Komm Gib Mir Deine Zeppelin
One of the great unasked questions of music history was, “What if a reggae band had an Elvis impersonator for a lead singer, and covered Led Zeppelin tunes?” Despite its ontological irrelevance, this southern California band persisted in laying out the answer.
The answer, as might be expected, is, “They would sound weird.” I bought this about a decade ago, listened to it once, and then ran across it the other day and gave it another spin. A few interesting observations emerged. The first is just how much Robert Plant’s singing style was borrowed from Elvis. Lead singer Tortelvis (Greg Tortell) really does a good job of exaggerating the King’s idiosyncracies (the little hiccup, the drawled note endings) but in the process sounds almost exactly like Plant, but two octaves lower. The second is what a strong relationship reggae bears to hard rock; the drumming is solidly reggae, but it locks nicely in with the riffs.
Dread Zeppelin was seen as a novelty act, but there’s a lot of good musicianship, especially as the guitars cop Jimmy Page’s licks note-for-note. “Immigrant Song” brings out the pop melody in the verse (and Elvis screaming “ah-aaaah-ah” is a hoot), “Hey Hey What Can I Do” makes the transition to reggae smoothly, “Whole Lotta Love” is more comedy, as Elvis at his sultriest meets the mellow groove which surprisingly withstands the battering from the riff. “Your Time is Gonna Come” actually surpasses the Zeppelin original, as its rockabilly roots work better in this context than with Plant’s histrionics.
A couple throwaways (“A Bad Trip” which is just Tortelvis talking for four minutes, and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”), coupled with my complete lack of interest in hearing this again mean that, while I recommend it for Zepheads interested in hearing their fave raves in a new context, I can’t rate it too highly.
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