Wednesday, 28 November 2007


Ledhead Will Harris reviews Mothership.

Landing in at number four on the UK Top 40 in its week of release, "Mothership", Led Zeppelin’s most recent greatest hits album, is a 24-track collection of songs spanning the career of the band, and its high first entry in the charts showing that the mighty blimp of heavy metal still has a huge and most likely ever-increasing fan base. Indeed, the number of people from around the world who registered their names to win tickets for their one-off reunion show estimated to over one million, and doing a little research myself managed to find some of those tickets being auctioned off on the internet for well over a thousand pounds. Perhaps Jimmy Page was just being modest when he said he “hadn’t expected that sort of overwhelming demand”, but the point remains that this band has firmly cemented itself in the history of rock and roll, and, without undue exaggeration I think, the history of music as a whole. The sticker on the front of the case for "Mothership" reads: “The very best of Led Zeppelin remastered on 2 CDs”, and, sure enough, this is an ample collection of tracks for the fair-weather fan of Zeppelin, and if you’re not planning on becoming a die-hard Ledhead anytime soon (although I strongly recommend it) you can go no wrong with this. However, speaking as a Ledhead myself, there are some issues concerning this album that I would like to draw attention to. Firstly, "Mothership" is not the first album in the band’s catalogue to contain “the very best of Led Zeppelin”. The songs found on this album very closely mirror those of the joint albums “Early Days… the best of Led Zeppelin Vol. 1” (1999) and “Latter Days… the best of Vol. 2” (2000), and the track listings of those two albums incredibly resemble those of 1990’s Remasters double-CD set. Somewhere I can hear Mr Page’s eyes rolling back into dollar signs, accompanied by the faint sound of “ker-ching!” My other qualm is the use of the word ‘remastered’. Owning all of the original studio albums on CD - which are said to be digital remasters of the original vinyl editions themselves - I can find little sonic difference between the tracks on the original CD pressings and those on the greatest hits release. In fact, if anything has actually been done in relation to the mixing or production of these songs, I think it would only be Page himself who would be able to point out the issues, with the usual perfectionist musician’s pedantry. The songs themselves, though, are precious gems of rock and roll history. Not one of them would ever be omitted from any Zeppelin fan’s own personal canon of favourites, and the two CDs feature a good range of the band’s works, from the traditional hard rock of “Communication Breakdown” and “Rock And Roll”, to the bluest of blues found in tracks such as “Dazed And Confused” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, to the A-minor sensitivity of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Stairway to Heaven”. So to treat this album with the appropriate respect and honesty, "Mothership" offers little to long-time fans of Led Zeppelin, unless you happen to be one of the die-hards who absolutely must own every official release. However for those who are yet to fully embrace the delights of Robert Plant’s screams and moans, to the backing track of Page’s undeniably fabulous six-string virtuosity, John Paul Jones’ understated bass playing, and John Bonham’s powerful triplets and splashy rhythms, go buy this album, and let "Mothership" shine in your CD collection as patronage to one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

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