Recycled story of the (Led Zeppelin) blues...
'Down The Tracks: The Music That Influenced Led Zeppelin' does indeed do what it says on the box but also proves that an authoritative trawl though the musical archives and key practitioners of both the pre and post war blues is probably not the stuff that Led Zeppelin fans will be clamouring to buy.
In many respects this DVD replicates what one of those Mojo compilation CD's has already done, drawing on people like Davey Graham for example, to show where both Jimmy Page's playing style and Zeppelin's generic influences have come from.
But rather than listen to an interesting if not riveting CD compilation, what you have here is a bunch of talking heads, patched together with some spurious film clips that features no Led Zeppelin at all. Overlooking the obvious question as to why no members of the band are interviewed you'd have to question the appeal of 90 minutes trawling though the old blues masters let alone the much later spurious debate about Jimmy Page's astrologically significant Dragon suite.
Certainly the oft told history of the blues is snappily recounted by the likes of Nigel Williamson and Charles Shaar Murray and takes in the old 'King of the blues' debate concerning Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton. And yes the key player all seem to get a mention from Son House to the national steel guitar playing Bukka White to BB King's vibrato. The blues history lesson also recounts the core change from acoustic to electric amplification, Howlin' Wolf's huge voice, Elvis's role in making such music palatable to a white audience, Scotty Moore's influence on Page, and even the British variant of Skiffle as evidenced by Chas McDevitt complete with street pictures of South West London and a red London bus!!
And by the time of the role of the triumvirate of British acoustic guitarists, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Davey Graham, it all gets a bit wearing. The question 'where's the beef?' springs to mind. There is though one brief illuminating clip of Davey Graham back in 1959 playing acoustic guitar and offering an early version of what sounds like the intro to 'Stairway To Heaven'. So yes if you wish to know where Zeppelin got their influences from this DVD offers you plenty of blues derived evidence, though its less enlightening on the Arabian/eastern influences and resorts to mentioning Welsh Mountains as an inspiration for the Celtic mythology of the Kidderminster based Robert Plant.
Much better than cheapo bargain big fodder but less than compelling than it might potentially have been, this DVD is a broad rehash of story told several times before. Perhaps the USP is the fact that fact that the Zeppelin's musical influences have never been traced on a DVD before, but really this is one for Zeppelin trainspotters rather than casual rock fans.
Review by Pete Feenstra