Picks and Pans Review: Un-Led-Ed

updated 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Dread Zeppelin

Elvis Presley, Jimmy Cliff and Led Zeppelin: separated at birth? Yes, it could be true, or at least it sounds that way on the debut album by Dread Zeppelin. This L.A.-based sextet fires a slingshot into rock history by playing reggae versions of Led Zeppelin songs as an Elvis impersonator sings the lyrics. Yah, mon, it's blue-suede weirdness, thank you very much.

The novelty of Dread Zeppelin's style works in the band's favor. By any standards, it's a rare experience to hear Zeppelin's "Black Dog" gliding reggae-style into Elvis's "Hound Dog," complete with a chorus of barking dogs. Another strange thrill comes when Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" crashes into Elvis's "Heartbreak Hotel." Yet even the band's genuine musical skill can't make up for the limits of the joke. A whole lotta slow, deadly beat drains the life from "Whole Lotta Love" and other Zeppelin classics. Though lead singer Tortelvis pumps up the comedy at Dread's live shows with his lamb-chop sideburns, tacky leisure suits and excessive jewelry, his energy wanes on vinyl. The songs and the jokes become repetitious and tedious.

Former Led Zep leader Robert Plant has said he prefers Dread Zeppelin to some bands that imitate him seriously. Maybe, but listening to old Zeppelin, Jimmy Cliff and Elvis records still beats hearing them all shook up. (IRS)

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