Described as a missing link between the first two albums and a planned forthcoming release, these four tracks have been talked about in hushed tones by those in know for a long time now. Having been recorded over a decade ago prior to debut album No Windows to the Old World, there is much here that resonates with the expectations of The Blood Choir‘s fans but also much that is wonderfully new and slightly unexpected.
There are many reasons to cover other peoples songs and in my opinion most of them are not really very honest. I know that you can make an argument for tradition and wanting to honour your favourite songs but for my money, unless you can bring something new to it then all you are doing is riding on someone else coat tails and basking in their reflected fame and glory. After all in which other creative field could you do something similar without it being regarded as at best plagiarism, at worst forgery? I couldn’t paint the Mona Lisa or write Pride and Prejudice without a few questions being asked.
Classic rock, hard rock, rock…call it what you will but we can all agree that we are in familiar territory here. Not that it is a problem, not everything is about kicking down the barriers and exploring new pastures, some of it is about diving for pearls in familiar waters. And that is just what Anonymous are all about.
This sort of music is done often, too often really, but it is often not done well. That then is the bands selling point for whilst they are clearly playing with familiarity and comfort zones here and wearing their references very openly on their sleeve tattooed arms (presumably, I haven’t checked) they do it much better than most.
The bluesy Zeppelin edge shows through in the shifting dynamics of Will You Ever Learn but for the most part they are a full throttle, hard-edged rock onslaught that joins dots between the likes of The Almighty’s uncompromising sound and Black Stone Cherry’s southern swagger, The Cult ‘s knowingly wonderful foot on the monitor clichés and fellow emerging rockers Mother.
Sometimes it is enough just to re-invent the wheel especially if the wheel in question allows you to open up the throttle and take a white-knuckle joyride through the side streets and alleyways of the history of rock before unashamedly heading down the highway to follow in the tyre marks of previous iconic suicide machines. Or something…I’m not great with analogy.
Even if you know nothing about Led Zeppelin, and I did hear a rumour that there are a couple of aging spinsters on the Isle of Bute who remain largely unaware of the band, even before opening the book, the very title gives you some indication of the nature of the band. The Hammer of The Gods, Thor’s weapon of choice, thunder and lightening, mythological battles and a band making music to evoke those images. But if their music was the sweeping, majestic stuff of legend, the mythology of the band was something just as impressive, excessive, destructive and otherworldly and in this the best known, unauthorised biography, music journalist Stephen Davis unravels fact from fiction to get to the heart of the band.
And like any band story it starts with a bunch of young musicians. Jimmy Page had already achieved a level of fame as the last of an impressive series of guitarists with The Yardbirds (the previous ones being Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck) was a sought after session player and had somehow managed to crawl from the wreckage of the band with ownership of the name. He also found himself allied to their manager Peter Grant, who ran his bands like a mafia boss and together they set about putting a new line up together. After gathering accomplished music arranger, John Paul Jones on bass and a couple of young friends from the Midlands, John Bonham and Robert Plant on drums and vocals respectively, they set out to make a name for themselves. And what a name they made.
Davis charts their rise from ’68 to their fade and final demise in 1980 in all its horrific glory. If you are looking for the cliché 70’s band when it came to excessive life style, then this is the band who sums it up. Groupies, violence, genius, money, greed, burnout and reflection, it’s all there as they strode across the world, like the gods and heroes they filled their songs with.
As ide from the four band members band manager Peter Grant and tour manager Richard Cole play a starring role, though they do not come off well and much of the reputation that the press tarred and feathered the band with was often due to their antics.
So the story is everything you come to expect, love and loathe regarding a young rock with the world (but not the press) at their feet, but the delivery of that story is slightly lacking. It has all of the facts but it seems to overstate the less glamorous activities in favour or real insight in to the writing processes or the inter band relationships. After all in the grand scheme of things do we really need to hear about every one night stand and every brawl, better to reflect on the songs, the context of the musical landscape that they were navigating and the band members take on their careers, the humanity of the story.
When the book first appeared in 1985 (it has subsequently been updated as the surviving members have re-immerged from time to time) it was the first of the “tell all” musical biographies, one that would certainly been deemed libellous if the band were still a going concern, but Davis seems happier dealing with the story like a travelogue rather than anything more revealing.
That said, if you come to the band not knowing much about them, this is a good entry-level book, but if you are looking for something that digs a little deeper into the subject then there are better books to read on the subject.