New Single: Greta Van Fleet Return With “My Way, Soon”

I’d like to think there are at least some positives that have come out of being quarantined and semi-locked down the last nine months. I guess I am working out more… I think I’ve been reading more. I’m almost done with super-producer Ted Templeman’s autobiography. I’ve actually started reading magazines again, ‘Uncut’ and ‘Classic Rock Magazine’ were new discoveries for me… I need to get out more, if only we could. And while rock bands are all on hiatus from performing live in front of crowds, we’re starting to see the fruits of being off the road blooming as many acts are releasing music. Older bands with nothing new to share are going into the vaults and releasing archival material – U2, Lou Reed, Elton John and Neil Young all have box sets coming. Many acts have actual new albums coming out – Springsteen, the Smashing Pumpkins and (thank heaven) AC/DC all have new stuff on the way. October and November are going to be great rock n roll months – and when was the last time we said that? Today I’ve been staring out the window like the guy in the song “Please Mr. Postman.” I’m not waiting for a letter from a lover but for my Tom Petty Wildflowers & All The Rest box set. I was thrilled and surprised last week to discover that Zeppelinesque, Michigan rockers Greta Van Fleet have a new single out, “My Way, Soon,” heralding a new album that will be “coming soon.” 

The fun part of writing about music is, naturally, listening to music as “research.” Well, at least that’s what I’m calling it when the Rock Chick asks why I haven’t mowed the lawn…”I’m doing very important research, my dear.” I know it looks like I”m just laying on the couch with headphones on because, well, that’s actually what I’m doing. As I prepped to write about this new GVF single, I went back and listened to their EPs – Black Smoke Rising  (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP) and From The Fires (Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP). I loved those EPs… I still remember the moment the Rock Chick famously burst into my office and said, “I don’t know who this Greta Van Fleet chick is, but she sounds like Zeppelin.” 

I put on their first “proper” album, Anthem Of A Peaceful Army and was somewhat surprised how much I dug it. I went back and looked at my review and it was sort of lukewarm, Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘Anthem of the Peaceful Army’. As I listened to the LP over the last few days, I remembered my responses to it but I quickly remembered that the album did grow on me. Admittedly, it had been a while since I’d listened to the whole thing but damn if it’s not a great album. I love the ecological theme of the whole thing. It’s very groovy hippy stuff which is surprisingly up my alley. I pondered the disconnect between what I was hearing and what I’d written. First, I’ll admit, I think Anthem was what we call a “grower,” it didn’t wow on first listen but opened itself up after repeated listening. But I think the main problem was I fell victim to the evilest influence of all – expectations. 

I think all of us bring certain expectations into most the situations we face. We expect certain events to go certain ways. Whether it’s a first date or a work of art – a movie or a play – we think we know how it’s going to go. Or we try to predict how it’s going to go. Nowhere do I see the insidious expectations interfere more than with music. My dear friend, Arkansas Joel was the biggest U2 fan when I met him. This was during the Joshua Tree era so it wasn’t hard to be on that bandwagon. Since then, every time they’d be ready to put out a new album his expectations were so heavy that whatever they did, he’d be disappointed. He didn’t like How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.  He wanted that thrill of hearing “Where the Streets Have No Name” for the first time… I get it we all want that. The Rock Chick suffers from this same malady. If the music doesn’t hit her lower brain stem on that first listen, she deems the record a failure. I’ve played U2’s last LP for her and she kept saying, “Hey, that’s a good song, I don’t remember that?” As was said in ‘The Big Chill,’ “sometimes you just have to let art… flow over you.” 

When I went to play “My  Way, Soon” I tried to release myself from any expectations. GVF have been flogged for being “derivative” of Led Zeppelin and I suspected they’d be evolving their sound some this time around. I hadn’t heard anything from them since I saw them live (Concert Review: Greta Van Fleet, Kansas City’s Starlight Theater, Sept 21, 2019). They did release a great single on a soundtrack, “Always There” that I really dug (Friday New Music DJ’ing & Greta Van Fleet’s New Single, “Always There”), but I’m not sure it got much attention. It’s definitely worth checking out. 

“My Way, Soon” is a great rock and roll track. It’s got everything you’d expect from these guys, crunchy guitars from Jake Kiszka anchored by the solid rhythm section of Danny Wagner (drums) and Sam Kiszka (bass). I especially like Sam’s bass line. I would describe it almost as a shuffle. It’s got a “Misty Mountain Hop” vibe – I know, I know, I’m too quick to go to the Zeppelin comparison. I’m a huge fan of vocalist Josh Kiszka. He was amazing live as was the whole band. What’s not to love here – great, crunchy riff, rollicking rhythm section and wailing vocals. It’s got a great guitar solo as well. I love the whole “I’ve packed my bags, I’ve got my freedom,” out on the road ethos of the track. We need to be encouraging and supporting kick ass rock and roll like GVF or Dirty Honey or Starcrawler. I can’t wait for this album. 

I think this bodes very well for the new album. I can’t wait to crank this track up later this afternoon when work is done and I’m watching for the postman…”stop, wait a minute…”

 

 

 

Concert Review: Greta Van Fleet, Kansas City’s Starlight Theater, Sept 21, 2019

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*Photo taken by the intrepid wife of your intrepid B&V blogger

September in Kansas City is my favorite time of year. Typically the mercury in the thermometer drops down into the 70s for highs and the sun takes on a golden glow. Many of my favorite things happen in the fall — the local Plaza Art Fair, Kansas City Chiefs’ football, and often the stray outdoor concert. I never quite expected all three of those events to occur over the course of one weekend, but whose complaining? I may need to exchange my blood with a group of Swiss school children to recover, but other than that ‘m not too worse for wear.

After a day spent hanging out at the Plaza Art Fair, the Rock Chick and I loaded up in the car, picked up some friends of ours, and headed out to the beautiful Starlight Theater. I love shows out there and have since I saw Elton John there in the 80s (Elton’s Retirement From Touring Takes Me Back to His KC Starlight Theater Show July 6, 1982). There was a serious threat of rain on Saturday so the schedule was moved up for everything. Sadly, I missed the opening act and had just got to my seats when Greta Van Fleet, pictured above, came on stage. I applaud their efforts to get the show in despite a threat of storms and luckily they were able to do a full show without a drop of rain falling.

Before I knew what was happening, the lights went down and under the cover of a heavy fog machine, four men who probably aren’t even 25 stepped out on stage and transported me back to 1975 – to an era when rock and roll still ruled the world. I loved everything about this show. These guys even dress like rock stars – lead singer Josh Kiszka was wearing a jump suit that Freddie Mercury would have envied. I’m as hetero as anybody you’re gonna find but that Sam Kiszka on bass guitar is just one beautiful human being… he reminded me of the hottest girl in my high school.

I had peaked at the setlist and originally was disappointed to see they only play about a dozen tracks. I thought, well this will be a pretty brief show. I was, as usual, wrong. These guys jam out quite a bit and there were choice keyboard, guitar and drum solos. The show lasted over an hour and 45 minutes…They opened up strong with “The Cold Wind” which led to a quick version of the old classic, “Kansas City.” Sure, many have done that, but I still appreciate the gesture.

After that, GVF was off and running with guns, er I mean guitars blazing. Jake Kiszka’s guitar was front and center all night long. I can’t say enough about Danny Wagner’s drumming as well. Although I must say, the unheralded star might be Sam Kiszka whose bass and keyboard playing was outstanding. Every time he hit a bass string, my cloths shook, so heavy and loud were these guys. Josh’s vocals were as soaring and amazing as they are on record. That was my question on these guys… can they cut through the hype and deliver on stage? The answer is a resounding YES!

After cranking it up for “Safari Song” and “Black Smoke Rising,” Sam handed off his bass and sat down at the keyboards. They got laid back and played “Flower Power,” “Age of Man” and “You’re the One” which saw Jake go from his lone electric guitar to an acoustic guitar. The sheer joy that guy plays with is awesome. He and Jake do the Plant/Page, Jagger/Richards, meet at the front of the stage and lean in toward the microphone to harmonize thing. The theater was packed and the response from the crowd was raucous.

They finally turned it back up towards the end of the main set, with a song called “Black Flag Exposition,” which featured the most epic guitar of the night. That led to the rocking “Watching Over” and the perfect set ender, “When the Curtain Falls.” The latter song was epic rock at its best. The encore continued the high energy guitar rock, with two of my all time favs by these guys “Lover, Leaver, (Taker, Believer)” and finally “Highway Tune.” Josh let the banshee wail out for those.

As I wandered out to my car I stopped into the men’s room. There was a guy in there with an L.A. Guns t-shirt… He saw my C.B.G.B t-shirt and said, “They’re bring it back, they’re bring back 80s metal, man.” Before I could respond, some other guy turned and said, “No way man, these guys are 70s rock, Zeppelin, Aerosmith, like that…” I just smiled and ducked out to the parking lot. It’s great to see that kind of rock and roll excitement, all courtesy of the amazing Greta Van Fleet. See these guys wherever and whenever you can.

I don’t know if these guys are the “saviors of rock and roll” but they are damn fun to see in concert. I was supposed to see them last summer but Danny Wagner hurt his wrist… I almost hesitated to go see these guys this time around but damn I’m glad I did!!

 

Friday New Music DJ’ing & Greta Van Fleet’s New Single, “Always There”

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This past Friday was a lot like other Friday’s here at the B&V labs. I had returned from a long week of travel in the service of my corporate masters that found me in Phoenix and St. Louis. I’m usually pretty burned out after all of that “work” and I’m typically anxious to seek the comfort of my own home, my own bar and more importantly my own stereo. The American Royal BBQ was taking place this weekend, and the Rock Chick and I could have headed down there, but it’s only fun if you know someone whose actually competing so you can get free samples of freshly smoked beast. Otherwise you’re just hanging around in a smokey parking lot. I get that experience at Arrowhead Stadium 8 times a year…oh yes, I get my fill on smokey parking lots.

One of the great things about a Friday at home with the Rock Chick is our propensity to start doing some musical exploration. Many a Friday, I’ll turn the DJ duties over to my intrepid wife, the Rock Chick, and she’ll serve up a host of classic rock and alternative tracks that lasts well into the wee hours. Gone are the days where we had our drunken dance parties… now we just drink and rock, and let’s face it, I never danced so much as convulsed. I’m rhythmically challenged on the dance floor.

Lately the DJ parties have gotten even better since we now have Spotify here at the house. We can now actually explore outside the confines of our own music collection. After a long and respectful homage to the late Eddie Money who passed FridayRIP Eddie Money, B&V Mourns The Loss of the “Money Man”, I actually took the DJ helm and found a Spotify playlist, “New Rock.” Pretty straightforward on the title there… Not a hugely creative bunch down there at Spotify… I started paging through all the new music that’s come out and damned if I wasn’t a tad surprised at all the stuff that’s already out or coming out.

After wading through some music I should have avoided (the Goo Goo Dolls are still around? Puddle of Mudd?), I discovered there’s a whole lot of music coming out that I’m excited about. I had heard that Liam Gallagher, erstwhile singer of Oasis had a new album coming but I had no idea he’d put five songs out already. The Who have released their first song from their impending album, which I was thrilled about. It’s been 12 years since their last LP and all I can say is, it’s about time. After that I found a playlist entitled “New Alt” and quickly turned the DJ duties over to my wife… that music is more in her wheel house. I did hear some great new stuff…and yes, eventually we’re going to have talk about this new Iggy Pop album.

All of that said, there was a method to my madness in pulling up the New Rock playlist. I was looking for (and found) the new track from millennial Zeppelin fans Greta Van Fleet. I had heard it and wanted to play it for the Rock Chick. Much has been said and much has been complained about in regards to Greta Van Fleet. Me, I’m a fan. I tend to agree with PNW Bob who says, “they don’t deserve the hype or the backlash.” I still can’t believe it’s been two years since the Rock Chick burst into my office and said, “I don’t know who this Greta Van Fleet chick is but she sounds like Zeppelin…”

The new track, which I’ve read was a surprise, is entitled “Always There.” It was cut for a soundtrack to some movie, “A Million Little Pieces” which I will profess to knowing nothing about. I don’t know whose in the movie, nor do I care. All I care about is new GVF. I actually knew they were in the studio making new music and had heard there might be another album, the follow up to last year’s Anthem of a Peaceful Army, but maybe they just cut this single. I certainly hope we’re treated to more new Greta… I’m seeing them in concert next Saturday with my friend, Drummer Blake and I must say, excitement is brewing here at the B&V labs. Naturally, I will dutifully report in with my thoughts after the concert.

As will be no surprise to recurring readers of B&V, I really like “Always There.” The track starts off as a bit of a strummer… with Jake Kiszka melding acoustic and electric guitars. Josh’s vocal starts nuanced before later turning on the Plant-banshee wail. The real star on this track is Sam Kiszka on bass. His lilting, rolling bass carries the song along and takes it to “Over the Hills And Far Away”-classic territory. Danny Wagner’s drum fills are a perfect compliment to the rolling bass line. At about the half way point Josh turns up the vocal volume and a choir like backing vocal comes in to elevate the whole thing to 11.   Nobody makes music like this any more, especially at their age. I think they’re slowly finding their own voice (despite my “Over the Hills…” comparison, I just can’t stop doing that). I look forward to whatever these guys do next, and I can’t say that about a lot of bands these days.

Do a little musical spelunking next weekend… see if you find something you didn’t know about, it’s good for the soul. And check out this new GVF track, its something that you will definitely enjoy.

Cheers!

Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘Anthem of the Peaceful Army’

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A good friend of mine from high school and I have reconnected after all these years. We’ve begun a great email correspondence which in the old days would have made us “pen pals.” Naturally since this is BourbonAndVinyl, the topic generally centers around rock and roll music. My friend, I’ll call him, “Rob,” (name changed to protect the guilty), asked me one time, “what makes a band/song/album rock and roll?” It’s truly the eternal question when it comes to music. At the heart of that question, and what drives it in my opinion, is the issue of authenticity. To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, when it come to rock, I know it when I hear it. I can’t really explain it but it’s how I can tell Queen is rock and roll but the Struts, well, they’re just not. When I was in high school confessing to liking any pop band who was masquerading as a rock band was a high crime and misdemeanor, punishable by receiving the “nerd” label.

Which leads us to the case of Greta Van Fleet. I’ve been on the bandwagon since their first EP, Black Smoke Rising (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP). Even though their second EP, or what they called a “double-EP,” (whatever that is), From the Fires contained all the songs from Black Smoke Rising, I was still on the bandwagon (Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP). Greta Van Fleet have finally released what they’re referring to as their debut album, with the very hippy title, Anthem Of The Peaceful Army. I must say, reactions and reviews have been quite mixed. There has been tremendous backlash for these kids, mostly because they sound like Zeppelin. I don’t remember the Rival Sons taking the same kind of heat. Allmusic.com went so far as to describe them as “nothing more than cosplay of the highest order.” Ouch… that’s gonna leave a mark. Can’t we just be happy that some young kids are playing rock and roll, you know, with guitars and real instruments? I prefer bands influenced by Led Zeppelin than bands influenced by say, Drake.

Accusations of being derivative are nothing new in music. Just for shits and grins I pulled up Rolling Stone magazine’s original review of Led Zeppelin’s first album, Led Zeppelin. I’m sure if you asked Jann Wenner now he’d say Led Zeppelin was a masterpiece, a true definition of the form of blues rock. But back in 1969, Mr. John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stones’ reviewer hated it. He starts off by basically saying everything that came after Cream and John Mayall follow the same formula of building a band around an “excellent guitarist.” We forget how influential Cream were… In essence, he opens by implying Led Zeppelin is derivative of Cream or Mayall. He says, “Jimmy Page…is also a limited producer and writer of weak, unimaginative songs.” He describes Led Zeppelin as a “twin” of the Jeff Beck Group (Artist Lookback: The (Original) Jeff Beck Group – Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood). He calls Plant’s singing, “strained and unconvincing shouting.” Most of the review reads as Mendelsohn claiming these are just a weaker version of the Jeff Beck Group who did all of this already, merely “three months earlier.” I wonder if, looking back, he’d wanna take any of this back?

I guess it’s inevitable that Greta Van Fleet’s (the brothers Kiszka, Josh on vocals, Jacob on guitar, Sam on bass and Daniel Wagner on drums) first album would suffer the same fate. And look, I get it. This is heavily Zeppelin influenced music. In what I’m assuming is a bit of cheekiness, they even quote “The Immigrant Song” in the opener “Age of Man,” when Josh sings “the land of ice and snow.” My hope is that these very young kids, take this sound they’ve got and develop it the same way Zeppelin did. Zeppelin, who were supposedly derivative of the Jeff Beck Group and any other British blues rock band at the time, slowly developed into something much more. They made the sound their own and then turned it on it’s ear. If this is the starting point for Greta Van Fleet, hopefully they can do the same. One can hope their success will some kids together in a garage with a guitars and some drums.

All of that said, I confess I wanted to love this album but I can merely say I like it. I am still recommending people buy it but I can’t totally embrace it. Like the EPs that followed it, I can hear the echo of a Zeppelin song in each thing they play. Unfortunately, a majority of these songs all sound like “Over The Hills And Far Away.” Mix it up guys. The album starts off with a pair of tracks that are in that midtempo area, “Age of Man” and “The Cold Wind.” They’re built around an acoustic/electric guitar mix. I must say I was delighted to hear Jacob mix in some acoustic on this record. The record doesn’t really catch fire for me until the third track and first single, “When the Curtain Falls” (Greta Van Fleet: New Single, “When The Curtain Falls”. “You’re the One” drifts into “Hey Hey My My” territory with strummed acoustic and an insistent drum beat from Wagner. These are all fine songs, but with the energy of their first EPs, I guess I expected heavier music. “The New Day” continues the “Over The Hills” thing…

“Lover, Leaver” is one track that jumps out at me. It’s a crunchy rocker. “Watching Over” has a nice sitar sounding guitar thing happening and Josh’s vocals are an unhinged banshee wail. I do feel at certain times Josh could bring it down a notch on vocals. You’re not gonna be able to sing like that for 40 years dude. The reprise of “Lover, Leaver,” “Lover, Leaver, Taker, Believer” has some tasty slide guitar. Those song titles had me thinking these guys had headed into Judas Priest territory (“Dreamer Deceiver” anyone?).

The album does hold together, not only musically but lyrically. This feels like a loosely thematic record. The whole thing has more of a Plant vibe vs a Page vibe. On the big message song, “Anthem,” (which brings to mind “You’re Time Is Gonna Come,” I know, I know, I can’t help but cite the Zep song that these guys conjure on their music), a chorus of back up singers sing the rather curious lyric, “the world is what the world is made of.” I’m not sure where they’re going with that, it brings to mind some of Sammy Hagar’s weaker moments, but hey, they’re still developing their craft.

This is a very, very solid debut album. I think we rock fans have a lot to be delighted with in this record. And, correspondingly, I think we have a lot to be hopeful for in Greta Van Fleet. Are they the real deal? Are they rock and roll? Are they, as I mentioned before, authentic? I’ll let you be the judge. I can’t really explain it, but I know it when I hear it…

Greta Van Fleet: New Single, “When The Curtain Falls”

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Oh, Greta Van Fleet… I can’t stay mad at you.

As most of the B&V readers know, I was a little miffed at GVF when they backed out of Middle of the Map Festival here in Kansas City. Other than Social Distortion, who we all love down here at B&V, I was most excited about seeing Greta Van Fleet. Can they bring it live, I wondered? I was really anticipating answering that question… until a few days prior they had to cancel out of the festival when the drummer, Danny Wagner, hurt his wrist. I can only hope he hurt it trashing a hotel room… anything short of that is unacceptable in my mind, but I’m old school. Keith Moon and John Bonham are my go-to drummers, but I digress. My disappointment that they wouldn’t be here was…palpable. Although I must admit, I managed to discover Austin-based alt rockers Spoon, so it wasn’t a complete wash-out (Middle of the Map Fest: Spoon 6/29/18; Social Distortion, 6/30/2018, LIVE). And yes, Social Distortion is always kick ass in concert, see them if you can. I will admit, the Rock Chick has been mad at GVF ever since.

I keep hearing that GVF have been in the studio working on a proper album. They’ve already released two EPs, Black Smoke Rising (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP) followed by a “double EP” From The Fires which contained all four songs from the previous EP (Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP). I’ve loved all eight songs these guys have released so far, including their epic cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” It’s so refreshing to hear a new rock band! These guys are all guitar riffs and big vocals which you don’t hear a lot of these days. I have to admit, I was beginning to wonder if these guys were ever going to get around to releasing a whole album. I know they’re touring, but lets keep that momentum rolling in the studio!

Today, my patience has been rewarded. GVF have just released a new single, “When the Curtain Falls.” Any residual anger on my part about them missing Middle of The Map, dropped away as soon as I put this new tune on the stereo and heard that first guitar chord. Danny’s drums kick in and Jake Kiszka’s crunchy guitar riff starts. This song struts and storms. It’s both heavy and slinky – like Mike Tyson in his prime, moving so much it’s hard to hit with a lethally dangerous punch at the same time. When Josh Kiszka’s banshee wail kicks in, I found myself nodding my head. Yes, I can still feel the Zeppelin influence (I hear the echo of a Zep riff here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it), but these guys are making it there own. The guitar sound here is addictive. I can’t get over the reckless abandon with which Josh sings. Even the Rock Chick, passing through the B&V lab said, “I wonder how long he’ll be able to sing like that?” Good question.

When Josh turns it over to Jake for the guitar solo, I wanted to jump on my desk and hold a lighter in the air. It’s so much fun to rock out with this music. They sound confident and ready to conquer the world. Hopefully it won’t be too long a wait until this rumored album comes out. If this is a sample of what’s going on in the studio, I think we rock folks out here are going to be very happy. Check this tune out immediately!

 

 

Review: Greta Van Fleet, ‘From The Fires’ LP, er, Double EP

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Once again my corporate overlords had me traveling most of this week. I returned home from California just in time to watch the Rock Chick pack her car and abscond to points out west to meet our daughter for some sort of “Thelma and Louis” adventure. Actually, our daughter is moving and the Rock Chick felt compelled to help her find a new apartment in her new city. In the old days, when I was left to my own devices, to a “bachelor’s weekend,” I’d end up face down, slathered in bourbon and pizza sauce. The Rock Chick came home one weekend to find me weeping over the death of Clarence Clemons. It had been a tough weekend…and perhaps I’d overdone it. Luckily, this weekend I discovered that those Led Zeppelin-obsessed youngsters, Greta Van Fleet, have released a new album, er, I mean a double EP, whatever that is, entitled, From The Fires. At least I’ll have something upbeat to listen to all weekend… and yes, I did stop by the store for a fresh bottle of Bulleit rye and ordered a pizza, so I’m ready to rock.

I reviewed their first EP, Black Smoke Rising,  a few months ago (Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP). And as those of you who read that know, I love these kids. Yes, I described watching their YouTube videos as like watching really hip baristas running amuck, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. It was actually the Rock Chick who first came into the B&V Lab and said, “I don’t know who this Greta Van Fleet chick is, but she sounds like Zeppelin.” Hearing these four new songs – inexplicably From The Fires contains all 4 songs from Black Smoke Rising – I believe the Rock Chick is going to be very happy. My friend West Coast BG says the versions of the first four tracks are more polished versions here, but I did what I think most people did – I bought the four new songs and added them to the old ones.

After reading my review of Black Smoke Rising, my dear friend Doug wrote, in the comments section, “I’m surprised Led Zeppelin isn’t getting royalties from these guys…” (or something like that), and yes, they do sound like Led Zeppelin. My friend in Salina, Drummer Blake, when I went to see his new band said, “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and ask if I’ve heard these kids that sound like Zeppelin, Greta Van Fleet.” Drummer Blake is more fond of Rival Sons, but we’re splitting hairs here. Even my friend West Coast BG sent me an enthusiastic note about GVF. He compares them to the young energy (not the sound) of Def Leppard when they first came out. We both saw Def Leppard open for Nugent back in the day and Greta Van Fleet does bring back memories of that youthful exuberance both of Def Leppard and us. I mention all of this because there are many people out here who have been yearning to hear some new, kick ass rock and roll and the word on GVF is getting out!

I don’t want to rehash the review I put out for the four songs that were contained on Black Smoke Rising, but I will say these kids really are channeling Zeppelin. You can listen to those four songs and literally play the which-Zeppelin-song-is-this game. My favs are probably the galloping “Highway Tune” and the title track. “Safari Song” starts off with a banshee wail that Plant would envy. I will say, someone is going to have to get lead vocalist (and one of three brothers in the band) John Kiszka a glass of hot tea with honey and a shot of Gentlemen Jack in it to help him sooth his vocal chords. As my friend West Coast BG said, “someone needs to tell him to reign it in, he’s going to shatter his vocal chords.” But damn if I don’t love this kid’s shrieking vocals. I can’t say enough about his brother Jake on lead guitar. I can understand how a vocalist can sound like Robert Plant, but this Jake kid makes guitar sounds that I’ve only heard on Zeppelin records, and I mean that as a huge compliment.

If I was going to say one thing about GVF, to me they’re in the larval stage (I was corrected by BG when I said “larva stage”). They’ve got the chops and the skill, but they can only survive as an act if they can develop their own sound and write their own distinctive songs. I remember so many bands in the 80s, including Kings X and Jason Bonham’s band (creatively named, Bonham) who were hailed as the second coming of Zeppelin but flamed out pretty quickly. I think these guys have the tools to be a long term force in rock and roll but someone, maybe Jason Flom, needs to do what Andrew Loog Oldham did for Mick and Keith – sit them down in a room and force them write and write and write. I think given time these guys will develop into something special, I just hope they hew closely to this swaggering, hard rock sound.

Of the new batch of material, my favorite might be the cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Again, kudos to John Kiszka for the lead vocal. The band brought in some gospel-y background singers, which is a perfect accent. The first time I heard GVF’s version of the tune, I thought, these guys sound too joyful for this track, but I think I misread it. It’s anguished and triumphant all at the same time. And hats off to any band with the balls to tackle one of the greatest songs of all time. It shows they have really good taste in music.

“Edge of Darkness” is a crunchy rocker. I love John Kiszka’s riffage on this song. And, just to play the, which-Zeppelin-tune game, I get a real “What Is And What Could Never Be” vibe from this tune. The guitar time changes and different riffs, just evoke that song for me. “Meet Me On the Ledge” brings to mind “Our Time Is Gonna Come.” It starts with a heavy riff, then vocals/acoustic guitar that builds to the chorus. It’s rocky and spacey. I mention the influences just to underscore what these tracks sound like, not as a jab at GVF. The guitar solo at the end of “Edge of Darkness” is a unique, crazy flurry of guitar that points the way to great things for Greta Van Fleet. The last of the four new tracks is “Talk On The Street,” a baby I’m hearing bad things tune. It reminds me of a less bluesy “When the Levee Breaks.” I know I shouldn’t do the Zeppelin comparison, but I can’t help it.

When I listen to all eight songs on From The Fires I will admit to being baffled by the whole “double EP” thing. Why not just call these eight tracks your debut album. Houses of the Holy only had four tracks per side, eight in total. Take the homage all the way, baby. Anyway, this is a great slab of rock and roll. Turn it up loud, grab a slice of pizza and some bourbon and try not be weeping when your spouse gets home….

Cheers!

 

Greta Van Fleet: Kids Channeling Zeppelin On ‘Black Smoke Rising’ EP

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“Good artists borrow, great artists steal…” – Picasso

I was lounging upstairs in the BourbonAndVinyl lounge a couple of weeks ago, doing “something next to nothing, but different than the time before” as Prince would say. As often happens, the Rock Chick came charging into the sanctity of the B&V lab and said, “I don’t know who this Greta Van Fleet chick is, but she sounds like Robert Plant…” Intrigued by anybody who could sound like The Golden God, Robert Plant, I immediately had the Rock Chick summon up this Greta Van Fleet chick on her Spotify app… these kids and their apps, what are you gonna do? Suddenly I heard some dude scream “Ooooooooooooh, Mama” over a crunchy guitar that sounded like it was lifted from the “Immigrant Song.” Stop the press…

This was no chick. This was a band… Don’t be fooled by the weird name…like Lynyrd Skynyrd, these four young lads chose a person’s name as the band name. It turns out this band is three Kiszka brothers, Josh (vocals), Jake (lead guitar), Sam (bass guitar) and a drummer, Danny Wagner. It appears they’ve released a 4-song EP, entitled ‘Black Smoke Rising.’ I quickly pulled up the album art and it looks like a poster from the Goonies movie… Hmmm, this is trending badly. But then I listened to the EP again, and damn if they didn’t sound great. They sound, well, like Zeppelin.

I pulled them up on YouTube and these kids look like baristas from your neighborhood cool coffee joint, run amuck with instruments. And while the name, album art and well, their appearance put me off a bit, when I closed my eyes and listen to these guys play, especially Jake on lead guitar, I have to admit, I like what I’m hearing. Of all the artists they could emulate, or nay, rip off, these guys went straight to the top. In this day and age when I thought playing real rock and roll was dead, these kids may have proved me wrong. If they’d stayed true to their generation they’d be doing hip hop or some mopey Morrisey thing. Thankfully, they’re playing rock and roll with loud, Zeppelin abandon. These guys are good.

It’s easy to listen to these tracks and play the “which Zeppelin song is this” game. The first track is a blast of blues rock named, “Highway Tune” that reminds me of, well, “The Immigrant Song.” This kid, Jake Kiszka on lead guitar has got some chops. I love the riff on the song. And if, like Picasso suggested, great artists steal, you might as well steal from the greatest. “Highway Tune” is the Rock Chick’s favorite track of the four. I might agree with her, but there’s a lot to like here.

“Safari Song” starts off with a Plant scream that makes me and the Rock Chick laugh every time it comes on. God bless this kid, he’s got the swaggering vocals down. He drops down an octave here and gives it the Plant bluesy growl… think “Bring It On Home.” He goes from the lower octave up to a scream without breaking a sweat. I also get a slight “Black Dog” feel from the tune but that just might be me. I do love the guitar solo in the middle…it’s a weird meandering thing, but I dug it.

I know I’m doing the name a Zeppelin song thing here, but it’s hard not to. “Flower Power” is a mash up between “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and “Thank You” complete with the little organ figure at the end of the song. It think even John Paul Jones would envy the Hammond B-3 at the end of this tune.

The title track wraps up the EP and it also contends for my favorite track. “Black Smoke Rising” has a thick riff that Josh just rides over with his vocal. It’s even got a spacey breakdown in the middle ala “Whole Lotta Love.” It is not hard to imagine Jake, the guitarist, wearing black pants with a big dragon on the side and pulling out a bow and dragging it across his guitar strings.

Again, I would have expected hip hop from kids this age. I would have expected electronic dance music. But these kids defied my expectations and are playing blues rock! And while their songwriting may be a tad, shall we say, derivative, I’m ok with that. They’re young and have plenty of time to develop the songwriting. I just hope they keep rocking out like this. They’ve found a great sound, now they just need to make it their own. I think anybody playing blues rock and rock n’roll should be celebrated!

As your intrepid blogger, I try to keep my eye on true rock and roll when I hear it… Keep your eye on this band and especially their lead guitarist. I so worry that the flame of rock and roll that has nourished my soul my whole life is dying down to it’s basic embers. When I hear a young band tear it up like this, I see a spark from that fire…and a glimmer of my hope returns.

Rock on kids! Cheers!