Sunday Man Cave Series, Part 3
I found a cheap copy of the 1CD remaster of this stone classic record, and I snapped it up… why? Pure impulse, surely. I mean, how many times do I own this record, now?
1 – this 1CD RM
2 – original CD
3 – all the tracks are on the 1990 boxed set
4 – 2LP deluxe RM
Alright, so only four times. I know for sure that I own a lot more copies other records of theirs!
One of my favourite enduring memories of this record:
We went to Exhibition Stadium in August of 1994 to catch a show by Harry Connick, Jr. on his Funk Tour (promoting the excellent She album). We even met him that day! Anyway, the opener was the awesomeLeroy Jones Quintet. Leroy worked double-shift that day because after his own band opened, he jumped in and took up his regular spot in Harry’s band too!
Anyway, the LJQ gets done playing, and someone starts playing recorded music between sets to keep the crowd warm while they set up for Harry’s show. And what were they playing? Houses Of The Holy. In its entirety. It surely didn’t fit between two jazzy sets, but then again, why not? It sounded wonderful over the big sound system in the stadium…
So, what can I say about this record? Hahaha here’s all you need to know:
The Song Remains The Same
The Rain Song
Over The Hills And Far Away
Felt like these Zep reissues needed a round-up post.
I can’t speak for the 2CD sets (although I have fondled them in the shops, they were still shrink-wrapped). And I can’t say anything about the super-duper fancypants editions (maybe one day Rich will write about them… didn’t he get those?). But the Deluxe vinyl sets that I have here are simply divine. All 180g, satisfying to hand as you heft them (especially LZ I, with its 3 LPs where the others have 2). Faithful reproductions of the originals, they are also pleasing to the eye.
I’ve had a blast going through all of this stuff. These were exactly what you know and love. The remastering sounds really clean and loud and wonderful. I have no complaints… although I’m not an expert on remastering jobs. Your mileage may vary, but I’d wager you’ll be just fine with them.
The Companion Audio:
On LZ I, we get the full 1969 Paris concert and it’s a corker. This was my favourite of the three sets for that very reason. I know I mentioned it in my reviews of LZ II and III, that I wished there was live content for the II and III sets as well, especially considering there had to have been more than enough live stuff recorded to use. Even if it wasn’t all one show, a collection of live tracks from each time period would still rule. Alas.
On LZ II and II, of course, we get rough mixes and slightly different versions. They’re still great. It’s still interesting to listen to these songs in early forms. There are enough differences, over the course of each disc, to make them more than worthwhile.
Led Zeppelin I, II and III, the 2014 remasters are great. It really impresses me that now, even after all of this time, we can all still get so excited about these records we’ve heard a million times. It speaks volumes to the enduring strength and timelessness of the material.
I don’t have a rating system, but for these I thought I would try. I would give these complete vinyl packages the following:
LZ I: 5/5
LZ II: 4.5/5*
LZ III: 4.5/5*
* .5 lost for wanting live stuff instead of the other mixes. Not that there’s anything wrong with the tracks that are here, really. They could be 5/5 if LZ I hadn’t shown me what was possible with the others.
Well, let’s just get it out of the way and complete the trifecta. As with the reissues of Led Zeppelin I and II, may I just say that there is nothing I can add to the decades of writing and scholarship and fandom that has followed these records into history. It’s all been done and said far better than I could ever manage.
And Led Zeppelin III, the 2014 remaster? It sounds crisp, clear, and friggin’ gorgeous. An amazing album done justice in this release.
As with the other two sets, the real meat and potatoes (for me) is the Companion Audio. With Led Zeppelin I, it was a glorious full concert from 1969. With II, it was some interesting studio outtakes and my wish that, optimally, there’d been live stuff instead.
With III, I still would rather that there had been live stuff included. Again, surely, there would be enough to have done live recordings with each of these, as with I. A missed opportunity, in my opinion.
But I won’t be so quick to say it’s only more studio outtakes on this release and carry on. It’s true, of course, but there’s some tracks here to make Zeppelin fans salivate.
First up is an alternate mix of The Immigrant Song. Man, what a riff. I didn’t find any really noticeable difference from the studio track. If anyone else did, I’d be pleased to know what I missed. But may I also note, here, that now every time I hear this song I think of Scott at Heavymetaloverload. “We are your overlords…”
Friends is, as with a couple of song versions on II, just the music, no vocals. It’s karaoke time! But this time with bongos! This really shows off just what a great track this is. I didn’t find myself missing the vocals as much here. I mean, obviously I did, but also not…
Celebration Day’s alternate remix, again, wasn’t different enough for me to notice much. Again I stand prepared to be shown.
Since I’ve Been Loving You, here, is a rough mix of the first recording. It’s a gorgeous slow blues, as always. But there’s a noticeable difference in the vocals. The organ is more understated and I preferred it to the album track. This is a great version.
Bathroom Sound, another instrumental track, is really just the precursor to what would become Out On The Tiles. Interesting to hear it in its embryonic stages.
Gallows Pole (rough mix), the old traditional tune, is another gem in these bonus tracks. A brilliant version with that sweet build-up.
That’s The Way, a rough mix with dulcimer and backwards echo, is a very different acoustic version without the studio track’s electric guitar noodling. It’s more like a sketch, in comparison, a work in progress (hence the ‘rough mix’ notice, eh?). I liked it, still.
Jennings Farm Blues (rough mix of all guitar overdubs that day) is an early version of Bron-Y-Aur Stomp. It’s a bit more pop-rock in feel but I still liked it.
Key To The Highway/Trouble In Mind (rough mix) is a great blues jam with trippy vocals. This is a superb unheard track!
NB: We do not get alternate versions of Tangerine or Hats Off To Roy Harper. It’s OK, I think the stuff here more than makes up for it. But for the price they’re charging for these sets, it likely wouldn’t kill them to have thrown something of those two in as well and made it an 11-track disc. Alas.
Led Zeppelin III is just so damn good. And the Companion Audio here is worth the price of admission, for sure. Beautiful.
Once again, there’s nothing I can add about Zeppelin or this album that hasn’t already been said, and by better writers.
The Album Proper (1LP):
I mean, this is the Brown Bomber for crying out loud. You know it like a best friend, at this point. We all do. It’s so full-sounding… Seriously. You know this beast already. All I can say is that this 2LP release is a beautiful thing. It sounds so bloody good.
The Companion Audio (1LP):
Whole Lotta Love (Rough Mix With Vocal) actually ain’t a whole lotta different from the album version, except the breakdown part, which is very different indeed, and there’s no guitar wail when restarting… I missed it, totally should have been there. The lyrics are a little bit different afterwards too, and I get it for the sketch that it is, but I prefer the album track on this one.
What Is And What Should Never Be (Rough Mix With Vocal) is a little different in the harmonizing bits, but otherwise it’s essentially unchanged from the album track. Unless I missed something here? And if so, fair enough.
Thank You (Backing Track) made my brain strain to hear Plant’s vocals. I’ve heard this song so many times, my mind was filling in all the blanks. Until I realized: this is the Ultimate Karaoke Track! You know all the words, so step up to the mic and give ‘er!
Heartbreaker (Rough Mix With Vocal) is not all that different from the album track, except in the guitar solo, which is way crazier than the album version. In fact, I might prefer this one, it’s awesome!
Living Loving Maid (Backing Track) is another perfect karaoke ripper. Even taking away Plant’s indelible vocals and letting the band do the talking proves just how hugely awesome this song really is. Interestingly (and most pleasingly), somehow isolating the vocal line out of this track has made the bass more prominent, and I love it.
Ramble On (Rough Mix With Vocal) is missing electric guitar parts in a couple of key (album version) places, even though my brain was waiting for them. Also missing were some vocal overdubs… Actually, I prefer this track played this way.
Moby Dick (Backing Track) is a brilliant bookend effort. It’s basically just the beginning and ending parts of the song without any drum solos at all. You can even hear him counting 1-2-3-4 at one point… [UPDATE: I was saying to Scott in the comments that this track is the equivalent of seeing them live and they start up this song, so you go get a beer or take a leak, and come back in time to hear the ending! So true. Hilarious!]
La La (Intro/Outro Rough Mix) is an unreleased instrumental track. Boaby must’ve been off having a nap, for this part. Happy chording becomes an acoustic bit before the full band comes back, then repeat. It’s actually a fascinating jam track, with lots of ideas crammed into its short minutes.
It’s the fucking Brown Bomber. What am I supposed to say, at this point? As for the companion audio, it was a true pleasure to get to hear the different versions. I do still wish that this had had a live albu with it (like LZ I) instead of studio tracks. Ah well.
For a couple of reasons, I really feel like I’m going out on a limb here.
First, I mean, Zeppelin. Fucking ZEPPELIN. What the hell can I say, at this point that hasn’t already been said, and by far better writers than I could ever pretend to be? Next.
Second, if I am not mistaken, I may be the first of this wonderful blogging community (which has built up here) to actually address these reissues with a review. If I am wrong about that, I am fully prepared to stand corrected and will gladly link to your reviews! Of course, there was a lot of talk in the blogs and comments prior to their release, a lot of excitement, and people have (since) mentioned getting them, but I don’t think there’s been a full review in these parts, yet.
So. I’ll be the first, and by no means the best. You all can do Zeppelin better justice than me. But since I got the three Deluxe vinyl releases for my birthday back in July (as you’ll recall – thanks, Mom! You rock!), I felt it was about time I addressed them.
Can I express how gorgeous this set is with words that come close to being adequate? Nope. Not even close. Three 180g vinyls in a gatefold package true to the original. The thing weighs a ton. It’s stunningly beautiful. I know it’s not healthy to develop attachments to stationary objects, but this… I fell in love with this! Just holding it in my hands is sheer bliss.
The Album Proper (1LP):
We all know this album forwards and backwards, every note, every nuance. I don’t need to tell you a damn thing about it. What is my opinion of the remastering? It sounds friggin’ great! Does it compare to the remastering job on the 90s box sets? Um, maybe? Sure! I’ll let you experts hash it out. All I know is it sounds damn crisp (and beautiful!) to me. Superb.
The Companion Audio (2LP):
Recorded live at the Olympia in Paris, 1969-10-10, this is a must-have document. If you care about Zeppelin at all, and you do not yet have this, run DO NOT WALK to your local purveyer of music and get your hands on this set. You have been told.
Communication Breakdown is a helluva opening salvo blast with an amazing and huge bottom end, and Page’s guitar is super-cool. There’s a big crash ending and we go straight into…
… a slow-burning blues intro for I Can’t Quit You Baby, which features an amazing Plant vocal performance and guitar pyrotechnics from Page. Just… wow. The breakdown section is awesome. I love that Plant’s stage banter is welcoming the crowd to Paris… when most of the crowd are (surely) Parisians… the band are the visitors! Haha you cocky bugger, Boaby!
Heartbreaker is next, a solid version that hews closely to the record. The noodly guitar bit in the middle is cut short in favour of a full-tilt instrumental solo/band section.
NB. For both I Can’t Quit You Baby and Heartbreaker, the sound fades in and out a bit. It’s a less than perfect recording but even when it’s wonky it doesn’t affect too much. I don’t place much weight on it – it was 1969 and we’re lucky to have what we do. Just saying.
Up next is a completely brilliant version of Dazed And Confused. Everything about it is bluesy jam session glory. By the time Page starts from nothing and noodles and stabs his way up into the full blast section that’ll tear your head off, you’ll know everything is clicking and they’re flying high. Then it teases down and back up again and we’re into the 10th minute before the song returns, and over the 12th minute before it all ends. Whoa.
A lovely experimental guitar intro of seven and a half minutes (!) leads into White Summer/Black Mountain Side. When the band kicks in in earnest, it’s short-lived. No matter, it’s the Pagey Show! Whew! The only downside is hearing some dude coughing occasionally, during the quiet parts. Seriously.
The smoking slow blues of You Shook Me is just glorious. It has a drunkard’s slow drawl and a big fat ass that makes a full meal out of this 12-bar. The harmonica’s a nice touch. This is brilliant. The bit from the 10-14 minute marks is just incredible.
Moby Dick is a 9-plus minute drum clinic. Rock out, man!
And our last track, How Many More Times, swings happily while crashing heavily along. Each player lets it all hang out here, wailing away with abandon only to (eventually) bring it all back down and quote Whole Lotta Love (before it was released!) into the ending. Whoa.
You might say that 8 tracks is a short live record, but many of these tracks are long. And anyone who has heard recordings of Led Zeppelin live knows that my overriding sensation of feeling like I have been ridden hard and put down wet is entirely accurate. There was no more they could do, on this night. It was perfect.
What a document! What a show! What a band!
This is a gorgeous package, amazing music and, holy hell, this isn’t even fair to other bands.