CELEBRATION DAY Marks Led Zeppelin’s Likely Last Hurrah

The release of CELEBRATION DAY on both dvd and cd likely marks the likely last hurrah for one of the greatest rock bands in history. The three surviving members of the band and the son of the late John Bonham, Jason Bonham, doing drums, performed this last great concert in 2007 in London as a benefit for Turkish-American record producer Ahmet Ertegun who was the founder of Atlantic Records. Ahmet Ertegun was responsible for discovering and signing acts such as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Genesis, Yes, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and other great artists, making Atlantic one of the greatest of the major record labels. Ahmet Ertegun was considered to be a musical and business genius, who would tirelessly campaign for an act he believed in, and as loyal of a friend as you could ever ask for. He was responsible for bringing so much great talent to the public and backing acts became some of the biggest selling in world history among R&B, soul and rock music.

Atlantic had a huge catalog of R&B and soul artists, as well rock acts like The Rolling Stone and Led Zeppelin who had a strong blues basis to their early sound, with many old blues covers among their early recordings. Ahmet Ertegun managed to take his soul and R&B based record label to many new places as he widened the label to include more rock acts that he believed in, while still maintaining that strong core of soul and R&B acts.

Ahmet Ertegun was such a miracle worker, that he even convinced Mick Jagger, who was both the leader and the business mind for The Rolling Stones to sign with his label, despite the fact that some other labels actually offered The Rolling Stones more money. That was a great miracle in itself, because Mick Jagger has always been known as one of the sharpest businessmen in all of rock and roll history, and asking Mick Jagger to do anything for a little less money and succeeding, borders on the incredible. But, Ertegun had a warm relationship with his artists, and even made efforts to repay royalties to some of his older R&B acts who felt that they were underpaid for their early works by the company.

In later years, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young seemed to capture the protest mood of the nation during the turbulent late 60’s, while maintaining a wonderful sense of harmony. This super group comprised of former members of Buffalo Springfield, The Hollies and The Byrds, and comprised harmonies and vocals as tight as Simon & Garfunkel could produce. Some respected this group for their political activism, while many more just respected their wonderful sound as all four voices blended into a tight harmony. Neil Young was a late addition to this supergroup of rock all stars, and drifted in and out of this group, doing stints with Crazy Horse and also as a solo act as well.

At the age of 83, Ahmet Ertegun was attending a Rolling Stone benefit concert for the Clinton Foundation, when the elder record executive slipped and fell and hit his head on the hard concrete floor. At first he seemed in good condition for a man of his age suffering a serious head injury, but he soon took a turn for the worse and then slipped into a coma and died a few weeks later as a result of the head injury. It was a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of the greatest record company executives of all time, where even The United States Library Of Congress honored the man as a living legend.

Led Zeppelin was one of the bands that Ahmet Ertegun helped to make a household word. Even one of the business writers over at FORBES couldn’t help but write a feature about how excited he is about the release of CELEBRATION DAY on dvd and cd.

Musically, Led Zeppelin seemed in very fine form on both the album and in the film. although, at times Robert Plant’s voice has noticeably aged, and doesn’t always have the unique vocal qualities that he once had as a much younger man that made his vocal style for the band so unique. However, this brand new release of this 2007 live benefit show is also the first new album by Led Zeppelin in years, and perhaps, likely their last as well. It is something to be cherished here.

The concert starts out with their early roots in the blues, as should be expected from any former act associated with Atlantic Records, with “Good Times Bad Times”, from their debut album, but then reads like a greatest hits performance with many more Zeppelin classics like “Ramble On”, “Trampled Under Foot”, “Stairway To Heaven”, “Black Dog” and “Kashmir”. The first encore includes the obvious missing song, “Whole Lotta Love”, and the second encore concludes with the great former single, “Rock And Roll”, a song so good that even Heart includes a live version of this song in their shows.

This new release of this 2007 concert on cd and dvd is about as much as Led Zeppelin fans could ever ask for if not much more. If they don’t get excited about all of this, then they must have grown to old to even care anymore. But, for the rest of us who love music, this new cd and dvd are a real dream come true here. This is good stuff.

The Bottom Line: Very good musically, although I would have preferred Robert Plant sounding more like he did in his younger years here, with that unique vocal signature not always present, but wavering in and out. But, nonetheless, this is still Led Zeppelin here. And that’s indeed something far beyond great. ***(Three stars, good. Buy this on both cd and dvd, or you’re not really a true music fan by any real standard of measure).

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