Brad Tolinski: Light and Shade - Conversations with Jimmy Page
Music and mythology have shared stories for at least as long as recorded history. Mythology has always been important to rock 'n' roll music since its early days, and within that guitarist Jimmy Page is seen as a guitar sorcerer or shaman, casting spells or throwing thunderbolts. Apart from the image that his band, Led Zeppelin, cultivated during its active career, most of the things that are attributed to Page, ever since he became a well-known figure, would not be valid or important if it weren't for his imagination, skill and feel.
Today, Page is recognized as one of rock's premier guitarists but his legacy was never discussed from his own viewpoint and has remained rather elusive and unknown. Page has largely kept to himself, when he did give interviews he preferred talking more about his music than himself. Much of that is a result of the press hammering his band's recordings as Zeppelin was seen as an overhyped supergroup that could not live up to the billing. Light and Shade is a collection of interviews that Guitar World magazine's editor in chief Brad Tolinski conducted with Page over the course of two decades, discussing and shedding light on many topics from various corners of Page's entire career in music.
The book is actually an incredible account of one of rock music's most interesting careers, and a detailed look into the works of Jimmy Page. Tolinski demonstrates a special ability to elicit insightful, in-depth responses to his musical inquires and the result is far more revealing than average question and answer interview sessions. This may be the most probing and enjoyable explication of Page's career ever written, and what emerges is Jimmy Pagethe producer, the musician, the arranger, the bandleader, the traveler, the music explorer, the conceptualist. Its chronological arrangement follows Page's career development, from era to era and from recording to recording.
Long before he ever conceived forming Led Zeppelin, Page had carved himself a career as one of Britain's most gifted guitar players. After a successful stint as a studio session prodigy, he made his way to The Yardbirds and then Led Zeppelin. With Tolinski as the canny and intelligent guide, these conversations go deep into Page's work both as a session player and later a bandleader in the broadest sense of the word. One of Page's ideas for Zeppelin was that it would aim for "a kind of construction in light and shade." That term comes from a word that renaissance artists have coined a "chiaroscuro," to describe how light and dark can imply depth and volume, and Page applied this to the band's sound and dynamics. The way those Zeppelin records sound is as important an ingredient in its legacy as the band members' individual musical abilities. Page's careful approach as producer not only captured the group's full frontal attack, but added a sense of drama, mystery and excitement.
In the late '60s and '70s much of rock music was still an uncharted territory and, in keeping with the experimental spirit of the era, bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, among many others, were pretty much exploring and setting the rules as they went along. All of that, but with a combination of focused and storming intensity, as if the band was sure that all of its risks would pay offwhich eventually they did.
The interviews also tackle issues around post-Zeppelin projects like The Firm, Outrider, Coverdale/Page and the Page/Plant reunion up to the full 2007 O2 Led Zeppelin reunion. Even though Tolinski gives full emphasis to Page's creative side that does not prevent him from asking about issues such as plagiarism and the band's formidable hedonistic reputation.
Among the chapters there are "Musical interludes," with interviews from people closely associated with Pageguitarists Jeff Beck, Chris Dreja and Jack White; singer Paul Rodgers; bassist John Paul Jones; and others, who give additional perspectives on Page's history, character and style.
The result is a vivid, immensely interesting and enlightening yet candid history of a genius and a giant. Light and Shade is by far one of the best books on the subject related to Led Zeppelin and a portrait of a figure of immeasurable musical and cultural importance.