Super Hi-Fi founder and bassist Ezra Gale established his cassette-and download-only label Very Special Recordings to give his compatriots and their fans the chance to take a chance. "The fact that cassettes are cheap to manufacture and to buy is huge, because we can take chances and just put out things we love, which we wouldn't be able to do if they cost as much as records," he explains. "And people who see something that's only five or six bucks can take a chance on discovering new music." The label's first two releases explore the music of two rock 'n' roll icons, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, in brand new musical light.
If you're going to play Led Zeppelin like Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin, you'd better be sure of two things: You'd better have a great drummer and a guitarist who can shred the blues. Leader and saxophonist Bryan Beninghove covers this in spades, as this tribute burns through two drummers and three guitar players (including Hi-Fi's Gale, who switches from bass).
Courageously, Beninghove's Hangmen open and close their tribute with two of LedZep's most iconic extended blues. To open, guitar chords rip through the famous ascending Middle Eastern hook of "Kashmir" (transposed from the original's strings), a crunching platter from which the leader's saxophone chews up and spits out the vocal line in brittle, broken phrases. To close, the rhythm section absolutely nails the blues stomp of "When the Levee Breaks" to the killing floor, with trombone singing the melody as a woozy, boozy blues.
They demonstrate even more guts by taking even more chances with new arrangements in between. Lead saxophone and trombone chirping in counterpoint paint a Klezmer face on the warbling reggae of "D'yer Maker." "What Is and What Should Never Be" transforms into a rippling trombone blues with saxophone and guitars buzzsawing through its chorus, and culminates in a kaleidoscopic blur of rampaging, electric blue sound. Bass and drums pummel the rhythm of "Immigrant Song" into screaming submission while guitars and saxophone battle for supremacy over the sound.
You'd better not mess around with Led Zeppelin's iconic Gods of Thunder sound, either. "It's very easy to get cute with the stuff," Beninghove acknowledges, "but with Led Zeppelin, you better be all in or the audience is going to smell it."
Kashmir; Misty Mountain Hop; What Is and What Should Never Be; Zohove; Immigrant Song; D’yer Maker; When the Levee Breaks.
Bryan Beninghove: saxophone; Rick Parker: trombone; Eyal Maoz: guitar; Dane Johnson: guitar; Ezra Gale: guitar; Shawn Balthazar: drums (“Kashmir,” “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Immigrant Song”); Kevin Shea: drums (“Misty Mountain Hop,” “Zohove,” “D’yer Maker,” “When the Levee Breaks”).
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