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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin (Box set) CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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3.95 | 49 ratings

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4 stars There are really two categories of proggers who need this gigantic box set. The first is the neophyte Ledhead who doesn't have any of their studio albums and wants to dive headlong into their vast catalogue of music. Instead of paying over $100 (and that's being very conservative) to procure all nine studio releases individually one can invest somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 and get 54 tracks and four hours/fifty minutes of great Zep on 4 CDs. While you won't be getting every single cut, the ones missing are not extremely vital (except for the inexcusable omission of the very prog-oriented and kickass "Four Sticks." Shame, shame, shame.). Believe me, after sitting through the entire quad set in preparation for this review I can guarantee that you get a whole lotta LZ here. The other division of Zeppers that need this is the one that I was in. All my albums are vinyl and it's very hard to play them in the car or on my portable disc player. If you are in this sector then, by all means, grab this one up.

Disc one is the gem in this collection because the early tunes are the ones that benefit most from the exquisite remastering job performed expertly and with love by Jimmy Page and technician George Marino. Focused mainly on the debut and the second LP, what was once rather muddy and mid-range heavy back in the late 60s is now brightly crystal clear and the difference is staggering. You can hear everything, including the inadvertent string/stick noises and rough edges that gave the recordings an unimpeachable realism and relatable quality that defines honest-to-God rock & roll. It's incredibly refreshing and may provide huge clues to future generations as to why this unique foursome is so revered and respected. I find the live performance of Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby" to be better than the studio version mainly because it rocks especially hard and it was taped at a rehearsal, for Pete's sake. Jeez, these guys were even intense about their sound checks! The previously unreleased "Travelling Riverside Blues" (basically a jam session but Page's acoustic slide guitar work is stellar) and the down-and- dirty "Hey, Hey What Can I Do" are both deserving inclusions. I like the fact that they threw in the 1969 radio broadcast of Jimmy's solo performance of "White Summer/Black Mountain Side" but I have to tell y'all that I find both the original studio version of "White Summer" on the Yardbirds' "Little Games" album and his ferocious performance of the same instrumental on the rare "Live Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page" LP (yes, I have a pristine copy so eat your hearts out) are superior. I'm just sayin'.

Disc two also profits from the vastly improved audio but not nearly as much because studio techniques were constantly improving by leaps and bounds in the early 70s. This CD blends an array of songs from III, IV and Houses of the Holy in an interesting collage. By now you are aware that these tunes are not presented in anything resembling chronological order and I'm on board with that because if I wanted them in the same procession as originally presented then I'd just slap the records on the turntable. Or you can buy the original albums if you're a fussy stickler for protocol. Me, I kinda like Jimmy's personal Led Zeppelin showcase. Highlights include the strong prog-folk of "The Battle of Evermore," John Paul Jones' Mellotron musings on "The Rain Song" and Robert Plant's soulful, emotional wailing on the wonderful "Since I've Been Loving You."

Disc three places emphasis on selections from Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti and Presence, displaying the band's evolution away from their blues roots and into a more progressive era. While they unquestionably become more experimental and envelope-pushing in their approach, they also tended to be more than a little self-indulgent and repetitive when some tactful editing could have been employed. Still, the tunes are way above average although I don't like the irritating "Trampled Under Foot" and never will so that's where I would have preferred to hear "Four Sticks" but that's just me. John Bonham's planet- shaking drums on the stupendous "When the Levee Breaks" go a long way in making up for that error in judgment and the quirky "Dancing Days" is always a spirit-lifter.

Disc four is a mixed bag. Some great stuff juxtaposed against some not-so-great stuff, in essence. "The Ocean" has that odd riff that would have been right at home in a King Crimson ditty, "Poor Tom" takes me back to the acoustic mindset of the 3rd LP and "Moby Dick/Bonzo's Montreaux" is an interesting drum casserole cooked up by Page for this project. And, before I finish, it behooves me to say that by the time you finish listening to all this you have to come away with an even more eyebrow-raising admiration for the artistry of Jimmy Page on guitar. Not only did he have the genius to surround himself with extraordinary virtuosos that functioned like clockwork in this band but his bold, risk-taking guitarisms that made Led Zeppelin a history-making force in music are nothing short of awesome.

If you already have all of the remastered albums then there's not much incentive for you to get this. The glossy, picture-filled booklet doesn't really offer any tidbits that aren't available elsewhere and you've already got the musical goods. But for the folks residing in the two groupings I outlined at the beginning this is a justifiable expenditure and something that you won't regret acquiring for your prog library. 3.8 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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