Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Song #121 of 9999 - It's TWOsday!

Song #121 of 9999

Title: The Battle of Evermore
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1971
Album: Untitled (Led Zeppelin IV)

One of the things I've always enjoyed about Led Zeppelin is their range. Not just that they have mellow songs and heavy songs, but their influences are so varied and they are good at representing all of them in their music. Obviously, they are very heavily influenced by American blues music, but it doesn't dominate their music the way it does Eric Clapton's, for instance. In fact, I think there's as much English folk music influence on Led Zeppelin's music as there is blues influence. Acoustic guitars, mandolins, recorders, and mystical lyrics all have their place in Zeppelin's music, setting them apart from their counterparts. I would go so far as to say that, around the time Led Leppelin IV was released, they would have seemed equally at home at a folk festival as a blues festival.

Moreover, Led Zeppelin has never forsaken their deep English roots. There's an agedness to songs like "Bron-y-aur Stomp," "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Tangerine" and "The Battle of Evermore" that springs from a culture spanning a multitude of centuries. Folk music modes (Dorian, Mixolydian, Aeolian), minstrel rhythms, and drone notes reminiscent of early British Isle instruments (like bagpipes, for instance) all contribute to this sound.
These elements are all present in the only duet ever to appear on a Led Zeppelin record. Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention plays town crier to Robert Plant's narrator in this tale that makes reference to J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. (Yes, I stole much of this from Wikipedia—I admit it.) What's interesting about this duet to me is how both voices occupy the same pitch range, often crossing over one another or overlapping in unison. The effect is similar to the tuning of string pairs on the mandolin and is quite intriguing in this context. The drone notes and simple chord progression (two chords, essentially) in Dorian mode lend a hypnotic, meditative quality to the song that I really enjoy.

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