A Feast Of Friends (Godfatherecords G.R. 686)
Lokerse Feesten, Lokeren, Belgium – 5 August, 2011
Black Dog, Down To The Sea, Angel Dance, House Of Cards, Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go, Monkey, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Let The Four Winds Blow, Misty Mountain Hop, Shine It All Around, Ramble On, Band Introduction, Gallows Pole
Bonus tracks: Crocus City Hall, Moscow, Russia – 29 July, 2011: Houses Of The Holy, Black Country Woman
This CD of the Band Of Joy’s full performance from the 2011 music festival in Lokeren begins with a hugely enjoyable version of Black Dog, the opening song from Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album. The Band Of Joy version, taken at a slower pace than the original, manages to be simultaneously folky and heavy. The vocals of Patty Griffin, who possesses, in Guardian writer Alex Petridis’ words, a “desolate voice,” effectively supplement those of Plant himself and the song also features a terrific contribution from guitarist Buddy Miller. Rooirockert, who uploaded the song on to YouTube, writes: “I really love Robert, but it’s a shame that he played the Zeppelin songs differently.” I could not disagree more; with numerous Led Zeppelin performances on bootleg CDs, it is great to have this reworked version of the song as well. Although it refers to the Band Of Joy album, which contains no Led Zeppelin material, Petridis’ comment is equally relevant to the band’s reworking of Zeppelin numbers such as this: “It’s marked by the fresh excitement of mapping out new territory rather than the more craven pleasure of wallowing in nostalgia: an object lesson in the value of not giving people what they want.”
Next up is a fine version of Down To The Sea, with its acoustic and electric guitar solos from Darrell Scott and Miller respectively. This is followed by what Plant introduces as, “a great Los Lobos song” (from their album The Neighborhood), Angel Dance. It is one of only three songs featured here from the Band Of Joy album (the others being House Of Cards and Monkey) and Independent writer Andy Gill considers it “most infectious cut” on the album. The excellent performance here reproduces what Petridis calls the song’s “humid and mysterious” sound. Following this is the second song from the album, House Of Cards, which originally appeared on the Richard & Linda Thompson album First Light, and which features the effective combination of Miller’s and Scott’s playing. Before the song Plant mistakenly introduces Buddy Miller to the audience. Miller in fact assumes lead vocal duties, while Plant switches to harmonica, on the next song, Somewhere Touble Don’t Go, which Miller wrote with his wife Julie and which features on his album Cruel Moon.
After this we hear the third and final song from the Band Of Joy album, Monkey. This is one of two songs (the other being Silver Rider) to feature on the album which originally appeared on the Low album The Great Destroyer. The two songs, according to allmusic website reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “feel like ancient, unearthed backwoods laments.” This superb performance of Monkey is incredibly atmospheric, effectively reproducing what Petridis calls the song’s “creepy intensity ratcheted up by guitarist Buddy Miller’s opaque smears of feedback and Plant and Griffin’s eerily controlled vocals.” The performance bears out Erlewine’s contention that, “Plant finds fiercely original music within other people’s songs…a testament that the power of music lies not in its writing but in its performance.”
The next Led Zeppelin song to crop up is Bron-Y-Aur Stomp from Led Zeppelin III and, bearing in mind that the Zeppelin version is, in the words of Wikipedia, a “country music-inflected hoedown,” the Band Of Joy rendition heard here is closer to the original that is the case with Black Dog. This is followed by Let The Four Winds Blow, one of two songs from the Robert Plant And The Strange Sensation album Mighty ReArranger, which had only been debuted by the band in Berlin two days earlier. Then it is back to Led Zeppelin territory for a relaxed, good-natured rendition of Misty Mountain Hop from untitled fourth album.
Shine It All Around, which was also a single, is the second song from the album Mighty ReArranger to grace the show and features the versatile Scott on pedal steel. This is succeeded by Ramble On, from Led Zeppelin II, which begins gently but builds in intensity over its eight-minute span, and includes a solo spot for Scott on mandolin. A brief band introduction, separately tracked here, concludes the main set but Plant and the band return for an encore in the form of Gallows Pole, the traditional song recorded by Leadbelly in 1939 and included on Led Zeppelin III. This most enjoyable version sees Scott switch from mandolin to banjo.
The two bonus tracks, from a show played the week before in Moscow, are both Led Zeppelin numbers from the Physical Graffiti album, a country-inflected Houses Of The Holy and a version of Black Country Woman which sees Griffin sharing vocal duties with Plant throughout
The main show is sourced from an excellent audience tape, the quality of which is good enough for qul006b, elsewhere on CMR, to speculate that it might be from an FM source. The sound of the two bonus tracks is also audience-sourced and is even better than that of the main show. Judging from the performance and sound quality of these two songs, a full release of the Moscow show would be most welcome.
The CD is housed in Godfather’s trademark tri-fold sleeve, which shows Plant and Griffin on the front cover and which also features numerous onstage photographs of Plant and the band. The track listing is on the rear. though there is no list of band personnel and there are no notes or booklet. Overall, with fine sound and enjoyable performances, this is a very desirable CD and a worthy successor to Godfather’s excellent first Band Of Joy release, Satisfied Mind, which has already received a warm welcome from gsparaco.