Many people over the years have attempted to tackle the behemoth that is the Led Zeppelin back catalogue, and, it must be said, a majority fail dismally.
Beth Hart – A Tribute To Led Zeppelin (Provogue /Mascot Label Group)
Release Date: 25 February 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Whilst there have been very few notable exceptions like the stunning interpretation of Stairway To Heaven performed by Heart at the Kennedy Centre Led Zeppelin tribute, trying to truly capture the majesty and power of the Midlands legends has been unobtainable.
Whilst the original tracks may never be bettered, certain artists have the power and vision to bring their own interpretation into the public domain without a legion of hardcore fans wincing. Beth Hart is one such artist, and this tribute to the mighty Zep is a blistering collection that does exactly as it plans.
Working with producer Rob Cavallo on the 2019 album War In My Mind, Beth performed an impromptu version of Whole Lotta Love, prompting Cavallo to suggest the idea of an entire record. “I’m not doing this whole album,” Beth said. “To do Zeppelin, you’ve got to be pissed off to hit that right. I can’t go there. I’ve worked years to put my rage away.” This was pre-Covid-19.
“Then the pandemic and all the things around it hit,” Beth said. “So now I’m pissed off. I called my manager and said, have Rob and Doug send me all the music because I am ready to do this.”
Given that Hart is a world-class talent and possesses a voice that some consider one of the best on the planet, it should come as no surprise that this set is a classy affair. She may have a different range to Robert Plant, but the colours she brings with this shines new light through these old, much esteemed windows.
Whilst her self-penned material certainly has moments that are inherently ballsy, she has never quite delved into the hard rock force that typifies this set, but she adapts and handles it with an unbelievable deftness. Certainly, her blues-soaked tones feel a natural fit here, but she displays a real knack for turning things up a notch or two.
“It’s so beautifully done,” Beth said of the music and legacy of Zeppelin. “It’s timeless. It will go on forever. Sometimes people come along, and they’re from another planet, and they make these pieces of art which will forever be.”
The suitably steel toe-capped crunch of Whole Lotta Love opens the album, and the dirty edge that Hart brings to the vocals is thrilling. There’s also a woozy, orchestral breakdown part way through that heightens this otherworldly sense of the epic, but things go into overdrive on their touches to an already epic Kashmir. Arguably one of the best songs to show the power of dynamics ever written, the arrangement here adds an additional depth and force accompanied by a blazing vocal performance.
Hart is sublime on Stairway To Heaven. Her take refreshes even the most jaded ear on this most well known and much loved moment from the heavyweights, the orchestration somewhat similar to that used when the Wilson sisters performed it in front of Plant, Page and Jones. The Crunge still sounds as remarkable as ever, this version retaining the extraordinary funkadelic swing and groove that made the original so compelling and this feel continues nicely in the Dancing / Levee mash up.
The bombastic Black Dog hits like a freight train, but the album is at its very best when soul deep in No Quarter / Babe, the elements coming together in a heady fusion that takes off into the stratosphere and returns to earth with a gentle sigh.
Whilst the music itself is incredible, it’s the voice at the centre of the storm that cuts through most of all, Hart displaying her gift of turning a song into something that could crush worlds or be the gentlest of breeze of a butterfly’s wings.
A swaggering Good Times Bad Times and the pastoral beauty of The Rain Song bring the album to a close in fine style, the two sides of the coin shining equally brightly.
A Tribute To Led Zeppelin is an undoubted triumph for Hart, and the only criticisms that could be levelled at it is the ending of some tracks seem quite abrupt, and maybe one or two deeper cuts replacing the standards could have added colour.
It’s a small matter, though, as this is something of a labour of love for everyone concerned, done with just enough respect for the material as not to lose the spirit of it but also putting their own cadence into something that could have been “just another tribute album” in lesser, more workmanlike hands.
Whilst they may not have the towering and long-lasting impact that the original recordings have had, there’s certainly much to love here and arguably no finer singer around today to put her own soul into this selection.
Incredible songs sung by an incredible artist, and you can’t say better than that. Hugely impressive.
Beth Hart – A Tribute To Led Zeppelin can br pre-ordered from smarturl.it/BethHartStore
A Tribute To Led Zeppelin
1. Whole Lotta Love
3. Stairway To Heaven
4. The Crunge
5. Dancing Days/When The Levee Breaks (Medley)
6. Black Dog
7. No Quarter / Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (Medley)
8. Good Times Bad Times
9. The Rain Song