23 May 2018 (released)
31 May 2018
The path of a tribute act is a tightrope walk, particularly when honouring the acts who's catalog is so iconic that fans will have every inflection of every note committed to memory. Decades of play on FM radio, vinyl turntables, cassettes, CDs, mp3s, streams and now on vinyl again have etched their music permanently in the deep recesses of our minds. The tribute act then has two choices. First, is to be an exact copy, to make damn sure you hit every note in the same way they did to satisfy our brain's desperate need to have patterns reinforced. An act that aims for replication and only partially achieves it may as well hang up their boots, they've failed at the game. The other option is to reinvent, to give the songs a new life with new versions and reinterpretations.In some ways this as equally as difficult as you have to maintain the spirit of the original band while exploring different tangents.
Luckily for Florida's In the Light of Led Zeppelin, the original Zeppelin had already provided a template for this reinvention. In 1994 when Page and Plant reunited to once again play their legendary catalog, they opted against being essentially a cover act of their own material, instead choosing to dig into their eastern influences to give the old songs a fresh zeal. ITLOLZ added violin and extra percussion to expand beyond the sonic realms of the classic four-piece. The Pompeii Sessions embraces the style of 90s Page and Plant while vocalist Scott Board's voice hits all the notes that Plant did in his heyday.
The seven-track collection doesn't include the absolute biggest hits of Zeppelin's career, choosing to focus on the tunes that lend themselves to the eastern style. However, they will all be recognized by anyone with even a passing interest in the band. This live collection showcases a similar tight but loose style that Zepp had as their trademark. Songs morph into other songs and the band falls casually in and out of lockstep, playing fast and loose with timing.
On the summery, 'Dancing Days', Randi Fishenfeld's violin stands in for Page's high register guitar hook. Board nails a young Plant's gleeful whoops and soaring feminine register. Breaking from the classic structure, the band pivot to an eastern dance section of fiddle and drum revelry. One becomes entranced in this mystic vibe when guitarist Antonio Bolet comes bursting back in like a wasted Page barreling into a hotel room with a bottle of Jack and a pair of groupies to finish the song with its original cadence.
Renditions of 'Ramble On', 'Rain Song' and 'Friends' stay fairly close to the originals but elevated by the additional violin in certain sections. A song like 'The Battle of Evermore' was already steeped in supernatural minstrel tones so all the band needed was to lean into them a little more. 'Four Sticks' was given the acoustic treatment as was done on 1994's No Quarter album. The closer and epitome of the project is their version of the desert epic 'Kashmir'. Bolet takes liberties with the intro setting the stark dry scene. Strings also back up the original but they are given a lead role here, breaking away to lose the listener in a fever dream. Frenetic drumming sets off a wild camel run to the finish.
The Pompeii Sessions is an intoxicating collection of fan favourites. The eastern touches feel so natural that you start to imagine that they were always there. Being a live performance, there are times where the tight but loose feel comes off as sloppy but Zeppelin themselves would often sacrifice pristine playing for pure energy. All in all, a great album for fans who after all these years, crave hearing these tracks again and again.