Classic Albums Live will perform one of the band’s most notable albums at Wolf Trap
Craig Martin is a performer and music lover who one day got fed up listening to the way some bands butchered classic songs.
“I got sick of hearing music that I cared about so much desecrated by these nasty tribute bands who were up there spending more time on their wigs and wings, rather than learning how to play their instruments,” he said. “This music is so important to us that it became part of our DNA. We raised kids alongside this music, we got married alongside this music, and this is our soundtrack. So, when it’s messed around with, I considered this my call-to-arms.”
He gathered some of the greatest musicians he could find and created Classic Albums Live, which perform some of the most popular rock albums in history as close to the original sound as possible.
“I didn’t care what the people looked like—as long as they could hit it, that was good enough for me,” Martin said. “It’s musical purity.”
Among the albums in the band’s repertoire are Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon,” The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors.”
“I basically choose my favorite albums, and what I like, and fortunately, what I like seems to be what everyone likes,” Martin said. “That’s basically the knockout, cannonball albums that have survived and endured the test of time.”
Each concert brings in different professional musicians, depending on the sound they are working to recreate and the album they are covering.
“This isn’t a cover band or impressionist, the goal is hyper-focused on the sound of the music itself and performing it with professional musicians,” he said. “I strongly adhere to the note-by-note mentality. It’s an honor to be able to recreate them live.”
On September 1, the members of Classic Albums Live will perform what many consider the greatest rock album of all time—Led Zeppelin’s “Led Zeppelin IV.” Released in 1971, the legendary recording features classic hits such as “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll.”
With this being the 50th anniversary of the album, Martin knew it was the perfect show to bring to Wolf Trap, playing the album in full, note for note, cut for cut. The concert will offer no gimmicks or impressions, just the music of Led Zeppelin IV standing all on its own.
“We have some of the world’s best musicians at this show, and to name them is kind of pointless because no one has heard of any of us, and that’s kind of a secret weapon for us, because we really are careful to try and not impart any personality with this music,” Martin said. “Musicians come to me because they are so drawn to this so I really get amazing musicians.”
Although Led Zeppelin was a four-piece band, the Wolf Trap show will have nine people on stage, because all the overdubs from the album need to be covered to create the exact sound.
For instance, with “Rock and Roll,” the second track on the album, if someone sees this song performed in a bar, there will be one guy on guitar, yet there are three guitar tracks on the album, and they are all pretty distinct.
“To get that sounding properly, you need to have three guitar players,” Martin said. “And you need a drummer who knows how to play a shuffle. These are minutiae details that we pay close attention to so we get it right.”
Another example is when Classic Albums Live performs Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” album, there’s a scream that is faintly heard in the background at the end of “Bring the Boys Back Home” and that’s included in their version of the song on stage.
“There are always about 10 people in the audience who are so glad we did that scream, though it may be lost on everyone else,” Martin said. “Those 10 people are who I am playing to. Those who can appreciate our attention to detail.”
Once the album is performed in entirety, the band will take a break and then return to the Wolf Trap stage to do another set of Led Zeppelin songs—deep tracks and fan favorites.
“It’s going to be a beautiful night at one of the most beautiful venues around so I encourage people to come out and enjoy a positive night of music,” Martin said. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this time in our lives than gathering together and hitting some Zep together.”