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Led Zeppelin Mean Business DVD (Knebworth, August 1979)

zep_knebworthFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Led Zeppelin, after a two year absence from the stage, scheduled one of the biggest comebacks in the history of of rock. With two massive festival appearances in August, it was meant to give the band the biggest amount of exposure on the biggest stage in the British festival circuit. The importance of these shows is best summed up by author Dave Lewis, who wrote: “For many in attendance it was their first ever concert experience. For many it would be the only time that they would get to see Zeppelin perform live. For that reason alone it holds a special affection in their live history. The first show in particular, with so much riding on it, was perhaps the most important they ever played.” (Led Zeppelin: Celebration II: The ‘Tight But Loose’ Files).

The two warm up shows in Copenhagen revealed a band who were not quite ready to headline such massive events, a point that Robert Plant stated shortly after the two when he said: “Knebworth was useless. It was no good at all. It was no good because we weren’t ready to do it, the whole thing was a management decision. It felt like I was cheating myself because I wasn’t as relaxed as I could have been. There was so much expectation there and the least we could have done was to have been confident enough to kill. We maimed the beast for life, but we didn’t kill it. It was good, but only because everybody made it good. There was that sense of event.”

Journalist Chris Welch, fifteen years afterwards, observed: “Fans [at Knebworth] were still supporting the band, but there was definitely a feeling [Led Zeppelin’s] days were numbered. Audience reaction at Knebworth had not been overwhelming and many seemed content to stand and stare, like mesmerized spectators at an alien ritual, a far cry from the hysteria of earlier shows. Robert Plant seemed perplexed at the silence between songs, when you could practically hear a pin drop in that vast, cold field.

“It wasn’t until he led the way into ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Trampled Underfoot’ that roars of appreciation began to echo around Knebworth. Robert’s only comment at the end of the last show was a guarded ‘It’s been quite good.’” The soundboard tapes caused a general re-evaluation of the event which was given another boost when much of the August 4th show was used on the official Led Zeppelin DVD.

Both shows from the professional source have been in circulation for many years and have seen many worthy releases. Cosmic Energy, on of the pioneer labels for video titles, gives the two Knebworth shows a sterling BluRay transfer. Much like with their work on the Earl’s Court and Page & Plant in Irvine videos, there is noticeable improvement in clarity over other versions. The picture is more sharp and the colors are more rich and vibrant.

Cosmic Energy also score high marks for packaging. The carry case come in a brown paper bag (inspired by the In Through The Outdoor marketing campaign) and has many other artifacts such as a miniature reproduction of the program, tickets, button and a poster. It’s one of the best packages Cosmic Energy has ever assembled.

Knebworth Festival, Stevanage, England – August 4th, 1979

BluRay Disc 1: The Song Remains the Same, Celebration Day, (Out On the Tiles intro) Black Dog, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, Hot Dog, Rain Song, White Summer ~ Black Mountainside, Kashmir, Trampled Underfoot, Sick Again, Achilles Last Stand, Jimmy Page solo, In The Evening, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker

The video tape begins with the pre-show canned music before “The Song Remains The Same” and “Celebration Day” both sounding very intense and afterwards Plant sounds very excited greeting an audience in England for many years: ”Well, I said Well. ah ah. I said Well. Good evening. Good evening. It’s nice to see you again. I told Pagey that one or two people would be here, but he said he doubted it very much. Well I can’t tell you how it feels. I think you can probably, you’ve got a good idea anyway, but it’s great.”

“Black Dog” in 1979 sounds very light and punkish compared to versions in the past. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is referred to as the time they “went to Munich and made an album called Presence which had a track on it Charles Schaar Murray really liked…he’s still taking the pills.”

One of the highlights of the show is “No Quarter” where Plant introduces John Paul Jones as “the man from Casablanca…some say a man in his own right, other say Royal Orleans” because of his white suit. At eighteen minutes long, Jones plays a tasteful solo on the electric piano recalling the same unified vision of the Earls Court performances capped off by one of the best solos by Page of the evening. “Ten Years Gone” is also tight. This is also the final time it is played live by Led Zeppelin since it will be dropped the following week.

Before “Hot Dog” Plant addresses all the people who came, from “Comharden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Kidderminster, Freddie Bannister” and laments the delay of the new album, “so the album that came out two weeks ago unfortunately got delayed again. First it was a fortnight ago, and then it was a week ago, now it’s next Friday. It just goes on and on and on. This is a track from it that we should dedicate to trials in America.” He is surprised that people know the title already, “How come you know what it’s called? You’ve been reading about the Swedish and the Danish, hey?”

After the tepid performance he becomes defensive, saying “Yes, still got a sense of humor….So we got all the way here, and now the equipment blows up. Never mind. It’s got to be better than Earls Court. Who’s the person who owned that goat and the little wagon that we saw out there two nights ago, camping out there? Just come round the back with us afterwards, and write an acoustic set with us.”

The guitar solo before “In The Evening” is a bit longer than in Copenhagen with the same fanfare Page used on the 1977 tour. The Götterdammerung introduction is very effective as a prelude to the new track which has its rough patches but is a great live vehicle. Before the final number Plant thanks the crowd for coming, saying “well all you people who’ve come so far, it’s been like a blind date, if you like. We’ve even loosened up and laughing. This is a song I guess we should …so many people who’ve helped us over the years, and no people more important that yourselves who come here on a blind date. This is for you.”

There is no editing in the tape after “Stairway To Heaven” so several minutes of chanting and cheering in audible before the encore set. Each of the Copenhagen shows received one, but both Knebworth shows got three. “Rock And Roll” is the first and following which the crowd serenade the band with “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Plant joins and in twenty years afterwards, in an article in Mojo magazine, Page is quoted saying, “there were tears in the eyes” during that event.

“Whole Lotta Love” is played in the same arrangement premiered in the second Copenhagen show and although Page stumbles at bit in the transition from first verse to middle, comes off fine and “Heartbreaker” closes what is one of the most important gigs in Zeppelin’s career. Plant’s assessment is correct. It is a very good and professional performance that hints at their former prowess but their two year layoff is all too apparent.

Knebworth Festival, Stevanage, England – August 11th, 1979

BluRay Disc 2: The Song Remains the Same, Celebration Day, (Out On the Tiles intro) Black Dog, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Hot Dog, Rain Song, White Summer ~ Black Mountainside, Kashmir, Trampled Underfoot, Sick Again, Achilles Last Stand, Jimmy Page solo, In The Evening, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

After the opening songs Plant shows his bitterness at being slammed in the press after the first Knebworth show, saying, “Well, it didn’t rain, but it rained on us in the week from one or two sources, and we’re just gonna stick it right where it really belongs.” It is immediately obvious that the emotion and intensity of the first week is lacking.

“Over The Hills And Far Away” is ruined by a loud crackling in the PA system. Page in particular sounds distracted during the solo and stumbles into the second half. “What’s going on?” Plant asks. “It must be the samosas” he jokes but the noises persist through “Misty Mountain Hop” which, “apart from a load of crackling featured Jonesy on narcissistic keyboards.”

“No Quarter” is fifteen minutes long and includes a masterful duet between Jones and Page in the middle section where there seems to be some telepathy between them proving this is one of the greatest live vehicles written by Led Zeppelin and it is a shame this would be the final live version.

“Ten Years Gone” is dropped so Plant goes into the long introduction to the first new song of the set, saying, “In the neolithic caves in Peru they’ve been finding a lot of colored drawings on the walls, and along with the colored drawings they also found a new album cover. We’re managing to get the album out in about two weeks. As you’ve no doubt read the reviews, it’s tremendous. You can imagine. It’s called In Through the Out Door, which is one of the methods of entry that proves to be harder that one would originally expect. And this is one of the tracks from it. It’s called…and we dedicate this to the Texas road crew, and all the people to be found in the sleazy hangouts around there…it’s called Hot Dog.”

“The Rain Song” is very strong and the tape picks up Jones playing some pretty and unique bass-lines in the middle of the piece. The next portion of the set is occupied with some of their most adventurous songs of tours and journeys beginning with “White Summer.”

Whether the thematic link was intentional or not, but “Kashmir,” “Trampled Underfoot,” “Sick Again” and “Achilles Last Stand” all deal with motion and adventures in foreign lands in one way or another. They are performed well although “Sick Again” seems to puzzle the audience and “Achilles Last Stand” stumbles out of the gate and is generally sloppy.

Everyone seems tires after “In The Evening” as Plant introduces the final song of the main set, saying, “it comes to the time now when we really got to thank you for hanging about for four years you English folk. And you French people, for hanging about since ooh, I don’t know how long. I would like to thank everybody who’s come from everywhere to create part of the atmosphere that we’ve had. The other bands that we’ve had with us, Commander Cody. Good, good, good, good. Todd, Keith, and Ronny [Keith Richards and Ron Wood who opened for Zeppelin as the New Barbarians]. Peter Grant. Thanks everybody.”

A tired version of “Stairway To Heaven” is played before they come back for the encores. “Can you do the dinosaur rock?” Plant asks before “Rock And Roll.” The new arrangement of “Whole Lotta Love” is much more tight and vicious this evening and the final encore is a quick version of “Communication Breakdown.”

“It’s been great….We’ll see you very soon. Don’t know about the Marquee, but somewhere soon. See you later, bye” are Plant’s parting words. For an historical piece this is a great document to have of this show, warts and all.

It’s remarkable how well these shows have aged. Each new release over the years has improved these festival’s reputation, and Mean Business certainly does that. It’s definitely worth the asking price and stands as the new definitive collection for these latter day Zeppelin concerts.

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June 6, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Mean Business | , , | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Spectral Mornings (1979)

1249059949_steve_hackett_spectral_mornings_remastered-cdFrom starling.rinet.ru

Some consider this Steve’s masterpiece, and others even believe that he’s never made a decent album since; while I can’t embrace the latter statement, the former seems quite close to the truth for me. After the somewhat out-of-place-and-out-of-time experimentation with ‘alien’ musical genres on Please Don’t Touch, he goes back to the tried and true: the Genesis formula. Of course, there are multiple changes and additions to it; actually, there’s so many of them that Spectral Mornings hardly sounds like Genesis at all.

But the core of the sound, whatever one might say, still stems from Steve’s Genesis functions: the ‘mystically flowing’ guitar noodlings, so characteristic of Steve’s sound on tracks like ‘Musical Box’ and ‘Firth Of Fifth’, are back, and they’re back firmly and with a flare. This doesn’t stop him from further experimenting – this time, with Japanese and Spanish musical elements; but for the most part, everything works. There’s hardly anything on here as incredibly powerful as ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant’, but, on a song-for-song basis, the album is considerably stronger than Voyage Of The Acolyte.

In fact, there ain’t a single bad or half-dull song anywhere on the album: some have slightly boring passages incorporated in them, and a couple of melodies are sorta average, but there’s nothing on here that would make you want to sleep or at least say, ‘eh, this guy thinks he’s such a cool experimentator, but instead he’s just a pretentious jerk.’ Everything works.

Although, of course, it takes skill to appreciate the ‘everything’. For instance, I’d read some excited remarks about the opening ballad, ‘Every Day’, and expected a truly moving album opener – and then they play this dull, Tony Banks-ish synth opening and the bland vocal harmonies come in (this time, the main vocal functions are handed over to one Pete Hicks; probably unrelated to Tony Hicks of the Hollies), and it’s just your average bop-pop ditty with little true excitement about it.

And then, abracadabra, it suddenly transforms into a magnificent guitar fiesta with Steve at his very best! In a twinkle of an eye, mind you. He just springs out, as if of nowhere, and first plays a flurry of notes along with the cheesy synth, but then the song really takes off and it becomes a fast rocking track with an amazing guitar part. Believe me, I don’t spill epithets like that: an amazing Steve Hackett guitar part is well worth hearing. Imagine something like the solo on ‘Firth Of Fifth’, only faster, more energetic and pulsating, but not less cleverly constructed. On ‘Every Day’, Steve plays as fluent as ever, and faster than ever before – displaying his talents for all their worth.

After the storm, the calm – a gentle ballad, ‘The Virgin And The Gypsy’, with a nice enough vocal melody and an inspiring duet between Steve on the acoustic and brother John Hackett on the flute. Similar in style to ‘Entangled’ off Trick Of The Tail, only shorter and more concentrated. Then it’s time for the Weird: a song with a title like ‘The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere’ can’t help but contain elements of Japanese music, and it’s indeed a very convincing and heart-lifting Japanese stylization.

Maybe other people will have problems with that, but not me – I adore Chinese and Japanese motives, and I’m glad to see Steve is able to adapt them to his music without butchering the essence. Fading out, it passes the baton on to ‘Clocks – The Angel Of Mons’; the ticking of clocks at the beginning certainly draws on associations with Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’, but apart from that, the compositions don’t have anything in common: Steve’s is a Gargantuan instrumental prog epic, with ferocious drumming, gruff synth patterns, and more outstanding guitar textures.

The second side, likewise, continues the practice of interspersing little simplistic ditties with ‘serious’ compositions – the jazzy ‘Ballad Of The Decomposing Man’, telling a story of a blue-collar worker, is nice and pretty, with strong harmonica parts from Steve, but feels somewhat at odds with the ensuing Spanish guitar of ‘Lost Time In Cordoba’. However, both pale when compared to the last two mighty tracks. ‘Tigermoth’ might sound a bit too similar to ‘Clocks’, with the same use of Powerhouse Everything – bombastic drumming, overwhelming synths and spacey guitar, but it’s just as effective.
And then, of course, there’s the title track. How could I bypass it? How could I?

And what a clever idea – to bookmark the record with two great guitar workouts, the first one on ‘Every Day’, the second one here? The main theme to ‘Spectral Mornings’ is simply blistering, a guitar-cry of love and hope and everything that’s beautiful; and so what if it gets repeated over and over? By repeating the same ‘moment of pure beauty’ over and over again Steve pretty much achieves the same as Eno with his ‘ambient’ stylistics: emphasizing the eternal beauty of the static over the passing beauty of the dynamic. Hell, this one solo is more precious and treasurable to me than an entire album of, say, Steve Howe exercises in finger-flashing (not that I really dislike Steve Howe, mind you – I’m a big fan of his guitar style, it’s just a totally different matter).

A pretty solid 13 for this album, even if it doesn’t really make as much sense to me as Selling England By The Pound does; and as good as the songs are, ‘Clocks’ and ‘Tigermoth’ more or less double each other, which is hardly necessary. But overall, this album does one thing for me: showcases an artist who wasn’t afraid to seek new, creative ways of using his guitar as late as 1979 and – surprise surprise – who succeeded in his quest.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Spectral Mornings | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Berkeley Daze – 2nd Night (September 1971)

Gr724From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA, USA – 14 September, 1971

Disc 1: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker [inc. The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)/J. S. Bach: Bourrée from Suite in E minor for Lute, BWV 996] Since I’ve Been Loving You, [Out On The Tiles Intro/] Black Dog, Dazed And Confused [inc. Back In The USA]

Disc 2: Stairway To Heaven, That’s The Way, Going To California, Whole Lotta Love [inc. Just A Little Bit, Boogie Chillun’, Hello Mary Lou, My Baby Left Me, A Mess Of Blues, You Shook Me, The Lemon Song]

Godfather here presents us with the latest incarnation of what began life as a legendary vinyl bootleg, Trade Mark Of Quality’s Going To California. Captain McCrunge, on the Underground Uprising website, contends that, “the phrase ‘Berkeley Community Centre, 1971′ usually brings knowing smiles from any collector. For many the second night was their first taste of illicit live Zeppelin.” Dave Lewis states in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, that, “this concert was immortalized on an early double album bootleg release from the Trade Mark Of Quality label, under the title Going To California, complete with original sleeve caricatures by William Stout…another much loved and essential vinyl issue that lines up alongside Live On Blueberry Hill as a brilliantly authentic example of their live prowess of this era.” Similarly, gsparaco, reviewing the 4-CD Trade Mark Of Quality set elsewhere on CMR, writes that, “the September 14th show is one of the most famous Zeppelin bootlegs, right up there with Blueberry Hill and Mudslide.”

In the CD era, releases of this show have included Going To California (Electric Junk LZ-1992-1) on one CD, Going To California (no label, GTCA-7194CD 1/2), California Expedition (Cashmere CSCD-009/010), Going To California (Shout To The Top STTP-043/4), Going To California (Trade Mark Of Quality TMQ-0501002) on two CDs and Going To California – 1971, Berkeley 2 Daze (Trade Mark Of Quality [an imprint of Tarantura] TMQ-0501001-1,2, 0501002-1,2) on four CDs in company with the previous night’s show. There have also been the CD-R releases Going To California (Standard Series 031) and Pollution Alert!! (Beelzebub Records BSD 56/57). A couple of these releases fail to deliver all the music. As Rosina Diaz Scali points out on the Underground Uprising website, ”the violin bow episode” of Dazed And Confused “was sadly edited out” of the no label release, whereas the Electric Junk version fits the show on to a single disc by omitting the song in its entirety.

These two releases, however, are not alone in being incomplete; due to their being sourced from vinyl all editions inevitably fail to present the entire show, as gsparaco points out in his review of the “final edition” of theTMQ/Tarantura release posted on CMR on 5 June 2008: “It is unfortunate the master tapes are lost because the original vinyl releases edited the tape to fit on two LPs. ‘Celebration Day,’ ‘What Is And What Should Never Be,’ ‘Moby Dick,’ and the encores, which on good nights would include ‘Communication Breakdown,’ ‘Rock And Roll,’ and ‘Thank You’ with a solo organ introduction are all lost forever.” The setlist given on the band’s official website includes only one additional song, What Is And What Should Never Be, between Going To California and Whole Lotta Love.

Unfortunately, we may never be able to hear the complete performance. It has been widely contended that the stamper plates used to manufacture the original LPs were among those dumped in the ocean by a nervy bootlegger. (Despite a recent swoop on bootleggers by the authorities, the numerous secret service agents he thought were monitoring his activities seem to have been there to ensure the security of Ronald Reagan’s nearby ranch.) As gsparaco points out, it has sometimes been assumed that the master tape of this show was also confined to the deep; if true, this is particularly unfortunate as, according to Brian Ingham on the Underground Uprising website, “the story goes the taper turned the tapes directly over to the bootleggers and made no copies for himself.” Gsparaco, however, states that, “Luis Rey also mentions rumours that the master tape still exists with ‘Hey Hey What Can I Do?’ as an encore.” (Ingham, however, states that, “ Hey, Hey What Can I Do was not performed at this show.”)

Rey may be right to suggest that the tape survives. Those responsible for the Trade Mark Of Quality label were the legendary vinyl bootlegging duo Dub and Ken. However, as another bootlegger known as “Eric Bristow” testifies in an interview with Clinton Heylin, author of Bootleg! The Rise & Fall Of The Secret Recording Industry, it was a later associate of Ken, the “super-paranoid” Mike, who was responsible for the aforementioned watery destruction. In fact, the circumstances of the dissolution of the original partnership provides some evidence to suggest that the tape may still exist. Dub began producing bootleg LPs with his father, unceremoniously dumping Ken in the process. As “Bristow” relates: “Ken…went to the pressing plant himself and told this sob-story of how the two Dubs were shutting him out to the lady who owned and ran the pressing plant at the time…and she just said to him, ‘Well, why don’t I just make you your own stampers?’…All of a sudden there were two sets of stampers.” Clearly, then, if the stampers thrown into the ocean did include those for Going To California, they must have been Ken’s duplicates, leaving Dub’s originals in existence. With Ken being the partner frozen out, it is logical to assume that the tape also remained in Dub’s possession. It is noteworthy that “Bristow” only mentions stampers being disposed of, not tapes. Certainly, at least one set of the Trade Mark Of Quality label stampers survived. “Bristow” notes that in 1984 Ken went into partnership with “John Wizardo” and Peter, the latter having “inherited” the stampers. “He’d gone to the pressing plant,” relates “Bristow,” “and the woman at the plant was going to throw them in the trash, so he said, ‘I’ll keep them!’” Ken subsequently teamed up with “Bristow,” bringing the stampers with him. Of course, this does not preclude the loss or destruction of these stampers or the tape in the intervening years, and the casual treatment of the stampers does not bode well for the tape’s chances of survival. As gsparaco states, “I’m sure if it does still exist it would have surfaced by now.” However, we can always hope.

The second Berkeley show opens with what gsparaco calls “the double onslaught” of Immigrant Song and Heartbreaker. Immigrant Song provides a suitably brutal, ear-assaulting beginning and an eight-minute Heartbreaker contains a splendid guitar solo from Jimmy Page. As Paul Holdren writes on Underground Uprising, “the audience appreciates every moment of Page’s crystal clear ‘Heartbreaker’ solo. Page’s performance in this song, and on the evening as a whole, transcends description. His play throughout is fluent, daring and extraordinarily fast. And despite taking so many risks, his play is impeccable…This is the most enjoyable ‘Heartbreaker’ imaginable.” Argenteum Astrum, posting on the band’s official website, is similarly impressed, commenting that, “the playing is simply wonderful, with Jimmy’s playing shining through as true musical inspiration, especially in his Heartbreaker solo.” During a brief quiet section Page plays a little of Simon And Garfunkel’s The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) before giving us a snippet of the Bourrée from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite in E minor for Lute, BWV 996. Rey, in Led Zeppelin Live: An Illustrated Exploration Of Underground Tapes (Updated Edition, 1993), surmises that Plant would play this, “probably as an ironic ’tribute’ to Jethro Tull’s own famous version.”

There has been some debate about Robert Plant’s vocal performance, particularly at the beginning of the show. Brian Ingham, on the Underground Uprising website, contends that, “Plant’s vocals at the start of the show are terrible. They do improve, but cannot match his efforts from the previous night’s show.” On the same site, however, Paul Holdren argues that, “Plant’s voice, one of the true wonders of this entire tour, literally seems to float above the audience, as the instrumental machinery wreaks havoc in ‘Immigrant Song.’” Ingham’s view has some substance; although Plant’s singing in Immigrant Song is, in my opinion, not so bad, the wordless wailing is painfully off-key. However, even Ingham seems to imply that the problem might not rest entirely with Plant, stating that, “the tape starts off in very good mono. Plant’s vocals are slightly distorted on the tape until it switches to excellent stereo.” Plant himself seems aware that there is an issue, stating before Dazed And Confused that, “there was a pollution alert today and I lost my voice.” (“After the incomparable range that he’s just demonstrated on [Black Dog],” argues Holdren, “you can only wonder what he is talking about.”) Personally, though I consider that Holdren exaggerates the quality of Plant’s vocals, I have no significant issues with his performance overall, having some sympathy with Rey’s assessment that, “although Plant has lost half of his voice (in his own words) [sic], he still sounds fresh and clear.”

The next song is a splendidly moody and atmospheric version of Since I’ve Been Loving You. As Don Wheeler, posting on the band’s official website, rightly argues, the song is ”incredible on this show.” Holdren writes that, “Plant forces his voice to the limits. Page highlights every line with a different flourish, alternating between subtlety and bravado.” The website The Year Of Led Zeppelin rates it as, “a spine-chilling performance, one of the best thus far.”

A short instrumental intro taken from Out On The Tiles provides, as usual, a powerful preface to the first of the songs from the untitled fourth album, Black Dog. Here Page brilliantly plays an expanded instrumental section. The song would have been unfamiliar to the audience, with the album not being released until November. Keith Shadwick, in Led Zeppelin: The Story Of A Band And Their Music 1968-1980, argues that the band was, “taking a risk putting their new material – ‘Black Dog’ and especially ‘Stairway To Heaven’ – to their audiences without prior warning. It was the ultimate test for the material and one not taken lightly by any popular group at the time” However, despite one Atlantic Records executive’s opinion that touring before the new album’s release constituted “professional suicide,” the concerts were both sold out and well-received by fans, as the audience reaction at the end of Black Dog attests.

The first disc ends with a truly staggering version of Dazed And Confused, twenty-two minutes here, though it would soon get longer. Rey states that the song is, “prolonged by rare song references inside what seems an interminable, cloudy solo. The violin bow solo is particularly dramatic, with ominous, deep, droning vocals in perfect exchange.” Page’s violin bow section and his fast solo are equally impressive and here, as for much of the show, Plant is in good voice and he sings a few lines of Chuck Berry’s Back The U.S.A. (which had been released on the album of the same name by the MC5 the year before this performance) during the latter part of this performance.

The second disc’s opening performance of Stairway To Heaven, a song which, like Black Dog and Going To California, was still unreleased at this point, is marvellous. Having received only a handful of public performances, the song still possesses a beguiling air of freshness which makes it both my preferred live version of the song and my favourite number from the show. Dave Lewis, in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, refers to it as, “another superb performance…as impressive as on any night on the tour.” At one point Plant inserts what Lewis claims to be the unique line, “You are the home of the children of the sun,” referencing the song Going To California, which contains the lines, “The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake/As the children of the sun began to awake.”

The acoustic section of the show, which features John Paul Jones’ mandolin to very good effect, comes across as wonderfully intimate. First we are treated to an utterly gorgeous rendition of the delicate That’s The Way. This is succeeded by a gently lyrical performance of Going To California, which, despite being another song from the as-yet-unreleased album, receives a warm welcome at the end of Plant’s rather meandering introduction, doubtless due to the location of the concert. (Plant’s introduction ends with him saying, “this is called Going To California…which is somewhere round here.”)

Disc two then concludes with a lengthy Whole Lotta Love medley. Holdren contends that, “the rest of the concert notwithstanding, the ‘Whole Lotta Love’ medley is the highlight of the night, and likely one of the best ever.” Argenteum Astrum is also impressed, arguing that, “the wild and long medley is exciting, especially with Robert’s great vocals.” Gsparaco comments that the medley section is, “played on fire with amazing fluidity.” and Rey comments on its “classic virtuosity.” Included in this performance are Just A Little Bit, the 1959 Rosco Gordon single, recorded by Roy Head (single, 1965), Them (The Angry Young Them, 1965), Etta James (Tell Mama, 1967) and Magic Sam (Black Magic, 1968), a couple of lines from which appear before the medley section proper, during the theremin section; Boogie Chillun’, recorded in 1948 by John Lee Hooker; Hello Mary Lou, the Gene Pitney-penned Ricky Nelson hit from 1961; My Baby Left Me, written by Arthur Crudup in the late 1940s and later recorded by Elvis Presley (b-side to I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, 1956), Dave Berry (single, 1964) and Creedence Clearwater Revival (Cosmo’s Factory, 1970); A Mess of Blues, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and originally recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960; You Shook Me (of which Holdren writes: ”Page’s guitar wails and moans more than Plant in an ideal version”) and The Lemon Song (which he adds, “returns the band to the WLL main theme. A spectacular conclusion”). The whole magnificent edifice comes in at twenty-five minutes.

Thus ends, at least on disc, a show which is quite rightly regarded as a classic among Led Zeppelin live performances. Gsparaco calls it, “one of the greatest Zeppelin performances on record,” and “an essential concert.” Captain McCrunge concurs, stating that, “For many, it…ranks among the higher points of their entire live career…The band really were hitting a peak.” Argenteum Astrum is of similar mind, arguing that, ”the whole band is playing better than ever,” Rey reckons it, “a most satisfying performance,” The Year Of Led Zeppelin calls it, “an amazing performance,” and Holdren rates it as “a classic show!”

The sound quality is most impressive for an audience recording from 1971, as numerous commentators testify. Gsparaco calls it, “the best recorded show from the tour,” and Argentium Astrum, posting on the band’s official website, contends that, “the sound on this recording is absolutely fabulous!” The Year Of Led Zeppelin states that, “the tape is an excellent audience recording…A wonderful recording.” Argenteum Astrum’s’s Led Zeppelin Database website refers to the Cashmere, Cobra and Beelzebub releases as, ”excellent mono/stereo audience,” whereas the Shout To The Top and TMQ/Tarantura releases are accorded the status of “superb mono/stereo audience.” The reference to mono/stereo is due to the fact that, as referred to above, there is a switch to stereo near the beginning of Heartbreaker. The Title Comparisons page of theBootledZ website comments: “TMQ could possibly be copied and edited from STTT. Their content is identical except for TMQ’s edits at cuts and removal of the vinyl noise. TMQ amplified their title significantly. Cashmere’s title is highly identical to TMQ but has a cut during Dazed not found on the other titles. Their sound is almost as loud as TMQ.” Despite the high quality of the tape, resulting in what gsparaco reckons is, “the best recorded show from the tour,” the sourcing from vinyl for all CD releases does cause problems with some editions. Rosina Diaz Scali, writing on the Underground Uprising website expressed a preference for the no label version over the Shout To the Top release, arguing that it, “used a much better preserved vinyl source with hardly any evidence of a crack or pop throughout, whereas Shout To The Top’s offering has its fair share of surface noise.” Brian Ingham, on the same site, notes specific problems on the latter release: ”Immigrant Song (vinyl scratching at beginning…a couple of vinyl ‘pops’ near ending)…Stairway to Heaven (minor vinyl “pops” at beginning)…You Shook Me (3 noticeable vinyl “pops” in middle…)…Lemon Song(vinyl scratching at beginning).”

Despite BootledZ’s contention that the TMQ/Tarantura version could “possibly” have its origins in the Shout To The Top release, Gsparaco suggests that the former is sourced directly from vinyl. He clearly rates it very highly, regarding it as, “the definitive version…The label uses what sounds like a virgin vinyl source and do a professional sounding, flawless transfer…their mastering is absolutely phenomenal…Listening to it you will have to remind yourself of its origins.” The TMQ/Tarantura and Godfather versions would therefore seem to have something in common, as the Recent Updates page of the Led Zeppelin Database states that Godfather’s source for this new release is an “unplayed LP.” As with the TMQ/Tarantura release, there is no sign of the set’s LP origins in the form of pops, clicks or scratches. The sound of Berkeley Daze – 2nd Night is most impressive. The TMQ/Tarantura release has, to my ears, a little more presence, but this new Godfather transfer sounds cleaner and more refined and it effectively eliminates the hiss that is clearly audible on the TMQ/Tarantura version.

Obviously, as all CD editions derive ultimately from the LPs, this release features the small cuts inherent on the tape. Ingham catalogues them thus: “Immigrant Song…first couple of notes cut…Since I’ve Been Loving You (small cut at beginning)…Dazed & Confused…(…cut during ending section).” Godfather’s sleeve notes are remarkably forthcoming on these cuts, including those between songs, and lists them at some length: “After [Heartbreaker] finishes there is a cut which connects to Plant saying the phrase Thank You.” After his introduction to ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ there seem to be two or three quick cuts. As the song starts with Page’s intro, the recording cuts again, connecting to a point a few seconds further into the song. the recording runs through to the end of that song and then cuts after Plant says another ‘Thank You,’ resuming with his spoken introduction to ‘Black Dog.’ After that song, there is another cut, again connecting to Plant’s introduction to the next song, ‘Dazed and Confused.’ There is a cut during Jones’ bass intro, similar in length to the brief cut at the beginning of ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You.” The song plays through complete until the outro guitar solo, where it is cut just as it starts getting going, connecting to the very end of the song with Bonham’s final drum rolls and Page’s final soloing…Afterwards, the recording is again cut, resuming with the silence just before the start to ‘Stairway To Heaven’…That song is complete, but the recording again cuts out afterwards, connecting to the moment just before Page starts, ‘That’s The Way’…The recording continues through the entirety of that song, as well as through to Plant’s intro and all of ’Going To California.’ Afterwards the tape cuts to Bonham hitting his snare just before the beginning of ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ which is also featured complete.” Although these problems may appear extensive when presented in such detail, they are in fact small enough to cause virtually no diminution in one’s listening pleasure.

This release comes in Godfather’s usual tri-fold card packaging, featuring William Stout’s classic artwork of the band members riding what appears to be a porcine version of Disney’s cartoon elephant, Dumbo, set against a yellow background. The sleeve also features both onstage and offstage photographs of the band members and the usual sleeve notes by “Paul De Luxe.” There is no booklet.

Godfather’s Berkeley Daze – 2nd Night restores this essential show to the catalogue in a very impressive sounding version at a reasonable price and it is therefore very highly recommended to Led Zeppelin collectors.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin - Berkeley Daze 2nd Night | , | 1 Comment