Tuesday, 3 June 2014

"Led Zeppelin II: Deluxe Edition" by LED ZEPPELIN (2014 Atlantic/Swan Song 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Jimmy Page Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Whole Lotta Love..."

After the initial disappointment of the "Led Zeppelin" debut 2CD DELUXE EDITION with its questionable sound on some tracks and its rubbish live bonus disc - I'm thrilled to say that "II" is an entirely different beast. It sounds great and the 'Companion Audio' CD actually warrants the word 'bonus' (mostly).

UK released 2 June 2014 (3 June in the USA) - "Led Zeppelin II: Deluxe Edition" by LED ZEPPELIN on Atlantic/Swan Song 8122796453 (Barcode 081227964535) is a 2CD Remaster set and breaks down as follows...

Disc 1 (41:40 minutes):
1. Whole Lotta Love
2. What Is And What Should Never Be
3. The Lemon Song
4. Thank You
5. Heartbreak [Side 2]
6. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman)
7. Ramble On
8. Moby Dick
9. Bring It On Home
Tracks 1 to 9 is the vinyl album "Led Zeppelin II" - originally released 22 October 1969 in the USA on Atlantic SD-8236 and Atlantic 588 198 in the UK

Disc 2 (32:44 minutes):
1. Whole Lotta Love (Rough Mix With Vocal)
2. What Is And What Should Never Be (Rough Mix With Vocal)
3. Thank You (Backing Track)
4. Heartbreaker (Rough Mix With Vocal)
5. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman) (Backing Track)
6. Ramble On (Rough Mix With Vocal)
7. Moby Dick (Backing Track)
8. La La (Intro/Outro Rough Mix)
Tracks 1 to 8 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED 'Rough Mixes' of Seven album tracks with one New Song - the Instrumental "La La"

The 3-way gatefold card sleeve features alternative colour artwork on the rear with the original LP gatefold inner spread on the inside flaps - sided by two new photos of the band during recording. There's a stuck-on track list on the rear and the artwork now reflects the Swan Song label as well as Atlantic. The 16-page booklet has gorgeous black and white/colour photos of the band live at the time - but there are only two pages at the rear that give you the basic track info - but bugger all else. There's no liner notes - no history of the album and its importance (once rated as Britain's favourite Rock album) - and nothing from Page or Plant. It's good - but it could have been great - and frankly why isn't it?

I moaned about the sound quality on some tracks on the debut - that problem doesn't appear here. From the opening wallop of "Whole Lotta Love" - it feels huge and detailed. The cymbals and bass of "What Is And What Should Never Be" are wonderfully clear and "The Lemon Song" sounds suitably grungy (as it was intended). The fade in of "Thank You" is lovely - but it's the sheer power riffage of "Heartbreaker" and its various mad guitar breaks that puts hairs on your chest. Both "Maid" and "Ramble On" have accentuated power (especially in the breaks that feature Bonzo's drums) - and of course it finishes with the lethal one-two sucker punch of "Moby Dick" (crystal clear John Bonham solo) and the Harmonica Blues Boogie of Willie Dixon/Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It On Home". Job done.

Disc 2 is a genuine blast - backing tracks with different guitar parts and the occasional vocal jab from Plant. It's a fascinating insight into how they worked and built a tune. It's clear these versions were good - just not good enough. The solos in "Heartbreaker" bear this out - most of the finished solo flourishes that we know and love are in there but some aren't quite 'there' - so presumably Page simply kept working them later until he got those licks to his satisfaction. And it's bizarre to hear the first guitar part of "Moby Dick" - then hear it suddenly stop (no solo) and Bonham then count in the drums as the second guitar part finishes the song. The "La La" outtake with its Motown organ bop and wild acoustic/electric guitar breaks is interesting - but feels most throwaway of the lot.

I also bought 1970's "III" this morning and frankly it's the best of the bunch - with fantastic outtakes and two cool new tracks - one of which has me drooling (see separate review).

Were Led Zeppelin really as good as we remember them? Were they even the best band in the world?
With airship-sized knobs on...and then some...

PS: see also reviews for the DELUXE EDITION versions of "I", "III", “VI”, “Houses Of The Holy”, “Physical Graffiti” (3-Discs) and “Mothership: The Best Of” (3-Discs)

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