Holy Haunted House – Gov’t Mule
To cover a Led Zeppelin album right about now takes a lot of spiked eats in Gov’t Mule’s feedbag but damned if Warren Haynes and company dont pull it off. It also helps that the special 2007 Halloween set featuring the entire Houses of the Holy album includes guitarist Audley Freed from the Black Crowes, who toured with Jimmy Page in the late 90s as Page joined them in covering Zeppelin’s catalogue. (Ohand if I have to identify Mr. Page, youre on the wrong site, wrong planet, and, most certainly, the wrong netherworld level of Dantes Inferno.)
"Choice" is the key word for today. The album choice is inspired — not Physical Graffiti or one of the legendary first four albums that solidified Zeppelins status as colossal overlords of the ’70s rock scene. Instead, the Mule selected the 1973 platter filled with rock bombast, acoustic bliss, funk rawk, and the Middle Eastern influences which would come to full fruition on their Graffiti and Presence albums. And boy was I looking for mistakes and glaring problems with the Mules set, but there really arent any. Haynes’ vocals are tastefully restrained throughout, without the cock-of-the-walk cocaine shenanigans of Robert Plant. His guitar playing, linked with Freeds angular lines, is beautifully dialed in from the beginning — a cool little subdued jam that begins the set before a potent reading of The Song Remains the Same. The rest of the first side of the album is played flawlessly as the band inevitably leaps into tricky time changes on a James Brown-influenced The Crunge with a sweet swagger.
Dancin Days is followed by a Matt Abts drum solo which works quite well in this context and adds further dimension to the Zeppelin aura being interpreted. The post-Days solo also serves as a welcome relief before one of the few godawful clunkers in the Zeppelin catalog, DYer Maker. However, No Quarter, with an excellent guitar solo, and The Ocean, roll right back up into the wave of the evenings high arc as Haynes, Freed, and the Mule slam the album home with a formidable wallop. The encores, also with Freed, are not to be ignored either as they slip into a great bit of blues rock with Come On Into My Kitchen > 32/20 Blues > Come On Into My Kitchen.
I have written mainly about the Led Zeppelin set because that is the main attraction, but if all that wasnt enough, the first set in this two-CD package contains a really strong sequence as the Mule digs into their own choice catalog. Indeed, the set includes great versions of Million Miles From Yesterday, Birth of the Mule, and Fallen Down, which segues without a hitch into the Grateful Deads Other One, before the entire set melts into Blind Man in the Dark (a witty choice informally eyeing the daunting task ahead), which charges into a Zeppelin medley jam (formally foreshadowing the haunting epic of the second set). Give Warren Haynes, Govt Mule and Audley Freed their confident due they have scaled the weird occult mountain that leads to the Houses of the Holy, returning with some sort of lasting rock triumph and their souls intact.