Sunday, September 17, 2017

Plagiarism revisited

Plagiarism.  An ugly word, especially when applied to a band we love.  But what about when it is applied to a band that has plagiarized Led Zeppelin?

Lucifer's Friend was formed from the German band Asterix is 1970.  According to Discogs, Ride in the Sky was recorded/released November 1970 at Tonstudio Maschen & Windrose-Dumont Time Studio.

According to Dave Lewis in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File (a must-have book!) Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song was initially worked on in May and June of 1970 at Headley Grange and was premiered at the Bath Festival 28 June 1970.  Led Zeppelin began opening their shows with Immigrant Song in July 1970, starting with -- pay attention here -- Germany.  Led Zeppelin III was released in October 1970

So... which band could claims of plagiarism be thrown at?  I think it's pretty clear.  Just sayin'.

We are your overlords.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

To be or to have been

Lots of grumbling out there about how Jimmy Page hasn't put out new music as he said he would. But this blog post isn't about Jimmy Page. Sorry.

This blog post is about putting out music when you don't have any music to put out.

It's about Robert Plant's putting out a new album that astounds me... not because I think it's so great but because of what I consider to be mistaken reviews.

Sacrilege or legit criticism?
Note: this blog post a statement about my musical tastes - your experience may differ.

I want to assure you my intent is not to dis Robert Plant. My aim is to present a criticism of music and it is criticism I'd apply to any musician. 

It's my opinion that when an artist stops growing but keeps putting work out, he or she becomes an entertainer. The painting, the writing, the music, whatever it is, becomes marketable product, not art. For those of us who take our art seriously, that's a fatal flaw.

That doesn't make the product bad, it just means that it's no longer art. It's the difference between, say, Monet and Keane. Between Shakespeare and Patterson. Between Beethoven and Bieber. Art endures. Entertainment is fleeting. The works of great artists are beloved for centuries because there is timeless value to those works. The works of great entertainers last until public interest moves on because the values are based on current cultural conditions. Over time great entertainment is reduced to items of historical note.

Robert Plant was a great musician back in the day. But to have been a great musician doesn't make him one anymore.  I have a hard time with his work being considered the art it was. To me his work has left the ranks of timeless art and become popular entertainment.

That's not a bad thing, in itself. It's just not my cup of tea. 

Art = creativity

Those who've been reading this blog for a while know that I consider magic to be the power to change reality through acts of creation. Art is an act of creativity and therefore a kind of magic. That's how I have approached the work of Jimmy Page, and that's how I approach any music or other art.
That's why I have a hard time with Robert Plant's work these days.
Of course I listened to Carry Fire because I hoped maybe he had put out something new. But no. About the most entertaining aspect of this album has been the reviews. Here are some actual words used by reviewers of, for instance, one of the tracks, Bones of Saints:
"lights a fire in the sky"
"a high-energy new blues-rock"
"a propulsive, rockabilly-style riff with a cinematic mid-song vocal"
Really? Do these people not hear what is or do they hear through the filter of what has been? Are their minds so clouded with Mr. Plant's past (with Led Zeppelin) that they can't hear with the ears of today? Thunder compared to what? Lighting a fire in what sky? High energy? Huh?

Those reviewers are confusing music with poetry. Robert Plant has given himself over to words at the expense of music. Fine. Let the reviewers review the lyrics, because the music is just plain bleh.

So okay, maybe this is unfair criticism. Maybe I haven't moved on with Mr. Plant to this post-Zeppelin era in which he is so attracted to world music. I love rock music above all but I have no problem with world music. Rock music with the influences of other cultures can be fascinating (Kashmir, anyone? Or how about Bron-Y-Aur Stomp? The Battle of Evermore?) But...if I wanted to listen world music it wouldn't be Mr. Plant's version.
Why? Because he doesn't use world music -- or any music -- to express anything new. It's the same music that varies in details only. It's different lyrics rather than different music. To me Mr. Plant's music since Led Zeppelin sounds all the same. Like he's latched onto one motif that lets him create new lyrics -- which he's very good at. The formula sells a lot of albums but it means Robert Plant can't move on artistically. His work is nice but it's boring. You've heard one song, you've heard them all unless you listen closely to the words.

Words aren't music.

On the other hand, if the object is to be an incredible entertainer, then Robert Plant has got the formula down.

Art vs entertainment

I'm not talking about Robert Plant's technique or even his voice. Voices go with age and abuse, and Robert Plant's not the only one whose voice has gone. Lots of singers start to sing in lower keys because they can't reach the highs anymore (Elton John), or cover their croaking with instruments or sing on in a parody of Bob Dylan anyway because they just don't care (Roger Waters).

It's okay to listen with a musically non-critical ear to the singers we love -- of course it is!  But that's not the problem here.

I could listen to Mr. Plant's post-Zeppelin work in spite of his voice. But I can't listen to the same-old-same-old. Robert Plant has become the Margaret Keane of his field... along with the majority of today's musicians.

To me the mark of a great artist is when he or she can continue to grow. This doesn't mean changing a signature style (although that can happen), but rather developing artistic statements that reveal new depth of experience -- either the artist's or the world's. Those statements change as the artist gains skill, or maturity, or enlightenment.

Artistic growth is the difference between art and entertainment.

It's not easy to grow artistically.  And it's not necessarily fun, particularly when the world is watching and listening with expectations, particularly when the artist has had great success doing something and the world is clamoring for more of it.

But what sells or is popular or garners great reviews is not a measure of good art. Art tells us something new about reality. The greater the art, the deeper it is, the more fundamental the message. The greatest art creates a new reality for those who can experience it.

Maybe I'm shallow. Maybe Robert Plant has found a way to bring poetry to a public that isn't much into poetry. More power to him. But to call it music, what he does?