Sound Tracks, Jimmy Page’s box on #neuguitars #blog
What would have happen to Led Zeppelin if John Bonham did not die? What paths would they take after “Presence” (1976) and “In Through The Out Door” (1979)? I don’t think that four musicians, gifted with that talent and professionalism like them, would have been idle to bask in the success they achieved. I hypothesize a shift towards funk, which at the time was making its way and was gathering support or, perhaps, towards some more experimental forms. Who knows? Would they have been able to continue to evolve and produce great music? Summer questions from an idle enthusiast. Led Zeppelin were a mix created by four different souls and their music was the result of a cross mediation between different needs. Four spirits that made up the group, I always thought that Page represented the most experimental aspect. To clarify my ideas a little more, I’m listening to Jimmy Page’s “Sound Tracks” box set (I bought the one with 4 CDs) released in 2015 and sold directly from Page’s official website. Although it has been in my hands for several years, it took me some time to process some content to post here on the blog.
“Sound Tracks” collects two soundtracks composed by Jimmy Page in 1973 and 1981. The first, “Lucifer Rising”, should have been the soundtrack to the homonymous film by director Kenneth Anger, scholar and enthusiast, like Page, by Aleister Crowley. For a number of reasons and misunderstandings, it never went through and this is the first time this soundtrack has been officially released. In the past it was the subject of semi-legal and bootleg publications. The second, on the other hand, was released on the Swan Song label in 1982 and in America it reached the 50th position in the charts, a not indifferent result for a soundtrack of a not really exceptional movie. You know, Page has always loved working in the studio, and perhaps the possibility of working on these soundtracks gave him the opportunity to express himself in a more free and unconventional way the ideas that had been maturing for some time.
Personally I believe that the box is a beautiful and fundamental object for any Led Zeppelin fan. It has been superlatively crafted, with excellent graphics and design. The musical content is not far behind and shows a Page more free to experiment and at ease even with unexpected instruments for him. Something that can be appreciated immediately with the “Lucifer Rising” soundtrack, a decidedly experimental work, in which the geographical coordinates of the Zeppelins are quickly missing. But let’s take a closer look at it.
The first cd “Lucifer Rising” is really interesting. Released the same year as “Houses of the Holy”, it radically stands apart from certain oriental trends. The music is not expressed in song form, but as an elaborate set of crossed textures, aimed at evoking aura of mysticism. Thirty-one minutes and fifty-seven seconds of pure experimentation, an album that today would sound innovative, curious and provocative and that turns out to be even more so since it was released in 1973. An album that, had it been released at the time, would have done a lot argue and it would quickly become a cult object, much anticipating many hauntological and dark ambient trends that would arrive in a few years. Sonic dizziness, litanies, hurdy-gurdies, synthesizers, percussion, acoustic guitars, theremin, guitars played with bows, violin pieces. All very dark, sometimes dark, obscure. All played by Jimmy Page, a true deus ex machina. At the time, it would surely have increased the gossip about Page’s interest in witchcraft and miscellaneous mysticisms. Today it sounds a little dated, but very impressive. Even the second cd, containing unpublished material confirms this reading of the soundtrack, there are several repetitions, one senses that here the material is less refined, but one understands how much Page is dedicated to it by exploring, looking for new solutions and possibilities outside of music that had already made him famous.
The other two CDs are dedicated to the soundtrack of “Death Wish II”, a film released in Italy with the title “Il Giustiziere della Notte 2”, played by Charles Bronson, far from the glories of Sergio Leone’s movies. It is the classic film of urban violence: the daughter of an architect is kidnapped and raped by some criminals, she ends up dying and her father, Charles Bronson, begins to take justice for himself. Very simple, very violent. Everything was born out of a neighborly relationship. The director, Michael Winner, lived next door to Page, and asked for his collaboration, at a difficult time for Page after Bonham’s death.
Michale Winner: “I’d lived next door to Jimmy for many years. It was a very bad time for him – the drummer had died, and he was in a very inactive period. Peter Grant and I made arrangements for Jimmy to do the Death Wish II score, for which he wasn’t actually paid, because Grant wanted to restore Jimmy back to creativity. Jimmy rang the doorbell, and I thought if the wind blew he’d fall over. He saw the film, we spotted where the music was to go, and then he said to me “I’m going to my studio. I don’t want you anywhere near me, I’m going to do it all on my own.” My editing staff said this is bloody dangerous! Anyway, we gave him the film, we gave him the timings, and he did it all on his own. Everything hit the button totally! I’ve never seen a more professional score in my life.”
The soundtrack of this film is more conventional than that for “Lucifer Rising”, the rock elements are very marked, the song form, even if little sung, is present everywhere and the music reflects the 80s. Unlike Lucifer Rising, more articulated and dense orchestrations, John Williams style, find space here. There is little experimentation, but you can see the remarkable ability of Page as a composer and arranger, outside the rock world. The guitar solos are well cared for, as is the studio recording work. Whipped cream keyboards confirms us that we are right in the 80s.
Surprisingly, the presence of a Roland Guitar Synth (very nice photo that takes him while he plays it), not the instrument you would expect from Page, who is accompanied by Dave Mattacks (drums) and Dave Paton (electric bass). The fourth cd is also very nice, always unreleased music. Here, too, we note the excellent remastering work done by Page.
Is this box worth buying? Yes, if you are a big fan of Led Zeppelin and Page and, above all, if you want to question some of your beliefs about your favorite band. It is very nice and the cost, for those who love CDs, is not too much, given the quantity and quality of the material present: the two soundtracks recorded by Page in a remastered version, relevant bonus material, excellent internal booklet and elegant packaging design. However, this is particular material and not very easy to listen to, for me it was an excellent purchase. Now we just have to wait for the film / documentary “Becoming Led Zeppelin”.