Various Artists

Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin

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Led Zeppelin have been worshipped intensely by generations of rock musicians ever since the 1969 release of their first of eight massively influential studio recordings. Despite a near-constant, and unrealistically cool critical reception, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and John Bohnam's beyond-iconic status was hardly ever in doubt, and indeed grew for a 20-year period after the band's 1979 demise. Encomium's tribute is appropriately reverent, with serious treatments generally true to their original arrangements. Before getting frustrated with what could be considered mere musical mimicry on the part of the record's participants, listeners should be reminded that the unusual and painstakingly detailed arrangements are generally what made Led Zeppelin songs great. If Cracker, for instance, had made "Good Times Bad Times" into their own kind of alt-country ditty, it might have been interesting, but Encomium's producers weren't willing to risk it, so they appropriately ensured cohesion by allowing (or encouraging) Cracker, and each of the disc's diverse list of contributors, to stay within earshot of their selected title's original versions. That's not to say that this tribute is without its own color. David Yow of Jesus Lizard could never even approximate Plant's rendition of "Custard Pie," so when Yow teams with Helmet for their own bombastic version of the classic, the flailing results are quite fresh without being at all revisionist. Other highlights include Sheryl Crow's sexy vocal performance of "D'yer Mak'er" that stands up well to Plant's sultry original, and Atlantic Records' promotional inclusion of their 1995 baby-band Never the Bride's expressive "Going to California." While nothing compares to the original hard rock masterpieces, the transcendent power of this 12-track collection should satisfy fans of emotive guitar rock, no matter the era.

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