On paper it sounds like a terrible idea, a bunch of stoners playing reggae versions of Led Zeppelin tunes, fronted by an Elvis Presley impersonator. Leaping from your speakers it’s a different matter. The thing is, Dread Zeppelin could really play. They weren’t just playing for laughs either, they were accomplished musicians with a deep understanding and respect for the music they were playing.
It’s a little too easy to dismiss Dread Zeppelin as purely a joke band, sure their tongues were planted firmly in their cheeks, but thats usually down to the fact that Torte Elvis was playing for laughs, as was the notorious Ed Zeppelin. If their debut Un-Led-Ed had been an instrumental album, it probably wouldn’t have split audiences like it did. The guitar work in particular is worthy of Jimmy Page himself and the production, though very of its time, enhances the music more than it detracts from it.
I think the thing that does gets up the noses of those Led Zeppelin fans who have had a humour by-pass is the fact that some of the songs presented on Un-Led-Ed actually improve on a few of Zeppelin’s originals. Chief among these is the jaw-dropping version of “Your Time Is Gonna Come”, which was so good that Robert Plant apparently hailed it as the best version ever and stated that it was now indisputably Dread Zeppelin’s song. I feel it’s a great shame that while the surviving members of Led Zeppelin appreciated Dread Zeppelin for the brilliant covers act that they were, even now a large proportion of their fans react badly when Dread Zeppelin and Un-Led-Ed are mentioned, yet those same fans are quite happy to spend good money seeing less capable and adventurous tribute acts attempt exact facsimiles of their favourite band’s songs.