Tuesday, 3 June 2014

"Led Zeppelin" [aka "Led Zeppelin I"] by LED ZEPPELIN (2014 Atlantic/Swan Song 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Jimmy Page Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Good Times Bad Times…" 

When the CD first arrived as a format in 1984 - few Led Zeppelin fans would have thought it would take 30 years for decent remasters of the fave crave - but unfortunately after hearing these dreadfully dull-sounding new versions - they may want to wait another thirty. It's not all bad of course but I'd swear that the "Mothership" 2007 remasters sound way better and far more alive - and the 2012 Japanese SHM-CD again features better sound. Anyway here are the details...

UK released 2 June 2014 (3 June in the USA) - "Led Zeppelin: Deluxe Edition" by LED ZEPPELIN on Atlantic/Swan Song 8122796457 (Barcode 081227964573) is a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Remastered by the band's guitarist JIMMY PAGE and breaks down as follows...

Disc 1 (44:56 minutes):
1. Good Times Bad Times
2. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
3. You Shook Me
4. Dazed And Confused
5. Your Time Is Gonna Come [Side 2]
6. Black Mountain Side
7. Communication Breakdown
8. I Can’t Quit You Baby
9. How Many More Times
Tracks 1 to 9 are their debut album "Led Zeppelin" - originally issued 12 January 1969 in the USA on Atlantic SD-8216 and 31 March 1969 in the UK on Atlantic 588 171 on vinyl LP

Disc 2 – LIVE AT THE OLYMPIA (71:16 minutes):
1. Good Times Bad Times/Communication Breakdown
2. I Can’t Quit You Baby
3. Heartbreaker
4. Dazed And Confused
5. White Summer/Black Mountain Side
6. You Shook Me
7. Moby Dick
8. How Many More Times
Tracks 1 to 8 are a PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED concert recorded live at The Olympia Theatre in Paris France on 10 October 1969 (Broadcast 2 November 1969 by the French Radio Station 'Europe 1')

The 3-way gatefold card sleeve features alternative artwork on the rear with the original back cover of the LP moved to the inside left flap. The two other inner flaps feature classy black and whites but I must say the alternate artwork leaves me cold. The 16-page booklet has gorgeous black and white/colour photos of the band live at the time - but that's where the good news stops. There are two pages at the rear that give you the basic track info but bugger all else - there are literally no liner notes - nor any history of the album and its importance - nothing from Page or Plant. It's good - but it could have been great - and frankly why isn't it? And as one other reviewer has pointed out - relistening to the album in its entirety - only hammers home what an astonishing debut it was (and still is). But in my heart that's nothing to the sound...

I'm certain the sound quality on this album is going to be a bone of contention for many. Don't get me wrong - it does sound very clean - it has power (if you crank it up) - but there's absolutely something missing. To my ears there's no life to these remasters - no air around the instruments - a sort of dead dampened feel to them. I don't know if noise suppression was used and the only reference to 'remastering' is craftily put on the sticker and not any part of the booklet (so no sources are listed). But to my ears the "Mothership" versions are infinitely better. I've done an A/B of the 4 ML remasters with what's on here - and the 2007 versions are full of real presence and power. "Baby I'm Gonna Leave You" for instance is very clean - but again - it feels oddly restrained. Tracks like the Acoustic and Tabla "Black Mountain Side" sound fabulous - as does the barnstorming finisher "How Many More Times" - but "Good Times Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown" don't thrill like they should.

The live disc fluctuates wildly on the sound front - a best approximation is a passable bootleg recording. On the double-opener "Good Times Bad Times/Communication Breakdown" you can so hear the power and magic of a band tearing into its audience with a point to prove - but tracks like "Moby Dick" and "Heartbreaker" sound like rubbish (even if Jimmy Page's guitarwork is off the charts brilliant). Speaking of his axe - the guitar disappears into the mix way too often as does John Paul Jones' Bass and John Bonham's drums. Bluntly if any major label put this out as an official release they would be loudly panned by everyone – especially fans. Also where is the 1969 studio outtake "Baby Come On Home" or the brill "Travelling Riverside Blues" from the 1990-4CD "Led Zeppelin" Box Set - which would have made ideal bonus tracks on Disc 1?

I suppose it's a matter of taste when it comes to sound - and I'm open to correction. And there will be those who can quite easily accept what's on Disc 1 - but I for one have to admit to feeling major disappointment after all this wait. Thank God I didn't fork out ninety quid for the Super Deluxe. Answers on a missing mastertape please...

PS: see also reviews for the 2CD Deluxe Edition versions of "II", "III", "IV", "Houses Of The Holy", "Physical Graffiti" (3-Discs) and "Mothership: The Best Of" (3-Discs)

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