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Book Review: Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls by Charles R. Cross

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Wow!

As rock books go, they simply don't get much more complete than this. That the subject of Charles R. Cross' Shadows Taller Than Our Souls is Led Zeppelin — who arguably stand only behind the Beatles as the biggest rock band of all time — only strengthens the appeal of this book.

If you think that everything that could possibly be written about Led Zeppelin has already been committed to paper, you are for the most part absolutely correct. What sets this book apart from the rest, though, is the treasure trove of extras and bonus goodies you'll find while thumbing your way through its pages. For Led Zeppelin fanatics, this is not just a must-own — it is in many ways a holy grail of sorts.

Shadows Taller Than Our Souls — its title is taken from one of the lyrics to "Stairway To Heaven" — is the Led Zeppelin fan's ultimate coffee table book. Housed in a beautiful hardbound slipcase, every page of this lovingly assembled book reveals a new surprise.

There are pages that fold out to reveal never before released photographs of the band, as well as things like reproduced ticket stubs and press releases nicely tucked in between nearly every page.

You get things like the original cover of the Atlantic Records promo E.P. for Led Zep's first album, an invite to Zep's first appearance at the 1969 Seattle Pop Festival, and the ticket stubs from Zeppelin concerts in the seventies (at the then-outrageous price of $12.50 a ticket).

Towards the end of the book, there is even an original pull-out of the press release announcing Led Zeppelin's breakup following the death of drummer John Bonham. There is also an audio CD of a rare Jimmy Page interview with Trouser Press journalist Dave Schulps.

For his own part, Charles R. Cross focuses in on the music, rather than the sort of sordid sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll details of previous Zeppelin bios — most notably Stephen Davis' Hammer Of The Gods. A wise move considering the fact that Zep's reputation for road excess has pretty much been covered to death in previous tomes.

Instead, the Seattle based music journalist, and New York Times best -selling author (Heavier Than Heaven: The Biography Of Kurt Cobain), takes the reader through an album by album, concert by concert retelling of the musical evolution of Led Zeppelin.

In Shadows Taller Than Our Souls, Cross takes you from how Led Zeppelin rose from Jimmy Page's original vision of a "very loud band" that would emphasize shades of both dark and light — did you know for instance that Joan Baez was one of their earliest influences? — to become the biggest band in the world.

In his very easy-to-read narrative — I read through it in a single sitting — Cross takes you into the recording studio during the creation of Zep's landmark debut album, through "Stairway To Heaven," Physical Graffiti and all of the rest, right on up through the band's final days and such post-mortem releases as Coda.

Cross also recalls Zeppelin's greatest concerts, as well as their biggest disappointments (those early Rolling Stone reviews), through the eyes of both of the seasoned critic that he is, as well as with the enthusiasm of an obvious fan. The excesses and the controversies are likewise documented, but the emphasis is always on the music — as it should be.

For Led Zeppelin fans, Charles R. Cross’ Shadows Taller Than Our Souls is a must. Wanna’ Whole Lotta Zeppelin? Here’s your Stairway To Heaven.

Charles R. Cross' Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls arrives in bookstores this Tuesday October 6, which should make for many a merry metal ho-ho-ho come Christmas time.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I can’t even remember reading Hammer of The Gods other than the fish story. I will have to give this one a look

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    They cover the fish story here too…and it was actually a red snapper, not a Mud Shark.

    I never knew that.

    -Glen

  • Greg Barbrick

    Robert Plant says he doesn’t remember doing any of the things mentioned in Hammer, but that they probably did happen.

    Sounds like a cool book, another fine effort from Charlie I take it.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanks Greg. Yeah ol’ Charley did a nice job on this — the extras alone are pretty mind-boggling.

    -Glen

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/mary-curtis/ Mary Curtis

    This book will make a really great gift for my husband who loves Zep! Thanks, Glen, for the info!