Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times.
In the late 1960s, musicians Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham fused disparate musical elements to form a uniquely "heavy" sound that came to define Led Zeppelin. Candidly outlined in the film, the genesis of the band's musical style is a complicated and sometimes controversial saga. As original as the output of these four musicians was, it is evident that their music was derived from blues and folk traditions and from the musicians that had inspired them. This film provides an examination of the band's formation and the musical heritage that contributed to Led Zeppelin's innovative sound.
Released in April 2014, this 2-disc set is available from Pride Records (4:3 screen format, Dolby Digital 2.0). Supported by extensive live footage and interviews with musicians, producers, scholars, and critics, this set offers a unique evidence-based look at the music of Led Zeppelin. Holding true to the DVD title and the song of the same name, the filmmakers present both good times and bad times.
The material on Disc One is focused upon the evidence of the band's musical genealogy in their first two albums (Led Zeppelin I and II). A primary goal in the film's narrative is the dispelling of any myth that perpetuates the idea that the music of Led Zeppelin is sui generis. The film highlights each individual band member's technical skills and musical experiences in addition to showcasing how highly inventive and creative the musicians were together as an ensemble.
Following this investigation of the experience and skills of the individual band members, the next part of the film is an exploration of the tracks on the first two albums in terms of the apparent influence of folk, rockabilly, world music styles, blues, etc. It is often noted that Led Zeppelin I (1969) was recorded in just 60 hours. However, as the film reveals, some of the songs on this album were actually tunes from the band members' collaborative past or were known traditional/folk songs. Despite the success of this album, it was this recycling and restyling of older tunes that initially was, and continues to be, a point of controversy.
Coming on the heels of the first album's success, the band's sophomore effort, Led Zeppelin II (also released in 1969), did not disappoint the public. The interviewees in the film agree that this album represents Led Zeppelin truly owning their style. However, several songs again were clearly derivative and the album was not without its critics. The film's contributors address accusations of plagiarism or at least improper writing credit regarding two tracks in particular, Whole Lotta Love, and Bring it on Home.
In contrast, other tunes on the album, like the J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired Ramble On, did not raise questions of originality, but as is demonstrated in the film, were considered the foreshadowing of the band's continuing and evolving creativity.
Disc Two contains an examination of the developing style present on the Led Zeppelin albums that followed the first two. The film's producers highlight the tunes on the later albums that were recorded previously in Led Zeppelin's career as a means to reflect upon the blues/folk roots of the band's sound while the more progressive tunes are recognized for their inventive brilliance. The role of the band's manager, Peter Grant, and the impact of Led Zeppelin's own recording label, Swan Song, is also addressed.
Along with the main body of material on the two discs there is a good deal of extras including an involved history of the Yardbirds, contributor biographies, and "The Hardest Interactive Led Zeppelin Quiz in the World Ever."
Despite the relatively low production quality of the discs and a few curiosities (typos in the quiz, lack of credits at the end of film, no liner notes in the DVD case) the information presented is valuable and is ideal for anyone interested in the musical heritage of Led Zeppelin.
Admirably the film is focused not on the celebrity behaviors and personal fates of the band's members, but is truly centered on the music recorded by Led Zeppelin. In the end, the filmmakers make a convincing argument that Led Zeppelin's music was remarkable not because it was new, but because it was a culmination of all of their combined musical influences, experiences, passions, and skills.
California State University, Long Beach
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|Article Type:||Video recording review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2015|
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