It’s been over 20 years since mega-producer Frank Farian’s rock lab experiment Far Corporation had their wretched claim to 15 minutes of fame – a cover of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Stairway to Heaven.” With a roster that featured members of the band Toto, few paid any credence to the act and fewer still had any love for the schmaltzy remake. But like it or not, Far Corporation kicked open a door for a glut of Zeppelin tributes. Some say they might even be responsible for the mid-1980s “tribute band phenomenon” that continues today… for better or worse… erm, well, mostly worse.
Of all the musically-inclined Zeppelin mongers who have jammed the airwaves and store shelves since 1985, I think the early Dread Zeppelin took the cake. How perfect: an American band covering the songs of Zeppelin, done in a summery reggae style, and belted out by an Elvis Presley impersonator named Tortelvis – who regularly performed with a mic in one hand and a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich in the other?!? Even Zep’s Robert Plant was said to have a thing for those guys in their prime. Who could blame him?
I digress. Living in a town like Cleveland, one has a difficult time getting away from Led Zeppelin altogether. But I’ve fought a valiant battle for many years, steering clear of the clubs and bars on off nights and all classic rock radio stations. Brilliant though they were, I have been comfortable with that knowledge in such a way that I could put Zeppelin to rest and listen to them occasionally. That is, until now. The NYC-based Lez Zeppelin, an all-female, all-Zeppelin quartet really does get the Led out. They’re a scary good, well-rehearsed and note-for-note accurate depiction of their idols’ prowess with blues-rock. And their self-titled debut proves it.
Produced by veteran Zeppelin knob-twiddler Eddie Kramer (Kiss, AC-DC, Hendrix), the foursome burns through a dynamic run of classics including “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock and Roll,” “Communication Breakdown” and “Kashmir.” Singer Sarah McLellan gets fiery in her delivery, channeling Plant with a fervent sense of reverence and innate sensuality. The rest of the band – Steph Paynes (guitars), Lisa Brigantino (bass/keys) and Helen Destroy (drums) – fall right in line. Their intermingling on second-tier Zeppelin tracks “On the Rocks,” “Winter Sun” and the divine “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is organic, incisive and passionate. Nothing shy of inspired.
In the end, this debut is at least a real treat and at most a revelation – likely to motivate even the most “over it” Led Zeppelin fan to re-examine the originals. If there's one criticism, it's that the disc is a short one. Once you get a taste of what they’re capable of, you’ll be looking for second helpings. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait long. Though Spin Magazine has called Lez Zeppelin “the most powerful all female band in rock history” (both preposterous and presumptuous… someone buy the editors the Rolling Stone Women in Rock box set, for heaven's sake!!)…these gals definitely rock. Maybe they'll even take a stab at covering "Stairway." If anyone could pull it off… it's them.
I bet even Plant himself would agree.