Bonerama, Bonerama Plays Zeppelin (Basin Street Records)


The world is overcrowded with reverent tributes to tired classic-rock material, but Bonerama’s
all–Led Zeppelin album isn’t one of those. It’s full of audacious arrangements that turn the
classic tunes every which way, yet remain entirely true to the Zeppelin spirit.

Bonerama have been doing this sort of thing for a while (“The Ocean” from 2007’s Bringing It
Home is here as a bonus track), but a full album gives them a better chance to flex their
arrangement muscles. A few songs are still done in more-or-less faithful Zep style, with the horns taking the guitar parts—fair enough, you can’t do a Zeppelin album without some rock ‘n’ roll. But the most transformed songs are also the most fun: Zep’s mightiest riff-rocker, “Heartbreaker,” starts out as Meters funk but gives you a tuba solo when Jimmy Page’s unaccompanied guitar part would begin; the song’s central instrumental gets into some out-there improv before the funk kicks in again. “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” also gets an infusion of funk—and remember, this used to be an acoustic number—while “The Crunge” becomes a more spot-on James Brown homage than Zeppelin could pull off in 1973. “When the Levee Breaks” is dense and ominous, as a New Orleans version needs to be, while “Good Times Bad Times” throws some Mardi Gras Indian
percussion onto John Bonham’s original drum part.

This album would make a good bridge into New Orleans music for Zeppelin fans, though a few
will probably take it as sacrilege. Yet the Zeps themselves have always preferred it when
musicians take creative liberties with their music. Next time I’m at a Bonerama show, I’ll be
checking to see if Robert Plant has snuck in incognito.