I'm on the fence about this new release from Jealous Butcher Records. On Oct. 12, the Portland label will release a double-disc compilation of 33 Led Zeppelin covers titled The Land of Ice and Snow. The bands featured on the album reads like a who's who list of Pacific Northwest indie musicians: There's Kind of Like Spitting, Laura Veirs, the Long Winters, Chris Walla, and M. Ward, just to name a few. Plus, the digital edition includes 18 additional songs by 18 additional bands. In short, it's a totally ambitious undertaking.
All of these Pacific Northwest musicians dared to cover Led Zeppelin.
But let's be honest, here: for a band, covering any Led Zeppelin song is both ambitious and completely predictable. I mean, it's effing Led Zeppelin. What aspiring musician hasn't attempted "Stairway to Heaven" on their guitar? On the other hand, recording an actual Led Zeppelin cover is essentially asking for harsh critique: it's hard to live up to Plant and Page's legendary musicianship.As for these particular covers--well, I've been listening to The Land of Ice and Snow on and off for a week now, and it's (predictably) a mixed bag. Kind of Like Spitting's cover of "Good Times Bad Times" impressively sounds like it could have been recorded in 1974. And Loch Lomond's softer, sweeter re-imagining of the driving, unmistakable opening strings on "Kashmir" actually works. But some songs--like Laura Veirs' cover of "The Ocean" and Chris Walla's "In the Evening"--just don't cut it for me. (Veirs' voice, which is lovely, is too sweet for anything on Houses of the Holy; Walla's cover just sounds--ugh--like more Death Cab.) Then again, Laura Gibson's lilting vocals on the Portland Cello Project's cover of "Dazed and Confused" are downright inspired.
I still can't decide if covering Led Zeppelin is ever a smart move. Anyone else care to weigh in?