Friday, 16 September 2016

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

"…Gonna Make You Sweat…Gonna Make You Groove…"

I remember walking up to Dolphin Discs in Talbot Street in Dublin in November 1971 and seeing the long-awaited album sleeve to Led Zeppelin's new album be given pride of place in their window display. Even at the tender age of thirteen and twelve - my sister Frances and I were devoted Zeppelites - so I drew closer to ogle. Someone in the shop had made a white cardboard star, drawn "LED ZEP IV! IT'S HERE!!" in the album's inner sleeve calligraphy and stuck the card star on the top right of the untitled matt sleeve. People were stopping to gawk - what's the big deal? But I remember thinking only one thing. Cheeky buggers - the Zeps are now so big they haven't even put a bleeding title on it! How very...well...Rock and Roll!

Fast-forward to 2014 and another reissue and yet another (far better) remaster. Here are the levees breaking, hops on misty mountains and the May Queen bustling in your hedgerow...

Released October 2014 - "Led Zeppelin IV: Deluxe Edition” by LED ZEPPELIN on Atlantic/Swan Song 812279446 (Barcode 081227964467) is a 2CD Remaster and breaks down as follows:

Disc (ORIGINAL ALBUM - 42:38 minutes):
1. Black Dog
2. Rock And Roll
3. The Battle Of Evermore
4. Stairway To Heaven
5. Misty Mountain Hop
6. Four Sticks
7. Going To California
8. When The Levee Breaks
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 4th LP “Led Zeppelin IV” – released 8 November 1971 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7208 and Atlantic 2401012 in the UK. Officially their 4th album was ‘untitled’ but of course is often referred to as "Led Zeppelin IV", "Four Symbols" or "Runes" or "ZoSo" (after the four symbols that appear at the top of the Atlantic Records label - Zodiac letters for each member of the band).

Disc 2 (COMPANION AUDIO Unreleased Studio Outtakes - 40:35 minutes):
1. Black Dog (Basic Track With Guitar Overdubs)
2. Rock And Roll (Alternate Mix)
3. The Battle Of Evermore (Mandolin/Guitar Mix From Headley Grange)
4. Stairway To Heaven (Sunset Sound Mix)
5. Misty Mountain Hop (Alternate Mix)
6. Four Sticks (Alternate Mix)
7. Going To California (Mandolin/Guitar Mix)
8. When The Levee Breaks (Alternate U.K. Mix)

For a supposed DELUXE EDITION the 16-page booklet is adequate at best - colour live shots, the inner sleeve reproduced in the centre pages and a few basic reissue credits on the last few pages. All the original LP artwork is there – the second hand painting Plant bought in Berkshire and stuck to the wall of a derelict building to get the cover shot – the four symbols of the Zodiac for the boys along with Sandy Denny’s on the inner sleeve – the lyrics to “Stairway To Heaven” that we used to all pour over. But for such an iconic band and prestigious catalogue - you think Atlantic could have pushed the boat out a bit more. It's noticeable also that the track list stick-on sheet that was pasted on to the rear sleeves of I, II and III is now on the outside of the shrinkwrap for you to place wherever you want. It's also irritating because you can barely read the writing on it. But to the really good news...

The much-lauded JIMMY PAGE remaster is excellent and a definite improvement on what we had before - especially on the beautiful acoustic tracks "The Battle Of Evermore" and "Going To California". But it's when we hit "Black Dog", "Rock And Roll" and especially the monster "When The Levee Breaks" that the real sonic punch kicks in. The harmonica on "Levee" threatens to run amuck in your living room while that acoustic break in "Four Sticks" after the guitar intro is absolutely huge. It has to be said that there's noticeable hiss on some of the quieter parts in "Stairway" but not enough to be intrusive or detract. The same applies to the John Paul Jones keys in "Misty Mountain Hop" and Bonzo's drums just so powerful. But for me the sonic jewel on here is the mandolin/guitar battles and vocals in the stunning "Battle Of Evermore" with SANDY DENNY guesting so sweetly.

The liner notes for the 'Companion Audio' give it some waffle about 'new material' recorded for the 'works in progress' - it's deliberately ambiguous because you can't feel that a lot of these 'outtakes' were done in the studio with Pro Tools in the last few years and bear little resemblance to 1971. Having said all of that - they are irritatingly brilliant! You'd be hard pressed to spot the differences in either the Basic Track of "Black Dog" or the Alternate Mix of "Rock And Roll" but the Headley Grange version of "The Battle Of Evermore" is fabulous stuff - guitar bits coming at you've never heard before. Having become so accustomed to the finished take of the album's goliath "Stairway To Heaven" - the Sunset Sound Mix feels oddly unsatisfying - even though that beautiful electric guitar break remains virtually intact (and still has the power to thrill). But I'm taken aback yet again by the sheer Zep power of "When The Levee Breaks" where there's more echoing on the guitars and harmonica to a point where it feels like its going to get out of hand (but it doesn't). And that little guitar flourish at the end is Production genius. Wow!

So what we have is a five-star album given five-star sound and four-star presentation (don't get me started on the rip-off Uber Deluxe Edition). I can remember the excitement their albums used to engender on arrival - and this morning - tingles returned - and that's good enough for me (name or no name)...

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

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