Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (1997)


Capturing one of the last performances of a very long tour, the band’s only previous official live release, The Song Remains The Same (which accompanied the widely panned movie of the same name) too often saw an exhausted band going through the motions.

Now that these much bootlegged BBC Sessions have finally been released, any lingering doubts about the band’s live prowess have officially been obliterated. Disc one features three BBC sessions from 1969, and these raw performances focus primarily on Led Zeppelin the blues band – albeit the heaviest damn blues band on the planet.

Disc two, which I prefer, comes from a single show recorded live at London’s Paris Cinema studios (which the BBC used regularly to showcase new and current bands at the time) on April 1, 1971, and this disc is notable for some spectacular performances (“Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Thank You”), and for previewing three songs (“Stairway To Heaven,” “Black Dog,” “Going To California”) from the band’s not yet released fourth album.

BBC Sessions shows off Zep’s improvisational essence, and it also features some notable covers, including Sleepy John Estes’ “The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair,” whose main riffs would soon morph into “Moby Dick” (uncredited, of course). The band also tackles Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else” and interrupts “Whole Lotta Love” with an oldies medley containing songs such as John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun’” and Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright Mama.”

Most of these songs come from the first two Led Zeppelin albums, and the performances are uniformly excellent and incredibly powerful, including “Travelling Riverside Blues” again (the same version from the box set). On the downside, Plant tends to go over the top at times with his histrionics, and the inclusion of multiple versions of several songs (including three takes of “Communication Breakdown” on disc one) amounts to overkill.

Granted, there’s some credence to the liner notes’ claim that “the band could play the same song ten nights in a row and come up with ten different versions”, and the two versions of “Dazed And Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love” don’t have a hell of a lot in common with each other (and at least they’re on separate discs), but a better idea would’ve been to pick the best versions of each song, though few will find fault with the performances themselves.

March 13, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions |

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