“Thunder Down Under” (subtitled The Complete 1972 Australian And New Zealand Recordings) is Empress Valley’s newest title – a massive luxury box set containing 20 CDs and 1DVD of – what was told – a complete and comprehensive collection of all available audio and video from Led Zeppelin’s one and only Australia/New Zealand tour that took place in February of 1972. The box itself looks awesome: glossy cardboard hinged set with five individual gatefold sleeves housed inside. For the front artwork, they’ve used fantastic photo from Melbourne gig, showing members playing on the outdoor stage just as the dark stormy clouds started to appear in the sky and bringing some heavy rain. The back has famous Swan Song logo along with album’s title, usual credits (to Mr. Diamond, whoever he is) and EVSD logos on bottom rears (and with another photo in the background). Each gatefold cover is differently titled and contains two versions of each show, presenting basic edit or source mix (version #A) and alternate edit or source mix (version #B). Each gatefold album utilizes Melbourne photos done during the show and before the rain started to drop.
When it was first announced in October 2013, many negative comments started to pop up and many people complained about its content, saying that yet again thislabel is reissuing the old material known from their previous titles, and stolen a DVD shared by the fans throughout the torrent sites. There were also some problems with flawed discs (actually, disc #16 of Sydney show), and replacement copies were quickly released and sent to everyone, who picked up box at its first selease. After some hesitation I decided to get a copy for myself, and I have to say that even if most of this material already surfaced many years ago, the sound quality and completeness of this collection is undoubtedly far superior to every past title containing any of shows included in this box. There are some rumours saying that this time label used a better tapes and mastering and even if this is not true at all, the overall effect is more than satisfying.
So let’s examine this deluxe set disc by disc, also making some recollections from the past and study this wonderful piece of music. Since we have already plenty of reviews describing each of five shows, I’ll concentrate much on technical aspects, and try to make a comprehensive comparison between titles.
“Shattering Rock Experience” – Adelaide February 19th, 1972
Version #A (EVSD 609/610)
CD1: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD2: Dazed And Confused/Moby Dick/Whole Lotta Love
Version #B (EVSD 611/612)
CD3: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD4: Dazed And Confused/Moby Dick/Whole Lotta Love
This is the famous Adelaide show, and best sounding tape of all five nights that have surfaced so far from this tour. Adelaide was the second stop (after Perth, which has a tape that hasn’t surfaced yet, according to rumour). The show first circulated many years ago on TDOLZ’s “Oooh My Ears Man” and was later reissued by few major labels, of which worth to list are Equinox’s “Live In Adelaide” (also released as stunning 7 CD box set titled [ sic! ] “Thunder Down Under” and collected everything that was available from the tour at that time), Tarantura’s “Voo Doo Drive”, T2K’s “Voo Doo Drive Version 2004” and EVSD’s “Deep Downunder”. Each of these past titles are quite similar in content and quality except for the EVSD’s “Deep Downunder”, which has some edits from between the songs removed out to present a bit more compact listening. EVSD’s newest version included in the box seems to be a little clearer/brighter, has additional several seconds at the very start of tape and overall the recording sounds freshier. Most likely, they’ve used a newly circulated master clone that was traded just few years ago. Between this and first EVSD title I do hear some noticeable difference in depth, and I am calling the box set version a winner.
The show itself is very powerful, with brilliant versions of “Immigrant Song”, “Heartbreaker” (these two songs are unlikely performed with a long break due to a broken string of Jimmy’s guitar and funny comments from some members of the audience, reporting the devastating level of sound (“ooh my years man!” can be heard just right after the first song, when someone was literally blown away by the large amount of decibels), “Stairway To Heaven”, “Dazed And Confused” (a really furious and heavy version, one of the best from 1972 I think), and “Whole Lotta Love medley”. The only minor of this show are numerous cuts and edits throughout the show that caused the dropping of some Plantations from the set, and omitting (probably) some songs that might be played that evening (“Celebration Day” or “What Is And What Should Never Be” and maybe “Communication Breakdown” as the final encore).
Between both versions, version #A contains literally everything that have surfaced on tape while version #B is very similar in content to EVSD’s “Deep Downunder”, and has some edits removed out from compilation. It’s also worth to say that some of edits that plagued original recording are repaired here in a smooth way, making this show even more interesting.
“So Loud, So Hot” – Melbourne February 20th, 1972
Version #A (EVSD 613/614)
CD5: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD6: Dazed And Confused/Rock And Roll/Whole Lotta Love
Version #B (EVSD 615/616)
CD7: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD8: Dazed And Confused/Rock And Roll/Whole Lotta Love
The Melbourne show was the first date from the tour that started to circulate amongst the collectors back in the early/mid 1970s, and few vinyl LPs containing first half of the gig in acceptable fair quality appeared just few years after the show. After that, at least three new different source tapes as well as more complete basic source have surfaced, and it’s a hard to say which tape is really complete. At the early 1990s, various labels started to release this show in unique way, and at the end, we have at least a dozen of different titles, and this is probably the most bootlegged date from the entire tour. The most noticeable past versions of this set are: “Acoustically” (TDOLZ), “Count Me Out When It’s Hot” (Cobra), “”Down Under Daze” (Image Quality), “Live In Melbourne” (Equinox; also as 7CD compilation), “Melbourne Masters” (Immigrant), “No Longer Down Under: Live In Melbourne” (Graf Zeppelin), “On Stage Melbourne” (Wendy), “Shivers ‘n’ Shakes” (Red Hot), and “Wet Head Is Dead” (EVSD). Between all of them, no one is truly complete (except for EVSD, Graf and Wendy), and each offers different source mix between at least two or three tape sources. Newly released EVSD title offers almost the same mix as the one found on Graf Zeppelin and Wendy, and is the most complete version of this show so far.
This show was played under very cloudy conditions with rain cutting it short at the end, and was cut short because of thepossibility of electrocution. EVSD used probably four different tapes sources to present a complete concert. Version #A is very similar in content to the versions released by Graf Zeppelin and Wendy (as mentioned) and differs only in very few minor spots (mostly a technical issues). The tape starts with the old “vinyl” source, and then is patched with almost excellent sounding tape, recorded close to the stage and without any serious distortion except for the fact that it sounds a tiny bit weak to me. For the “Rock And Roll” and very start of “Whole Lotta Love” they’ve used another tape that sounds very poorly, lacking complete clarity and it obvious that it was recorded somewhere from the balconies at the end of stadium. Frankly, it lasts maybe within 5 or 6 minutes at all (if count all the minutes used for this particular source) and it doesn’t disturbing overall atmosphere. Very likely, another tape recorder is used for some patches in between the songs but I am not 100 percent sure because when you’re listening multiple source changes, your ears starting to be a bit tired. In opposite, version #B is somewhat much more interesting, at least for someone who’s a mad completist as me. For this version, the label used so called entire “vinyl” source as primary source and used another two (or three?) recorders to patch missing parts in between the songs and for the parts, where basic source tape doesn’t exist (ie. some of “Dazed And Confused”, “Whole Lotta Love” etc.). It is very interesting to hear the whole alternate tape because, even if this source isn’t as clear and dynamic as the one used for the basic version, it allows me to celebrate this date in a much different perspective. Anyway, congrats to EVSD for doing such a great research and – at this point – I must complain on excellent Bootledz site, which states they missed something. (I more believe that some of older titles just faked or repeated some audience parts rather than EVSD accidentally cuts out something, because the same site didn’t say anything bad when referring to Graf Zeppelin/Wendy titles, which are very similar in content to this newly box set and have literally everything in order.) The bad aspect of this version is the fact that they included “Rock And Roll” after “Whole Lotta Love”, which is obviously a big error and I hope that the label will replace this soon with corrected copies of the first disc for version #A.
The show itself starts in with usual medley of “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker” and is followed by good renditions of “Black Dog”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Stairway To Heaven”. I don’t know why, but for me one of the highlights for this date is acoustic set. The band seems to enjoying themselves much and I have a feeling that night before they were in rush and this night all four members of the group – along with audience – were much more relaxed. The weather started to getting worse as the band went heavily through a great version of “Dazed And Confused”, and near the end it was obvious that the group had to stop the show and wait for a better time. An abrupt version of “Rock And Roll” followed soon and, again, the rain scared everyone during the “Whole Lotta Love” medley, which was shortened “because electricity and water just don’t get together at all”, but even this fact, this concert is really good and worth attention (at least in my humble opinion).
“The Biggest Gathering” – Auckland February 25th, 1972
Version #A (EVSD 617/618)
CD9: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Celebration Day/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD10: Dazed And Confused/What Is And What Should Never Be/Rock And Roll/Moby Dick/Whole Lotta Love/Communication Breakdown
Version #B (EVSD 619/620)
CD11: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Celebration Day/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD12: Dazed And Confused/What Is And What Should Never Be/Rock And Roll/Moby Dick/Whole Lotta Love/Communication Breakdown
This show started to circulate back in 2003 as a single, excellent sounding tape, but was very incomplete (missing many songs). In 2010, an alternate and much more complete tape recorder was found, and this time almost entire show was captured. The show was first released exclusively on two premium labels, Akashic and T2K, under the title “Going To Auckland”. This is followed by another three titles, “Live In New Zealand” (EVSD), “On Stage Auckland” (Wendy) and “No Longer Down Under: Live In Auckland” (Graf Zeppelin); each of them mixed both tape sources and are much similar in content. However, each of them focused on first tape source, using alternate recording only to fill gaps in basic source. Newly released EVSD presents two unique source mixes: version #A is somewhat very similar to their predecessors and version #B includes second tape source as its foundation.
Between all of these titles, the quality is much similar; however, once again, newly EVSD title seems to be sourced from freshier transfers and has more depth to me. Also, version #B is much more interesting because it reflects on alternate recorder that hadn’t been in circulation anywhere but on low gens and here is presented in its entirety, what allows me to explore this show in a different mood.
Auckland date is known especially from the fact of being the first and only appearance of the band in New Zealand. Almost 25,000 fans went to see the group and for this groundbreaking event, Peter Grant hired a Zeppelin Express – an exclusive train to bring fans from Wellington up for the show. This is another excellent performance (probably – mostly because of its quality – shares the same top sound with Adelaide and Sydney), showing a very rare early glimpse of Jimmy Page’s creative prowess on stage and Plant’s explicit praise of the logistics of the show. Probably for the first time during this tour a fast and heavy version of “Celebration Day” was performed and in the middle of “Dazed”, Page incorporated opening riffs of “The Song Remains The Same” (back then the song was yet not finished and was only rehearsed under working title, “The Plumpton And Worcester Races” [sic! ] and existed as a spontaneous, loose jam). “Whole Lotta Love” is my all time favorite from the tour, and furious and heavy “Communication Breakdown” is played as a closer to delight of rowdy audience.
“Pop Goes The Showground” – Sydney February 27th, 1972
Version #A (EVSD 621/622)
CD13: Black Dog/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp/Dazed And Confused/What Is And What Should Never Be
CD14: Moby Dick/Rock And Roll/Whole Lotta Love/Communication Breakdown/Organ Solo/Thank You
Version #B (623/624)
CD15: Black Dog/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp/Dazed And Confused/What Is And What Should Never Be
CD16: Moby Dick/Rock And Roll/Whole Lotta Love/Communication Breakdown/Organ Solo/Thank You
For the Sydney show two different tape sources are known to exists. The first tape is only a 40-minute fragment containing “Black Dog”, “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp”, “Rock And Roll” and “Whole Lotta Love” and it was released on Equinox’s “Live In Sydney” (released also as a part of 7CD “Thunder Down Under” set) and on Black Cat’s “Australian Tour Part 1”. The quality is muffled and distant but enough fairly listenable. The second tape surfaced few years after and was taped by Mr. Leo Ishac. It has excellent, wide sound and was taped much close to the stage. Sadly, only equalized transfers are in wide circulation and some of listeners always complained on that fact, saying that the sound is way too much tempered due to process of equalization. On the other hand, this tape source captures almost entire show (minus “Immigrant Song”, “Heartbreaker”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, and “Celebration Day”) and was released soon after on “Ayers Rock” by T2K. (Other reports says that the taper recorded entire show, but because of some unknown reasons, he dropped them out from copies he traded over the years.) T2K title is even more tweaked what causing of a rather painful listening experience for this show. Soon after few more labels started to released their own versions, using first (shorter) source to fill gaps in longer tape: “Rumble In Sydney” (Further Along), “Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin” (EVSD), and “On Stage: Sydney” (Wendy). Newly released EVSD title (presented on version #A) uses the same source mix but it seems to be done a little more carefully, keeping everything in right order. Also, for the very first time, the small gap in between “Hello Mary Lou” and “The Rover” in the middle of “Whole Lotta Love’ medley is filled by first tape source, making this ‘marathon’ truly complete. Version #B (similar to Adelaide show) includes an alternate edit, where some of worst cuts are gently eliminated, providing smoother version of this concert.
Sydney show itself is a very strong performance, with many great moments. “Black Dog” is played with fury and impact and “Dazed And Confused” (especially the bowing solo), is a delightful novelty to the provincial punters and this is another great version of this song. “Rock And Roll” is delivered with swaggering fury. Plant reaches the notes the ear expects. Very long and somewhat unique “Whole Lotta Love” and its rock medley, including a fully-realized, instrumental version of “The Rover”, heard years before its official release, is a truly awesome. A great pair of encores (with extremely jammy “Communication Breakdown” and glorious “Thank You”, preceded by organ solo), closing this amazing gig.
“Indoor Farewell” – Brisbane February 29th, 1972
Version #A (EVSD 625/626)
CD17: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Celebration Day/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD18: Dazed And Confused/What Is And What Should Never Be/Moby Dick/Whole Lotta Love
Version #B (EVSD 627/628)
CD19: Immigrant Song/Heartbreaker/Black Dog/Since I’ve Been Loving You/Celebration Day/Stairway To Heaven/Going To California/That’s The Way/Tangerine/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
CD20: Dazed And Confused/What Is And What Should Never Be/Moby Dick/Whole Lotta Love
At the start I need to say that probably this was the biggest surprise for me, having previously only heard the entire Brisbane show and remembering its poor quality, I was even more happy enjoying the fact that EVSD used better sounding transfers up here. Furthermore, all previous titles offered only single source – and – for the very first time large speed issues that plagued both recordings are finally fixed in excellent way.
For many years only first tape source circulated on silvers, making its appearance on Black Cat’s “Australian Tour Part 2” and “Live in Brisbane” (Equinox; released also on 7CD set titled “Thunder Down Under”). Both titles uses poor sounding and somewhat incomplete tape. Newly released EVSD set includes this tape source on version #A as its foundation and filling missing parts with second tape source, that is released on silver for the very first time. Version #B rely on second tape source as basic tape and uses first tape source in parts, where second tape isn’t available. The quality is still muddy and distant but is much more clear and all issues that were presented on past titles are fully repaired, making listening much more comfortable journey. Even the weakness of the sound couldn’t broke my excitement, since Brisbane show is really worth of close attention.
The concert was the final show of the tour and the only indoor gig of all five dates. In fact, this is excellent, high-powered show in front of another rowdy Australian crowd! The opening numbers are excellent and Robert’s singing on “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is pure emotion and one of the best versions from the entire Australian episode. A restless audience stops “That’s The Way” a minute into the song. After Plant’s seating instructions, they start the song again. “Dazed And Confused” is another long version and “Whole Lotta Love’ medley medley is excellent and contains some really rare inclusions. We can only wondering if the group played some encores, since end of tape captured people leaving the hall but if they did any, “Communication Breakdown” might be the answer (judging their two previous shows, they used this song as a definitive set closer).
DVD: Immigrant Song*/Heartbreaker*/Black Dog*/Since I’ve Been Loving You*/Celebration Day*/Stairway To Heaven*/Going To California*/That’s The Way*/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp*/Dazed And Confused*/What Is And What Should Never Be*/Moby Dick*/Rock And Roll*/Whole Lotta Love medley incl .Boogie Chillun, The Rover*/Immigrant Song**/Black Dog**/Since I’ve Been Loving You**/Celebration Day**/Going To California**/Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp**/Dazed And Confused**/Moby Dick**/Rock And Roll**/ Heartbreaker***/Black Dog***/Dazed And Confused***/Thank You****/Miscellaneous scenes*****
The DVD disc is added as a bonus to the set and makes this release a very special gem. The only minor problems are the incompleteness of footages included, but assuming the fact that back in early 1970s no one had a chance to capture an entire show on video, this is a remarkable piece of rock history and pure delight for all LZ fans, having a chance to see the group live on stage! Four different amateur movies have surfaced from the Sydney show (I marked them from * to **** symbols) and all four have sound dubbed from actual concert, except for the parts where original soundtrack doesn’t exist (these short parts are dubbed from Brisbane show). The fourth (****) footage is supposed to be much longer but the complete copy is still in the hand of the taper. The fifth (*****) footage is allegedly taken from Melbourne and showing people arriving to the Kooyong stadium, also partially exploring stage and band’s equipment. Since we all know that seeing LZ on video is something outstanding, I need to say only that the idea of including all these films was really accurate and it’s even more great to see also famous GTK footage (along with Sydney press party) attributed to this DVD.
Summary: As for any other massive sets, this title is recommended especially for more serious collectors out there. Two versions for each of shows might be a boring thing for less advanced listeners and for those, who cannot afford it, at least one single title for each show can be adapted. The minor flaws here and there (mostly attributed to the Sydney tape and unavailability of raw unprocessed transfer for the Leo Ishac’s source tape) are vastly overshadowed by the excellent presentation and editing work of the sources presented in this box set. Just about all the shows presented here are in either same or improvement in terms of sound quality and completeness over previous releases with EVSD taking full advantage of the very careful mastering technique (making all these shows sounding fantastic, especially Melbourne, where multiple source changes are done in a truly professional way). Furthermore, this box set will probably become highly collectable in years to come, not only because the fact of being strictly limited to few hundred copies only but mainly because of its content as the most complete and comprehensive collection of all these shows (until new tape sources are about to surface someday). If I need to discuss any bad sides, I’d point out problems with flawed discs for Melbourne and Sydney shows and its high price and for sure for those who cannot afford a few hundred of $, a direct download copies (that will appear very soon on torrent sites) are an excellent ways to obtain this release for free. (argenteumastrum, Dec 2013)