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Led Zeppelin: St. Louis Blues (St. Louis, February 1975)

stlouisblues_1From collectorsmusicreviews.com

St. Louis Arena, St. Louis, MO – February 16th, 1975

Disc 1: Rock and Roll/Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir

Disc 2: No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick

Disc 3: Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love/Black Dog, Heartbreaker (includes Shame Shame Shame)

The trials of Zeppelin’s tenth tour of the US are well known. Their first live shows in eighteen months, they chose to begin touring in support of Physical Graffiti in the middle of January in the Midwest amidst snowstorms and Jimmy Page’s damaged finger. Beginning in Minneapolis, Robert Plant contracted a serious flu which put a strain on his voice and the band delivered lackluster concerts.

They were originally scheduled to play in St. Louis on January 26th, but they had to cancel the show to give Plant some time to recuperate. And, as the well-known story goes, the singer stayed in freezing Chicago while the rest of the band and crew flew the Starship to sunny Los Angeles for a short vacation. They later reconvened in Greensboro on the 29th to play one of their all time worst concerts. The canceled concert was made up on February 16th, right after the amazing New York shows.

When Led Note announced the release of Oh Dear I’ve Known Him Since He Was A Child (Led Note LCD1502) in the winter of 1999, the rumor was that it was a complete soundboard recording. It turned out to be an audience recording covering only the final two thirds of the show (“Kashmir” to “Heartbreaker”) with many cuts, fade outs, and sounding extremely poor. It was a major disappointment to say the least. After that release another poor sounding tape surfaced and circulated in the Zeppelin collecting community.

St. Louis Blues is yet another sterling soundboard recording uncovered and released by Empress Valley. The recording is perfectly balanced between the instruments and the audience noise just like previous EV releases like Conspiracy Theory and Flying Circus. The clarity can sometimes be a curse though hearing Bonzo talk during some quiet parts.

The band reached a highpoint in the tour playing New York just before this show and we’d hope that enthusiasm would be maintained. But unfortunately they sound very tired at the very beginning of the concert. “Rock & Roll” sounds sluggish and “Sick Again” is awful with Page especially hitting some bum notes. “First thing I must say is, better late then never” Plant explains. ”I was on me back in Chicago… It was pleasant nevertheless” right before his usual talk about the cross section of music they will play. Things begin to improve with “Over The Hills” and by “In My Time of Dying” they really hit their stride. “Oh My Jesus. It’s a Sunday, Oh my Jesus!”

Plant sings in the song and states, ”I think after that one we should say Amen” at the song’s conclusion. There is some guitar trouble before “The Song Remains The Same” with Plant chatting with the audience until stating that the double neck is ready, and this part of the show is also very good with a very moving version of “The Rain Song”. After this we can begin to hear the show in its true glory at which the audience recording only hinted. The middle third of the show is very powerful. “No Quarter” is very good being the final electric piano only version until the 1979 shows. The second leg of the tour will see John Paul Jones expanding the piece with the grand piano.

“Does anybody remember 1968? Those of you without brain damage can. This is from the first ten minutes from … our rather immaculate conception” is Plant’s intro to “Dazed & Confused” and the concluding third of the show. The piece sounds similar to the New York performances. The encores reveal a surprise that was unfortunately cut in the audience recording: Zeppelin’s only cover of ”Shame, Shame, Shame”, the 1963 Jimmy Reed tune, in the “Heartbreaker” solo.

Overall another excellent release by Empress Valley and a classy way to end the year. This is a great show and definitely worth having. The discs come in a glossy digipack with a slipcover identical in design with Conspiracy Theory, even including lots of Earl’s Court shots. Not very imaginative but acceptable. Let’s hope that they can one day find and release a complete soundboard for the February 14th Nassau Coliseum concert. That would be a most exciting release

Now the second side is definitely not disco. This is where Beck tries to diversify his style a little: there’s a Hard Rock number, a Psychedelic number, a Boogie Woogie number, and a, er, well, Grand Finale number. To summarize it all in a few words, the odds rock and the evens suck. ‘El Becko’ has loads of great, pulsating energy, an incredibly strong bass riff, and some really driving chops, making this if not the most memorable, at least the most mindlessly enjoyable number on the whole record. And ‘Space Boogie’ is just the thing that its title suggests – a slight Fifties’ throwback, but clad in modern production values, with ‘astral’ synths all around it, indeed, kinda like Bill Haley among the Comets, if you get my pun. Very weird – I bet you never heard anybody playing strict rockabilly in that style. On the other hand, the other two numbers are just not distinguishable: ‘The Golden Road’ has no melody at all, and in ‘The Final Peace’ Beck and the boys make a brave stab at a grandiose album closer, but fail – even ‘Diamond Dust’ was a better effort than this three-minute whiny guitar showcase.

Overall, though, the album is not all that bad. I’d say the worst about it is that Jeff is too closely giving in to Eighties’ dance music, a thing that led him to the disaster of Flash five years later. His experimentalism, of course, places him a little above that old ‘washed-up bag’, Eric Clapton, but it also makes his music less accessible and much less digestible: Clapton, at least, never really flirted with all these dubious synths and stuff until he made the unforgettable mistake of teaming with Phil Collins. And, whatever you say, three instrumental albums in a row is a bit too much for a musician that’s said to be ‘rock’. Oh, well. I guess that’s what ‘real art’ is all about, isn’t it? You just have to assimilate these kinds of things.

I’ll give you an advice, though. If you have a spare 45 minutes on tape and spare time to lose, you might borrow all these three albums from your local library and tape the best songs – two or three from each album. You’re guaranteed to come out with a winner. Later on, borrow some studio time, write up some lyrics, overdub them, and you’ll end up with a true lost Seventies’ classic! And don’t forget to mention me on your CD cover as ‘original idea by…’!!

March 5, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin St. Louis Blues | , | Leave a comment