Lost in Music – John Meagher
EACH week John Meagher writes exclusively for Independent.ie.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Neil Young – A Letter Home
The ever-productive Canadian veteran is back with an album of covers and while Young aficionados will be disappointed by the lack of new material, there is much to cherish among these beautifully reworked songs.
The most affecting is his stunning take on Bert Jansch’s ‘Needle of Death’ which, as all true NY fans will know, was part of the inspiration for one of his most emblematic songs, the harrowing ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ from 1972’s Harvest album.
Young’s care-worn vocals lift Gordon Lightfoot’s breezy ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ by several notches – it really is an outstanding cover – and there’s an inspired duet with the busy Jack White on a subdued, haunted rendition of the Everly Brothers’ ‘Wonder Why I Care So Much’.
A Letter Home is perhaps the most lo-fi album in Young’s career to date – not least because it was made in an ancient recording booth called Voice-O-Gram – but the hiss and crackle don’t detract from the overall package.
It’s just odd timing that Young has opted for such a rough-and-ready approach: Later this year, he will launch his much-publicised Pono digital music player which he promises will restore the portable listening experience to all its high fidelity glory. It’s hard to imagine Pono enhancing the experience of listening to this album.
Key tracks: ‘Needle of Death’; ‘Wonder Why I Care So Much’
CLASSIC ALBUM REVISITED
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin’s music has been repackaged more than most bands, but their legions of aficionados will be excited by the prospect of all nine studio albums getting the re-master treatment, with Jimmy Page at the tiller, and plenty of bonus material too.
Their self-titled debut remains a landmark 45 years after it was first unleashed and it is impossible to over-state its influence on rock, especially that of the heavier kind.
The re-mastering has succeeded in making totemic songs like ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Communication Breakdown’ sound even more immense than the versions you know and love and the second album of live material – recorded at the Olympia, Paris in 1969 – offers a reminder of the quartet’s formidable live reputation.
In an era in which bands can slave over albums in the studio for months at a time, it says something about the approach of Messrs Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham that Led Zeppelin was recorded and mixed in just 36 hours.
Remastered versions of their two subsequent albums – Led Zeppelin II (also 1969) and Led Zeppelin III (1970) are also released today.
II is even heavier sounding than its predecessor, albeit marginally more polished, while III – which divided critical opinion at the time – introduces folk elements to their sound for the first time.
I have copies of each of the three remastered Led Zep albums to give away thanks to Warner Music Ireland. To be in with a chance of winning, simply mail me (email@example.com) with the name of their studio album that features the wonderfully anthemic ‘Kashmir’
Meanwhile, Dave Fanning will carry a new interview with Jimmy Page this Sunday at 10am.
GIG OF THE WEEK
Forbidden Fruit, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, Saturday and Sunday
Now very much part of the capital’s summer festival programme, this smaller, more bespoke two-day event in Dublin 8 offers an opportunity to see some fine names from home and abroad in a comparatively intimate setting.
The pick of this year’s lineup includes the Flaming Lips (whose live outings can be as schizophrenic as their recorded material) and the all-female Warpaint. Saturday’s roll-call is especially tasty for fans of homegrown music: think Bell X1, Girls Names, And So I Watch You From Afar and Lisa O'Neill.
See here for more information.
Those of us who attended the tribute night for The Radiators mainman, Philip Chevron, just weeks before his death last year won’t forget the wonderful poem that Joseph O’Connor wrote and delivered in his honour. It was clear that the celebrated author had a deep-seated love of Chevron’s work and a huge appreciation for the culture and music of the late 1970s and early 1980s when The Radiators were in their pomp.
Now, he’s back with a new novel, The Thrill of It All, which is a veritable love letter to the trials and tribulations of being in a band. It spans a quarter of a century – from the early 1980s to more contemporary times – and focuses on a fictitious band whose members include a second-generation Irish man. It’s frequently very funny and is shot through with great pathos too.
A page-turner in the old-fashioned sense of the word, The Thrill of It All (named after the Roxy Music song, of course) is published by Harvill Secker and is out now.