Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mage Music: In Through The Soundscapes

Mage Music: In Through The Soundscapes
Posted with permission, by Dave Lewis, TBL Magazine

Note:  This post was originally published upon Mr. Lewis' receipt of Lucifer Rising.  Links to music and images placed by Lif Strand

Lucifer rises from the underground to offer key insight into Jimmy Page's 'extreme and alternative' 1970s artistic vision

Following the restoration of the Death Wish 2 album to vinyl last December, Jimmy has been readying the release of that great lost project -the soundtrack to Lucifer Rising. Finally in March, the following announcement was mde via his official website:

 "On March 20th, the Spring Equinox 2012, the title music for Lucifer Rising and Other Sound Tracks will have its premiere and release.

"The title music, along with other musical pieces recorded at my home studio in the early Seventies, have been revisited, remixed and released for the first time. This is a musical diary of avant-garde compositions and experiments, one of which was to appear on the film 'Lucifer Rising'.
"The collection has been exhumed and is now ready for public release. This will be available exclusively on the website. There will be a standard release on heavyweight vinyl.In addition there will be a special run of 418 numbered copies. The first 93 copies will be signed and numbered. There are liner notes and commentary to each track." Jimmy Page, March 2012

There was a pre-registration process to apply for the random selection of the 413 deluxe editions and 93 signed, and though I'd put my name down for a deluxe version I initially missed out. However there was a second g for any returns and I struck lucky on that. Come the day of delivery to Bedford (April 5th), I was out when the postman came at lunch time but there was a card left stating that a recorded parcel was awaiting pick up at the central post office in town. Having heard from Gary Foy that he had received his copy of Jimmy Page's Lucifer Rising and Other Sound Tracks album (copy number 392) I'd hoped that my copy was what was waiting at the post office. So the TBL editor author took to the favoured mode of transport (the trusty bike) and duly cycled the mile or so to pick it up. A queue awaited me. I had taken a record bag along to carry it -alas I had forgotten that the Death Wish 2 album had come in a large cardboard wrapper. Anyway said package was handed over and I undertook a bit of a tricky journey home (and I had to take it in the pub when I stopped off for a pint…nerves were kicking in and a beer was required before the grand opening!) As you can see this was a scene that mirrored when I cycled to purchase the In Through The Out Door album on August 20 1979 (six copies with the six sleeves of course!).

33 years later I was off cycling again in pursuit of the same Jimmy Page fix. It was all worth it of course as I am the proud owner of the deluxe edition number 213. A little bit more of vinyl heaven oh yes…So over the Easter weekend I made some time to get intimate with the intense and experimental sounds of Jimmy Page, composer and eternal lord of the strings. Here's my findings:

Well it isn't Outrider 2 but then again it was never intended to be. What we have here is something of a previously unheard missing link in the compositional history of Jimmy Page.

As he explains in the excellent sleeve notes, the guitarist has long since had a penchant for creating unorthodox soundscapes -going right back to the Yardbirds era with Glimpses on their Little Games album. This would subsequently manifested itself on stage with Led Zeppelin during the extensional improvisation of Dazed And Confused and it's various offshoots -latterly the guitar solo extravaganzas on the 1977 tour.

So what is exactly on offer inside the sizeable package sent via Jimmy

The package:  Effective sleeve design based on Gustav Dore's the Eagle.Thick outer cardboard sleeve, heavy weight vinyl inside. For LP enthusiasts such as myself, this is pretty much collector heaven. Effective visuals and informative and deep thinking sleeve notes on the inner sleeve. Each deluxe copy is numbered in gold pen.

The music: Here's how it unfolds over the two sides of vinyl.

The Lucifer Rising soundtrack has long since been a much maligned lost project. Page came up with the piece as a soundtrack for Kenneth Anger's controversial movie but it was only ever aired on early cuts of the film - journalist Nick Kent reported in the NME he had attended an informal screening in Los Angeles in early 1975 where Page had shown a rough cut with his soundtrack on. Anger was allegedly disappointed with Page for only coming up with some 23 minutes of music. The pair had a falling out and Anger brought in Bobby Beausoleil to score it instead -a young musician who went on to be convicted of murder under the influence of Charles Manson's notorious ''Family''. A poor quality bootleg of Page's version surfaced in the 1980s.

On this freshly mixed version, the basic theme of the Lucifer Rising Main Track is undercut by a drone that is similar to the In The Evening intro (particularly the live arrangement opening loop used on the Over Europe 1980 tour). It's then further embellished by chants and mellotron and ARP Odyssey synthesiser effects. A typically bleak eerie sound texture that would have also perfectly fitted as the soundtrack to The Hermit hill climb sequence in The Song Remains The Same movie.

Side two opens with Incubus which continues the drone effects theme.

Damask contains six string bowed guitar effects that hark back to the onstage exotic experiments he was applying on the guitar solo segment that preceded the performances of Achilles Last Stand on Zep's 1977 US tour.

Unharmonics has the clipped effect that can be hard on Shadow in the City on the Death Wish 2 soundtrack (Page explains two of his ideas would later surface on Death Wish 2 ). There's also some precise guitar overdubs with a hint of the revolving style of Over The Hills And Far Away.

Damask (Ambient) continues the bowing theme while the final track Lucifer Rising Percussive Return features additional white noise effect reminiscent of the 1970s work of the German outfits Can and Tangerine Dream and also echoed traces of the sort of experimental recordings to be found on side 2 of David Bowie's Low album.

These sonic soundscapes were originally prepared to be matched to film visuals and they make for decidedly uneasy listening heard in isolation. Repeated plays therefore might not be high on the agenda, but there is little doubt of their value as key reference recordings in the development of Page's career.

What these avant garde experiments starkly reveal is the expansiveness of Page's compositional vision. It was this vision when applied in a more conventional setting that would light up the like of Ten Years Gone, In The Light, Achilles Last Stand and In the Evening. Indeed the back cover photo of him working alone in his home studio in Plumpton (as seen in clips on the official DVD) offers a captivating image of his often solitary quest to open up new horizons and avenues for his music. It could also be argued that without this process of experimentation in, as he puts it 'the extreme and alternative', Page may not have achieved the depth of compositional brilliance attained on the aforementioned Zep epics.

Lucifer Rising And Other Soundtracks therefore offers key insight into the mind of a musician who has constantly expanded the parameters of his ability. As he states it in the sleeve notes - ''I had an interest in underground everything''.  Lucifer has duly risen from the underground to tell us a little more about Jimmy Page than we already knew…

And of course that thirst to hear and know more remains unquenchable. Now that the Death Wish 2 and Lucifer Rising soundtracks have emerged from the Jimmy archives, the question is of course what might be served up next? Over the past few months Jimmy has aired tantalising extracts on his web site of work in progress home demos of Sick Again, The Wanton Song and Ten Years Gone. There's also been clips from sessions such as the 1999 Depot rehearsal recordings with the late great drummer Michael Lee. There could be scope to gather these work in progress demos and sketches into an album that again presents a portrait of the artist at play.  

Also on my wish list would be a career expanding box set that chronicles the 1960s sessions he often logs and goes through The Yardbirds into Zeppelin and beyond - in effect a 50 year career overview. Now that would be something special.

Ultimately I am sure we all also crave new music from the man and it would be fantastic for that to happen. There is little doubt though, the establishing of Jimmy has offered a unique platform for the once reticent and private musician to re- connect with his vast fan base.

The release of the Lucifer Rising And Other Sound Tracks LP is another significant milestone in the recent reaffirmation of Jimmy Page, musician and composer. Long may his underground archives rise up to enlighten and inform.

Dave Lewis  Copyright Dave Lewis/TBL 2012 not to be reproduced without prior permission
Thank you Dave!

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