Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Four Stairways

I don't think I would listen to LED ZEPPELIN much in the summer.
When we swelter, I would rather chill to acoustic blues, reggae and some soulful jazz.
When it turns colder, though, when it really feels like "we come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow," that's when I turn to Led Zeppelin for some musical warmth.

Now, as I wait in vain for the hammer of the gods to drive my ships to new -- presumably warmer -- lands, I've been spending time listening to various Led Zeppelin albums while reading ERIK DAVIS' book-length examination of the mythology attributed to the band's untitled fourth album.

I just completed reading the section on the band's epic "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN."

"'Stairway to Heaven' isn't the greatest rock song of the 1970s, it is the greatest spell of the 1970s," Davis writes. "Think about it: We are all very sick of the thing, but in some primordial way it is still number one."

I decided to test the continuing attraction of "Stairway" by creating a playlist devoted solely to the song. Does it continue casting its spell in multiple versions?

I began with the way many contemporary listeners would have first heard the song. The "Stairway" from the BBC Session compilation dates from April 1971 -- months before the release of Led Zeppelin's fourth album.

The album version follows in my playlist, followed by a pair of live, in-concert versions -- the July 1972 version from "How the West Was Won," followed by the July 1973 version from "The Song Remains The Same."

Are four versions of "Stairway to Heaven" too many? I'm about to listen to my playlist and find out.

I would never attempt this task in the summer.


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