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"The early blues roots of Led Zeppelin" is a compilation of 17 songs. A very good proposition, functioning in two ways. Firstly giving you insight into what Led Zeppelin used to listen to and what inspired them, and secondly giving you a very good introduction to blues artists and blues music in general.
Let's look at the songs one by one:
1. "When the levee breaks" was originally recorded in 1929 by Kansas Joe Mcoy and Memphis Minnie. The song was inspired by the great Mississippi flood of 1927. Led Zeppelin, were not only influenced by this song, but they also made a cover for it, which they included on "Led Zeppelin IV" album. Their version is longer.
Tip: In 2006, director Spike Lee, released a documentary film about the devastation of New Orleans -Lusiana from the hurricane (Katrina), which is called "When the levees broke".
2. "Sugar Mama" or better known as "Sugar Mama Blues" it's a song by Sonny Boy Williamson who was one of the most important harmonica player's of his time. The song has been covered by Zeppelin, but it didn't manage to be included in any record by them.
3. "Jesus gonna make up my dying bed" by Josh White was originally recorded in 1933. Jimmy Page, in an interview, said that after listening to this song, he was inspired into composing the lyrics and tempo for "In my tie of dying" which was included on Physical Graffiti album (1975).
4. "Nobody's fault but mine" by Blind Willie Johnson, one of the greatest slide style guitarists, specializing in blues-gospel music. It is commonly believed, that Johnson is featured on the album cover of Led Zeppelin III, but this has not been confirmed as being true. His song has been covered by Led Zeppelin in their album "Seventh Presence".
Tip: This song has not necessarily been composed by Johnson, or it may have just been a cover by him of an earlier traditional song.
5. "Traveling Riverside Blues" by Robert Johnson, who unfortunately only lived until the age of 27 years old.
Eric Clapton once said that Johnson was the most important blues singer that ever lived. Many have called him "Father" of Rock' n' Roll. Led Zeppelin made a cover of his song in their double released album "BBC Sessions", a compilation/live album recorded back in 1969.
6. "The girl I love she got long curly hair" originally by Sleepy John Estes. Singer, guitarist and composer, Sleepy John talks in many of his songs about topics of everyday life, or about people Estes used to know. Zeppelin covered his song on BBC Sessions album, too.
7. "Shake' em on down" by Bukka White.
8. "I want some of your pie" by Blind boy Fuller. Led Zeppelin's made it the first track of their sixth album "Physical graffiti, changing the name to "Custard Pie". The lyrics of this song pay homage to different blues songs. Two of these songs are "Shake' em on down" and "I want some of your pie"!
Tip: Fuller shows a special way of finger-picking guitar style.
9."Gallis Pole" by Leadbelly. LeadBelly or Huddie William Ledbetter used to play piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertino and accordion. Zeppelin recorded this song on album "III" under the name of "Gallows Pole". The song has roots in traditional music and the author of it is unknown. Leadbelly has helped to rise the song in popularity. In Zeppelin's cover, Jimmy Page is using banjo for first time.
Tip: Song has also been re-recorded for the Page-Plant album "No Quarter" in a different version, and a third time for the "very best of MTV unplugged album".
10. "My mama don't allow me" by Arthur (Big Boy) Cruduy.
Tip: Many of his songs has been covered by many different artists, such Elvis Presley.
11. "My baby I've been your slave" by Sonny Boy Williamson.
A second song from Sonny Boy in this compilation together with "Sugar Mama", with harmonica being the driving force for both of the songs.
12."Fixin' to Die by Bukke White. "Bukka" was honored some years ago by the singer of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, in his personal album called "Dreamland" with the song "Fixing to die blues". Robert Plant changed the name of the song, a little, to "Funny in my mind (I believe I'm fixing to die)".
Led Zeppelin used to play it live during medley performances of "Whole lotta love".
13. "Boogie Chilen" by John Lee Hooker. Boogie Chillen is one of the most popular songs by John Lee Hooker, composed in 1948. With his unique style, he had the ability to create a whole new sub-genre of blues. Led Zeppelin embedded the song within their "Whole lotta love" medley and we can listen to it in all their live albums.
14. "Lone wolf blues" by Oscar Woods, who was also known as Oscar "Buddy" Woods, being a pioneer in the style of lap steel, bottleneck blues slide guitar.
15. "Get the bottle up and gone" by Sonny Boy Williamson. A third song by Williamson who is the most featured artist in this compilation.
16. "Truckin' little woman" by Big Bill Broonzy.
Another American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist who has offered a lot in this kind of music, is playing a Rock n' Roll style song composed in 1938!
17. "Going down slow" by James Burke St. Louis Jimy Oden is a play piano-based blues song which can be found in a bootleg by Led Zeppelin under the title "Bradford UK 1973".
While doing research for this review, I discovered that each story behind the blues artist, is very fascinatingly interesting as you learn things and stories about their each individual lives and have a glimpse into elements of life back in the decades of the 30's,40's etc.
I like the originality of these artists, and the unique sound of the untuned guitar.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 When The Levee Breaks - Memphis Minnie
2 Sugar Mama - Williamson, Sonny Boy (1)
3 Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed - White, Josh
4 Nobody's Fault But Mind - Johnson, 'Blind' Willie (1)
5 Traveling Riverside Blues - Johnson, Robert (1)
6 Girl I Love She Got Long Curly Hair - Estes, 'Sleepy' John
7 Shake 'em On Down - White, Bukka
8 I Want Some Of Your Pie - Fuller, Blind Boy
9 Gallis Pole - Leadbelly
10 My Mama Don't Allow Me - Crudup, Arthur
11 My Baby I've Been Your Slave - Williamson, Sonny Boy (1)
12 Fixin' To Die - White, Bukka
13 Boogie Chillen - Hooker, John Lee
14 Lone Wolf Blues - Woods, Oscar
15 Got The Bottle Up And Gone - Williamson, Sonny Boy (1)
16 Truckin' Little Woman - Broonzy, 'Big' Bill
17 Going Down Slow - Oden, St. Louis Jimmy