Disc Reviews: Return to the 'Mothership'

This "best of" compilation boasts remastered milestones of the most fabled hard rocking quartet in history.

mothership album 88 (photo credit: )
mothership album 88
(photo credit: )
LED ZEPPELIN Mothership (Hatav Hashmini) For those masses of Led Zeppelin fans who were unable to attend last week's gala reunion show in London, a double dose of Mothership will be the next best thing. This generously annotated "best of" compilation boasts remastered milestones of the most fabled hard rocking quartet in history. This is the main drawing card for Zep fans who already have all their recorded works. While it may not feel like you're hearing it for the first time, as some reviews have claimed, the sonic clarity certainly boosts the band's instrumental strength, especially the astonishing dexterity and power of drummer John Bonham. All the usual suspects are accounted for among the 24 songs, and to the band's credit, there's none of the extra bonus-unreleased-alternate version-rehearsal tracks that tend to water down similar career overviews. Just the meat and potatoes without the fat, ranging from "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Ramble On" to "Kashmir" and "Achilles Last Stand," and the always earthshaking "Rock and Roll" and "Black Dog." Oh, and a few ditties by the names of "Whole Lotta Love" (still sounding as trippy as ever on the headphones), "Immigrant Song" and "Stairway to Heaven," with its blistering, economical Jimmy Page solo that neatly encapsulates his status as one of rock's guitar gods. Listening to the individual Zep albums today might leave a somewhat dated feeling in your ears, but with this non-stop superlative track-after-track collection, even kids raised on Linkin Park can begin to get an idea of what all the commotion was about. THE BEATLES Help DVD (Helicon) Memory and time have a way of playing tricks on you. When Help, The Beatles' second film (after Hard Day's Night) was released in 1965, I thought it was the funniest, most mesmerizing movie I'd ever seen. Of course, I was seven-years-old. With some forty-odd years of perspective, the DVD premier of the slapstick/fantasy musical featuring the Fab Four is still a hugely entertaining period piece featuring some classic Beatles tunes when they were at the height of their straight ahead pop-rock powers, before turning to more complex musical and lyrical themes. But the plot is indeed silly, the boys' exaggerated accents and mumbled delivery impede the comprehension of their many inside jokes (especially John's always snide remarks), and at times, the film seems like one long pre-MTV clip. So what do you do when faced with this myth-breaking reality? Enjoy it nonetheless, for the sunken living room pit, the four separate doors leading to the same flat, the innocent goofiness which was the forerunner to Monty Python, the Technicolor cinematography which was an eye-opener after the black and white Hard Day's Night, and the infinite potential of youths who were only beginning to realize the depths of their talent and their ability to affect the world. THE KILLERS Sawdust (Helicon) Las Vegas rockers The Killers have undergone extensive musical transformations in their few years together. While their 2004 debut Hot Fuss was full of glam-style Bowie rock and modern synth beats, the 2006 follow-up Sam's Town turned to the grittier, less ironic stylings of mainstream expansive rock. Sawdust, a collection of B-sides, rarities, covers and a couple of new songs ranging from 2003 to the present, displays a band trying out different genres of music like they're T-shirts. The opening new track, "Tranquilizing," a duet between Killers frontman Brandon Flowers and Lou Reed, is a bombastic in-your-face arena rocker with synth strings, faux children's vocals and sweeping choruses. A cover of Joy Division's "Shadowplay" reveals some of their new wave inspiration, and additional covers of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" and Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet" prove, if nothing else, that they have eclectic tastes. More cohesive and convincing are the band's modern rockers like "All The Pretty Faces" and "Under the Gun" with tinges of the Strokes poking through. And you can't beat a song with a title like "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll." But Sawdust is ultimately a confusing mix of material by a band whose next move is still a mystery.