Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

FOO FIGHTERS Part 2 – I Got My Hands On A Miracle

With the release of their third album, There Is Nothing Left To Lose (1999), Foo Fighters finally solidified their guitar/bass/drums lineup of Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel & Taylor Hawkins, who would soon be joined on tour (and future recordings) by second guitarist Chris Shiflett. They picked up where they left off on 1997’s The Colour And The Shape with another collection of mostly hook-laden melodic rock songs. I’m not sure it’s quite as good as its predecessor, but at least 6 of the 11 songs here would have to be included on any Foo Fighters compilation I put together. The album begins with “Stacked Actors,” which shifts between raw vocals, huge drums, crunchy guitars & harsh production (reminiscent of Weezer’s second album, Pinkerton) and a jazzier, almost Latin-tinged arrangement during the verses. This song is all about dynamics and Grohl’s impassioned singing (“Stacked dead actors, stacked to the rafters”).

“Breakout” has what would now be considered the “classic Foo Fighters sound” (similar to hits like “Monkey Wrench” & “Everlong”), adding in a cool phased guitar sound and featuring an incredibly catchy chorus (“I don’t want to look like that…you know you make me break out”). “Learn To Fly” was a huge hit for them, and it’s easy to hear why. It’s filled with killer hooks, a lyrical vibe that recalls Tom Petty’s similarly-titled “Learning To Fly,” and an irresistible driving groove with that off-beat tambourine hit during the verses. That’s a pretty good batch of songs to start the album. Although “Gimme Stitches” has a nice hook in the chorus (“Dress me up in stitches it’s now or never, tired of wearing black and blue”), it doesn’t have the impact of the first three songs, but it’s followed by one of the best songs here, “Generator,” which has a great driving rhythm and a Peter Frampton-esque voice box guitar effect.

Grohl briefly played with the aforementioned Tom Petty, whose influence can be heard on the instantly memorable “Next Year.” Continuing the midtempo pop/rock of earlier songs like “Big Me,” it has a Beatle-y ascending bass line and was catchy enough to be used as the theme song for the early-‘00s TV series, Ed. “Headwires” has some nice shifts between the moody verses and brighter choruses (“Better than a bullet being fired, tangled in your headwires now”). “Ain’t It The Life” has an acoustic, back porch feel, with a lilting melody that’s melancholy but not maudlin. It didn’t immediately grab me, but after listening to the album 4-5 times it slowly became one of my favorites. The rest of the songs each have elements I enjoyed but they weren’t as strong as the ones I already mentioned. This kept There Is Nothing Left To Lose from reaching the level of the first two albums, but I still consider it essential for anyone who likes their music. “Aurora” has a nice chorus (“Hell yeah, I remember Aurora”) and a great hook at “And it’s on and on and on…,” but although I like his softer vocals, at nearly 6 minutes it’s unnecessarily long. For fans of the short-lived but brilliant early-‘90s power pop band Jellyfish, the chorus of album closer “M.I.A.” (“You won’t find me I’m going M.I.A.”) sounds to me like a slower version of the chorus from their song “Now She Knows She’s Wrong.” On a related note, Jellyfish’s original guitarist, Jason Falkner, has had an exceptional solo career (which began around the same time as Foo Fighters), and his voice has often reminded me of Grohl at his most melodic & inviting. Anyone who enjoys the poppier side of Foo Fighters should check out some of Falkner’s work.

Their first album of the new millennium, One By One (2002), has a number of excellent songs…in fact many of them are up there with their best work…but a few factors made it slightly less enjoyable than the previous albums. First, most of the songs are too long, which makes the album more of a chore to get through. Where the first three albums clocked in at around 45 minutes, this one is 10 minutes longer (with the same number of songs), and the extended song times often work against them. Still, this is a relatively minor complaint, and there’s a lot to like here. “Low” is a monster Smashing Pumpkins-esque song with a propulsive groove unlike anything else they had done. For such a manic track, Grohl’s voice is relatively soft throughout. There’s no real chorus, but it switches gears at “Taking you as low as you go” and has a great repeated refrain of “You be my passerby, I’ll be your one to pass through.” “Have It All” is a bright alternative-rock tune with a memorable 5-note riff and chiming guitar pattern. Although it repeats itself too much over its 5 minutes, I do love the melodic chorus (“In too deep, she’s spilling over me, don’t wanna have it all”). “Times Like These” was an obvious radio hit with a fantastic groove and guitar figure. Lyrically, it sounds like he was going through a transitional period (“You learn to live again…love again…time and time again”). “Disenchanted Lullaby” is slower, more atmospheric & sparse, with tight harmonies, but shifts to a louder chorus (“I may be scattered…a little shattered…what does it matter?”).

I love the subdued PJ Harvey-influenced guitar & vocal intro to “Tired Of You,” and the way they add some muted squealing guitar to the mix. It has a completely unique feel and maintains the same groove throughout, making it a standout track. After the quiet intro to “Lonely As You,” I like the insistent rhythm and 2-part harmony lead vocals throughout the verses, as well as the hook at “One more time for the last time, aaahhhh.” It may not be hit single material, but it’s a nice change of pace while still clearly being a Foo Fighters song. “Burn Away” is big, loud and bombastic, with more than a hint of Grohl’s grunge years. I absolutely love the chorus (“We’ll burn away, burn away, burn away my pride”), as well as the guitar sound and the subtle effect on his voice. At nearly 8 minutes, “Come Back” is the epic album closer, moving from a stomping 4/4 beat in the verses to a splashy, arena-ready chorus (“I will come back…I will come back for you”). After the extended quiet section in the middle, with moody/folky acoustic guitar, it slowly builds back to the original rhythm. There are a handful of songs I haven’t mentioned. They all have qualities I enjoyed, but they often seemed like retreads of previous songs. Even though it was a commercial success, this album was not as well received as the first three based on some of the reviews I’ve read, and even the band members weren’t completely satisfied with it. However, at least half of these songs are as good anything they had recorded (even if they could’ve used some judicious editing), so I don’t want this to seem like a negative assessment. Just because it may not live up to the expectations of what came before it, it still stands on its own as a very good album with a number of great songs.

For album #5, In Your Honor (2005), Grohl and company decided to shake things up a bit by releasing a 2-CD collection split between one disc of heavy rock songs (CD 1) and one disc of acoustic performances (CD 2). The problem I had with the “rock” disc is that there’s not much diversity, and Grohl seems to be shredding his throat on many of the songs. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the disc, but it’s the lesser of the two for me, both in performance and songwriting. Most of my favorite songs on CD 1 show up in the second half of the disc. “Best Of You” was the big hit single, and it’s one of their best. It also features some of Grohl’s most inspirational lyrics about reaching your potential (“Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?”). “The Last Song” has a steady glam-rock beat in the verses and a typically catchy chorus (“This is the last song…that I will dedicate to you”). I wonder if this is about someone he respects but feels it’s time to move on (Kurt Cobain?), or perhaps an enemy for whom he’s wiping the slate clean. I like the bright sound & midtempo groove of “Resolve,” which is one of the few times this disc allows itself some space to breathe. It’s also the most melodic pop song here, especially the bridge (“One more year that you’re not here…”). “The Deepest Blues Are Black” is a big, loud, Stone Temple Pilots-style song. I love the groove…it features some cool drumming…and the interplay between strummed acoustic & chiming electric guitars. I didn’t love any of the other songs, but a few of them had parts that I enjoyed. “In Your Honor” has a great refrain of “Mine is yours, yours is mine…In your honor I would die tonight” along with tom-tom heavy drumming. “No Way Back” has a super tight arrangement and a great stop-start rhythm at “No…way…back…from…here.” I don’t love the raucous, non-melodic verses in “DOA,” but the chorus is great (“It’s a shame we have to die my dear, no one’s getting out of here alive, this time”). Album closer “End Over End” features the desert blues sound of Grohl associates Queens Of The Stone Age, especially during the intro. Once again they end an album with the longest song, but it never really develops or builds to a satisfying conclusion. I have a feeling this song would be a lot more enjoyable in concert.

CD 2, a.k.a. “the acoustic disc,” slowly became one of my favorite Foo Fighters albums. The first couple of times I played it I didn’t get much out of it, but with repeated listening a lot of the songs really grew on me. “Still” has hushed vocals and slow, slightly eerie plucked guitar, like a dark folk song. It slowly builds to a memorable hook (“Promise I will be forever yours”) and maintains a haunting atmosphere. “What If I Do?” is a personal highlight, with a lilting melody, perfectly recorded acoustic guitars, restrained percussion, and one of Grohl’s most heartfelt vocal performances, especially in the chorus (“What if I do, Lord? What if I don’t?”). The “Carolina, Caroline” refrain near the end is another wonderful hook. “Miracle,” which features John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin, as well as future Grohl project Them Crooked Vultures) on piano, is a slow-moving song with a steady groove and a wonderful chorus (“I got my hands on a miracle, ‘lieve it or not, hands on a miracle”). Petra Haden also adds some tasteful violin.

[Foo Fighters – “Miracle”]

John Paul Jones adds mandolin to “Another Round,” which also features a sweet harmonica solo by Danny Clinch. Here is another instantly memorable chorus (“Can you go another round? I will follow you down and out”), and overall the song reminds me of early Michael Penn (for anyone who might be familiar with his music). One of the most surprising songs is “Virginia Moon,” a piano-based jazz/lounge tune. The first couple of times I played it, I couldn’t help but think how much it sounded like a Norah Jones song, so imagine my surprise when I scanned the liner notes and discovered that she played piano and sang harmonies on this track. It’s unlike anything else they’ve recorded, and I can imagine their most rock-oriented fans being perplexed by this song. I love it, and I’m glad they’re willing to try out different styles.

The rest of the acoustic disc is extremely enjoyable, even if the songs don’t reach quite the same highs as the ones I’ve already mentioned. “Friend Of A Friend” was written when Grohl had just joined Nirvana, in 1990, and features observational lyrics apparently about his new bandmates. This is the only song here that just features Grohl, on vocals and acoustic guitar. I enjoyed the insistent rhythm and simple instrumentation on “On The Mend.” There’s a great hook at “I’m here and I’m on the mend, my friend,” and a nice lead acoustic guitar. “Cold Day In The Sun” was written & sung by Taylor Hawkins, and he does a great job on this rootsy song with vocals that recall Kiss’ Peter Criss (think “Hard Luck Woman”). It’s the most upbeat rock song on this disc. The album ends with “Razor,” featuring fast moving acoustic guitars that recall the British folk of Nick Drake, but Grohl’s vocals also reminded me of Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson, especially at “Sweet and divine, razor of mine…razorblade shine.” In Your Honor is a slightly mixed bag, but the acoustic disc is as good as it gets, and the rock disc includes enough keepers and only a few clunkers, so overall it was great fun getting to know it.

Considering how much I enjoyed the acoustic In Your Honor disc, the “unplugged” live album Skin And Bones (2006) was right up my alley. I don’t love every performance they included, and straight-ahead recordings of the existing acoustic songs (like “Another Round,” “Over And Out,” “Walking After You,” “Friend Of A Friend,” etc.) were a bit redundant, but some of the older songs that were re-worked for this format are the most enjoyable. Another complaint is that 9 of the 15 songs are 4-1/2 minutes or longer, so they occasionally overstay their welcome. Also, the song selection is heavily weighted towards In Your Honor and The Colour And The Shape, with 11 tracks from those albums (including one single b-side), so the other three albums are represented by only one track each, plus one song originally recorded by Nirvana. The album starts with In Your Honor’s final track, “Razor.” Beginning with such a mellow song was an interesting choice, and it sets the mood for the rest of the show. “Marigold,” the song originally recorded by Nirvana, showcases the soft/loud dynamics of Grohl’s earlier band, and it features a wonderful violin solo by Petra Haden (who also provides a lovely harmony vocal on the slowed down version of “Big Me”). “My Hero” benefits from the acoustic arrangement as it builds in intensity while retaining the “unplugged” feel. Hawkins’ “Cold Day In The Sun” has an even more Americana feel than the original version, reminding me of Steve Earle or The Jayhawks. “Skin And Bones” was originally a b-side which I hadn’t previously heard. It’s a moody country shuffle with subtle (Hammond?) organ and stark lyrics that seem to be about an addict. The epic “February Stars” may be even more powerful than the original, slowly building to a climax in just under 6 minutes. Skin And Bones is certainly not a definitive, career-spanning live album, but it’s still a fun listen and it might be even more enjoyable to watch the video version (I‘ll have to check out the DVD).

In my next post, I’ll wrap up the Foo Fighters catalog with their two most recent albums plus Grohl’s heavy metal side project from 2004. I remember enjoying all three of those albums when I first got them, but I’ve probably only listened to each of them a couple of times so I don’t know them very well. That will no longer be the case the next time you hear from me.

22 comments on “FOO FIGHTERS Part 2 – I Got My Hands On A Miracle

  1. mikeladano
    November 18, 2012

    I like There Is Nothing Left To Lose. As you say, not as good as Colour and the Shape. Over the years its grown on me, especially songs like Aurora. I think Grohl felt at the time it was too soft and overcompensated with One on One, but I truthfully have not played that album in many years.


    • Mike, you’re probably right about Grohl feeling that There Is Nothing Left To Lose was too soft, but it’s a shame that he didn’t realize how much more diverse & satisfying that album was than One By One until after the fact. I don’t know a lot about the history of Nirvana, but I’ve read that Kurt Cobain was a big fan of melodic pop music but didn’t think it was cool to showcase that aspect of his music. I guess in those days you had to keep your alternative credibility, but I don’t think Grohl had that pressure by the time these Foo Fighters records were released. At least he came back around to melody & subtlety on the acoustic disc of In Your Honor.


  2. Every Record Tells A Story
    November 19, 2012

    There is Nothing… was actually the first Foo album I heard. No idea how I missed the others. Like you I sometimes struggle when an album is too long and I never gave the double album enough listens. The latest record in my view is actually their best – a rate thing…


    • When it comes to prog rock, I have no issues with long albums, but Foo Fighters music needs to be concise to have full impact, at least for me. One By One seemed like a longer album than In Your Honor because so many of the songs slightly overstayed their welcome on the former. I would highly recommend checking out the acoustic In Your Honor disc the next time you’re in a mellow mood. The songwriting is so good.

      I’m listening to their latest album for the second time today as I type this. I’ll be giving it (as well as the previous album) a few more spins before writing my final post on their catalog, but even though I may not agree with you that it’s their best, it’s certainly in the same league as the first two.


  3. Lewis Johnston
    November 22, 2012

    I have enjoyed listening to these albums a great deal. What I have enjoyed is the way they were prepared to take a different direction, the acoustic performances were quite a change of pace.it was good to hear them in a different context. I do feel they did lose their way a bit with the longer tracks though. Their forte in my view is short and catchy songs. However, I do admire them for taking risks though and for me that does make their catalogue more interesting. It has been an interesting musical journey thus far though. Certainly I would seriously consider adding them to my ever growing collection.


    • Lewis, that’s an excellent point about them taking things in different directions, which makes their catalog much more interesting. I’m glad we agree that most of their longer songs don’t work as well as their more concise tunes. To me, their most effective songs are the ones packed with instantly memorable hooks, and they obviously have a knack for it. They continue showcasing that ability on their two most recent albums, which I’ll be discussing here in the next couple of days. Thanks for reading along, and I’m pleased that you’ve been enjoying their music as much as I have.


  4. Phillip Helbig
    November 22, 2012

    “For fans of the short-lived but brilliant early-‘90s power pop band Jellyfish”

    I saw Jellyfish in a small club in Hamburg in 1992. The drumming reminded me of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go your own way” and one of the songs reminded me of Wings’ “Jet”. I bought the CD. A good concert. I decided to dress for the occasion and got out my flared trousers which somehow didn’t have as much room in them as they used to (at the top—still more than enough at the bottom). Think this: http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d130/JasonvonEvil/plant8.jpg or this: http://beaut.ie/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/robertplant.jpg 🙂


    • Phillip, I’m glad to hear that you got to experience the greatness of Jellyfish in concert, and did so wearing appropriate clothing. I saw them twice: once in support of each album. The first time, they opened for World Party at a club in New York. I had only heard their debut album once and didn’t initially think much of it, but they were so good live that not only did I leave before the end of World Party’s set (the headliner couldn’t hold a candle to Jellyfish), but I played the Jellyfish album so many times the next day that I instantly became a lifelong fan. The second time, they were the headliner at another NYC club, and although I prefer the original lineup with Jason Falkner, the lineup for that tour featured the best harmonies I’ve ever experienced in person…and I’ve seen The Beach Boys as well as Brian Wilson live numerous times.

      I’ll be curious to see if any Foo Fighters fans who read this post have also heard Falkner’s solo work, and whether or not they agree with my comparison. If I can find a good clip of Falkner on YouTube that illustrates my point, I’ll post it here in the comments.

      By the way, do you still own those flared trousers? If so, how are they fitting these days?


      • Phillip Helbig
        November 23, 2012

        I haven’t had them on in years, maybe not since that concert (which was probably 1991, now that I think about it). I don’t think I would fit anymore. 😦 A couple of years before that (i.e. the late 1980s, when even Joni Mitchell had a Fairlight and Iron Maiden was the only band without too much echo on the snare), my then girlfriend’s sister (who is a year or so older than I am) had a “remember the 1970s” party. There were about 100 people there (all of them could remember the 1970s though most were at most young teenagers and that only at the end of the 1970s). Since they were mainly her friends, I only knew a couple by name and a handful from sight. Of course, I had these trousers and other appropriate clothing on, and indeed all were dressed in 1970s gear, though in many cases borrowed from parents or older siblings. I still had my “early 1970s George Harrison” long hair and near ZZ Top beard. Once, when I got up to get me something to drink, I heard someone whisper “Look at that guy—he looks real!”


      • Phillip,
        As someone who reached his teens in 1979, allow me to join those who considered you an authentic ’70s guy. I still consider myself a child of the ’70s since those were my formative years, but high school & college tend to be the years that have the most impact on people, especially when it comes to arts, pop culture, etc., so in that way the ’80s were my era. Great point about Maiden being one of the only bands without too much echo on the snare. I don’t think any particular sound carbon-dates music more than ’80s drum production.


      • philliphelbig
        November 26, 2012

        I guess that makes you a couple of years older than I am; I turned 13 at the end of 1977. Interestingly, I listened to essentially no pop or rock music at the time, even though what are normally one’s formative years were, for me, during the time when the music which I, in retrospect, most like was most popular. It wasn’t until seeing a Beatles revival show (The Fabulous Mahoney Brothers) in 1979 that I became interested in rock music, and for several years after that I didn’t move beyond the Beatles, Rush, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull (after an early infatuation with the Moody Blues, whom Tull replaced in my top 4; I still like some of their music but now put them in the good but not great category). So, it was in the mid-80s that I was getting into 60s and 70s music. I still have essentially no interest in 1980s music, at least music which sounds 1980s (or for any decade after the 80s, for that matter). In my case, my preference is not caused by what I’m familiar with (my oldest son is a big fan of rap and hip-hop, so I know that scene reasonably well, but dislike it as much as punk or avant-garde or cheesy country) nor by what I listened to during my formative years.


      • Actually, Phillip, I think you may have a year or two on me. I was born in ’66, so I turned 13 in ’79. Like you, I spent most of my teen years soaking up all kinds of ’60s & ’70s music (Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, etc. were among the most important bands for me), but I was also open to ’80s music (especially guitar-based bands like U2, The Alarm and Big Country…who I consider to be my favorite band of the last 30 years). I love The Moody Blues, although most of their albums are hit-and-miss because they had so many songwriters & singers, and they didn’t always deliver the goods. I will eventually revisit their catalog & write about it here, but there are a number of artists I want to spend time with before then.

        Sorry to hear about your son’s love of rap & hip-hop. There was a time about 20 years ago where I enjoyed the occasional song (LL Cool J, Young MC, Salt N Pepa), but I find that genre too narrow in scope, and it bothers me that a majority of it uses existing music as a way to hook in listeners.


      • philliphelbig
        November 26, 2012

        Yes, in old age, one’s math skills drop. 😦 Of course, you are about 2 years younger than I, not older. 🙂

        I also hate the way samples are used. I don’t know to what extent it can be prevented, but apparently it can as I remember reading that it was special that Abba allowed Madonna to sample one of their songs. (Why they allowed it I don’t know.) I remember hearing Shine on You Crazy Diamond Parts I and II with a beat track put underneath. What perversion! (Apparently it is easier, and perhaps can’t be prevented, to record something which has already appeared, perhaps very close to the identical style; maybe that was the case here.)

        I just read a great review of Zeppelin’s Celebration Day DVD. I have just the double-CD best of, but some of their tunes are quite good. The review was in Mojo, from which I added this quote to my collection:

        I think that later that night I stood in a tree and declared I was the Golden
        God because Moonie and Roy Harper had driven a car between two palm trees and
        couldn’t open the fucking doors to get out. George Harrison had karate chopped
        Bonzo’s wedding cake or 30th birthday cake or 25th birthday cake at some party
        and Bonzo decided it was time for George Harrison to go into the swimming pool.
        We were children! And there was some vaginal relaxant for cows somewhere being
        inhaled by somebody. You want to know about what it was like? It was
        fantastic! Insanely gorgeous!

        —Robert Plant remembers the 70s

        And I thought Brian Wilson inhaling Cheez Whiz was bizarre.


      • The reason artists are willing to allow their songs to be sampled is the ludicrous amount of money they can make. There are some artists who would never allow that to happen for purely artistic reasons, but some artists don’t have that kind of control over their recordings and their record labels will do anything to make a buck. I agree that it’s perverse and often painful to hear our favorite recordings being used for other purposes, especially when it’s being used by another “artist” to enhance their limited or non-existent musical abilities. What’s worse is when our favorite artists actually appear on stage with these people, like Jimmy Page playing the “Kashmir” riff with Puff Daddy (or whatever he called himself that day) or Sting singing one of his songs (“Every Breath You Take,” I think) with…once again, Puff Daddy. I guess it’s a good way to stay relevant & introduce yourself to a younger and larger audience, so I can’t fault them for wanting that, but on a purely musical level it’s painful to watch & listen to.

        Zeppelin has been my favorite band for more than 30 years. I always respected them for not continuing after John Bonham’s death, since they considered “Led Zeppelin” to be a complete unit of 4 members, and they couldn’t exist without all 4 of them. Of course, after so many years and only a handful of one-off “reunions,” I’m glad they did the classy move of preparing for one show and gave it their best. My CD/DVD package is due to arrive today, and I will be watching it in glorious surround sound tonight. I’ve heard the performance on a bootleg, but it’ll be nice to hear it with listenable sound quality, and also be able to watch them performing together. It can never match their original incarnation, but that’s not what they were going for. I’m surprised to hear that you’re not as big a fan of their music. I guess it’s hard for me to imagine only knowing a portion of their catalog, as pretty much everything they recorded is essential to me. Still, you have great taste in music, so that’s not in any way a criticism. I’m just surprised.


      • Phillip Helbig
        November 27, 2012

        “The reason artists are willing to allow their songs to be sampled is the ludicrous amount of money they can make.”

        Maybe that explains why, AFAIK, this Abba sample by Madonna is the only one. Abba seem to value integrity over more money (admittedly easier after one has lots of money). A while back, they were offered 1 billion dollars for 1 album and 1 tour. They declined.

        The double CD is the only Zeppelin I own, but I have heard most of their stuff at some time or another. Maybe I should revisit their catalogue. I think probably the reason I am not a big fan (don’t get me wrong; I think they are quite good) is that the lyrics don’t impress me as much as those of bands I like more.

        As a regular visitor of Fairport Convention’s annual festival, I’ve seen Planty there a few times, both with his band Priory of Brion and as a guest with Fairport, playing old Zeppelin stuff, traditional blues, whatever. With about 20,000 people in attendance it’s a medium-sized festival, I suppose. Planty has been known to leave the VIP backstage area and join regular punters in the field. (Fairport bassist Dave Pegg played had played with Plant and Bonham before any of them became famous.)


      • Every year when I read about the Cropredy Festival it makes me yearn to be there one day, even though the idea of sitting outside in the hot sun…or pouring rain…all day isn’t at the top of my “fun things to do” list. Musically it would be a blast, if I was lucky enough to attend when Plant shows up I’d love to see him in such a loose musical atmosphere. He may not have the vocal range he did when he was youngster (who does, really?), but in many ways he’s a better all-around singer in his 60s than he was in his 20s & 30s.

        I came to Fairport’s music via Sandy Denny’s appearance on Zeppelin’s “The Battle Of Evermore,” and of course Richard Thompson’s guitar playing, and I loved learning how much respect both bands had for each other even though they were in different music worlds. Dave Mattacks played with Jimmy Page on the “Death Wish II” soundtrack, and Thompson played on Plant’s “Fate Of Nations.” Lots of connections between the two bands.

        Has Roy Harper ever appeared at Cropredy? He seems like a perfect fit. I love his music.


      • Phillip Helbig
        November 28, 2012

        Actually, most years (I’ve been 20 times since 1988) the weather has been good: rain only a couple of times and only last year was it so hot and sunny I was wishing for some clouds!

        Plant is usually (always?) a surprise guest. Roy Harper has been there at least once. Once he appeared with his son Nick and spent as much time tuning as playing. 🙂 He does have some good music but I think he can be hit or miss live depending on his mood.

        Martin Alcock also played on some Plant records, maybe Fate of Nations.

        For a slightly less twee take on Renaissance music than Blackmore’s Night, check out The Bones of All Men with Philip Pickett (not the one from Sailor), his wife Sharona Joshua, Richard Thompson, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks and Simon Nicol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bones_of_All_Men


      • Nice to know that Plant shows up at most of the Cropredy festivals. If I ever find myself in the UK at that time of year, I will be sure to attend. I saw Nick Harper once, opening for Glenn Tilbrook at a small club in NYC, and I was blown away by his guitar-playing. You mention that he & his dad spent a good portion of the show tuning, which is ironic, as Nick impressed me with his ability to re-tune his guitar in mid-song to change keys and never missed a beat. I own a couple of his albums which are pretty good, and I have just about every officially-released Roy Harper album. He’s truly a one-of-a-kind.

        Thanks for letting me know about The Bones Of All Men. That sounds like a very interesting album, and I’ve already added it to my wish list. I’ll let you know what I think of it whenever I get my hands on it.


      • Phillip Helbig
        November 28, 2012

        Some minor corrections: Plant has been there several times, but there have been more years without him than with him. Also, just Roy was tuning, not Nick. 🙂

        I think Richard Thompson’s wife organizes a Festival Tour every year for people from the States who want to come to Cropredy. Of course, you can do it on your own, but coming with a group might be more fun and/or easier (then again, it might not be). The festival sells out some years, so be sure to buy tickets while they are left. They are also cheaper the earlier they are bought.

        Whether or not you come alone or with a tour, let me know. I plan to attend next year. Last year was the first year with both my wife and two small children and it went OK (at least according to my wife) so probably we will all come next year.


      • Thanks for the info. My wife & I were just in the UK last year, for a friend’s wedding in Scotland, so we probably won’t be back for a few years (there are several other places we’d like to visit before going back). I will definitely be in touch the next time we’re in the planning stages for a UK trip.

        It doesn’t surprise me that Roy was the one doing the tuning. I’ve never seen him live, but I get the sense that he just shows up and plays whatever he wants at whatever pace he wants to. He’s probably no different playing in his living room, a studio or on stage.


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