Articles on this Page
- 01/07/15--08:05: _'Shred Alert' DVD: ...
- 01/07/15--08:06: _Dimebag Darrell, "W...
- 01/07/15--10:08: _Metal for Life with...
- 01/07/15--10:10: _Review: Pigtronix R...
- 01/07/15--13:20: _Uli Jon Roth Revisi...
- 01/07/15--13:45: _Fender Announces De...
- 01/07/15--14:15: _UFO Reveal Track Li...
- 01/08/15--04:30: _Ryan Cullwell's "Ne...
- 01/08/15--05:39: _Guitar World Launch...
- 01/08/15--05:48: _Woman Plays Jimi He...
- 01/08/15--11:33: _Jazz Guitar Corner:...
- 01/08/15--11:55: _ESP Custom Shop Dis...
- 01/08/15--13:28: _Testament's Alex Sk...
- 01/08/15--14:02: _It Might Get Weird:...
- 01/09/15--05:15: _Led Zeppelin, "Babe...
- 01/09/15--05:17: _The 50 Greatest Led...
- 01/09/15--05:19: _Jimmy Page Revisits...
- 01/09/15--05:24: _Whole Lotta Editing...
- 01/09/15--05:47: _SongTown: Why I Write
- 01/09/15--08:07: _Santa Cruz Premiere...
- 01/07/15--08:05: 'Shred Alert' DVD: Let Paul Gilbert Teach You How to Shred
- 01/07/15--10:10: Review: Pigtronix Rototron Rotary Speaker Simulator — Video
- 01/07/15--13:20: Uli Jon Roth Revisits His Scorpions Days on New Album
- 01/07/15--13:45: Fender Announces Dee Dee Ramone Precision Bass Guitar
- 01/07/15--14:15: UFO Reveal Track Listing for New Album, 'A Conspiracy of Stars'
- 01/08/15--04:30: Ryan Cullwell's "Never Gonna Cry"— Exclusive Song Premiere
- 01/08/15--05:39: Guitar World Launches 'Guitar World Lessons' App and Webstore
- 01/08/15--11:33: Jazz Guitar Corner: Soloing with the Mixed Blues Scale
- 01/08/15--13:28: Testament's Alex Skolnick Goes Global with 'Planetary Coalition'
- 01/08/15--14:02: It Might Get Weird: Satan's Steel — Shawn Mayo’s Lou-Cipher Guitar
- 01/09/15--05:17: The 50 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs
- 01/09/15--05:24: Whole Lotta Editing: Five Awesome Led Zeppelin Mashups
- 01/09/15--05:47: SongTown: Why I Write
- 01/09/15--08:07: Santa Cruz Premiere New Video, "Shred Till You Drop, Volume 2"
Paul Gilbert Presents Shred Alert is the only DVD to feature all the columns and video tutorials from the acclaimed Guitar World columnist.
You'll learn how to take your lead guitar playing to the next level with position shifting, alternate picking, 16th-note runs, muting techniques and much more! With more than two hours of lessons, Paul Gilbert Presents Shred Alert is the ultimate shredding lesson from one of the world's most influential guitarists.
Paul Gilbert Presents Shred Alert is a Guitar World Online Store exclusive! You won't find this product anywhere else.
The DVD contains these lessons:
• Alternate Universe: Using alternate picking and note skipping to play interesting arpeggio patterns
• Ready to Rumble: Quick, effective pick-hand warm-up exercises
• Ready to Rumble, Part 2: More pick-hand warm-up exercises
• Assume the Position: Using position shifts to your advantage when soloing
• Accentuate the Positive: Alternate picking with accent patterns
• Fast and Clean: Alternate-picked 16th notes--the business card of shred guitar
• Stick Yer Neck Out: Using neck diagrams to your advantage
• Shape Shifting: How to organize patterns on the fretboard
• Snake-Charmer Licks: The fifth mode of harmonic minor
• United Mutations: Mastering muting techniques
• Breakin' Out: The blessing and benefits of live performance
The February 2015 issue of Guitar World, which hits subscribers' mailboxes this week, is our Ultimate Dimebag Darrell Tribute Issue!
Among its exclusive Dime-themed offerings are:
• A private tour of the late guitarist's estate in Arlington, Texas, featuring his most cherished guitars and memorabilia
• The Guitar World guide to the 25 Greatest Pantera Songs of All Time
• An interview with metal producer Terry Date, who reflects on his days in the studio with Pantera
• An interview with Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, who recalls how he nearly drank himself to death on the road with Pantera
• Plus a gallery of Dimebag Darrell art and tattoos from Guitar World readers, who continue to express their devotion to the late guitarist.
As part of our Dime tribute, we're also premiering "Whiskey Road," a never-before-heard song that features Dimebag Darrell on vocals and all the instruments!
Listen to the song below—and play along with the complete transcription, which can be found at the very bottom of this story (Remember you can see the tabs full size by clicking on the full-page icon at the bottom right of the transcription preview window). The bulk of the "Whiskey Road" transcription also can be found starting on Page 126 of the February 2015 issue of Guitar World.
"Whiskey Road" was tracked in 2001, during the last outing of Pantera's Reinventing the Steel tour in the U.S. For more information about the song, check out the February 2015 issue of Guitar World.
Take note of Guitar World's new "Dimebag Demo Subscription Offer"! This subscription (for one or two years) includes an exclusive Flexi-Disc of "Whiskey Road"! For more information, head here. NOTE: If you're already a GW subscriber but still want to buy the exclusive "Whiskey Road" Flexi-Disc, visit the Guitar World Online Store now.
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the February 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.
This month, I’d like to explore some ideas that do not fall within the “normal” scope of metal soloing or riff writing.
I borrowed the name for this month’s column from an incredible album recorded by the band Apocrypha back in the late Eighties, a very creative metal band that constantly pushed the limits of the metal genre to new and unexplored territories.
If you are unfamiliar with them, be sure to check out this amazing album.
An effective way to create a powerful and memorable metal riff is to imagine a chord progression and then “describe” it with a single-note line, instead of playing any chords, as demonstrated in FIGURE 1.
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the February 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.
A lot of pedals—from phasers and vibes to so-called rotary effects—approximate the sounds of a rotating speaker cabinet, but it’s rare that one can nail the sound, performance and quirks of the genuine Leslie cabinets used to great effect on recordings by the Beatles, Peter Frampton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many others.
The Pigtronix Rototron is the latest contender, and it comes much closer to the authentic experience of playing through a Leslie cabinet than any stomp box has come before.
Uli Jon Roth will release a new double album, Scorpions Revisited, March 10 via UDR.
The album will contain 19 "re-invented" Scorpions tracks. According to a press release about the album, no one in their right mind would dare call these mere re-recordings; it’s clear Roth reinvents these songs from the soul up.
In 2013, Roth found himself unusually intrigued by his early days with the Scorpions, including his work on Fly to the Rainbow, In Trance, Virgin Killer and Taken By Force. As a result, the guitarist spent a year re-visiting, exploring, performing and re-recording his favorite Scorpions songs.
The first results can be found on Scorpions Revisited, which was recorded in Hanover, Germany. You can check out the complete track list below.
“The material for this CD was recorded last year in the same hall in Hanover that we used for the Scorpions rehearsals 1973 to 1978,” Roth says. “Together with an amazing bunch of very talented young musicians, I revisited my personal favorites from the early Scorpions period, some of which were written in that same hall.
"It was an emotional few days, and I am very pleased with the results in more ways than one. The idea was to stay truthful to the original spirit of the music, while also putting a new slant on it whenever it felt like the right thing to do. I feel we really succeeded in this and I’m very excited about this project. It was a intense journey into the past and I think we really managed to bring the songs back to life with a vengeance.”
Roth's band on the new album includes Nathan James (vocals), Jamie Little (drums), Ule W. Ritgen (bass), Niklas Turmann (guitar, vocals), Corvin Bahn (keyboards, vocals) and David Klosinski (guitar).
For more information, visit ulijonroth.com.
Track listing - CD1:
01. The Sails Of Charon
02. Longing For Fire
03. Crying Days
04. Virgin Killer
05. In Trance
06. Sun In My Hand
07. Yellow Raven
08. Polar Nights
09. Dark Lady
Track listing - CD2:
01. Catch Your Train
02. Evening Wind
03. All Night Long
04. We’ll Burn In The Sky
05. Pictured Life
06. Hell Cat
07. Life’s Like A River
08. Drifting Sun
09. Rainbow Dream Prelude
10. Fly To The Rainbow
2015 ULI JON ROTH U.S. Tour Dates:
21.01.2015 – California – Ramona - Mainstage
22.01.2015 – California – Anaheim - House of Blues
23.01.2015 – California – Hollywood - House of Blues
24.01.2015 – Nevada – Las Vegas - Vamp’d
25.01.2015 – California – San Josè - Rock Star Bar
26.01.2015 – Oregon – Portland - Tonic
27.01.2015 – Washington – Seattle - Studio 7
29.01.2015 – Minnesota – Moorehead - The Garage
30.01.2015 – Minnesota – Spring Lake Park - POVS
31.01.2015 - Illinois – St. Charles – Arcada Theatre
01.02.2015 - Illinois – Chicago – Reggie’s (& Sky Academy)
02.02.2015 – Michigan – Detroit – Token Lounge
03.02.2015 – Toronto – Mod Club
04.02.2015 – Ohio – Cleveland – Agora Ballroom
05.02.2015 – Connecticut – Hartford – Infinity Hall
06.02.2015 – New Hampshire – Londonderry – Tupelo Music Hall
07.02.2015 – New York – Poughkeepsie – The Chance
08.02.2015 – New York – Manhattan – BB King’s
09.02.2015 – Virginia – Springfield – The Empire
2015 ULI JON ROTH International Tour Dates:
19.02.2015 – Japan – Nagoya – Bottom Line
20.02.2015 – Japan – Tokyo – Nakano Sun Plaza Hall
22.02.2015 – Japan Osaka - Quattro
11.04.2015 – Full Metal Cruise II –
to Mediterranian Sea –
16.04.2015 Plama de Mallorca/Barcelona/Ibiza
24.04.2015 – Germany – Lauda-Königshofen – Keep it True Festival
22.05.2015 – Germany – Bocholt – Alte Molkerei
23.05.2015 – Germany – Bocholt – Alte Molkerei
22.08.2015 – Germany – Balve - Balver Höhle
27.08.2015 - Full Metal Cruise III –
to North Sea -
P.S.: Here's some random Roth riffing for you!
Fender has announced its Dee Dee Ramone Precision Bass guitar, based on the instrument Dee Dee played with seminal punk rock band the Ramones.
The bass, which was debuted at the Dee Dee Ramone Exhibition at New York City’s Hotel Chelsea from December 10 to January 1 (See the video below), will be available for sale at authorized Fender dealers and on fender.com January 22, which ties in with the 2015 Winter NAMM Show.
Punk bass starts with Douglas “Dee Dee Ramone” Colvin. As the pounding heart of the Ramones, he pioneered a no-frills sound and style that left a permanent mark on rock music. On a white Fender Precision Bass slung impossibly low, he defined punk bass with simple but breakneck bass lines delivered with such pulverizing sound, speed and conviction that he singlehandedly set the template for generations of punk bassists to come.
The Dee Dee Ramone Precision Bass guitar honors him with reverence and authenticity, just like any bassist since who’s ever planted his feet in a wide stance, slung a P Bass below the beltline and yelled a manic “1-2-3-4” count-off.
Features include an Olympic White gloss finish, maple neck with “C”-shaped profile and vintage-style heel truss-rod adjustment, 9.5”-radius maple fingerboard with 20 vintage-style frets, split single-coil pickup, three-ply black pickguard and vintage-style bridge with four single-groove saddles.
Additional features include Dee Dee Ramone’s signature on the back of the headstock, special “Dee Dee Ramone One Two Three Four” inscribed neck plate, vintage-style heel truss-rod adjustment, Seventies Fender logo decal and a single disk string tree.
Finally, the Dee Dee Ramone Precision Bass guitar includes an exclusive 40-page full-color scrapbook featuring never before seen photos of Dee Dee, as well as his personal illustrations, artwork and doodles, and a biography and quotes from musicians and personal friends of Dee Dee. It also includes a sticker and 18” x 24” color poster of Dee Dee playing his P Bass live with the Ramones.
“Dee Dee is the very definition of a punk rock icon,” said Justin Norvell, vice president, marketing for Fender. “He exemplified that fact, that all you need is the desire and will to pick up an instrument, and you can change the world. We are incredibly honored to recreate his bass guitar and to help edify his place in musical history in a way that fans can share.”
For more information, visit fender.com.
Photo: Ed Perlstein
UFO will release a new studio album, A Conspiracy of Stars, March 3 via Steamhammer/SPV.
The band, which consists of Phil Mogg (vocals), Paul Raymond (keyboards, guitar), Andy Parker (drums), Vinnie Moore (guitar) and Rob De Luca (bass), recorded the album—their 22nd studio effort—in the U.K.
Most of the new music, which is full of meaty riffs, distinctive hooks and a laid-back attitude, was written by Moore, with lyrics by Mogg. The disc also features a song by Raymond and a collaboration between Raymond and De Luca.
A Conspiracy of Stars was produced and mixed by Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore). You can find a complete track listing below.
Track Listing, Digipak:
01. The Killing Kind
02. Run Boy Run
03. Ballad Of The Left Hand Gun
04. Sugar Cane
05. Devils In The Detail
06. Precious Cargo
07. The Real Deal
08. One And Only
09. Messiah Of Love
10. Rolling Rolling
11. King Of The Hill (Bonus Track)
Track Listing, Jewel Case:
01. The Killing Kind
02. Run Boy Run
03. Ballad Of The Left Hand Gun
04. Sugar Cane
05. Devils In The Detail
06. Precious Cargo
07. The Real Deal
08. One And Only
09. Messiah Of Love
10. Rolling Rolling
Track Listing, LP:
01. The Killing Kind
02. Run Boy Run
03. Ballad Of The Left Hand Gun
01. Sugar Cane
02. Devils In The Detail
03. Precious Cargo
01. The Real Deal
02. One And Only
03. Messiah Of Love
01. Rolling Rolling
02. King Of The Hill (Bonus Track)
2015 UFO TOUR DATES
Fri 20 Germany, Barby - Rautenkranz
Sat 21 Germany, Berlin - K17
Sun 22 Germany, Hagen/Osnabrück - Saal Stock
Mon 23 Germany, Hamburg - Downtown Blues Club
Wed 25 Germany, Mannheim - Alte Seilerei
Thu 26 Germany, Bochum - Zeche
Fri 27 Germany, Siegburg - Kubana
Sat 28 Germany, Affalter - Zur Linde
Mon 02 Germany, Rostock - Mau Club
Wed 04 Poland, Warsaw - Stodola
Thu 05 Lithuania, Vilnius - Forum Palace
Fri 06 Poland, Krakow - Kwadrat
Sat 07 Czech Rep., Zlin - Masters of Rock Café
Mon 09 Germany, Burgrieden/Ulm - Riffelhof
Tue 10 Germany, Osterode - Dorster Festhalle
Wed 11 Germany, Freiburg - Jazzhaus
Thu 12 Switzerland, Zug - Choller Halle
Thu 16 England, Norwich - Waterfront
Fri 17 England, Cambridge - Junction
Sat 18 England, Wolverhampton - Wulfrun Hall
Sun 19 England, Manchester - Ritz
Tue 21 Ireland, Dublin - The Academy
Wed 22 N. Ireland, Belfast - The Limelight
Fri 24 England, Glasgow - O2 ABC
Sat 25 England, Newcastle - O2 Academy
Sun 26 England, Leeds - O2 Academy
Tue 28 England, Nottingham - Rock City
Thu 30 England, Bristol - O2 Academy
Fri 01 England, Falmouth - Pavilion
Sat 02 England, Exeter - Phoenix
Sun 03 England, Salisbury - City Hall
Tue 05 England, Brighton - Concorde 2
Wed 06 England, Oxford - O2 Academy
Thu 07 England, London - HMV Forum
Today we're excited to premiere a Dylan-tinged tale by Ryan Culwell called “Never Gonna Cry.”
On March 3rd, Culwell will release a new album called Flatlands on Lightning Rod Records (Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Billy Joe Shaver, Joe Pug). And here’s a little taste for what’s to come.
Culwell shares, “When I left Texas after the holidays I kissed my dad on the cheek and in a serious moment I told him, ‘Take it easy on yourself old man.’ Half smiling, half hurt, he said, ‘Yeah right, can't do that.’ As I pulled out of the drive he called out, ‘Get a real job. Half smiling, half hurt, I yelled back, ‘Yeah right, can't do that.’”
“That everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to men.This song was originally for my dad, but these days I sing it for myself. too."
Is this song kinda grim? Yes. Is it masterfully crafted and artfully delivered, indeed it is!
So little children, cover your ears, and the rest of you, check it out here:
Culwell was raised in Perryton, Texas, a small town in the panhandle that was the center of the Dust Bowl storms of the '30s. He is no rhinestoned Texas troubadour—he counts Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, and Woody Guthrie as influences. In fact, Culwell hails from the same stretch of prairie where Guthrie spent his most formative years, and like Guthrie, he has emerged as a poet of the plains.
At the age of thirty-one, after moving from Amarillo Texas to Music City, Culwell began playing what he calls “bigger” songs. But he heard the flatlands calling to him, and he found himself writing secret songs about his roots on the open plains—songs about “what it sounds like to stay,” thought he hadn’t. Soon enough, these were the only tunes anyone wanted to hear. These songs became Flatlands, Culwell’s debut album from Lightning Rod Records (Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Billy Joe Shaver, James McMurtry).
Find out more at Facebook.com/ryanculwell
Guitar World Lessons, which is live right now (Go take a look!), provides downloadable video guitar lessons—for purchase—in a host of genres—from blues to metal to bluegrass and jazz (and let's not forget shred!)—at the click of a button.
In fact, Guitar World Lessons offers immediate delivery of hundreds of lessons from the massive and impressive Guitar World catalog.
The Guitar World Lessons app is available now at the iTunes store for the iPhone and iPad. Note that the app download itself is free; instructional guitar and bass lessons can be purchased and downloaded by individual lesson or full download of the instructional product.
The search function allows guitarists to search lessons and products by artist, song, genre or instructor. Some of Guitar World’s best-selling lesson products are featured, including Guitar World Senior Music Editor Jimmy Brown’s Mastering Fretboard Harmony and more.
You can learn from Brown, Paul Gilbert, Dale Turner, Michael Angelo Batio or Guitar World Associate Editor Andy Aledort—and go In Deep with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Play Rock Bass!, Learn Slide Guitar and much more!
We're especially proud of Guitar World Lessons' all-access functionality across platforms. Users can gain access anywhere, anytime by using a single login created when downloading lessons. Access your purchases on your iPhone, iPad or through the web on a personal computer via guitarworldlessons.com.
“Creating a platform for digital delivery of our lessons allows our audience to download and play in real time and makes us available to a new audience of guitar players,” says Guitar World Editor-in-Chief Brad Tolinski.
Each product in the Guitar World Lessons app includes one free lesson to download as a sample of the instructional product. Never has it been easier to demo lessons before making a purchase or purchase lessons and get instant access! There are more than 200 individual lessons available on the platform, and we have plans to double that in 2015.
We at Guitar World invite you to stop waiting and start playing today! Visit guitarworldlessons.com.
Check out these videos of a young woman—Luna Lee—performing iconic tracks by Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan on the gayageum, a traditional Korean zither-like instrument.
The gayageum has 12 strings, although some variants have been made with 21 strings. It is probably the best-known traditional Korean musical instrument. (Thank you, Wikipedia!).
First, she tackles Vaughan's "Scuttle Buttin'," followed by Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)." Chances are Luna's a Vaughan fan, since both of these songs appear on his 1984 album, Couldn't Stand the Weather.
For more gayageum videos by Luna, head here. She also covers Hendrix's "Bold As Love" and a few tracks by acoustic guru Tommy Emmanuel.
Learning to play the blues in a jazzy style means stepping outside the minor blues scale and exploring other melodic options in your solos.
But you don’t need to go very far to find a cool-sounding scale that can jazz up your blues solos in no time.
In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking into the mixed blues scale, which combines the notes from the minor and major blues scales to outline the underlying blues chord changes, while retaining a healthy dose of the blues at the same time.
Major and Minor Blues Scales
To begin, here's a quick review of the minor and major blues scales, written over an A7 chord in the example below.
The minor blues scale contains the notes R-b3-4-#4-5-b7, and the major blues scale contains the notes R-2-b3-3-5-6, so they share a few notes and have a few different notes between them.
The notes they share are the root, b3 and 5th, while the other notes are different between the two scales; minor blues has the 4, #4 and b7; while the major blues scale has 2, 3 and 6.
Try playing both of these scales back to back over an A7 chord, with a backing track if possible, in order to hear how they both sound when applied to a chord such as A7.
Mixed Blues Scale
Now that you've looked at both of these scales separately, we’re going to combine the major and minor blues scales in order to build what I like to call the mixed blues scale.
This scale contains all of the notes from both scales, R-2-b3-3-4-#4-5-6-b7, and has a sound that outlines the chord, since it has the R-3-5-b7 arpeggio built into it, and remains bluesy with the b3 and #4 at the same time.
While you could play all of these notes in order, as I wrote out in the previous paragraph, you’ll see in the example below that I leave out certain notes along the way, notes that get added in later in the scale.
This is mostly due to the fact that many famous players who use this scale tend to use certain notes in specific octaves, so I’ve written it out in that way to get you into that style quickly and accurately when adding this scale to your soloing repertoire.
Try putting on an A7 backing track and play up and down this scale to hear how it sounds over that chord, and then begin to improvise over an A7 harmony using only the A mixed blues scale as the basis for your lines to hear how it sounds in a soloing situation.
Mixed Blues Scale Lick
Lastly, here’s an example of a lick over A7 built with the notes from the A mixed blues scale.
Since this scale contains the notes of the A7 arpeggio, you need to treat it more like an arpeggio than a blues scale, meaning that if you have an A7 chord, you play the A mixed blues scale. If you have a D7 chord, you play a D7 mixed blues scale and so on.
Try this lick out and see how it sounds over an A7 chord, before transposing it to other keys, adding it to your solo vocabulary and writing/learning a number of mixed blues scale licks of your own as you explore this concept further in the woodshed.
Do you have a question about this mixed blues scale lesson? Share your comments and questions in the COMMENTS section below.
Matt Warnock is the owner of mattwarnockguitar.com, a free website that provides hundreds of lessons and resources designed to help guitarists of all experience levels meet their practice and performance goals. Matt lives in the UK, where he is a lecturer in Popular Music Performance at the University of Chester and an examiner for the London College of Music (Registry of Guitar Tutors).
As part of its 40th anniversary celebration, ESP Guitars (Booth 213D at the 2015 Winter NAMM Show) is highlighting the work of its Custom Shop by displaying more than 80 hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind special exhibition guitars and basses.
“One of the big crowd draws at our NAMM booth every year are the models that come out of our ESP Custom Shop,” said Matt Masciandaro, ESP president and CEO.
“This year, to help bring even more recognition to the incredible craftsmanship of our custom shop luthiers, we’re featuring an entire display of our NAMM demo room that is dedicated to these completely unique high-end instruments.”
ESP’s special exhibition models are exciting combinations of form and function, with each guitar or bass being both a work of art and a high-performance instrument, using the world’s finest materials and components. Each model is made by hand by the experienced luthiers at the ESP Custom Shop in Tokyo, Japan, and many feature rare materials and intricate inlays.
While most custom shop models have been specified by the people who order them, these special exhibition models have been designed by the custom shop luthiers themselves in commemoration of ESP’s 40 years of guitar craft.
The special exhibition guitars and basses will be available for sale to authorized ESP dealers visiting the company’s booth at NAMM. Only one of each model is available, and dealers should be in touch with their ESP sales representative to place their orders as soon as possible.
More information on the ESP Custom Shop, along with photos of the special exhibition models and all of ESP’s new products for 2015, can be found at espguitars.com.
Fans of Alex Skolnick’s shredding in Testament might be shocked by his new album, Planetary Coalition, a collaborative world-music project driven by Skolnick’s crystalline, beatific acoustic guitar and assimilationist composing skills.
But it’s not a case of a metal jaguar changing his spots; Skolnick is simply displaying all of them for the first time.
“With respect to all other projects I’ve been involved in, this album best represents who I am as an individual artist,” he says. “Sure, I love playing heavy electric guitar, but this is me directing, composing, producing and playing acoustic guitar on every one of these 14 tracks. I’ve always had a strong relationship with the acoustic guitar; it’s just not the instrument I’ve had a high profile with.”
Even while taking lessons with Joe Satriani in his teens, Skolnick was falling under the spell of acoustic guitar in a world-music context. Sources included the recordings of John McLaughlin’s Anglo-Indian supergroup Shakti and tracks like the Al Di Meola/Paco de Lucia duet “Mediterranean Sundance,” from Di Meola’s influential 1977 album, Elegant Gypsy, as well as Eddie Van Halen’s “Spanish Fly.”
But starting in 1985, when Skolnick joined Testament at age 16, his investment in metal yielded dividends. Testament’s casual fans might not know that after Skolnick left the band in 1993 and performed with Savatage and Ozzy Osbourne, he relocated from his native Berkley, California, to New York City to study at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Besides forming the jazz-rooted Alex Skolnick Trio and reuniting with Testament in 2005, he’s worked as a sideman. His gigs have included tours with vocalist Ishtar, of the French-based band Alabina, as well as Egyptian artist Nader Sadek and Jewish folksinger Debbie Friedman. Skolnick also pasted down a solo for guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela’s 2009 smash album, 11:11.
Living in Brooklyn’s cultural melting pot helped, too. For one thing, Skolnick’s collection of music from Turkey, Greece, Spain, Cuba, China, France and elsewhere grew, which in turn provided inspiration for the music on Planetary Coalition. At the same time, the city provided him with greater access to musicians from those climes.
In 2012, Skolnick debuted a performing version of his Planetary Coalition band at the annual Make Music New York Festival, sponsored by Guitar World. But recording the Planetary Coalition album was more complicated. Most of the songs were cut live at Spin Studios in Long Island City, which required Herculean scheduling.
“I wanted to capture the energy that happens when musicians play together, and real performances are an inherent part of the traditional cultures the music on this album represents,” Skolnick explains. “The biggest obstacles were being able to write in all the styles represented convincingly—each form required many hours of dedicated study so I could compose authentically—and getting 26 musicians from around the world into the studio.”
There were lucky breaks, like when Rodrigo y Gabriela got a day off after appearing on Letterman and joined Skolnick to record the furious “Playa La Ropa,” which pits his flamenco-fired steel-string Martin JC-16 against their nylon strings.
Dropbox did the rest, even helping Skolnick cross a war zone by allowing Palestinian oudist Adnan Jouban to collaborate digitally with Skolnick on the richly textured “Rock of Ramallah,” which features Skolnick’s only ripping outburst of electric guitar, followed by “Negev Desert Sunset,” which features Israeli percussionist Gadi Seri. At the opposite end of the sonic spectrum is the gently hypnotic “Alla La K’e,” where Skolnick and vocalist/kora master Yocouba Sissoka spin gorgeously swirling lines around a traditional Malian melody.
“I’m not doing this for any reason other than to create something that’s beautiful,” Skolnick says. “All of these musicians are wonderful people and great collaborators, and they’re proof that boundaries—musical or otherwise—don’t need to exist.”
GUITARS Yamaha NCX200R, Martin JC-16, Yamaha LJX26C, ESP Alex Skolnick Signature Model, Godin Inuk 11-string
AMP Budda AS Preceptor Signature Model
EFFECT Tone Concepts Distillery
STRINGS/PICKS D’Addario EXP26 steel acoustic (.011–.053), Pro Arté nylon (.028–.043), NYXL electrics (.011–.049), Dunlop Ultex picks
Photo: Javier Villegas
Perhaps only the most dedicated connoisseurs of bizarre Japanese guitars can tell that a mid-Sixties Inter Mark Cipher model lurks beneath the trinkets and ornaments covering Shawn Mayo’s customized guitar.
In fact, for many years Mayo thought it was a Harmony model, due to the Harmony neck that a previous owner used to replace the original neck.
“My mom bought me the guitar at a yard sale for 10 bucks,” he recalls. “Her nickname was Lulu, so I started calling it the Lulu guitar and, eventually, just Lou. When she passed away in 2001, I decided I would do it up nice. I did some research and discovered it was an Inter Mark Cipher—a Cipher named Lou…Lou Cipher! This guitar was clearly destined to be evil.”
Initially, Mayo affixed just a handful of chrome-plated baubles to the guitar, but soon his family and friends starting giving him, he says, “skulls, spikes, guns and spooky weapons of mass destruction” that went with his “macabre, dark metal theme.” He even inserted spikes into the neck above the 12th fret, which rightfully punishes players for shredding wheedily-wheedily solos when they should be pummeling power chords in the nether regions.
The modifications to Mayo’s Lou-Ciper guitar are not just on the surface. He also installed a Gibson humbucker at the bridge and rewired each of the three pickups with its own on/off toggle switch.
“I originally planned to use all Gibson pickups,” he explains. “I was going to use Firebird pickups for the middle and neck positions, but the original pickups sound amazing! I usually use the bridge humbucker and neck pickups together, which sounds crisp, yet warm and almost harmonic.”
Whereas most guitars featured in It Might Get Weird are for sale, Mayo refuses to part with his metal masterpiece. “It’s my daily player,” he explains. “It’s a very personal piece, so there’s no way I could ever put a price on Louie. He’s family, and we’ve been through a lot together.”
Photo: Jeremy Saffer
In this video from the vast Guitar World archives, Andy Aledort shows you how to play "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," a track from Led Zeppelin's debut 1969 album.
An acoustic masterpiece, this song features a bittersweet circular chord progression presented as ringing, fingerpicked arpeggios. Particularly noteworthy is the way Jimmy Page spins numerous subtle melodic variations on the theme throughout the song (check out the one at 3:40 in the original recording), sweetening the aural pot with dramatic dynamic contrasts.
This might be one of the most perfectly recorded and mixed acoustic guitar tracks ever. Notice how, in the song’s intro, the “dry” (up-front and un-effected) acoustic guitar is in the left channel while the right channel is mostly “wet,” saturated in cavernous reverb.
From “Dazed and Confused” to “You Shook Me” … from “Tangerine” to “The Lemon Song” … from “Trampled Under Foot” to “Stairway to Heaven” … Guitar World presents a critical analysis of the classic-rock group’s best tracks.
With the recent release of Celebration Day, the concert film immortalizing Led Zeppelin’s historic and most likely final reunion concert at London’s O2 Arena on December 10, 2007, guitarist-producer Jimmy Page reminded the world just how profoundly great and enduring his band’s music is.
In homage to what is arguably hard rock’s most innovative group (and certainly its most influential), what follows is a tour of 50 of the most celebrated Led Zeppelin songs, with a focus on the guitar playing, songwriting and arranging genius of the quartet’s visionary founder.
Compiling such a finite list presents tough choices for anyone, as the band’s recorded output of great music during its heyday was impressively prolific by any standard and includes well over 50 gems.
50. “D’yer Mak’er” (Houses of the Holy)
This lighthearted but heavy-sounding song, the title of which is intended to be pronounced “D’you Make Her,” was conceived as a playful melding of a Fifties doo-wop-style repeating chord progression and the quirky, syncopated rhythms of Jamaican reggae.
Page makes good use of sliding sixth intervals on the song’s verse riff, providing a thin-textured but catchy and harmonically effective accompaniment to Plant’s vocals. His guitar solo, like so many of his others, is noteworthy for its tasteful, lyrical phrasing and emotive use of bends and finger vibratos.
49. “Tangerine” (Led Zeppelin III)
Like “Thank You,” this folky ballad, written exclusively by Page, offers good bang for your musical buck, in terms of packing a lot of expression into a handful of melodically embellished open “cowboy” chords.
Jimmy achieved a rich texture by performing the song’s main guitar part on a 12-string acoustic and handsomely decorated the chorus with authentic country-style pedal-steel licks, for which he used lots of oblique bends and a wah pedal to accentuate their weeping sound.
The chorus, played in the happy-sounding key of G, provides a welcome contrast to the somber feel of the verse and solo sections, which are in A minor. Also noteworthy is Page’s short and sweet slide solo, played with a thick, overdriven tone that effectively sustains his vibrato-ed notes and enhances their singing quality.
He thoughtfully describes the underlying chord changes in his slide melody by closely following the chord tones as he works his way up to the highest note on the neck.
48. “Custard Pie” (Physical Graffiti)
This opening track from Physical Graffiti features a punchy, Les Paul–through-Marshall–driven “crunch riff” behind Plant’s sexually euphemistic lyrics, many of which were borrowed from songs by early American bluesmen of the Robert Johnson era, specifically “Drop Down Mama” by Sleepy John Estes, “Shake ’Em on Down” by Bukka White, and “I Want Some of Your Pie” by Blind Boy Fuller.
Like “Houses of the Holy,” “Custard Pie” is built around a repeating two-bar riff based on an open A chord.
As in other songs, Page makes great use of rests in the song’s main riff, which allows it to “breathe” nicely and draws attention to the vocals and drums. Jimmy’s penchant for jazz/R&B harmony is manifested in the G11 chord he plays—in place of the perfectly acceptable straight G chord—near the end of each of the song’s verses, which are loosely based on the 12-bar blues form.
The guitarist makes clever use of the wah pedal in his solo, which he begins with a repeating oblique-bend phrase that, with added wah-wah inflections, sounds like a toddler throwing a tantrum. The solo is also noteworthy for the way Page melodically acknowledges the chord changes by touching upon their chord tones as opposed to simply riffing away on the key’s major and minor pentatonic scales.
47. “That’s the Way” (Led Zeppelin III)
Like “Bron-Yr-Aur,” this mellow acoustic song was inspired by the serenity and pastoral beauty of the Welsh countryside during Page and Plant’s working vacation at the remote Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in 1970.
The band performed the song live in open G tuning, but the studio version sounds in G flat, which is most likely the result of the instruments being tuned down a half step (or a possible manipulation of the tape speed in the mastering process, similar to what Page did with “When the Levee Breaks”).
Jimmy strums the song with a pick and makes great use of ringing open strings within his chord voicings, even as he moves away from the open position. Particularly cool are the reverb-soaked pedal-steel licks that Page overdubbed, for which he alternates between major and minor pentatonic phrases—again, a fine example of “light and shade.”
Also noteworthy is the climbing outro progression, for which Jimmy again combines open strings with notes fretted in the middle region of the neck to create unusual, lush-sounding chord voicings.
46. “In the Light” (Physical Graffiti)
Jimmy broke out his violin bow once again and put it to great use in this song’s extended intro, providing a low, eerie, sitar-style drone as a backdrop to Jones’ mystical, echoing “bagpipe” melodies, creatively conjured on a synthesizer.
Also particularly cool is the ominous-sounding descending blues-scale-based guitar riff that comes crashing in at the end of the intro (at 2:45) and the menacing, angular verse figure that follows, against which Page overdubbed a twangy, ringing open G note, played in unison with the D string’s fifth-fret G and treated with a shimmering tremolo effect.
The song’s bright, triumphant-sounding final theme, introduced by Jones on a Clavinet at 4:09, stands in stark contrast to the hauntingly dark minor key-based sections that precede it—another example of “light and shade.”
Also worth noting is the ascending major scale-based lead melody Page plays over the theme’s repeating progression at 4:25 and the way it moves in contrary motion to the descending bass line, a compositional technique regarded as one of classical music’s slickest moves.
45. “For Your Life” (Presence)
Page broke out his 1962 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster for this darkly heavy song about the excesses of drug use in the L.A. music scene, tastefully employing its whammy bar to create well-placed, woozy sonic nosedives.
The song’s midtempo groove features sparse and restrained but fat-sounding guitar-and-bass riffs that include wide, dramatic “holes of silence” that are crossed only by the drums, vocals and a shaken tambourine.
The arrangement really starts to develop at 2:07, as Page introduces a more ambitious new riff in a new key that’s propelled by a short machine-gun burst of triplets that further enhances the tune’s earthy midtempo groove. Jimmy’s solo, beginning at 4:17 is noteworthy for its melodic inventiveness, quirky phrasing and wailing, drooping bends.
44. “Friends” (Led Zeppelin III)
As mentioned earlier, Page employed the same open C6 tuning on this song that he used on “Bron-Yr-Aur” (low to high, C A C G C E), again employing the open strings as drones to create a mesmerizing, hypnotic effect.
In this case, Jimmy is strumming heartily with the pick, as opposed to fingerpicking, and plays double-stop figures against ringing open notes to create hauntingly beautiful melodies, making extensive use of the exotic-sounding sharp-four interval (Fs in this case), as well as the bluesy flat-three (Ef) and Arabic-flavored flat-nine (Df), conjuring an intriguing East-meets-West kind of vibe.
As he later did in “The Rain Song” and “Kashmir,” the guitarist moves a compact two-finger chord shape up and down the fretboard, played in conjunction with ringing open strings, in this case to craft an enigmatic-sounding octave-doubled countermelody to Plant’s vocals. As a finishing touch, a string ensemble, arranged by Jones, was brought into the studio to double and dramatically reinforce the countermelody.
43. “Trampled Under Foot” (Physical Graffiti)
Inspired by the cleverly euphemistic lyrics of Delta blues legend Robert Johnson’s 1936 composition “Terraplane Blues” and the funky grooves of James Brown and Stevie Wonder, this muscular song features Jones stretching out on a Hohner Clavinet keyboard and a hard-stomping, almost relentless one-chord vamp that’s broken up periodically by a brief string of accented chord changes, over which Page plays wah-inflected, Steve Cropper–style sixth intervals.
Jimmy uses his wah pedal very creatively throughout the song and creates exciting aural images by treating his guitar with ambient reverb, backward echo and stereo panning effects, especially toward the end.
42. “Houses of the Holy” (Physical Graffiti)
Built around a fat-sounding strut riff, this song is nothing but a good time. Particularly cool is the way Page and Bonham shake up the riff’s solid eighth-note groove throughout by playing off each other with quirky, syncopated 16th-note fills, such as those at 0:38 and 0:42.
Also noteworthy is Page’s resourceful use, during the verses, of progressively descending triad inversions on the top three strings (not unlike those used by Pete Townshend in the Who’s “Substitute”), which provide an effective contrast to both Jones’ angular bass line during this section and the meaty main guitar riff.
41. “The Rover” (Physical Graffiti)
This song’s sexy main riff, introduced at 0:23, embodies that trademark “Led Zeppelin swagger,” resulting from Page’s clever application of pull-down bends on the lower four strings, which he uses to “scoop up to” target pitches from a half step below and make his guitar sing, just as he had done earlier on the low E string in his main riff to “Dazed and Confused” and with whole-step bends in the previously mentioned “Over the Hills and Far Away” inter-verse riff.
The effect is accentuated in this case by the use of a phaser, which makes Jimmy’s guitar sound almost as if it’s played through a talk box.
Also noteworthy are Page’s elegantly crafted, flamenco-flavored solo and the decorative second guitar part heard during the song’s choruses, for which Jimmy arpeggiates the underlying chord progression, in the process adding an attractive countermelody to the theme without obscuring Plant’s vocals.
40. “Dancing Days” (Houses of the Holy)
Page takes a riff-building approach on this light-hearted yet powerful rocker similar to that used by Keith Richards on many Rolling Stones classics, such as “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”
Making great use of open G tuning (low to high, D G D G B D) and the convenient one-finger major barre-chord shapes it affords, he uses his fret hand’s available middle finger, ring finger and pinkie to add harmonic “extensions” and embellishments to index-finger barre chords.
Page’s fascination with the Lydian mode, specifically its s4 interval, manifests itself in a musically compelling way in both the song’s sassy intro riff and its punchy verse and chorus riffs, all three of which convey a strong feeling of tension-and-release, as the harmonically turbulent s4 resolves downward in each case to the stable major third.
Particularly cool is the soaring slide melody, a neatly executed overdub first appearing at 0:56, which requires quick position shifts and carefully attention to intonation (pitch centering).
39. “Bron-Yr-Aur” (Physical Graffiti)
Conceived during Page and Plant’s legendary 1970 retreat to Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in rural Wales and recorded during the sessions for Led Zeppelin III, this ingenious fingerstyle-folk instrumental is performed in the same open C6 tuning as “Friends” (low to high, C A C G C E).
Page weaves the tune’s melodic themes into an impeccably uninterrupted stream of forward and backward 16th-note arpeggio rolls across the strings, with lots of droning open notes and unisons creating a rich natural chorusing effect and a lush, pastoral soundscape that puts the piece on par with the works of renowned late 19th-century impressionistic composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
38. “No Quarter” (live version, The Song Remains the Same)
This fully realized, extended performance of John Paul Jones’ keyboard showcase piece packs the same kind of dynamic punch and slow-jam rhythmic drama as “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and demonstrates both Jones’ and Page’s penchant for modal jazz and their respective skills at building extended, story-like solos over a one-chord vamp. (Incidentally, it is performed in standard tuning, a half step higher than the studio version from Houses of the Holy, for which the instruments sound a half step below concert pitch.)
Also noteworthy are the two jarring, prog-rock-flavored chords in the song’s pre-chorus, Bfadds11 and Efadds11, first heard at 0:58 and 1:06, respectively.
37. “The Wanton Song” (Physical Graffiti)
Like “Immigrant Song,” this composition’s main riff demonstrates how alternating octaves combined with a strong, syncopated rhythm can create a compelling, heavy-sounding riff, and it’s safe to say that it probably inspired bands like Living Colour and Rage Against the Machine to pen their similarly styled riffs.
And like “Out on the Tiles” and “The Ocean,” the use of wide, recurring “holes of silence” in the guitar and bass parts while the drums and vocals continue, creates pronounced dynamic and textural contrasts, which add to the song’s appeal.
The instrumental interlude section that ensues after the second and fourth verses (at 0:59 and 2:03, respectively) provides a stark contrast to the raw power of the alternating-octaves riff and introduces a surprisingly jazzy chord progression within such a heavy rock song, with overdriven diminished seventh chords—something few other rock guitarists outside of Yes’ Steve Howe or Dean DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots would have the vision and daring to use—employed as harmonic pivots to modulate to new keys.
Page’s Leslie-treated minor-seven chord riff that ensues brings to mind the Isley Brothers’ 1973 R&B hit “Who’s That Lady” and further demonstrates the breadth of Page’s stylistic influences.
36. “How Many More Times” (Led Zeppelin)
This lengthy final track from Led Zeppelin’s debut album and live set-closer in their early days was a favorite improvisational vehicle for the band, with open-ended jam sections that allowed Page to stretch out with scorching lead licks, reverb-drenched violin bow excursions and wah-wah-inflected chord strumming.
As Jimmy told Guitar World in 1993, the song “was made up of little pieces I developed when I was with the Yardbirds, as were other numbers, such as ‘Dazed and Confused.’ ” He adds, “It was recorded live in the studio with cues and nods.”
Embodying an eclectic blend of stylistic elements, the song features an interesting variety of rhythmic grooves, from a jazzy swing feel, to a straight-eighths funk beat, to a Latin bolero rhythm somewhat reminiscent of the previously recorded Jeff Beck instrumental “Beck’s Bolero,” on which both Page and Jones had played.
35. “Gallows Pole” (Led Zeppelin III)
Led Zeppelin’s creative arrangement of this sardonic, centuries-old, storytelling Celtic folk song titled “The Maid Freed from the Gallows” begins very modestly, with Plant’s pleading vocals accompanied solely by Page’s quiet acoustic strumming.
It builds in stages to a full-blown bluegrass-style “hoe-down,” with a mandolin and acoustic 12-string joining the fray midway through, followed by bass, drums and, finally, banjo (played by Page) and overdriven electric lead guitar, on which Page cleverly plays major pentatonic licks to conjure the sound of a country fiddle.
The arrangement’s ambitious development is not unlike that of “Stairway to Heaven” in its magnitude and creates a similarly dramatic effect.
34. “Out On the Tiles” (Led Zeppelin III)
This “forgotten classic” features another of Led Zeppelin’s signature octave-doubled, single-note “stomp riffs,” this one played at a faster tempo than most of their other similarly crafted songs, with Bonham grooving on one of his favorite funky drumbeats as Page and Jones lock-in on a tricky bass melody that drops an eighth note at the end of the first and third verses (at 0:24 and 1:40, respectively).
Particularly cool- and powerful-sounding are the accented pulled bends on the low E string between the A power chords in the intro riff. It’s also worth pointing out that this is one of the very few uptempo Led Zeppelin songs that does not include a guitar solo; it doesn’t need one.
33. “You Shook Me” (Led Zeppelin)
Led Zeppelin’s convincingly worthy cover of this Chicago-style slow blues song (written by Willie Dixon and J.B. Lenoir) showcases their thorough assimilation of and deep adulation for the style and ability to take it to the next level of intensity through each band member’s musical virtuosity and artistic depth of feeling.
Page’s slide work, performed in the challenging and potentially unforgiving mode of standard tuning, is impeccable here, as he shadows Plant’s vocal melody with spot-on intonation and coaxes sublime vibratos from many of his sustained notes.
Equally laudable is Jimmy’s wailing guitar solo, played without a slide, for which he employed tape echo and epic reverb effects to create breathtakingly soaring trails of cascading, screaming licks during the solo’s and song’s climax.
32. “Celebration Day” (Led Zeppelin III)
This playful, uptempo rocker was built around a slinky slide riff conceived by Jones, the genesis of which he described in his column in Guitar World July 1997: “I came up with the intro/verse riff to “Celebration Day” while playing and old Danelectro baritone guitar like a lap steel, using an unusual, low open A7 tuning (low to high: A A A E G Cs), a steel bar and a nut saddle to raise the strings.” When performing the song live, Page would adapt this riff to standard-tuned guitar.
On the recording, Page crafted a complementary and similarly slinky bend lick to play over the song’s main A-riff following each verse (initially at 0:24).
Similar to what he later did between the verses in “Over the Hills and Far Away,” the guitarist uses pulled bends on the bottom two strings to reach up to the last note of each phrase he plays, in this case adding a bold, shimmering vibrato to each bend.
31. “Four Sticks” (Led Zeppelin IV)
Named after Bonham’s literal use of four sticks on the track (two in each hand), this tribal dance–like song features exotic rhythms and harmonic modalities that conjure images of Near Eastern and North African wildernesses from an earlier century.
The arrangement is built around three guitar riffs, each incorporating an open-string bass pedal tone, or drone. As mentioned previously, Page used, for the song’s primary riff, the same “bending away from a unison” trick he employed in his “Whole Lotta Love” riff, with equally haunting results. In this case, he strums the open G string together with that note’s fretted equivalent on the D string’s fifth fret and pushes the fretted G slightly sharp by bending it upward (away from the palm).
30. “Thank You” (Led Zeppelin II)
Before “Stairway to Heaven” or “The Rain Song” were ever conceived, this well-written, timeless love song displayed, along with “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” a sensitive, emotional side of Led Zeppelin, one that didn’t have to do with sexual lust or scorn. (Gee, what was George Harrison complaining about in commenting to Led Zeppelin that their songbook was lacking ballads?)
Layering tracks of acoustic and clean 12-string electric guitars, Page weaved a tapestry of warm harmony behind Plant’s tender, low-key vocals and crafted an elegant single-note acoustic solo, one often celebrated and emulated for its melodic appeal by players such as Slash.
Also noteworthy in “Thank You” are Page’s melodic 12-string runs behind Plant’s vocals during the song’s final two verses, specifically at 2:31 and 3:14.
29. “Bring It On Home” (Led Zeppelin II)
Like their other blues covers, Led Zeppelin’s reading of this Willie Dixon blues song has their unique artistic, stylistic stamp all over it, from its funky bass-and-drums groove, octave-doubled single-note riffs and Page’s soulful use of string bends, which, incidentally, Jones aggressively mirrors an octave lower on bass during the song’s main riff.
Page added to the riff, at 1:54, a decorative high harmony line, as he would later do with riffs in “Black Dog,” “The Ocean” “Achilles Last Stand” and other songs, in each case further building the arrangement and enhancing its appeal. His harmony notes here form sweet-sounding sixth and third intervals based on the E Mixolydian mode.
The song’s middle verse sections sport a particularly bad-ass guitar riff, first appearing at 2:04 and built around sixth-interval double-stops, again based on the decidedly bluesy-sounding E Mixolydian mode. Notice how Page divides and orchestrates this riff into two separate guitar tracks, which he pans hard left and right in the stereo mix, accentuating the riff’s call-and-response quality.
28. “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” (Led Zeppelin II)
Following on the heels of “Heartbreaker,” this playful and more light-hearted rocker features some of Jimmy’s most tasteful “power-pop” guitar parts. He recorded the song’s primary rhythm tracks on his Fender electric 12-string (the same guitar he used in the studio on “Stairway to Heaven” and “The Song Remains the Same”).
As in “Heartbreaker,” “Good Times Bad Times,” “Communication Breakdown” and other songs, he liberally employs his go-to “Hendrix-style” thumbed chord “grips,” which, lacking the low fifth of a conventionally fretted major barre chord, add sonic clarity to his chord voicings.
Jimmy’s solo in this song is short and sweet, featuring emotive bends and vibratos and culminating in one of his trademark chromatic climbs up the B string.
27. “Going to California” (Led Zeppelin IV)
Page also used open strings and unison notes to great effect on this acoustic folk masterpiece. Tuning both his low and high E strings down to D (in what is known as double drop-D tuning), the guitarist plays dreamy hypnotic arpeggio figures that feature lots of ringing, repeated notes played on different strings.
With its blend of English and American folk-guitar styles (think Bert Jansch meets Merle Travis), “Going to California” is a finger stylist’s delight. Particularly compelling is the dramatic bridge section beginning at 1:41, played by Page in the parallel minor key, D minor. If you listen closely, you’ll hear two acoustic guitars fingerpicking different inversions of the same chords, thirds apart.
26. “What Is and What Should Never Be” (Led Zeppelin II)
Like “Ramble On,” this song is another masterwork study in dynamic and textural contrasts. Page begins each verse by strumming a breezy two-chord vamp using jazzy, George Benson–approved dominant ninth and 13th chords with a clean, mellow tone, as Jones plays one of his celebrated brilliantly lyrical, complementary bass lines.
Taking advantage of the wide range of gain and overdrive afforded his Les Paul/non-master–volume Marshall tube amp pairing, Page cranks up his guitar’s volume on the choruses, resulting in a beefy crunch tone that perfectly suits the powerful riff he crafted for that section.
The song also features one of Jimmy’s most tasteful slide solos, carefully executed in standard tuning and thus without the harmonic safety net that an open tuning affords.
25. “The Ocean” (Houses of the Holy)
On par with “Heartbreaker” and “Black Dog,” in terms of embodying that trademark Led Zeppelin octave-doubled single-note “stomp groove,” this song’s iconic intro/main riff demonstrates just how effectively heavy-sounding rests, or “holes of silence,” can be when sandwiched between notes in just the right places.
This riff, as well as the power-chord-driven and similarly punctuated verse figure, are made to sound even more dramatic by the ambient room sound surrounding John Bonham’s drums, to which Page, the producer, rightfully deserves credit for his visionary use of distant miking techniques.
24. “Rock and Roll” (Led Zeppelin IV)
The ultimate hot rod–driving song and tribute to Chuck Berry, this uptempo, straight-eighths blues-rock anthem features irresistibly boogie-woogie-like rhythms and a killer guitar solo that begins with Page playfully pulling off to open strings before ascending the neck with a daringly acrobatic chromatic climb somewhat reminiscent of his climactic lead in “Communication Breakdown.”
Particularly artistic is the way Page lays back rhythmically during the song’s verses with sustained power chords, providing an effective, welcome contrast to the relentless eighth notes of the bass and drums.
23. “The Lemon Song” (Led Zeppelin II)
Borrowing from Howlin’ Wolf’s 1964 blues hit and eventual standard, “Killing Floor,” Led Zeppelin created a derivative work that became a classic unto itself, showcasing their own renowned Memphis soul–style interactive blues-rock jamming, dynamic sensibilities and each individual musician’s fat tones.
Not content to just play the song’s climbing intro riff on his low E string, Page employs hybrid picking (pick-and-fingers technique) to pair each low melody note with the open B string, creating a pleasing midrange “honk.”
Also noteworthy in this arrangement is Page’s substitution, on the five chord in the song’s repeating 12-bar blues progression, of a minor seven chord, Bm7, for the customary dominant seven chord, which would be B7 in this case, creating a darker, more melancholy sound.
22. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (Led Zeppelin)
Another acoustic masterpiece, this song features a bittersweet circular chord progression presented as ringing, fingerpicked arpeggios. Particularly noteworthy is the way Page spins numerous subtle melodic variations on the theme throughout the song (check out the one at 3:40), sweetening the aural pot with dramatic dynamic contrasts.
This may be one of the most perfectly recorded and mixed acoustic guitar tracks ever. Notice how, in the song’s intro, the “dry” (up-front and un-effected) acoustic guitar is in the left channel while the right channel is mostly “wet,” saturated in cavernous reverb.
21. “When the Levee Breaks” (Led Zeppelin IV)
This track is revered for, among other things, its epic drum sound, resulting from the cavernous acoustics of Headley Grange and Page’s ingenious distant microphone placement, as well as his decision, as producer, to slow down the tape speed in the mastering process.
Led Zeppelin’s cover of this blues song, written and first recorded in 1929 by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, also features great slide playing by Page in open G tuning (low to high, D G D G B D). Due to the slowing of the tape speed, however, the pitch of the recording was lowered by a whole step, so the song actually sounds in the key of F.
Page performed this song’s two guitar tracks on his Fender electric 12-string. Its additional strings, in conjunction with the open tuning, enhanced the unison and octave-doubling effect of many of the notes in the guitar parts, which already incorporate unison notes. The result is a huge wall of droning G and D notes with a natural chorusing effect that mesmerizes the listener in a way akin to the chorus chords in “Kashmir.”
20. “The Battle of Evermore” (Led Zeppelin IV)
For this mystical-sounding folk-rock gem, Page and Jones traded the instruments they play on “Going to California,” with Page taking up the mandolin and Jones strumming acoustic guitar. According to Page, “ ‘The Battle of Evermore’ was made up on the spot by Robert and myself. I just picked up John Paul Jones’ mandolin, never having played one before, and just wrote up the chords and the whole thing in one sitting.”
Page’s mandolin sound on this song is epic, which is partially the result of his taking advantage of the cavernous, majestic natural reverb of the location where he recorded his tracks, which was in the foyer of a large, old stone house in rural Wales called Headley Grange. (This location, by the way, is where several other tracks on Led Zeppelin IV and Physical Graffiti were recorded, most notably Bonham’s drums on “When the Levee Breaks.”)
Page additionally doubled/layered his mandolin tracks on this arrangement and employed a tape echo effect, with a single repeat, timed to echo in an eighth-note rhythm relative to the song’s tempo, resulting in a continuous stream of percolating eighth notes.
19. “Immigrant Song” (Led Zeppelin III)
With its fiercely galloping rhythms, jagged backbeat accents and ominous-sounding flat-five intervals, this ode to Viking pillage no doubt helped fuel the lustful creative fire behind hordes of heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost and Mastodon that came of age in the years following the song’s 1970 release.
Particularly sinister-sounding is the way Page plays, during the song’s outro, an atypical second-position G minor chord shape over Jones’ C-note accents, in the process creating a highly unusual voicing of C9(no3).
18. “Good Times Bad Times” (Led Zeppelin)
This punchy opening track from the band’s debut album set the stage for Zeppelin’s juggernaut conquest of the world of hard rock. Page octave-doubles Jones’ nimble, angular bass line on his slinky-strung Fender Telecaster, adding shimmering finger vibrato at just about every opportunity.
The guitarist’s scorching, Leslie-effected lead licks, with their gut-wrenching bends and tumbling triplets, convey a man on fire and poised to win the West.
17. “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” (Presence)
Led Zeppelin’s turbo-charged reinvention of this traditional American gospel blues, or Negro spiritual, song was inspired primarily by singer and acoustic slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson’s 1927 recording of it. Zeppelin’s version is built around a mesmerizing, laser beam-like guitar melody, which Page played with distortion and a flanger effect and doubled, both in unison and an octave higher, with Robert Plant additionally scat singing the line, adding to its mesmerizing, bigger-than-life quality.
Page’s aggressive exploitation of string bending and vibrato techniques, in both the main riff and his solo, adds to the soulfulness of the band’s arrangement. Also noteworthy are Jones and Bonham’s lock-step bass-and-drum syncopations, which further add to the power and drama of the band’s arrangement.
16. “Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin IV)
“Black Dog” was built around a snakey blues riff, initially written on bass by John Paul Jones and doubled an octave higher on guitar by Page. The rhythmic orientation of the song’s main riff to the beat has been the subject of heated debate among working musicians over the years, the point of contention being specifically where “one” is.
When pressed for an explanation, Page was vague. But Jones, in his Lo and Behold column in Guitar World December 1996, states that this deceptive riff should be counted with the first A note — the root note of the song’s key and the fourth note of the riff—falling squarely on beat one. (Drummer John Bonham’s big cymbal crash on beat two is one of the things about this riff that throws a lot of people off.)
Page enhanced the riff later in the song, at 3:18, by overdubbing a parallel-thirds harmony line. In the 1993 GW interview, the guitarist noted, “Most people never catch that part. It’s just toward the end, to help build the song. You have to listen closely for the high guitar parts.”
Page and recording engineer Andy Johns tried a novel and ultimately successful experiment by triple-tracking the song’s rhythm guitar parts. As Page explained, “Andy used the mic preamp on the mixing board to get distortion. Then we put two 1176 Universal compressors in series on that sound and distorted the guitars as much as we could and then compressed them. Each riff was triple-tracked: one left, one right, and one right up the middle.”
15. “Ramble On” (Led Zeppelin II)
This song is all about contrasts, or as Page likes to say, “light and shade.” It begins with a mellow, folky acoustic strum riff pitted against a highly melodic Fender bass line for the verse sections, which lead up to a hard-hitting and highly inventive electric guitar–driven chorus riff.
Page broadened the definition of the term “power chord” here by using the seemingly odd two-note combination of root and flatted seventh (Fs and E, respectively, played right after Plant sings “Ramble on!”), a pairing made even more unlikely by the fact that he plays it over John Paul Jones’ E bass note. The theoretical discord notwithstanding, it sounds great.
14. “Black Mountain Side” (Led Zeppelin)
Page spices up this traditional Celtic folk melody with East Indian musical flavors, hiring a bona fide tabla drummer to accompany him on the track and injecting his own fiery Indian-style acoustic lead break into the arrangement.
Check out the January 2013 issue of Guitar World to learn the secrets to this iconic song.
13. “In My Time of Dying” (Physical Graffiti)
This 11-minute track was inspired chiefly by Blind Willie Johnson’s reading of the traditional blues-gospel song “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed” as well as a similarly titled rendition from the same era by Delta bluesman Charlie Patton.
Zeppelin’s inspired interpretation of the song features some of Page’s best slide guitar work (performed in open A tuning: low to high, E A E A Cs E), as well as one of the fattest-sounding drum tracks in this or any other band’s catalog, the result of Bonham’s unique touch and feel and Page’s miking and mixing techniques.
12. “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti)
Played in DADGAD tuning, which Page had previously used to great effect on both the Yardbirds’ “White Summer” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountain Side,” “Kashmir” is built around four mesmerizing riffs, three of which involve the use of open-string unison- and octave-doubled notes, which create a natural chorusing effect and a huge wall of sound.
Particularly noteworthy is the way Jimmy overlaid, at 0:53, the song’s menacing, ascending riff—the James Bond–theme-flavored part—on top of the recurring descending sus4 chord sequence.
Page explained in the previously mentioned GW interview, “The descending chord sequence was the first thing I had—I got it from tapes of myself messing around at home. After I came up with the da-da-da, da-da-da part, I wondered whether the two parts could go on top of each other, and it worked! You do get some dissonance in there, but there’s nothing wrong with that. At the time, I was very proud of that, I must say.”
11. “Over the Hills and Far Away” (Houses of the Holy)
This song is another study in contrasts, specifically between English/Celtic-flavored acoustic folk and Les Paul–driven hard rock. It begins with a playful, folk-dance–like acoustic riff, which Page initially plays on a six-string and then doubles on a 12-string, that gives way, at 1:27, to crushing electric power chords and a clever single-note riff, for which Jimmy incorporates pulled bends on the bass strings (first heard at 1:37).
Particularly cool is the way the guitarist reconciles this electric riff with the strummed acoustic chords previously introduced at 1:17.
Also noteworthy is the grooving James Brown–style funk riff behind the guitar solo and the rhythmically peculiar, harmonized ascending single-note ensemble melody that follows at 3:00. To top it all off, Page, the producer, concludes the song with a “false ending.”
As the band fades out, at 4:10, a lone guitar emerges with a final variation of the folk riff from the intro, but all you hear is the 100 percent “wet” reverb “return” signal, which creates a mystical, otherworldly, “faraway” effect.
10. “Heartbreaker” (Led Zeppelin II)
With its menacing, octave-doubled blues-scale riffs and sexy string bends, this song epitomizes the “Led Zeppelin swagger.” Interestingly, the verse riff features Jones strumming root-fifth power chords on bass, treated with overdrive and tremolo, while Page alternately lays back on decidedly thinner-sounding thumb-fretted octaves — a signature technique heard in his and Jimi Hendrix’s rhythm guitar styles — and punches barre-chord accents together with the bass and drums.
Page recorded the song with his 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, which he had recently bought from Joe Walsh, playing the guitar through his newly acquired 100-watt Marshall amplifier. The song also showcases some of Jimmy’s most aggressive, inspired soloing, including a free-form, tantrum-like a capella breakdown section.
Page recorded the breakdown while the band was touring the U.S., using a studio different from the one where the rest of the song’s tracks were cut. He was unaware that his guitar on that particular section was tuned slightly sharp of the rest of the tracks, which are at concert pitch. The discrepancy goes unnoticed to most listeners and only becomes obvious if one goes to play along with the entire recording.
09. "The Rain Song" (Houses of the Holy)
Performed in an unusual tuning (low to high, D G C G C D) with lots of ringing open strings and unison-doubled notes, this beautiful song features a sophisticated chord progression that was initially inspired by Beatle George Harrison, who challenged Page to write a ballad.
After playfully evoking the verse section of Harrison’s “Something” on the first three chords of “The Rain Song,” Page veers off into an ultimately more ambitious and original progression. Particularly inventive and cool sounding is the Hawaiian-flavored dominant-ninth chord slide that precedes the first lyric line of each verse.
When asked to explain why the studio version of “The Rain Song” is in the key of G while the live version, as heard in the film The Song Remains the Same, is in A, Page replied, “It surprises me to hear you say that, because I thought they were both in A. Okay, the [live] tuning is [low to high] E A D A D E.
The only two strings that change are the G, which goes up to A, and the B, which goes up to D.” Page explained how he arrived at this unusual tuning. “I altered the strings around so that I’d have an octave on the A notes and an octave on the D notes, and still have the two Es,” he said. “Then I just went to see what finger positions would work.”
08. “Ten Years Gone” (Physical Graffiti)
Like “The Rain Song,” this heart-warming yet heavy ballad demonstrates Page’s intuitive harmonic depth and sophistication, as he employs jazzy, “expensive”-sounding maj7, maj13, min9, dim7 and maj6/9 chords as effortlessly as Burt Bacharach, minus the associated schmaltz.
The song’s instrumental interlude, which begins at 2:31, is particularly sweet and rich sounding. It features a laid-back, phaser-treated lead guitar melody with soulful double-stops over a bass, drums and clean, jangly rhythm guitar accompaniment. Also noteworthy is Page’s doubling of the chorus riff, first heard at 0:32, with an electric sitar.
07. “Communication Breakdown” (Led Zeppelin)
With its down-picked “pumping” eighth notes and syncopated power-chord stabs, this song’s urgent verse riff embodies the spirit of Chuck Berry–style rock and roll. Not surprisingly, it served as the quintessential prototype for both heavy metal and punk rhythm guitar.
Page’s piercing, well-crafted solo, with its climactic, chromatically ascending unison bends, is like Berry on steroids and demonstrates that Page, on his new band’s freshman outing, was already thinking “outside the box,” both figuratively and literally (the physical “box” being a pentatonic fretboard shape).
06. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (Led Zeppelin III)
Jimmy’s impassioned guitar solo in this highly dramatic Chicago-style slow blues song is among his most inspired and emotive.
The song’s chord changes and structure are truly original, and in his rhythm guitar part Page plays an inventively slick turnaround phrase at the end of each chorus (initially from 1:06–1:12) that mimics a steel guitar, with a bent note woven into and placed on top of two successive chord voicings.
What makes this phrase so interesting and enigmatic is how, over the second chord, Dfmaj7 (played on organ by John Paul Jones) Page bends a C note up to D natural—the flat nine of Dfmaj7—and manages to make it sound “right.” It’s something few musicians apart from Miles Davis would have the guts to do.
05. “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin II)
This song has one of the coolest intro and verse riffs ever written. Not content to play it “straight,” as his blues-rock contemporaries might have done, Page inserts a subtle, secret ingredient into this part, giving it that x factor and a spine-tingling quality.
Instead of playing the riff’s second and fourth note—D, on the A string’s fifth fret—by itself, he doubles it with the open D string (akin to the way one would go about tuning the guitar using the traditional “fifth-fret” method), then proceeds to bend the fretted D note approximately a quarter step sharp by pushing it sideways with his index finger.
The harmonic turbulence created by the two pitches drifting slightly out of tune with each other is abrasive to the sensibilities and musically haunting, but the tension is short-lived and soon relieved, as Page quickly moves on to a rock-solid E5 power chord. “I used to do that sort of thing all over the place,” said Page. “I did it during the main riff to ‘Four Sticks’ too.”
04. “The Song Remains the Same” (Houses of the Holy)
Like a getaway chase on a stolen horse, this ambitiously arranged song, with its galloping rhythms and fleet-footed solos, is guaranteed to give you an adrenaline rush. Particularly noteworthy is Page’s decision to overlay two electric 12-string guitars during the song’s opening chord punches, each playing different and seemingly irreconcilable triads, such as the pairing of C major and A major.
“I’m just moving the open D chord shape up into different positions,” Page told Guitar World in 1993. “There actually are two guitars on this section. Each is playing basically the same thing, except the second guitar is substituting different chords on some of the hits.”
He adds, “ ‘The Song Remains the Same’ was originally going to be an instrumental, like an overture to ‘The Rain Song,’ but Robert [Plant] had some other ideas about it! I do remember taking the guitar all the way through it, like an instrumental. It really didn’t take that long to put together — it was probably constructed in a day. And then of course I worked out a few overdubs.”
03. “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin IV)
Jimmy Page trampled over two rules of pop music with this masterpiece: it’s more than eight minutes long, a previously prohibitive length for pop radio formats, and the tempo speeds up as the song unfolds.
“Stairway” is the epitome of Page’s brilliance as not only a guitarist, but also as a composer and arranger, as he layers six-string acoustic and 12-string electric guitars throughout the song in a gradual crescendo that culminates in what many consider to be the perfect rock guitar solo, performed on his trusty 1959 Fender “Dragon” Telecaster (his go-to guitar in the early days of Led Zeppelin).
02. “Dazed and Confused” (live version, The Song Remains the Same)
Clocking in at more than 28 minutes, this marathon performance marks the apex of this song’s evolution and showcases some of Led Zeppelin’s most intense jamming and collective improvisation in a variety of styles. Page is at the height of his powers here, in terms of both chops and creative vision, never at a loss for a worthwhile musical idea.
The otherworldly violin-bow interlude, beginning in earnest at 9:10 and spanning nearly seven minutes, is particularly inspired, and Page’s use of tape echo and wah effects in conjunction with the bow is absolutely brilliant.
01. “Achilles Last Stand” (Presence)
This epic, 10-minute song is Page’s crowning achievement in guitar orchestration.
The ensemble arrangement, bookended by a swirling, unresolved arpeggio loop, really begins to blossom at 1:57, and from this point on, Page spins numerous melodic variations over top of the jangly, plaintive Em-Cadd9s11 chord progression that underpins most of the composition.
Interestingly, Page previewed this chord vamp in the 1973 live version of “Dazed and Confused” that appears on The Soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same, beginning at 5:52.
Thoughtful consideration was put into the stereo image of each guitar track, which keeps the entire recording crisp despite the dense arrangement. The song also features one of Page’s most lyrical guitar solos (and one of his personal favorites).
It’s a beautiful Indian Summer day, and I’m standing on Queens Gate Road in London, England, a stone’s throw from the legendary Royal Albert Hall, where Led Zeppelin played in 1970, a performance immortalized on 2003’s Led Zeppelin DVD.
It’s a fitting landmark, considering that I’ve just finished a productive hour chatting with the band’s guitarist and producer, Jimmy Page, about the new deluxe editions of 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV (the third best-selling album in U.S. history) and its 1973 follow-up, Houses of the Holy.
I’m searching in vain for a taxi when, suddenly, a middle-aged man holding a sizable video camera on his shoulder walks up and politely introduces himself to me. In tentative English, he explains he’s with a Dutch television station that is producing a segment on the lasting importance of Zep’s classic “Stairway to Heaven.” At least, that’s what I think he says.
“So, vat is da meaning of dis song?” he asks.
Good question. I’ve written an entire book on Jimmy Page and have had a good three or four decades to think about it, so I should be able to say something relatively intelligent on the matter. But the truth is, it isn’t an easy task. There’s an elusive quality to the song that defies a simple explanation, which probably explains its extraordinary durability.
I surprise myself by speaking quite passionately about the song’s theme of spiritual yearning and redemption. I concede that the lyrics are pretty vague, filled with lines like “sometimes words have two meanings,” “there are two paths you can go by” and “there walks a lady we all know/who shines white light and wants to show/how everything still turns to gold.” But, like any other mystical text, the song’s virtue is in its ambiguity—it’s designed to draw you in and “make you wonder."
I conclude by telling him that the enduring popularity of the entire Led Zeppelin IV album is probably due to the strange timelessness buried within its musical DNA. Songs like “Battle of Evermore,” “When the Levee Breaks,” “Rock and Roll” and “Stairway” are profound in their ability to shift between the pagan rituals of Stonehenge and some unspecified space age where “all is one and one is all.”
“It’s not an album—it’s a work of comparative mythology,” I sputter.
The Dutch cameraman smiles and seems satisfied, if not a little puzzled, by my response. After he leaves, I’m a little mad at myself for not bringing up these ideas to Page during our interview an hour earlier, but as a guitar journalist, I was on a different mission.
Last June, Led Zeppelin launched an ambitious campaign to reissue their catalog, releasing remastered versions of their first three albums, each accompanied by a second disc of entirely unreleased music related to that album. As the holidays approach, a second round begins with special editions of their fourth and fifth albums, IV and Houses of the Holy.
The Led Zeppelin IV deluxe edition includes unreleased versions of every song on the original album, including alternate mixes of “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Four Sticks,” stripped-down guitar/mandolin instrumental versions of “Battle of Evermore” and “Going to California” and the much-speculated original Sunset Sound Studios mix of “Stairway to Heaven.”
The Houses of the Holy companion disc offers rough and working mixes of “The Ocean” and “Dancing Days” as well as revealing guitar-heavy mixes of “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “The Rain Song” and a cool alternate take of “The Song Remains the Same.”
It’s a ridiculous amount of ground to cover in 60 minutes, but Page seems game. Well…pretty game. As an interview, Jimmy is as dynamic and quirky as his music. He’s a highly original thinker who can dazzle with his clarity and insight, but when he wants, he can be as secretive and mysterious as King Solomon. Just the mention of a song title will have him enthusiastically holding forth in great detail, while seemingly innocent questions about guitars or effects can be met with a succinct, “I’m not going to answer that.”
But, hey, it’s all cool. Just like “Stairway to Heaven,” a little bit of mystery always makes you wonder.
GUITAR WORLD: One of the biggest bits of news is that you’ve included some of the original Los Angeles mixes of IV on one of the bonus discs. The story has always been that, aside from “When the Levee Breaks,” the mixes done at Sunset Sound Studios were a disaster. However both “Stairway to Heaven” and “Misty Mountain Hop,” both included in the companion disc, sound pretty damn good.
After we completed most of our work on the fourth album at Island Studios and Headley Grange [a remote three-story stone farmhouse that Zeppelin used as a recording facility], [engineer] Andy Johns and I went to Sunset Sound in Los Angeles to mix. The tapes included most of the music that would end up on IV, including “Stairway,” “Going to California,” and even a few things that ended up on Physical Graffiti, like “Down By the Seaside” and “Boogie with Stu”—but not “Battle of Evermore” which wasn’t finished yet.
We did some great work there, and I was particularly impressed with their wonderful echo and reverb facilities. The only problem was, they also had a rather “colorful” studio monitoring system. While we were mixing, everything sounded huge and the low end sounded especially massive. But when we returned to England and played our work back, the sound was nothing like what we had heard in Los Angeles. It was deflated…a pale echo of what we’d heard in L.A.
Around that period of time, there were alarming stories of tapes that had been damaged or slightly erased or interfered with by magnets used by airport security. We all wondered whether anything had happened to them. In actual fact, nothing had happened to them. Regardless, the band was not particularly enamored with the way things sounded, so I agreed to remix everything.
There were exceptions. The Sunset Sound mix of “When the Levee Breaks” had a density that we could not be replicated when we remixed it in England. It didn’t have that space—that black hole. So we put that one on the original album. We’ve included the remix on the companion disc so you can decide for yourself.
You also included the Sunset mix of “Stairway,” which also sounds pretty good.
Yeah, it’s also pretty superb.
When you were putting together the companion disc, did you have any second thoughts? Did you think any of the alternatives would’ve been better to put on the original albums?
Weeeeeellll, I don’t know about that. I think it is what it is. I suppose you could look at it this way: you wouldn’t have the versions that you know, and you wouldn’t have had the possibility to use these wonderful versions for the bonus disc! [laughs] It might’ve took 30 or 40 years to manifest, but Zeppelin runs on sidereal time—or time you can stretch—within the music and in the general ambience of the band.
On the original version of “Rock and Roll,” the beginning of the solo is almost buried, and then slowly emerges as it unfolds. On the companion disc, the alternative mix offers more clarity, but it begs the question: why did you bury it in the first place?
It makes you listen harder! I didn’t want it to be vulgar and punch the listener in the nose, I wanted to play with them a little bit and draw them in. It’s actually pretty interesting what’s being played.
The new version of “Four Sticks” also offers more clarity in certain areas, particularly in John Bonham’s drums. There is so much going on in that song. Was it difficult to achieve a final mix?
There were a number of attempts to get that song right. I know, because I just reviewed them all! You’d get to the point where you could hear all the textures…and then realize there wasn’t enough bass. [laughs] Back in those days, it was all manual mixing, so every mix is different, which is really rather good. Getting a great mix was a kind of performance itself. We didn’t start having automated mixes until In Through the Out Door.
I suppose you could argue which one is better, but on both versions of “Four Sticks”—the original and the alternate version—you really get the feel of the ride of the mix and how we’re trying to get all the textures to organically move throughout the song. I’ve always felt that “Four Sticks” was very abstract, so it was particularly important to get the soundscape right. In some ways, the textures are the song.
But regarding hearing John’s performance, or some of the other nuances, I was very diligent during this whole process to release things that had real musical value. A lot of thought went into what we were going to use to compliment the original tracks.
Going back over both of these albums, it’s striking how much electric 12-string you used. What was the primary guitar?
Well, on “Stairway” I used both my Vox Phantom that I used on “Thank You” and my Fender Electric XII.
Did you use them for tonal differences?
Not really. They both sort of sounded the same. It was more about how they played. They felt different. On “Song Remains the Same,” it’s just the Fender.
Listening to the dramatic, stripped-down version of “Battle of Evermore” on the companion disc, something occurred to me. What came first, the mandolin or the guitar part?
The mandolin part. I was at Headley Grange one evening and started playing John Paul Jones’ mandolin. I had never really played a violin or a ukulele or any instruments with those kinds of tunings, but before I knew it I had written the whole thing—the verses, the chorus and the breakdown. The rhythm guitar was created later because I had to work out what the chords were and the correct inversions—because I didn’t know what chords I was playing on the mandolin.
Why fade the track halfway through?
It’s a vignette. It’s similar to how I handled “The Song Remains the Same” on the companion disc. I wanted to give the listener a sense of how the track evolved, but didn’t feel the need to belabor the point. Same with “Going to California”—that’s not the full-length version, either. It’s about illustrating the texture and vibe.
I think you’ve said each album is essentially a reflection of what you were feeling at that particular time and space. Houses of the Holy is the most celebratory album in your catalog. It’s the only album without a blues.
Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever said it was a summing up of where we were at that point in time; it’s more about what we’re managing to achieve musically under the roof of a recording facility. I think it’s more about how we’ve managed to push things, and we’d been pushing all the way through.
Here’s the interesting thing: if we had been forced by the record company to make singles, we would’ve never been able to explore like we did or make albums like IV or Houses of the Holy. Because we created each album as an independent production, we could actually dictate that there would be no singles. And when you look at the whole of the catalog, my god, you realize what a saving grace that was not to have to comply with commercial radio.
Our attitude was, “Here’s the album, and if you want to give something to radio, then fair enough, but don’t bother asking us to follow it up with something similar.”
Houses features some of your most layered and complex guitar arrangements. Around this time you had installed a home multitrack studio. Did that influence the material on Houses?
Yes, I did have a home multitrack recorder, and I was experimenting quite a bit, and certainly some of it was done with Zeppelin in mind. “The Rain Song” was one of the tracks that I had developed at home. My demo features a Mellotron and everything—I didn’t play it as well as John Paul Jones, of course—but the whole idea, with all the various movements, was done at home.
What about “Over the Hills and Far Away”?
No, because that was easy to convey to the band with just a guitar. What I wanted to achieve with “The Rain Song” I felt was less evident from just performing the guitar part, so creating a demo was important.
To be honest, I just usually taped things to remind myself. One of the most important things to remember is that musicians of our generation—before there were cassette recorders—had to remember everything. Most of the time I didn’t really need to record demos because I had already committed the idea to memory.
“The Song Remains The Same” is genuinely unusual. It’s almost a compendium of folk and country guitar techniques presented in a completely different context—the opening solo features straight flat-picking, the bends behind the vocals are reminiscent of country guitarist Clarence White, and there’s a healthy amount of hybrid picking on your Fender XII.
That’s fair enough. It wasn’t intentionally any one of those things. It was just the result of me listening to all these alternative six-string things at the time and summing them up…or perhaps reprogramming them. [laughs] But it’s all a question of taste—of what you put in or leave out to make the most of your technique relative to the song.
I was so OCD then that, by the time it came for me to record my guitar parts, I was completely absorbed by what I was doing and the right parts just seem to come out. And most of the solos were pretty spontaneous. I’d warm up and then immediately record, and then I’d do the next one. I never wanted to labor the point of anything.
Continuing with the uplifting theme of Houses, I’d like to talk about “Dancing Days.”
Yes, that whole song is like a celebration—it’s jubilant.
But I would say Houses of the Holy is an album of many moods. Each song captures an essence of a feeling, an emotion or sensitivity, and you can hear the band maturing as we play all these different styles. I feel there’s a logical progress from each album. You can see the expansion and risks we were taking. Or should I say, the new territory that is there to be civilized and conquered. [laughs]
“Dancing Days” is interesting because I remember exactly where I was when I laid down those slide guitar parts. I was at Olympic in Studio One, and I stationed myself in the control room and fed my lead out to an amp in the studio. I wanted it really loud, and you could get the ambience of the whole room. I just roared. I hadn’t even worked out what the part was going to be. But I guess I was so on top of my playing that I could just sort of do that.
It sounds like the arrangement to that song was all sort of meticulously worked out, but it all just came out, and all I had to do was a few little drop-ins and the song was done. And then I double-tracked it as well. It was pretty spontaneous. When the rest of the band came in later, I said, “I hope you’re gonna like this.” They were like, “Wow!”
Houses of the Holy sounds different than any of your other albums. Your guitar sounds brighter, and the drums are a more refined version of the groundbreaking sound you created on IV.
I thought it was important to make each Led Zeppelin album sound radically different than the one before. All the changes were intentional. That’s why we used different engineers and different locations.
I don’t want to go into detail, but I used a lot of different guitars on Houses, which might account for some of what you are hearing. And although we used some of the same techniques to record John’s drums that we developed at Headley on IV, most of Houses was done in a traditional studio, which is why it sounds brighter. You wouldn’t have the same expansion and headroom that we had with the high ceilings in Headley.
Why isn’t the song “Houses of the Holy” on Houses of the Holy?
Because it comes out on the next album. [laughs] It’s meant to be a little mischievous.
This hiss is quite audible on the version of “No Quarter” on the companion disc. Did you hesitate to use it, or did you try to eliminate it using modern technology?
It was such a great take by John Paul Jones, I wasn’t about to let a little hiss stop me from using it. In some ways, it adds to the ambience of the time and place.
The guitar solo on the original version of “No Quarter” is one of your more unusual statements. It’s jazzy without being jazz.
With the piano being the way it is, the last thing I wanted to do was play a jazz homage. It would’ve been too obvious. I wanted to show the guitarist hasn’t gone to sleep—he’s thinking about presenting the composition in a different way, using different colors and tones and figures that are…spritely. It’s like water nymphs or something coming through.
While the music on Houses is primarily upbeat, your use of dissonance on the opening riff of “Dancing Days,” and the rather sour use of seven chords on sections of “The Ocean,” undercuts the happy subject matter and keeps them from sounding too…
…cozy. I never really wanted to take the easy way out. Those harmonies you are talking about are stretching and pushing those songs and making them a bit angular. You’re not in a comfort zone when you are listening to the opening riff of “Dancing Days,” but I think it feels natural in a dark way.
It’s “Dancing Days,” but it’s not disco!
It’s not the norm. It’s not a chug-along thing. It’s got intent in its attitude. It’s an attack. Although it’s not as extreme, that idea also appears on the solo to “Misty Mountain Hop.” I was pushing myself to explore new areas of harmony. I wanted to investigate those outside edges—maybe push myself over the edge! I’m surprised, really, that I’m here to tell the tale.
Photo: Atlas Icons: Jeffrey Mayer
Recently, the eternally surprising Jimmy Page streamed a track called "Ramblize" at his official website.
It was an unlikely mashup of Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" and Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize."
Several news outlets reported that it was a brand-new track, but it actually has been available on good ol' YouTube for more than two years—and you can hear it below. That's because the song is one fifth of our brief but mesmerizing list of cool Led Zeppelin mashups, most of which revolve around "Whole Lotta Love."
Mashups are nothing new. They've been happening since those dudes in the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cups commercials kept getting chocolate in the other guy's peanut butter (and peanut butter in the chocolate, of course). Mashups require a great deal of editing and patience—and it helps when the songs being mashed are in the same key.
Anyway, check out our five choices for the best Led Zeppelin mashups. Mind you, some of these get into "remix" territory, which brings up the old "What's the difference between a remix and a mashup?" argument.
Fortunately, we don't care—and we really don't have time to delve into that at the moment. Just enjoy these five tracks!
P.S.: We've started things off with the best. The Zeppelin/Sabbath mashup is brilliant, and the video is top notch!
01. "Whole Lotta Love" with Black Sabbath's "War Pigs"
02. "Whole Lotta Love" with the Beatles'"Helter Skelter"
03. "Whole Lotta Love" with James Brown's "Sex Machine"
04. "Ramble On" with Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize"
05. "When the Levee Breaks" with the Beach Boys'"Sloop John B"
Every now and then, in the crazy, competitive world in which I live, I have to remind myself WHY I write.
I realized early on that I loved words. In an odd and uncommon way. As a little kid, I made jokes or puns that other people didn't "get" or find funny.
I played with words and said things that had double (or triple) meanings. Language was fascinating to me.
I also loved to write. One of my grandmothers loved writing as well. She lived in Michigan and I rarely got to see her, but she would send me blank notebooks and ask me to mail them back to her after I filled them with my writing.
I remember lying on my bed and opening the packages that contained those spiral notebooks, fresh and waiting for my thoughts. The idea that someone (my grandmother) cared enough about my thoughts to not only read them, but to provide me with the blank canvases on which to paint them was profound to me even as a child.
I didn't even know what "publishing" was at the time, but I did know that writing something that other people would actually read — even if it was only ONE other person — was a big deal.
So, I wrote. Silly poems. Jokes. Limericks. Stories. Lyrics. Whatever was on my mind, I wrote. Until the notebook was filled to capacity, I challenged myself to write every day.
Then, I would package the full volume of my work up and mail it back. She would always write me letters to tell me which pieces of my work were her favorites. She bragged on them all.
But, one time, her letter included an clipping from her local newspaper. It said "Aspiring Author, Marty Dodson..." and included a picture of me as well as one of my poems. The article below the picture told who I was and that I was Irene Dodson's grandson who lived in Nashville.
I remember the feel of the newspaper in my hand. I remember the wondering how many people read my poem that day. But most of all, I remember reading the words "Aspiring Author" over and over.
It wouldn't be true to say that changed my life or altered the course of it. But, it did give me something to shoot for. Throughout my life, I have thought back to the moment when I first realized that my voice MATTERED to someone.
In many ways, I'm still an "Aspiring Author." I aspire to be better every day. I aspire to reach more people with my words all the time. I aspire to bring light into the world with those words. And I aspire to make my grandmother proud of my work, even though she isn't here to hear it and she never got to hear one of my songs.
She taught me that words on paper matter. She valued my voice. She passed on a love for combining words in ways that move people. What she gave me is priceless.
That's ONE of the reasons I write.
Songwriter/Corporate Trainer//Former Diet Dr. Pepper Addict
Marty Dodson is a songwriter, corporate trainer and entrepreneur. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and The Plain White T’s. He once bumped Psy out of the #1 spot on the K-Pop charts but that’s another story for another day. Marty plays Taylor and Batson guitars. Follow him here: www.facebook.com/songtownusa, at www.facebook.com/martydodsonsongwriter and at Twitter @SongTownUSA or visit martydodson.com
Today, GuitarWorld.com presents a shred-tastic new video by Finnish rockers Santa Cruz.
It's called "Shred Till You Drop, Volume 2," and it shows Santa Cruz guitarists Archie and Johnny slaying and shredding—but not dropping!
As the clip's title suggests, it contains four minutes of pure demonic playing—and two very nice Gibson Les Pauls.
Santa Cruz's new album will be out in March; stay tuned for details! Also, the band will be playing Rock on the Range this year—and they played their first two U.S. shows last month.
You can check out their new single, “We Are the Ones to Fall,” on iTunes now.