Growing up in the 90s in the North Jersey music scene, I booked a ton of shows at local firehalls and churches. The underground music scene was vibrant, with particular buzz in the alternative, rock, punk, ska, and hardcore genres. There were a lot of bands who played shows like the ones I organized and promoted, while also playing at local bars and clubs. However, there was always an animosity between these bands and the more frequently used bands at the clubs, the tribute and cover bands. Cries of “SUPPORT ORIGINAL MUSIC” were always loud in the scene and the cover bands were often seen as the enemy.
Of course, many members of original bands played in cover bands to help pay the bills. Cover bands and tribute bands play songs that drunk folks at bars can sing along to; bar owners know this and bar owners love this. Therefore, a good cover band or tribute band can make good money playing bars on weekends. Some cover bands like NJ’s renowned party band, The Nerds, even draw huge crowds with their renditions of modern hits and the classic rock of yesteryear. The us vs. them mentality of original and cover music feels more and more unnecessary as I grow up and my tastes continually diversify. Aren’t the best tribute and cover bands often those who make songs their own, anyway? Isn’t the best cover music creative and “original”?
Enter In the Light of Led Zeppelin to bridge the gap and prove my point… great covers take the spirit of the original and make them something fresh and new. In the Light of Led Zeppelin takes this philosophy and runs with it, finding a way to be both a tribute bands and a band that sounds fresh and original. This sounds like a feat that should be nearly impossible but I assure you that it’s not. So, before we dive into their latest release, let’s look at In the Light of Led Zeppelin and how they construct their great renditions of Zeppelin classics.
For starters, the players in In the Light of Led Zeppelin are world class musicians. “Pagey” – the lead guitarist and Jimmy Page of the band – is Antonio Bolet, the nephew of world renowned pianist Jorge Bolet. He’s widely known as one of the best classical guitarists in the world and is a master of flamenco. He is the music director and founder of the band, lending his virtuosity to ever composition and interpretation of a Zeppelin tune that the band performs. Along with Bolet, the band features Scott Board – formerly of cult sensation power metal band Cerebus – on vocals, Autumn “Joan Paula Jones” Martini on bass (and an assortment of other instruments including mandolin and acoustic guitar), Juliard trained Randi Fishenfeld on violin, well known tribute band drummer Keith Howard, and Linda Kiley – a one time wunderkind who has been training on classical piano since age 5 – on keyboards. The talent in the band rivals the most talented bands on the planet… in other words, they make Dream Theater look like a bunch of amateurs.
Take this top notch musicianship and couple it with a deep appreciation for world music, jazz, classical, and a variety of other styles, and you begin to understand just how complex and layered the band’s interpretations of Zeppelin tunes can be. Yet, the spirit of Page and Plant still oozes from every note. Like the latter Page/Plant collaborations, In the Light of Led Zeppelin values a wide variety of influences and a great deal of experimentation.
With this in mind, let’s look at their latest offering, the upcoming release of the independent released EP, Pompeii Sessions. Perhaps calling the 7 track album an EP is inaccurate… as the 7 tracks clock in over 45 minutes, which the average 10-14 track modern rock or pop albums seem to also clock in around.
The album opens with “Dancing Days”, which feels very much like the original song on first listen. The layered instrumentation and different arrangements become more noticeable as the song goes on, even more on subsequent listens. It has the power and pizazz to be a great opening track. A perfect way to kick it off.
From there the band transitions into a fantastic version of a personal Led Zep fave of fine, “Ramble On” and seemless presents another 4 fantastic arrangements of Zeppelin’s finest – “Four Sticks”, “Battle of Evermore”, “Friends”, and “The Rain Song”. Each of these songs rocks, but somehow they all feel like their main purpose is to ramp up and prepare the listener for the aural assault that is the album’s finale, the band’s 14 minute rock out of the classic “Kashmir”.
The entire 7 track release is stellar, with “Kashmir” as the powerful exclamation point at the end of the extremely well orchestrated album. The musicianship and the originality in the arrangements take center stage, bringing familiar songs become fresh and exciting in ways they haven’t been in years. Sadly, so few original bands can construct songs as original as these covers. Diehard fans of Zeppelin will love every moment, while casual fans will find just and much here to love. In short, it’s what every cover or tribute band should aim for… a beautiful amalgamation of originality and reverence. This is the death nail for the sentiment behind the “Cover Bands Suck” movement that pervaded the scene I grew up in.
If you can’t wait for the album’s release later this some to get a taste, you can sample their take on “Kashmir”, recorded live at famous Daytona club The Bandshell.