Dread Zeppelin


Dread Zeppelin - Un-Led-Ed ©1990 IRS
1. Black Dog
2. Heartbreaker (At The End Of Lonely Street)
3. Living Loving Maid
4. Your Time Is Gonna Come
5. Bring It On Home
6. Whole Lotta Love
7. Black Mountain Side
8. I Can’t Quit You Baby
9. Immigrant Song
10. Moby Dick

Imagine, if you will, a cover band playing in somebody’s garage. You can hear them bashing out classic Led Zep tunes--but that’s nothing new, right? Well, how about if they’re playing inna reggae style, mon? And when you poke your head around the corner to see what the hell’s going on, you discover a fat man, boasting a greasy pompadour and wearing a white sequined jumpsuit, belting out the vocals a la Elvis circa 1971?

That’s the best way to describe what you’ll find on Dread Zeppelin’s debut album, Un-Led-Ed. It’s a fun album, pure and simple. Tortelvis wails, moans, and mutters his way through a handful of Zeppelin’s best songs while the band gleefully mangles Jimmy, John Paul, and Bonzo’s contributions into a simmering mass of reggae-rock. It’s unabashedly silly, no doubt about that, but how well Zep’s famous blues-based music lends itself to restructuring as reggae is incredible and the results are a blast to hear.

Although it contains a double handful of good tracks, for my money, the oustanding song on the album is the second cut, “Heartbreaker (At the End of Lonely Street),” which is an amalgam of the tune to “Heartbreaker” and the lyrics of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Check it out sometime and see for yourself just what I’m talking about--the experience alone is well worth the few minutes it’ll take to give it a spin.

Highly recommended.

Review by Jonathan Arnett

Review date: 03/2000

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Dread Zeppelin - 5,000,000* ©1991 IRS
1. Forgetting About Business Part I
2. The Song Remains The Same
3. Stir It Up
4. Do The Claw
5. When The Levee Breaks
6. Misty Mountain Hop
7. The Train Kept-A Rollin'
8. Nobody's Fault But Mine
9. Big Ol' Gol Belt
10. Forgetting About Business Part II (Theme From 5,000,000*)
11. Stairway To Heaven

Dread Zep's second album is a fun-filled, lighthearted affair that good-naturedly skewers Bob Marley, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and, of course, Elvis Presley, and roasts them to a nice crispy brown over an open flame. Just as on their debut album, Tortelvis mutters and wails like a man possessed while Jah Paul Jo, Butt-Mn, Carl Jah, Ed Zeppelin, and Fresh Cheese lay down an infectious reggae beat and warp famous songs to fit their own twisted ends. It's a load of fun, sure, but not quite as much fun as their first album.

This time around, the band seems to be trying to flex their musical muscle more, to mixed results. On the positive side, the band is tight and its adaptations of Led Zep and Bob Marley tunes rock. Given Dread Zep's schtick as a comic cover band, one might well be justifiably wary of their original songs; however, "Big Ol' Gol Belt", which references Elvis' unfortunate Las Vegas-era costumes, and "Do the Claw," which satirizes Elvis movies, are pleasantly catchy and lyrically clever. The latter is particularly delicious for anyone who's seen Dread Zep in concert; "The Claw" is the overwrought, affected, rock-star hand jive that Tortelvis makes onstage when he's in full wail. It's quite amusing, really.

On the other hand, "Forgetting About Business" Parts I and II are better forgotten...they're attempts at comic juxtaposition of sound clips and musical backing that are essentially pointless. Tortelvis' peculiar spoken ramblings in the middle of songs, one of the funniest things about the band's debut disc, are also far less frequent. Also on the negative side, "When the Levee Breaks" and "The Train Kept-A Rollin'," while well played and worthwhile in their own right, only diverge from the originals in their adaptation as reggae songs; the differences, while amusing, are barely enough to justify the cover.

That said, Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" and the remaining Led Zep covers are pretty darn good. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that Dread Zep's take on "Stairway to Heaven" is simply frickin' hysterical. It still retains that incredible build from its initial high school slow-dance feeling to its penultimate Zippo-in-the-air vibe, yet it contains an unmistakable reggae backbone that wasn't present in the original by any stretch of the imagination and features tradeoff vocals by Tortelvis and Ed Zeppelin. Coolness.

Overall, 5,000,000* is a pretty good album; however, it just doesn't seem to contain the same unrestricted, demented glee that was present on the band's first disc and becomes a hit-and-miss affair. It's worth picking up if you enjoy the band's schtick but probably won't be on anyone's list of Desert Island Discs.

Review by Jonathan Arnett

Review date: 01/2002

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It's Not Unusual

Dread Zeppelin - It's Not Unusual ©1992 IRS
1. Disco Inferno
2. You Should Be Dancing
3. Night Fever
4. Shaft
5. Jungle Boogie
6. Ramble On
7. More Than A Woman
8. Jive Talkin’
9. Dancin’ On The Killing Floor
10. Takin’ Care Of Business

Imagine you’re in a band. A comedic cover band, to be precise, that’s made itself famous by specializing in Zeppelin songs, done up in a reggae style, featuring an Elvis impersonator on vocals. Now imagine that Tortelvis, your 300-lb Elvis impersonator - the band’s distinctive voice and public image - quits. And so does Fresh Cheese, your drummer. And so does Ed Zeppelin, your percussionist, who provided some of the funniest comedy bits on your albums. You’re in quite a pickle, so you three remaining band members - two guitarists and a bassist - get together and explore your options, which boil down to three choices.

#1: Give up, disband the band, and get real jobs.
#2: Recruit new members, keep the same name, and start playing disco covers.
#3: Form a new band and use Dread Zeppelin’s fame as a springboard to launch yourselves to new heights of success.

Option #1 doesn’t hold a lot of appeal. You’ve lived the rock ‘n’ roll life, and it’s to your liking. No fluorescent-lit cube farms or paper hats, nametags, and deep fat fryers belong in your future -- you’re artists, dammit.

Option #2 is a bad idea. People will wonder where Tortelvis went, your next album’s sales will tank, your record label is gonna drop you like a steaming hot turd, and you’ll probably alienate your entire fanbase.

Option #3 is your best option. You’ve already made Dread Zeppelin a success, so your record label will probably be willing to sign a similar band and your fans will want to check out the new project. You can use a similar comedic schtick but take a new musical direction without a backlash from the fans because, hey, you’ve formed a fundamentally different band.

Naturally, you choose option #2 and go disco. You pretend nothing has changed, record songs by the Trammps, Bee Gees, Isaac Hayes and Kool & The Gang, and throw in two perfunctory rock numbers, one by Zep and one by BTO. Your new frontman, the former bassist, is a competent but utterly undistinguished vocalist; he tries to waver and wail like Tortelvis, but he only manages to draw attention to the fact that Tort is M.I.A. Your still interlace your cover tunes with riffs from Zep songs, but your trademark sound, that wild anarchy of reggae-fied classic rock laced with scorching guitar solos, lacks the double-time tempo changes of your previous recordings and sounds oddly flat. Your bandmates try to throw out vocal interjections the way Ed Zeppelin and Tortelvis used to, but instead of being intelligible and coming across as funny, they just sound like random babbling. And guess what...everybody wonders where Tortelvis went, It’s Not Unusual charts like a rock, I.R.S. Records gives you the Heisman Trophy Treatment (i.e., gathers its money, stiff-arms you, and gallops into the sunset, leaving you sitting in the dust, wondering what the hell happened), and you piss off all your fans. All of them, especially a certain college freshman in 1992 who excitedly splurges ten bucks he can’t really afford on a brand-new cassette, plays it once, and remains pissed about the disappointment, even thirteen years later. You should’ve known better, fellows. Really.

Review by Jonathan Arnett

Review date: 08/2005

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