In the past five years, nearly every classic-rock band (and Clay Aiken) has had its songs arranged for classical instruments and made into tribute records. Even Kiss has a string-quartet tribute to its music. Record companies seem more interested than ever in exploiting the licenses of back-catalog holdings while testing untapped markets, and it's led to some sedate interpretations to be enjoyed with the whole family. You'll giggle at Grandma when she hums along with "Lick It Up" at Sunday dinner.
When it came time for the folks at Vitamin Records to hammer out a Led Zeppelin tribute, special consideration was apparently given. A young composer by the name of Benjamin Levine chose nine songs from the Zep discography, appropriately arranged them for a Baroque chamber ensemble and conducted the Misty Mountain Consort for the recording of Chamber Maid: The Baroque Tribute to Led Zeppelin. Surprisingly, this isn't the conceptual nightmare you've come to expect from cheap marketing tricks. It's strange listening, to be sure, but it actually works on a few levels. The members of Led Zeppelin, when compared to many of their peers, wrote songs from an enlightened perspective, and so the songs have a malleable, universal quality. Zep was the great rock band, the archetype from which many derived their shtick, but the group went beyond writing great rock music: Zep wrote great music, period. Baroque Led Zeppelin makes sense. This becomes all the more apparent in MMC's interpretations, skillfully delivered and tastefully produced. Still, you may be hard-pressed to come up with activities (other than chuckling) to match the sounds on Chamber Maid. It seems perfect for reclining in a hot bath of lavender flowers as you wait for your afternoon opium suppository to kick in. If you're going to listen to Baroque music, you've got to have Baroque fun, right?