Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin For Badgeholders Only (LA Forum, 21st – 27th June 1977)


Empress Valley’s massive box set For Badge Holders Only caught collectors by surprise. Nowhere was it ever mentioned this was in production. This is an eighteen disc plus one DVD box set. It has two designs on the front cover and each is limited to only one hundred fifty copies. This is the third time a box set with Led Zeppelin’s eleventh tour Los Angeles shows has been released. The first was A Week For Badge Holders (Tarantura T19CD-BOX (T19CD-1~19)). At the time this was a startling achievement and is an extremely rare piece. However Tarantura used the first hour of the June 14th New York show for the June 22nd tape for some reason. After this Power & Glory (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol. 50-55). This was a solid set but for the June 22nd show they edited in ”Ten Years Gone” from an alternate source for the June 21st show. Also they used some high generation tapes which is noticeable especially on the June 25th concert.

In the intervening decade since the release of the Diagrams set there have been a multitude of releases of the four Millard taped concerts. In the past two years both Wendy and Scorpio issued these shows and both released the Eddie show twice. This set finds partial redemption in issuing the first complete version of the June 22nd show on silver for the first time. Empress Valley are also trying hard to associate this with their excellent Deep Throat boxset, which covers the three Los Angeles shows from 1975 and now commands high prices. What follows are brief comments regarding each of the shows in this set.

Listen To This, Eddie!!! (EVSD-465 ~ 467)

The Forum Inglewood California USA June 21th 1977

Disc 1 : The Song Remains The Same / Sick Again / Nobody’s Fault But Mine / Over The Hills And Far Away / Since I’ve Been Loving You / No Quarter
Disc 2 : Ten Years Gone / The Battle Of Ever More / Going To California / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr -Aur Stomp / White Summer – Black Mountain Side / Kashmir
Disc 3 : Out On The Tiles – Moby Dick / Guitar Solo – Achilles Last Stand / Stairway To Heaven / Whole Lotta Love / Rock And Roll

No tape is so revered as Millard’s from the first show of the Los Angeles stint. Empress Valley themselves have issued this three times before this set. In the box set they utilize again their definitive 2003 Christmas remaster but with a significant boost in volume. With the increase in volume comes also an increase in hiss and it leaves the tape very sterile and cold feeling.

Thirty Years Gone (EVSD-468 ~ 470)

The Forum Inglewood California USA June 22th 1977

Disc 1 : The Song Remains The Same / Sick Again / Nobody’s Fault But Mine / In My Time Of Dying / Since I’ve Been Loving You / No Quarter
Disc 2 : Ten Years Gone / The Battle Of Ever More / Going To California / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr -Aur Stomp / White Summer – Black Mountain Side / Kashmir
Disc 3 : Out On The Tiles – Moby Dick / Over The Hills And Far Away / Guitar Solo – Achilles Last Stand / Stairway To Heaven / Whole Lotta Love / Rock And Roll

This is the selling point for the box. Previous releases of this show used an alternate tape source from the June 21st show for “Ten Years Gone.” But Empress Valley finally get it right by using an alternate tape source for the correct show. The sound quality is fair to good and the volume is boosted significantly again producing a harsh effect. To make matters worse there are digital ticks during “Rock And Roll” sounding like there is a malfunction with the cd player. Maybe EV will correct this flaw but hopefully another label will master and edit these tapes properly in the future because this is a fascinating concert.

For Badge Holders Only (EVSD-471 ~ 473)

The Forum Inglewood California USA June 23th 1977

Disc 1 : The Song Remains The Same / Sick Again / Nobody’s Fault But Mine / Over The Hills And Far Away / Since I’ve Been Loving You / No Quarter
Disc 2 : Ten Years Gone / The Battle Of Ever More / Going To California / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr -Aur Stomp / White Summer – Black Mountain Side / Kashmir / Trampled Underfoot
Disc 3 : Out On The Tiles – Moby Dick / Guitar Solo – Achilles Last Stand / Stairway To Heaven / Whole Lotta Love / Rock And Roll

This is a mix of sources using the Millard tape as the base and an alternate source for the opening four songs. The volume again is boosted very high on this making the highs sound crispy. Hiss is also present and the right channel drops out in “Kashmir” and about half of “Trampled Under Foot.” This defect isn’t found on any other release. The recent Scorpio release of this show remains the definitive version.

Badge Holders Annual Meeting (EVSD-474 ~ 476)

The Forum Inglewood California USA June 25th 1977

Disc 1 : The Song Remains The Same / Sick Again / Nobody’s Fault But Mine / In My Time Of Dying / Since I’ve Been Loving You / No Quarter
Disc 2 : Ten Years Gone / The Battle Of Ever More / Going To California / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr -Aur Stomp / White Summer – Black Mountain Side / Kashmir / Trampled Underfoot
Disc 3 : Out On The Tiles – Moby Dick / Guitar Solo – Achilles Last Stand / Stairway To Heaven / Whole Lotta Love / Communication Breakdown

Some consider this to be the best concert of the week. There is a relaxed feel to the show probably due to a night off for the band. Both Scorpio and Wendy released this tape in the past couple of years and the best sounding version of all is Saturday Night’s Alright. Empress Valley’s Badge Holders Annual Meeting provides the biggest difference compared to previous issues. EV sounds very hissy and distorted and is painful to listen to. It sounds like they used the horrible version of the tape from the TDOLZ set and cranked the volume up extremely high.

That’s All Right Mama (EVSD-477 ~ 479)

The Forum Inglewood California USA June 26th 1977

Disc 1 : The Song Remains The Same / Sick Again / Nobody’s Fault But Mine / Over The Hills And Far Away/ Since I’ve Been Loving You / No Quarter
Disc 2 : Ten Years Gone / The Battle Of Ever More / Going To California / That’s All Right Mama / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr -Aur Stomp / White Summer – Black Mountain Side / Kashmir
Disc 3 : Out On The Tiles – Moby Dick / Guitar Solo – Achilles Last Stand / Stairway To Heaven / It’ll Be Me

This show hasn’t been released since TDOLZ issued It’ll Be Me from the Power & Glory boxset and is due for an overhaul. Of the six nights this is the worst sounding. Compared to the TDOLZ, EV have increased the volume making it sound much more distorted and harsh. This is a hard tape to get through as it is though and EV did a good job in making it somewhat presentable.

Just Can’t Be Satisfied (EVSD-480 ~ 482)

The Forum Inglewood California USA June 27th 1977

Disc 1 : The Song Remains The Same / Sick Again / Nobody’s Fault But Mine / Over The Hills And Far Away/ Since I’ve Been Loving You / No Quarter
Disc 2 : Ten Years Gone / The Battle Of Ever More / Going To California / Just Can’t Be Satisfied / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr -Aur Stomp / Dancing Days / White Summer – Black Mountain Side / Kashmir / Trampled Underfoot
Disc 3 : Out On The Tiles – Moby Dick / Guitar Solo – Achilles Last Stand / Stairway To Heaven / Whole Lotta Love / Rock And Roll

Of the six nights in this box, this is the one that can be considered an improvement. Compared to Full Imperial Collapse on Wendy, Just Can’t Be Satisfied is brighter with less hiss and very clear. If all the tapes in this set were like this, For Badge Holders Only would be an instant classic. Empress Valley should really release this show alone since this a dramatic improvement.

Given the expense of this boxset, two shows out of six is a poor average. Collectors use the terms “mess” and “disaster” when referring to this and it is a shame because the packaging is gorgeous. It looks like this boxset was rushed for some reason and one wonders why? Although the hope is that this will sell out instantly and be a huge ticket item in the future like Deep Throat, this will actually follow the path of the Destroyers boxset which was also flawed and is found in the bargain bins.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin For Badge Holders Only | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus (Madison Square Garden, June 1977)


Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – June 10th, 1977

Disc 1 (65:16): The Song Remains The Same, The Rover/ Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over The Hills And Far Away, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (73:18): Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Out On The Tiles / Moby Dick

Disc 3 (46:41): Heartbreaker, guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is an early TDOLZ release documenting the third of third of six nights in New York. They use only one tape source which is distant and noisy but surprisingly clear and enjoyable. It is very good at capturing the party atmosphere in the Garden that night and presents an accurate aural picture of what it was like going to rock concerts in New York in the seventies. A subsequent release of this show can be found on Riot In Thunderstorm (Electric Magic EMC-018A/B/C) which uses a second tape to fill in some of the cuts on the first.

But according to the bootledz website, “Overall EMCs splices add almost 2.5 minutes of music and a minute of tape between songs, but many are just pointless. The spliced introduction could possibly exist only to mislead.” On the TDOLZ there is a cut and repeat before “No Quarter” (repeating the same introduction) and a cut at 8:55, a cut and repeat before “Going To California” (again repeating some dialogue), a cut at the beginning of “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” cuts before and after “Moby Dick.”

The imperfections are secondary to the fun performance by the band. This is another legendary night in this inconsistent tour. A deafening roar starts the tape before the band play “The Song Remains The Same” and “Sick Again.” Plant is very chatty on this night and greats “our friends from Wales. You may have all come from Wales once upon a time.” This show contains a significant change in the set list early on by dropping “In My Time Of Dying.”

“This is a song that might come as a surprise for the people in the second row who’ve been here a couple of nights. So it might come as a surprise to us cause we haven’t done it for about two and a half years until tonight” Plant says as he introduces “Over The Hills And Far Away.” It hadn’t been played since Earls Court in 1975 and is a welcome change in the set and would alternate with “In My Time Of Dying” for the rest of the summer. The atmospheric recording makes the guitar solo sound massive as the notes bounce off the walls of the Garden.

Plant loses his place as he begins to introduce ”No Quarter” but realizes they are about to play “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” referred to as “an English blues.” Plant’s voice is in perhaps the best shape of the tour as he bravely hits some of the high notes. “No Quarter” is a song with ”strange vibes” and produces the first moments of tension in the show.

John Paul Jones plays a very confident and happy sounding solo on grand piano. The cut in the middle eliminates he transition from the first to the second half of the solo, but Page produces mysterious sounding riffs by the end. If the recording were better this would enter the argument concerning the most creative versions of this song.

“Ten Years Gone” is the result of “a little bit of trial and error at rehearsals.” Plant introduces Jones’ triple necked guitar and dedicates he song to David Northover, one of the band’s administrative assistants. Page almost loses control the the solo but recovers nicely to deliver an intense version of the difficult track. Bonham is introduced for ”The Battle Of Evermore” and Plant has great fun introducing Jones, saying, “This is a song that ah, let’s just say, had a young lady assisting on vocals and we managed to convince the young lady in the group with us to do the singing tonight as well. It features John Paul Jones on vocals. John Paul Jones on vocals?”

There is a long delay before “Going To California” and Plant rambles on, saying, “Some technical problems with some of the equipment now. Two of the crew members. At this point you see the unique assistance of John Paul Jones’s three necked acoustic instrument because he now switches from guitar straight to mandolin. How many people have got a three necked instrument? Not a lot. Read Cream magazine and you’ll read all about it. John Paul Jones still plays backgammon. This is a song about um, it’s about what happens when you get over the Misty Mountain.”

The transition from ”White Summer” to “Kashmir” produces one of the biggest reactions in the set. After the drum solo they play “Heartbreaker” for the first time on the tour. It would be played only a handful more times afterwards and is thrown in when the band are feeling particularly confident. The fuzz of the guitar solo works very well with the limitations of the recording and several firecrackers are thrown which are very well timed with the music.

Almost makes one think they were intentional. Before ”Stairway To Heaven” Plant wonders why there are gentlemen with blue hats who just walked in. The tape cuts out in the middle of ”Rock And Roll” and makes one wonder if they came back to play ”Black Dog” as a second encore. Given hot loose the show is, it isn’t out of the question.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is packaged in a gorgeous glossy cardboard sleeve with several MSG photos from the tour. This is a good way to have just the one source but given the problems with the EMC version pointed out above, the definitive version of this great concert has yet to be released.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Rock n Roll Circus | , | Leave a comment

Santana Caravanserai (1972)


Before absorbing the near-unanimous acclaim earned over the years by Santana’s 1972 studio masterpiece, the band had meant little more to me than a ubiquitous presence on the AM radio dial in my high school days during the 1970s. Many decades down the road, I will now officially and in a public forum kick myself in the rump for ignoring too long a superlative musical experience. Older and wiser, so forth and so on…

Jazz-Rock Fusion was of course the hot buzzword in the early ’70s, as spearheaded by such pioneering groups like Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return To Forever, all formed (and not coincidentally) by alumni of the Miles Davis “Bitches Brew” sessions (and likewise all bands that flew beneath my own shortsighted radar at the time).

Carlos Santana never played alongside the legendary jazz trumpeter, but he was certainly a fan. And his eponymous band brought something new and unique to the freshly-set Fusion banquet: a strong sense of Latin rhythm and rock ‘n’ roll intensity, together reaching its highest combined level of expression on the band’s fourth studio effort. From the evocative simplicity of the Near-Eastern cover art to the long, unresolved fade-out of the last, furious jam (with discreet orchestral accompaniment) during “Every Step of the Way”, this is a near perfect recording, and a timeless reminder of what music is meant to be.

It’s also the one Santana album rarely acknowledged in any of the band’s numerous greatest-hit packages and best-of compilations. And for good reason: even with the occasional vocals it still plays like an organic, entirely instrumental concept album, and the songs (to their credit) all lack the top-40 radio airplay appeal of hits like “Evil Ways” and “Black Magic Woman”.

In other words, it’s an album aiming at something higher than simple commercial success. Don’t expect to hear any singing at all until well after the twelve-minute mark, and then just a brief interlude (during “Just In Time To See the Sun”) before the more assured salsa-rock fusion of “Song of the Wind”, featuring some of Santana’s most relaxed yet ecstatic soloing (on an album already overflowing with uncomplicated musical joy).

The entire effort glows with the same, pervasive mood of unforced optimism. Check out some of the track titles (“All the Love in the Universe”: hardly a jukebox-friendly moniker). Note too the relaxed, atonal saxophone intro and near-subliminal layering of acoustic bass and percussive allsorts in “Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation”, so reminiscent, at least to this aging Crimhead, of the chorus to “Formentera Lady”, from the King Crimson album “Islands”, released one year earlier.

Strictly speaking, this album shouldn’t even be considered Jazz, or Rock, or Jazz-Rock. Like the fusions of MILES DAVIS at the time, it resists any easy-fit categorizing, and ought to be heard as nothing more or less than Music, purely and (not always so) simply.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Santana Caravanserai | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Live At Southampton University Working Tapes (January 1973)


Live At Southampton University Working Tapes (EVSD-493/494)

Old Refectory, Southampton University, Southampton, England – January 22nd, 1973

Disc 1: Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed & Confused

Disc 2: Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love (incl. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Boogie Chillun’, (You’re So Square) I Don’t Care, Let’s Have A Party, I Can’t Quit You), Heartbreaker, Thank You, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown

Live At Southampton University Working Tapes is the second silver release of the January 22 1973 show, following closely after The Great Lost Live Album on Nasty Music. Empress Valley didn’t tweak the tape as much as the other version and as a result is much closer to the version posted online with a thick, heavy bottom to the sound. In fact the timings of the discs are almost identical to the internet version. The dropouts and channel fluctuations are still present, as are cuts.

The most noticeable are right after “Since I’ve Been Loving You” at 7:45 in the track right before Page’s “Old McDonald’s Farm” doodle, before “Stairway To Heaven” which eliminates Plant’s commentary (his introduction to the song is present, but it sounds as if he was saying more as the tape cuts in), and at 19:47 in the “Whole Lotta Love” medley, cutting out a bit of the guitar solo during the “I Can’t Quit You” section.

The sound quality on this professionally mixed multi-track recording is excellent and one’s corresponding personal taste will be the deciding factor between the two silver releases of this show. Those who favor the fatter sound will enjoy the Empress Valley more, while those who favor a clearer treble will favor the Nasty Music version. Neither of the two releases are offensive to the tape source and are both excellent titles.

This show was added to the itinerary after the tour was scheduled, and reflects the band’s desire to play in smaller venues closer to the audience. They scheduled a “Back To The Clubs” tour two years prior, but the popularity of the band coupled with the scarcity of tickets guaranteed hard feelings by those who were not able to catch them on that tour. When a small gig was scheduled for this, their longest tour of the U.K., they made sure there would be no problems by playing the Student Union after a gig at the 2100 seat Gaumont Theater.

There is a different tone to the show compared to others in England and on the continent in March. But this is primarily due to the different venue in which they performed. Zeppelin’s live sound is heavily dependent on volume and in a small venue such as the Old Refectory, the volume needed to be diminished. Instead of the bombastic theatrics that are needed to get the point across in an arena, shows like this one rely upon intimacy and subtlety.

As a result the results are much more subdued than others. Plant’s voice is fine; Page plays well as does the rhythm section. The professionally mixed recording, despite the flaws mentioned above, is one of the best sounding Led Zeppelin titles available.

A characteristic it shares with all of Zeppelin’s legendary concerts is the building of the momentum throughout the show and ending with extended encores. The first half of the show is good but with some ragged moments. “Dancing Days” is weak; there are some missed cues during “The Song Remains The Same,” and Page plays out of sync with Plant during the “San Francisco” section of “Dazed & Confused.” The show becomes interesting during that song’s long improvisation part with the band hitting a deep groove right before the call-and-response part.

The guitar solo in “Stairway To Heaven” reaches an intensity that is common for this tour, but is great to hear in such a clear recording. After a medley in “Whole Lotta Love” which reaches more than twenty-minutes, the encores seem to take on a life of its own. “Heartbreaker” is one of the more common songs played as an encore. “Thank You,” which is preceded by a mellotron solo, isn’t common, having appeared only in the opening night of the tour on November 30th in Newcastle and the first London show.

The mellotron gives “Thank You” a softer feel as opposed to the organ used on record and in other live arrangements. The five minute prelude to the song contains references to, as LedMan points out, both “In The Light” and the 1968 Richard Harris hit “MacArthur Park.”

To have such a clear recording of this rarity makes the show worth having. Working Tapes is packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve with several photos from the tour.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Live At Southampton University | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Paris Olympia 1969


L’Olympia Theater, Paris, France – October 10th, 1969

Introduction, Good Times Bad Times / Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, White Summer / Black Mountainside, You Shook Me, How Many More Times

Led Zeppelin’s first full year is in general very well documented with excellent sounding audience recordings, soundboards and radio broadcasts. The slight exception to this are the months surrounding the release of their second LP in the autumn. Besides the great sounding tapes from Winterland in San Francisco in November, there really are not many good tapes in circulation, which might be the reason why silver manufacturers have all but ignored this Zeppelin period in the last decade (Wendy released the San Francisco tapes and Empress Valley released the Lyceum show, but that is it).

The October 10th Paris show was known to have been professionally taped and broadcast on “Musicorama” on Europe 1. Nobody, it seems, taped it off the air in 1969 and the master tapes never surfaced either. It was finally rebroadcast on Europe 2 on Friday, December 7th, 2007 in anticipation of the reunion the following Monday. Wendy use a tape straight from the radio broadcast, presenting the entire seventy odd minute show including the French commentary scattered six times throughout the show.

Knowing this would be released, the station wanted to ensure nobody would have a clean copy of the show. Since some of the comments occur during the actual music, trying to remove it would also affect the music so Wendy wisely left them alone. The set begins with the devastating opening bars of “Good Times, Bad Times” serving as a prelude to “Communication Breakdown.” Only at these shows was this arrangement used as they were trying to achieve the most overwhelming sound they could muster.

This tape includes the earliest reference to “Heartbreaker” introduced by Robert Plant, saying, “We’d like to carry on with something on the new Led Zeppelin II album, which is eventually coming out in England and America. It’s called ‘Heartbreaker.’” This version sounds close to the studio arrangement and Page uses heavy distortion during the guitar solo. Page’s ”White Summer” was still played at this time and is introduced by Plant saying, “right now we’d like to feature…” Page can be heard behind him saying, “wanking dog.” Plant continues, “wanking dog…Jimmy Page on guitar. This is a combination of several things. It goes under the collective title, as Percy Thrower would say, ‘White Summer,’ Jimmy Page.” What follows is a virtuoso epic crammed into ten minutes.

“How Many More Times” is stretched to over twenty minutes long. The long improvisation starts off very dark and includes references to Holst’s “Mars, The Bringer Of War” and a very slow version of The Yardbirds’ “Over Under Sideways Down.” Some people shout to Plant while he’s in the middle of “The Hunter” and causes him to say, “shut up!” There is a long “Boogie Chillun’” part with a reference to Ainsley Dunbar and “Needle Blues” where Plant sings, “I got my needle in you babe, and you seem to think it’s alright. Why don’t you roll over baby, see what it’s like on the other side. I think that was Brownie McGhee.”

Paris Olympia 1969 is packaged in a standard single jewel case with thick glossy cardboard inserts with photos from the actual show and an obi strip for the side. There have already been four silver releases of this tape and since they all come from the same source (“air check master”) the differences between them will be subtle. The label use as liner notes comments made about the tape from an online posting. With that said, Wendy is very good and is a worthy title to own for this great new concert.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Paris Olympia 1969 | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin One More For The Road (Madison Square Garden, September 1970)


Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – September 19th, 1970 (late show)

Disc 1 (70:35): Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Dazed & Confused, Bring It On Home, That’s The Way, Bron-Y-Aur, Since I’ve Been Loving You, organ solo, Thank You

Disc 2 (74:11): What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Out On The Tiles, Communication Breakdown, rock medley, How Many More Times

Led Zeppelin ended a successful second year by beating the Beatles in the Melody Maker poll for best group and by making their debut at Madison Square Garden with two shows on September 19th. Holding a press conference the day before, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had to field many Beatle related questions and try to explain their popularity to an ignorant press (which can be seen on the official DVD).

An audience recording of the early show had been circulating for some time and was pressed by several different labels, but the evening show only surfaced several years ago by the taper who thought he attended the afternoon show. It was a surprise to hear the evening show in such good quality.

Labels were quick to press the tape on silver with the first being Final Daze (ZEP-MSG-01/2) followed by Shout That Loud (Electric Magic EMC-024 A/B), Requiem (Empress Valley EVSD – 288/289), and in a boxset with the afternoon show on Have You Ever Experienced? (Tarantura TCD-17-1~4). One More For The Roadis the most recent release of the tape several years after the excitement and is as good as the very best version of the tape available.

It runs at the correct speed (the first couple of releases ran a bit too fast) and the sound on Boogie Mama isn’t as harsh and distorted as on the others. The best of the four early releases was the Tarantura box which sold out very quickly and is impossible to find these days and Boogie Mama’s is just as good and can be considered definitive.

They are introduced as the most popular group when they hit the stage and the intensity of the opening songs “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker” is a harbinger to a legendary performance and riles the audience up so much that Plant says, “we didn’t expect you to shout that loud really” before introducing “Dazed And Confused as something from the first time that we ever managed to get to the Fillmore East, and this is the second number we did that night. So we’d like to do it again.”

After “Bring It On Home” Zeppelin play a short two song acoustic set, reflecting the trend of their soon to be released third album.

While Page tunes is guitar Plant speaks about the big event from the previous day, saying, ”Right, it seems a rather apt time to start talking about things that I’m sure that the people we talk about wouldn’t want said, but yesterday a rather uncomfortable thing happened for everybody. A great loss came about for the whole of the music world. And we would like to think that you, as well as us, are very sorry that Jimi Hendrix went. I spoke to a close friend of his about half an hour ago, and he said that he would probably prefer that everybody get together and have a really good time, rather than talk about it. So we’d like to get on and try to make everybody happy, right?”

The New York audience grows rather impatient during the set while Plant explains what “Bron-Y-Aur,” Page’s solo number, means saying “It’s the name of a small cottage in the south hills of Snowdonia, in Wales. The Welsh mountains. And the name is a Welsh name, which translated into English American, means Golden Breast. Which leaves a lot to the imagination. This cottage is placed upon the side of a hill cause every morning when the sun comes up, from a distance, the slate stone looks like gold.”

Thankfully the song is very short and they return to the heavier music with the third unreleased song in a row ”Since I’ve Been Loving You.” John Paul Jones plays a strange organ solo as a prelude to “Thank You.”

After an eleven minute drum solo in “Moby Dick” they launch into a twenty-three minute medley in “Whole Lotta Love” that includes many rarities such as Arthur Crudup’s ”Look On Yonder’s Wall,” Robert Johnson with “Dust My Broom” and “Baby What You Want Me To Do.” This medley also contains their only reference to Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” and the only time “Train Kept A Rollin’” appears in a medley.

To cap off great tour they play a very long encore set beginning with ”Out On The Tiles” played for the second and last time which segues into ”Communication Breakdown” which contains a long bass solo by John Paul Jones and a reference to “Gallows Pole,” also from the forthcoming third album.

The night is extended with a medley based upon Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It” which includes their only reference to Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock.” The audience doesn’t stop shouting so they reward them with a fifteen minute version of the old set closer “How Many More Times” introduced by Plant as “one that we should have done.” The medley includes Chuck Berry’s “No Money Down” and a long version of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill,” a standard that made several appearances on this tour.

Given the very good sound quality, the kinetic playing and rarities makes this one of the all time great Zeppelin concerts. Boogie Mama have done a very good job in presenting this show in an affordable edition. They employ a tri-fold digipack with many photos from the actual gig on the inside.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin One More For The Road | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Disturbance House (Alexandra Palace London, December 1972)


Venue : Alexandra Palace, London, England – December 23rd, 1972

Setlist : Disc 1: Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2: Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love (includes The Crunge, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Boogie Chillun’, Let’s Have A Party, Heartbreak Hotel, I Can’t Quit You), Heartbreaker

Review :
Disturbance House is Wendy’s companion volume to Riot House. Unlike the December 22nd show this never saw a vinyl release but first surfaced commercially on Merry Christmas Mr. Jimmy (LS-7208/7209) on Lemon Song and later on the three disc set The Titanic (IQ-016/17/18) on Image Quality. Lemon Song moved “Dazed & Confused” out of sequence to fit the tape on to two discs (something which really wasn’t necessary).

Image Quality split the show over three discs and used a copy of the tape that ran noticeably too slow, but did put a picture from the actual gig on the front cover.

Wendy sourced this from the first generation; it runs at the correct speed and sounds good but distant. The main culprit is the PA and the venue itself. Reviews afterwards stated that the sound mix was poor past the first thirty rows in the hall and didn’t reach the back at all. In fact the back rows were huddled to the middle but it is as if there is a vacuum above the stage sucking away much of the sound giving it a muddy quality. It is a similar timbre to the previous evening’s first tape source although this one isn’t as dull and flat. It does have some liveliness to it and is very enjoyable as a whole although there is a lot of hiss present.

Like the previous evening this is another hot show. Plant remembers the early days when they played venues where “you got a concussion if you moved” on stage. After saying he wants everybody to be brothers and sisters (“and I hope the press didn’t catch that”) he dedicated “Misty Mountain Hop” to the Manchester CID and suggests they all leave the faucets running after the show. “Dazed & Confused” contains a very violent John Bonham right before the call and response part in the improvisation that even has Plant calling him to cool it.

Plant stops “Stairway To Heaven” and asks the audience to sit down and be quiet since it is “one of the hardest numbers to do with a monkey house going crazy”. Again before “Whole Lotta Love” people shout out requests including “Moby Dick”. Plant replies he’s writing a new drum solo called “The Titanic”. “Heartbreaker” is the only encore and is dedicated to Roy Harper.

The artwork is again an homage to the Hyatt House theme, giving this a red background with photo of Plant from the Sydney, Australia gig. The back has more nice pictures of the Hyatt in Los Angeles and a picture of the band from 1975 continuing the non-sequiturs. Regardless it would be three years before Zeppelin would play in the capital again at Earl’s Court and is a mystery why these shows aren’t more well known.

The shows are very good and makes many wish the complete tapes were in as good as quality as the second source for the December 22nd show and hope that fragment isn’t all that exists. However this release by Wendy is pretty good and is worth having.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Disturbance House | , | Leave a comment

Santana III (1971)


Score! This is actually where Carlos as we know and love him finally arrives. Maybe something clicked, and instead of being based on Rolie’s organ leads, the album finally lets Mr Guitar God take the ninety-nine percent of the cake. Melody-wise, this is not a big improvement over Abraxas, maybe even a retread – very few vocal tunes, just jams, jams and jams. But hey, this might not be a bad thing if we consider that Santana were never a terrific songwriting outfit. On the other hand, most of these jams are amazing.

The band, smoothed and tightened by all the years of success and pressure, strolls along like an enormous unstoppable Panzer, and it almost seems as if nothing can go wrong: these guys will keep punching out their infectious rhythms and lightning-speed solos even on their deathbed. And once they establish a firm groove, Carlos takes the lead and sprinkles us with solos the likes of which the American public hadn’t yet seen.

Perhaps if taken on an emotional level, these solos never reach towards the heights the band would achieve on their next album – the pinnacle of Santana’s “spirituality”. Instead, they just rock. In the meaning “rock the house down”. Santana displays the best of his technical achievements here, everything from speed and cunning vibratos to his mastership over the wah-wah pedal and other special effects. One need only take a single listen to the notorious ‘Toussaint L’Ouverture’ to fall under the charm of this record: no better hymn to the famous Haiti-liberating hero could be thought of than this piece of flaming rage and anger miraculously transformed into a sonic experience.

Even more amazing, Rolie actually rises to the challenge – as if he were peacefully sleeping all this time and just awoken out of his slumber by Carlos. So his organ solos on this record are equally engaging – fast, full of energy and power, fluent as hell, and… whatever. God had apparently found the band somewhere in between 1970 and 1971. Anyway, I was speaking of ‘Toussaint’: that solo passage at the end of the record is the most brilliant piece of music that the band had recorded up to that point, and it’s one of those rare pieces of music that carry you away to rock nirvana when you turn up the volume.

I actually find it hard to discuss the record – it’s not all that diverse, just one archi-energetic five-minute explosion after each other, dragging you with it to the depths of headbanging ecstasy; it’s records like these that define the old “rock = drug” cliche. Virtually every lead by Carlos on the album is a minor gem in its own rights, starting from the extended jams like ‘Toussaint’ or ‘Jungle Strut’ and ending with short, economic outbursts on such few vocal tunes as ‘Everybody’s Everything’ and ‘Everything’s Coming Our Way’.

Actually, the best tune after ‘Toussaint’ on here is the spooky ‘No One To Depend On’, with a steady, yet slightly relaxed mid-tempo groove alternating with gritty leads and faster parts and always sticking right to the point – not a second of time is wasted, it’s all either “building up…” or “break out!”

I mean, if there is any significant flaw on the record – and there sure are a few – it’s that it still has traces of Latin genericness. I could easily do without ‘Guajira’, for instance, which doesn’t exactly deserve all of its running time, or that peachy rumba thing that bookmarks the record. They’re not bad at all, and they’re just as danceable and have just as much headbanging power as the first two records, but I already know all that. I’ve had it before. This is why I welcome the following album even more than this one: Caravanserai would be a completely unique experience.

Still, Santana III is as classy as ‘early Santana’ ever gets, and to top it all, we get three bonus tracks on the CD re-issue, all from the band’s live performances at the Fillmore. Two of these (‘Jungle Strut’ and ‘Batuka’) are reprised from the album itself, and a third one (‘Gumbo’) is not as hot on Santana’s lead playing, but is one of the best examples of the Monster Band having a terrific groove together and leaves you desperately gasping for breath. Classic!

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Santana III | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Mystery Train (San Diego, June 1977)


San Diego Sports Arena, San Diego, CA – June 19th, 1977

Disc 1 (66:17): Opening, The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (51:26): mc, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Mystery Train, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Kashmir

Disc 3 (43:24): guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

The first of nine California shows on Led Zeppelin’s eleventh and final tour of the US was in San Diego on June 19th, 1977. The site of some of the wildest shows on their previous two tours, this has been captured on an excellent sounding, three dimensional stereo audience recording which is the source of numerous silver titles. The earliest can be found on Mystery Train (Electric Junk LZ-1992-2), released in Italy in the early nineties. Subsequent releases include California Mystery Train (Blimp BL-002/3/4), Californian Mystery Train (Silver Rarities SIRA 72/73/74) (which runs slightly fast), Jimmy PY (Akashic AKA-10-1,2), and the two more recent releases Mystery Train (Badgeholders BH003-01-02-03) (which is a bit too loud) and San Diego Mystery Train(Wendy Records WECD-35/36/37) issued within a few weeks of one another in late 2004. The latest Tarantura uses the same tape source with excellent sound.

Zeppelin’s performance in San Diego ranks among the worst on this tour. Plant mentions in the show that Jones has a bad back, but Bonham apparently was suffering from food poisoning and constantly misses breaks and tempo. It is apparent right from the beginning in “The Song Remains The Same” and in the segue into “The Rover,” which is the early electrifying moment, just limps instead. Plant tries to ignore the issues in his greetings, saying, “first of all, I suppose we should try and apologize for not being here the last couple of years, but you know, you know how it went. And secondly it’s very nice to see they finally found you seats here. Isn’t it amazing when they can’t afford a few seats for people? Anyway, this is the earliest that we’ve ever got to a concert, so that means we’ll get to bed early tonight. I’m not going to do much spieling cause I heard the live album, so we’ll just play a lot of music instead.”

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” again has it’s painful moments with Bonham losing track of the breaks. After “In My Time Of Dying,” which includes cries of “oh my Audrey,” Plant focuses his attention on Jones by saying, “now strangely enough we’ve reached a very awkward physically yet again and that is that John Paul Jones is, I don’t know if ever any of you men in the audience ever had any trouble with your backs, remember ‘Saturday night when you just got paid, full about the money you don’t try to save’ [quoting Little Richard’s ‘Rip It Up’] and you get trouble with you back. You understand? You know what I mean? It’s about time he had some sordid press cause he’s got a very bad back, and he’s only by the luck, by the grace of god, is he sitting at the keyboards today. So he’s been lying in bed all day with a hot water bottle under his back, and it’s about time that somebody noted it down in the press that John Paul Jones doesn’t just play backgammon.”

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is a slight improvement over the first four songs, but the performance begins to really improve with “No Quarter.” With Jones and Page taking the lead, Bonham dutifully follows along and they deliver a very interesting improvisation in the middle of the piece which lasts about twenty minutes.

The acoustic set is when they noticeably loosen up a bit. It turns into one of the highlights of the show and was even singled out in the reviews in The San Diego Union the following day where Robert Laurence writes: “At its very best, the show captured what is best about rock ‘n’ roll, its power to stir the human juices and inspire feelings of joyous abandon. At other times, though, particularly during the several extended, pointless solos indulged in by Page, it dragged and sagged and its momentum came to a halt…Oddly, a high moment in the evening came during a quieter time when Plant and Page performed as a blues duo, seated side by side in the middle of the stage, Plant singing (for him) softly, Page strumming a right bluesy acoustic guitar. They opened the set with ‘Mystery Train’ as Plant pointedly imitating the classic Elvis Presley version of the song.” (“Led Zeppelin Puts Extra Roll In Its Rock”).

Before “The Battle Of Evermore” Plant is more interested in listing all of their aliments, speaking about “John Paul Jones’s back,” and saying “I hurt me foot in a soccer match yesterday,” and “Jimmy hurt his hand when a firecracker hit in New York,” and even “JJ Jackson hurt his head on the way.” “Battle” is one of the more interesting renditions on the tour with Plant hitting some of the high notes in the middle. “Going To California” sounds gorgeous and, as Laurence points out in his review, they play a bit of “Mystery Train” as a prelude to “Black Country Woman.” “White Summer” hangs together well and “Kashmir,” despite Bonham’s attempts, also comes off very well. Page and Jones truly take the lead in this song and resist the drummer’s attempt to steer the song into disaster.

“Moby Dick” is thankfully dropped and Page goes straight into his solo. He plays snippets of the Star Spangled Banner, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Dixie before the theremin and violin bow exercises. “Achilles Last Stand” is similar to “Kashmir,” that despite Bohnam’s mistakes comes off very strong and Bonham’s bashing at the end out of frustration adds a level of violence to the piece. Afterwards Plant refers to the song as “that’s a song that tells of a few months of our existence while on the run from the British government. All hail the Jolly Roger. Well San Diego, this song really doesn’t take too much explaining. I guess this is for the holy.”

“Stairway To Heaven” closes the show and the short encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock And Roll” close the event. Overall there are much better concerts from this tour to enjoy, but none more interesting than this which sees the band compensate for another with good results. Tarantura package this in a box with a small poster of the front cover with pretty looking picture discs. This works well for those who want a nice looking version of this common tape.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Mystery Train | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Oxford 1973


New Theatre, Oxford, England – January 7th, 1973

DISC 1 (53:18): 1. Rock And Roll 2. Over The Hills And Far Away 3. Black Dog 4. Misty Mountain Hop 5. Since I’ve Been Loving You 6. Dancing Days 7. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp 8. The Song Remains The Same 9. The Rain Song

DISC 2 (43:47): 1. Dazed And Confused 2. Stairway To Heaven 3. Whole Lotta Love

“Oxford 1973″ is a soundboard tape source with interesting and compelling results. The drums, keyboards and vocals are generally at the forefront. “Rock And Roll” has a bouncy and new-wave beat with Bonham establishing pace from the onset. “Over The Hills And Far Away” features Plant off key with his voice breaking up and with Bonham on fire up front in the mix which serves to highlight his frenzied instrumentation for a change.

The track offers quite a different intoxicating ending. Plant’s voice breaks up some more on ”Black Dog” but we find him trying to compensate while knowing full well of his vocal range limitations tonight. This is further evident in “Misty Mountain Hop” where Plant’s unusual delivery comes across as narrative in style. The track has a swing-like ending. It’s refreshing to hear “Since I’ve Been Loving You” with the keyboards, vocals and drums up front in the mix even as the track is lead by guitar.

“Dancing Days” has swagger right from the start. Plant’s resilient delivery is filled with Bonham’s chops trying to fill the void of Plant’s vocal limitations making this song all the more danceable.

There was a nice measured pacing between tracks for the most part. Plant stated next: “This is a number that used to feature Mr. Bonham on vocals. It’s quite a spot in the night actually. But, I’m afraid that the sweet wine has got the best of his voice so it’s a two man vocal now. It’s about…It’s got nothing to do with that. It’s really about a dog who refused to be bathed, washed and brushed and spends alot of his time doing nothing. Sounds reasonable,…”Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”…You can even be of assistance with the mix”.

It’s given a rowdy delivery with the lone guitar now right up front in the mix by default. It was great to hear the fanatical drum beat up front leading the unrelenting charge for “The Song Remains The Same”. It was also very interesting to hear Bonham swinging and catapulting into gear joining Page’s signature and all too familiar lead guitar.

The shimmering mellotrone in crystal clear clarity was startling and soothing paired with the guitar on “Stairway To Heaven’. Plant was unable to hold the high registers. He introduced “Whole Lotta Love” by stating: “This last number is for our road managers that didn’t get arrested in Sheffield last night”. Plant couldn’t sing this number in proper key as his voice kept breaking up and the track cuts abruptly at 3:58.

Total disc time was 94:05 which falls quite short by Zeppelin standards. However, I found this performance overall to be very enjoyable and unique in its own right due to the unusual mix. There are reviewers who have come forward to state that this release has the guitar buried and that it is a bit bottom heavy. I think what we have here is more of an even-handed performance especially with the guitar a bit buried. I did not find the recording to be bottom heavy at all. The band sounds more balanced and Plant, ironically, sounds better not pushing the envelope.

This release comes with the highest of recommendations given the clarity of the soundboard source and the extraordinary sounding performance of the band.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Oxford 1973 | , | Leave a comment