was a nice addition for this as he had sang with Jason Bonham at one time and it was really good to hear Paul Shortino again. Shortino has a fine voice and is not always given proper credit for being as good as he is. I also found it interesting to hear Kevin DuBrow on "Gallow's Pole" as he proved to be the perfect choice for such a number. None of the singers mimic Robert Plant but instead sing as they usually do and since each of them possess voices with a higher register anyway it works out quite well. The guitar work is on the money here with a couple of my favorite players being featured and I am speaking of both Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich. Both of these axe-wielding journeymen are on top of their game as they deliver the classic Jimmy Page riffs with apparent ease. Sadly, their contributions are not found on as many tracks as I would have liked and instead Steve Fister does several more but does great in his own right as well. I would have loved to find Randy Jackson from Zebra on this album as the band used to do a healthy amount of their music and he also is a great guitarist/vocalist. Perhaps if there is a follow up Frankie can give him a call. Tony Franklin handles the bass on the project and does his best John Paul Jones over the pounding backbeat of Banali who really proves to be calling on the spirit of John Bonham as he plays each note. He manages to keep the same subtlety that he had while at other times dropping the thunder and fury around the kit and snare drum. Those who know Zeppelin music pretty good also remember how intricate the footwork on the bass drum was from John and on the album Banali does not disappoint and seems on the mark across the board. The best way to describe this release was as "star-studded" and the great thing about it was that everyone does their job skillfully and tastefully. There does not seem to be any showboating or insane explorations into what they can do in their real life gigs. This was about playing Led Zeppelin music and playing it well.
It's all a fun and educational ride back into Led Zeppelin history until they get to the second to last track "When The Levee Breaks", which has long been one of my most revered tunes from the bands catalog. The tune starts off fine enough but after about three minutes it warps and shifts back across the other songs and presents them again as opposed to continuing along in a normal fashion. When it first played I immediately stopped my player, removed the CD and cleaned it for fear that something was on the disk and was going to ruin it. Much to my surprise this was not dirt but a rather unique and absurd presentation from the drummer. He did this on purpose and while he found it cool I found it to be a little bit annoying and disruptive to the piece. The CD closes with an original piece that is on the tasty side in terms of its overall groove . Frankie is to be commended for this truly interesting "labor of love" and it's a must have for not only the Led Zep enthusiasts but also for those who are a fan of the guitar players and singers who took part in it. They all did exceptionally well and remind everyone who listens why Led Zeppelin's songs are still so relevant today. Clearly, the songs remain the same – incredible, profound and oh so powerful.
The Singers: Alex Ligertwood, Glenn Hughes, Don Dokken, Robin McCauley, Paul Shortino, Mark Boals, Bobby Kimball, Jeff Scott Soto, Kevin DuBrow, Chas West, Joan Fraley.
The Guitarists: Doug Aldrich, Steve Fister, Reb Beach, Bruce Kulick, Gilby Clarke, Bill Leverty.
1. The Wanton Song – Alex Ligertwood
2. Four Sticks – Glenn Hughes
3. Kashmir – Don Dokken
4. Out On The Tiles – Robin McCauley
5. Ramble On – Paul Shortino
6. The Ocean – Mark Boals
7. The Immigrant Song – Bobby Kimball
8. Royal Orleans – Jeff Scott Soto
9. Gallows Pole – Kevin DuBrow
10. Custard Pie – Chas West
11. When The Levee Breaks – Joan Fraley & The 24/7 Overture
12. (They Were) The Eye Of God