At first glance A Soundboard Platter is nothing more than “new wine in old wineskins” which will be overlooked because of the concern that the skins will burst. This collection of soundboard fragments is actually quite relevant and an interesting release. Zeppelin’s tour of the United Kingdom and continental Europe in 1973 is one of the most fertile for soundboard fragments and Scorpio gather five of the six shorter tapes. Not present, and could have easily fit on this release, is the fifty-minute January 18th Bradford tape.
Scorpio also chose not to include any material from the three longer tapes from Oxford on January 7th, Liverpool on January 14th, and Stoke the following night. The sound quality of the tapes on this release is as good if not an improvement over previous releases of the same material. After the initial release of these soundboard fragments, it has been the trend of boot labels to complete the shows by grafting these with the appropriate audience recordings. Listening to these productions is difficult since the first hour of the show would come from an audience source.
While the ear adjusts to the fidelity of that tape, the excellent soundboard would kick in producing a jarring effect, and once one gets used to that tape the audience recording would return again and would be a let down. It is an interesting tactic but one that is unconvincing in the end. With this new Scorpio release it is possible to enjoy these fantastic sounding documents, and only these, in one collection.
Disc 1, Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria – March 16th, 1973 (59:43): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker
The complete first disc is devoted to the Vienna soundboard. Among the cache of soundboards surfacing in the late eighties and early nineties, this is the longest of the five with five unique songs including generous portions of the two epics, “Dazed & Confused” and the “Whole Lotta Love” medley. Its first release is on Led Poisoning (Flying Disc CD 6-822) in 1991. Three years later it was included on “Stairway To Heaven” (Vol. 4) (BAN-050-D) on the Australian Banana label.
Releases since include the soundboard recording onto various permutations of the three audience recordings that circulate for this date including Zig Zag Zep (Tarantura T3CD-13-1~3), Wrench In the Works (Cobra 034) which was the final release by that label, Vienna 1973 (TDOLZ Vol. 48), Remains of the Holy (CSCD-007/8) on the short-lived Cashmere label, and most recently on Happiness is a Warm Gun (Empress Valley EVSD 448/9). The tape cuts in, as do they all, during the fast guitar solo after the second verse of “Dazed & Confused.”
The versions of this classic are among the very best from the European tour of 1973 and Plant acknowledges this by quoting John Lennon “happiness is a warm gun.” “Stairway To Heaven” is complete but the mix becomes questionable during the guitar solo with the keyboards raised quiet high. “Whole Lotta Love” cuts in late in the medley, during “Boogie Chillun’.” After the two Elvis numbers “(Baby You’re So Square) I Don’t Care” and “Let’s Have A Party” the band launch into a sludge laden version of “I Can’t Quit You.” The encore “Heartbreaker” is complete and includes a catchy opening riff not heard in any other recording.
Disc 2, Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany – March 19th, 1973 (59:37): Whole Lotta Love. Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland, UK – January 27th, 1973: Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Communication Breakdown
Berlin is the shortest of the fragments with only on song, twenty-minutes of “Whole Lotta Love.” This is also the most rare of the group with only three silver releases in the past. The first release was on the one-disc Let’s Have A Party (ARMS 15 PR). The early Tarantura label released it under the Tecumseh label in 1992 on Air Raids Over Germany (TRC-005).
Limited to three hundred copies, it also included a half hour of the July 12th, 1970 Berlin tape and the complete seventeen minute recording from the June 27th, 1980 Nuremberg concert. Finally Antrabata included it on Two Penny Upright(Antrabata ARM 171171/ARM 180773/ARM 190373) along with the November 16th, 1971 Ipswich and July 18th, 1973 Vancouver fragments.
Berlin cuts in during the theremin solo in “Whole Lotta Love”, much earlier than the Vienna tape. Plant is very enthusiastic during “Boogie Chillun’” repeating “I’ve been boogieing in Müchen, I’ve been boogieing in Müchen, I’ve been boogieing in Müchen,” Why he mentions Munich instead of Berlin is not explained. His microphone cuts out during “Let’s Have A Party” and the lines “I’ve never kissed a bear / I’ve never kissed a goon / But I can shake a chicken in the middle of a room” are low in the mix.
The bulk of the second disc is devoted to the Dundee, Scotland soundboard. This is the only one of the five that began life on vinyl, with “Heartbreaker” and “Communication Breakdown” appearing on Trouble At The Front (Tropo 411) along with a fragment of the Liverpool soundboard. The first compact disc incarnation was on the famous From Boleskine To The Alamo(Flying Disc CD 6-818) with the songs out of proper sequence. Tarantura include “Heartbreaker” and “Communication Breakdown” on the third disc of Nasty Music (T3CD-011-1), a compilation with several documents from the British tour.
Most recently Wendy included this on the excellent British Story (Wendy WECD – 82/83). A popular cdr release titled Dundee-ism received heavy circulation several years ago and includes the soundboard on the second disc coupled with the audience recording on disc one. The quality of the recording is closer to the Stoke soundboard than the German ones. It is very clear and powerful with noticeable hiss present. “Whole Lotta Love” cuts in earlier than either Vienna or Berlin during the fast guitar break before the theremin solo with Plant telling security to “put their hands together.”
During the boogie section Plant says that he “remembers what happened last time we came here” with the trouble at the front. But, “I’ve got some more news.” Plant has a lot of fun with the lyrics during “I Can’t Quit You” by complaining “you made me miss me my two childs!” Page’s guitar solo leads into Howlin’ Wolf’s “Going Down Slow,” a regular inclusion in the 1972 medleys but a rarity in 1973. Plant throws in a line from “Rambling On” during the final reiteration of the main theme. Two encores, “Heartbreaker” and “Communication Breakdown,” are present on the tape.
Disc 3, Musikhalle, Hamburg, Germany – March 21st, 1973 (55:57): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love
The third disc documents only the popular Hamburg tape from March 21st. The earliest releases attributed this tape to the first Paris show on April 1st. These include 1st April (A Paris Affair) (Oh Boy 1-9011), April Fools Day (LZ 05), and Baby I Don’t Care (Turtle TR-52), all of which also include “Immigrant Song” from the January 18th Bradford soundboard fragment. The latest release of the Hamburg soundboard, with the correct attribution, is on Fallin’ In Love With the Fallin’ Angel (Led Note LCD-1507A/B) where it is coupled with the complete Bradford tape.
Just like the Berlin soundboard, there has never been an edition mixing both audience and soundboard tapes for a complete show and the underrated Image Quality label has the only commercial release of the audience recording on Suspended Animation (IQ075/76). Hamburg includes twenty-three minutes of “Dazed & Confused,” cutting in during the fast solo after the second verse and Plant quoting from James Brown’s “Cold Sweat.” Bonham includes interesting jazzy rhythms during “San Francisco” before Page’s violin bow solo.
It sounds like both Page and Bonham want to get into “The Crunge” but keep missing one another until Page plays the “Whole Lotta Love” boogie riff right before the call-and-response part. The tape continues until the peak of the guitar solo in “Stairway To Heaven.” “Whole Lotta Love” cuts in right at the beginning of the theremin solo. The improvisation in the middle contains moments of unbearable tension including Bonham shouting out which serves as a contrast to the lighthearted Elvis numbers.
Disc 4, Grugahalle, Essen, Germany – March 22nd, 1973 (51:24): Dazed And Confused, Whole Lotta Love
The final disc features the two songs from the Essen soundboard on March 22nd, one of the best performances of the five contained in this collection. Early releases include Essential Led (Flying Disc CD 6-807), Essen 1973 (Savege Beast Music SBM-73-1/2), and “Stairway To Heaven” (Vol. 2) (Banana BAN-050-B). “Whole Lotta Love” is included on the fifth disc of the Cabala box set, where it is attributed to Mobile, Alabama in ’73. Two recent releases include Essentially Led Complete (Live Remains LR-04011/2/3), and Gracias! (Empress Valley EVSD-300/301/302) which is a title editing this with the audience source.
Like with the others, both “Dazed & Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love” cut in early and run to the end of each song. “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” which is played before “Boogie Chillun’,” contains very strange lyrics from an unknown song that are a chilling contrast with the rest of the number (“You are the one / You took my heart / You took it darling / And you tore it apart / You left me sitting / Down and crying / Because my love / For you is dying / So c’mon babe / So c’mon babe.”) Since the cuts in each of the songs are very similar, it raises the question about the purpose of these recordings.
In the fifteen years since they first surfaced no other fragments from the other parts of these concerts has emerged. It could be they were recording the improvisations to see what sounded best for the upcoming U.S. tour, or it could have been for some projected live album. Nevertheless these dates are among the very best in Led Zeppelin’s live history and A Soundboard Platter, even though it is a repackaging of material that has seen many releases, is worth seeking out.