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Led Zeppelin - How The West Was Won CD (album) cover

HOW THE WEST WAS WON

Led Zeppelin

 

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4.38 | 161 ratings

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Nightfly
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars For years the Led Zeppelin fan had been hard done by in terms of live recordings, the soundtrack to the film The Song Remains The Same being the only official live album they released. Then in 2003 after much trawling through the archives and remastering etc from Jimmy Page we were rewarded with not only this three disc live album but the ultimate live Zeppelin document, the self titled DVD featuring the best footage of the band ever seen. How The West Was Won can't compete with that but it's still an excellent live recording of one of the most influential bands ever.

Led Zeppelin's blues based heavy rock/proto metal/folk rock needs little introduction to anyone with even the slightest interest in rock over the age of thirty, such is the mark they have left, even thirty years after disbanding after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980.

The most obvious reference point as a comparison with this album is of course The Song Remains The Same, a performance that many who were lucky enough to see the band live at their peak felt was average to good at best. In the liner notes to How The West Was Won Page states "This is Led Zeppelin at its best". Well I disagree as that can be found on the previously mentioned DVD but despite some flaws there's much to recommend here. The performance here has a more energetic feel in the main over The Song.... but it's an overall sloppier performance, particularly from Page with fluffed notes appearing fairly regularly. I have to admit that in the majority of cases the tracks that appear on both live albums, Dazed and Confused being a prime example are superior on The Song.... in terms of performance. Where HTWWW beats it is in the expansiveness of the set which spread over three discs is able to include far more songs which cut out the flab, which lets face it, live versions of their songs often had in spades. This sometimes worked to great effect but when it didn't things could become a little monotonous. Sure Dazed and Confused is just as long, Moby Dick and Whole Lotta Love are twice as long, but interspersed with the shorter hard hitting moments things seem to work better.

For highlights we can go straight to the start of the album with a stonking version of The Immigrant Song followed by an almost equally impressive Heartbreaker. In fact if I could only keep one disc from this set it would be the first which contains the bulk of the shorter songs as well as being the most contrasting. Black Dog and Over The Hills And Far Away are fine versions and after the inevitable Stairway To Heaven they get into acoustic mode for the rest of the disc with the lovely Going To California, That's The Way and Bron Yr-Aur Stomp.

Of the other two discs Dazed and Confused loses its way a bit, especially in Page's violin bow on the guitar section, Whole Lotta Love outstays its welcome, particularly on the rock'n'roll covers and Bonhams, who incidently is as tight as the proverbial ducks throughout, drum solo goes on far too long. Still there's very welcome versions of What Is And What Should Never Be, Dancing Days and Bring It On Home. John Paul Jones is equally solid as Bonham and Robert Plant's vocal performance is an overall strong one despite the odd bum note here and there which come more often when ad-libbing.

How The West Was Won may not be perfect, few live albums are, but is nevertheless an excellent live document of one of the greatest bands to have ever strode the planet. Essential for Zeppelin fans and highly recommended to anyone else.

Nightfly | 4/5 |

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