Record Store Day 2019 did not overwhelm me. In fact, I only picked up one album (Soccer Mommy) that day. This Mastodon 10″ album was on my I-will-buy-it-if-they-have-it-but-I-doubt-any-will-be-left-so-I-am-not-going-to-be-sad-that-I-did-not-get-it list.
On the Monday after Record Store Day, someone uploaded a vinyl rip of this album and I realized just how wrong I was; I knew that I absolutely must own it.
TO THE DISCOGS MACHINE!
Shout out to Guestroom Records in Louisville, KY for being one of the good guys and selling their Record Store Day leftovers online for the same price as in store.
In case you don’t know the story, Mastodon’s manager passed away and they played Stairway at his funeral. One of the guys from Gojira filmed it on his phone and encouraged the band to go into the studio to record a polished version of the song.
This record is incredible. Musically, Mastodon delivers a faithful rendition of Stairway to Heaven. This is not a band trying to take a classic and make it their own; I don’t have a problem with that idea, but this is one of those songs that should be left alone for the most part. There is no need to reinvent the wheel with this song.
Don’t get me wrong, Stairway to Nick John is appropriately heavy where it needs to be. This is Mastodon after all.
Vocally, this cover is fantastic. Brann Dailor is laid back and a little subdued at times in his approach to this classic and at no point during this song do you feel that it is just another rock n roll singer doing his Robert Plant impression.
Side B is the gem. Side B of Stairway to Nick John is the cell phone recording from the funeral. The audio is OK sounding, but it is not great. However, that is secondary.
There is a weight and a reverence in this recording; you can feel the heaviness that was in the air as these men honor the passing of their friend. It truly is extraordinary.
The crowd at the funeral seem to be stunned. At first, they don’t clap or cheer. But then, there is a slow realization of what they have just witnessed: A top-tier rock band paying their respects to a mentor and friend in a profoundly meaningful and touching way.