OK, so all of the previous owners are familiar with the material here, best described by someone elsewhere in the reviews here as a collection of thinly disguised blues covers, to pad things out, along with a couple of new songs that Jimmy had been working on with the Yardbirds. I can't argue with that, but what I can say is that Zep took that stuff and made it their own. They completely adrenalised it and took the material places that it had never been before. It was a stunning debut album by any standards. Jeff Beck had his version of similar material, which is great in it's own way, but not the aural trouncing that Zep gave it.
This new remastering really lets the whole thing breath a bit more openly, Pages acoustic guitar work and JPJ's pipe organ work being the main benefactors. There does appear to have been some sort of dynamic noise filtering used, perhaps even certain tracks have had noise limiting whereas others have not. Something strange is definitely afoot in the mix. The top end that gets pulled out with the usual noise reduction appears to have been sorted out by re-equing what was left.......or something along those lines. Everything still ends up as clear as the proverbial. Having said this, it works for me. It certainly has not sucked the life out of it the way Cedar noise reduction did when it came out. Crank up the amp and it is all there, ready to work your ears.
The bonus cd has a gig from Paris on it and this appears to be a source of some distress to some listeners. I am not one of those listeners. Sure I have heard better sound quality recordings, but rarely have I felt that the atmosphere of the gig was floating right out of the speakers. This gig is wild!! It is like the rock and roll equivalent of lighting a stick of dynamite and dancing through pools of petrol outside a nitro glycerine factory. I have heard dozens of Led Zep bootlegs and would have to say that this one is as good as any I have heard for getting close to what the gig must have been like. Yes, there are sound balancing issues, yes, levels get shifted, but the adrenaline flow is constant.
Six minutes into the last track, How Many More TImes, Page cranks out "that riff" during an improv section. He then plays "that riff" a couple more times......... Is this the birth of Whole Lotta Love? Worth hearing just for this alone.
Horses for courses...you might love or loath the sound quality(which was significantly better than I had expected going by some of the existing reviews) this gig has atmosphere and a quality that make it worth hearing at least once, if not a dozen times.
on 3 September 2011
I'm not a big fan of remastered vinyl albums but this one is an exception (although I've only my 42 year old vinyl copy to compare it with!)Normally the remastering leaves a clinical,clear, yet lifeless recording,but as the technology evolves, that seems to be less of a problem. There is a striking clarity about it, the acoustic and electric guitar and drums sound as if they are being played live in the room.
For most people I guess "the" Led Zeppelin album is the 4th or "runes" album, but certainly amongst me and my sixth form mates of that era, the first album was the best, more coherent than the live offerings of Cream, it showcased the talents of the band members perfectly, it's hard to grasp how different this band were then, I'd never seen anyone play a guitar with a violin bow! Perhaps there is a certain naivete in the choice of songs, some of them covers that most of us had not heard of then, but the rawness and sheer power of the performances before fame, booze, drugs and over inflated egos is refreshing. I saw them numerous times between 1971 and 1977 or so and, like the album, the most electrifying performances were the early ones. If you are looking for 30 minute guitar or drum solos you will be disappointed, but if you believe that the great performances are more about what you don't play, the soul you put into it and the space in a performance then you'll love it.
on 18 July 2011
Every rock music fan has their defining Led Zeppelin moment or defining zep album. For some it's the potent riffery of '2', for some it's the diversity of Physical Graffitti, with me it's 'Presence' but in truth, each album is a defining moment, (even 'In through the out door' had its moments!) and as such each is a snapshot of where the band were musically at the time. Led Zeppelin 1 (or the first album, as you prefer) is special as it set the template for what was to come. The template got added to, expanded, extended, sometimes twisted about, but this debut carries all the elements that make Led Zeppelin so special, the breadth of scope from the blistering hard rock of communication breakdown through the acoustic shimmering beauty of 'Black mountain side' to the raw blues of You shook me and 'How many more times. 'Good times bad times' comes charging out of the traps like a (black) dog on heat only to make way for the delicacy of the acoustic intro to 'Babe I'm gonna leave you' which soon packs a fair wallop itself as the juggernaut gets going. Then its Plant in fine voice, playing off Page for Willie Dixon's 'You shook me' before the 'tour de force that is 'Dazed and confused' I much prefer this version to the 27 minute behemoth that clogs up a who;e side (side??) of the live soundtrack, 'The song remains the same'
Just to show that Page isn't the only mad musical genius, JPJ turns in some beautifully uplifting organ playing for 'Your time is gonna come' which melts into a change of mood for 'Black Mountain side' which is in turn steamrolled by possibly the most savage riff that they ever committed to vinyl in Communication breakdown. No need for any pointless meandering here, they make their statement of intent in 2 and a half minutes. The ghost of Willie Dixon turns up again on 'I can't quit you, baby' nodding his approval of these white boys that bleed the blues before the final tour de force of 'How many more times' Plant is at his absolute best as he declares 'I've got you in the sights of my gun' in this 'jammed' blues rock classic.
It's as good a starting point as any if Led Zep have previously passed you by and you want to see what the fuss is about, you will not be disappointed. Don't forget to work your way to 'Physical Graffitti' and Presence to see how the music progressed, but witness here a young band with all their raw enthusiasm and fire. Some will say that it didn't get any better than this, and I would be hard pushed to contest that point. Enjoy, and rock out!!
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) - Atlantic/Swan Song 8122796457 breaks down as follows...
Disc 1 (44:56 minutes):
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 (71:16 minutes):
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'd be loudly panned by everyone including 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" and "III" (which are far better soundwise and contain genuinely excellent bonuses)
on 10 June 2014
As there are so many versions out there, this is a review of the deluxe CD edition.
I have three versions of this album - vinyl that I bought many, many years ago, the mid-nineties remastered CD, and now this. As the vinyl was played to death I now only listen to the CDs of it, so, does this edition sound better than the earlier remaster? Not noticeably to me on my mid-range equipment but no doubt the audiophiles out there will say differently.
What about the live Paris CD then? Sounds a bit odd to me; it could be that the recording equipment couldn't cope with the sonic attack of the Zeppelin but there are times when the different instruments can't be heard clearly. Obviously there is a lack of decent soundboard recordings from that time but the BBC did a pretty fine job of it recording Zep shortly afterwards.
Can't see that I'll listen to the live CD very often - who needs it when the main album is so very, very good.
Amid all the acclaim for their later albums, Zep's debut tends to be forgotten. Often held "responsible" for the rise of heavy metal, they were really a blues band who happened to play loud and with flamboyance. The folk tag is somewhat misleading. Although it was an influence, they played up to it later in what I believe was a reaction to the unwelcome heavy metal label. Having said that, blues in its original form is folk music so perhaps it's an appropriate observation after all.
As for the music, what I like most are the production, the coherence of the album as a whole and of course the playing.
The sound has a resonance which makes the album vibrant. There is a lovely balance between the predominant blues songs and the occasional diversion. The playing has the best of both worlds: virtuoso individuals playing off each other so that they work superbly as a unit.
Jimmy Page sets out his agenda within two minutes of the start with a blistering solo, while Robert Plant's aping of the guitar on "You Shook Me" gives you the shivers. "Your Time Is Gonna Come" features some spiritual organ playing by John Paul Jones on what is the nearest thing to a pop song on the album. Best of all however is "How Many More Times", which opens with a storming repeated riff and goes through several dramatic changes, including a quite psychedelic passage featuring some improvised vocal gymnastics, while even "Bolero" is thrown in. Great stuff.
The late Sixties saw some major changes in British rock music. The Beatles had opened the door for any number of new styles to be taken forwards, but they had since split up leaving a gaping hole. The Stones were branching out and continuing their trade but a number of new, exciting bands had or were emerging. The Who were gradually forming the first signs of punk, Pink Floyd were taking the Psychedelic to new realms while a couple of new groups of upstarts were making a lot of noise in the North. Black Sabbath were one, Led Zeppelin were the other. Both were louder than any other band had ever been, both were seen as mystical and dangerous, both were influenced by the blues but were giving it a darker, more sexual and vicious edge.
Guitarist Jimmy Page had been doing the rounds for a few years, while session musician John Paul Jones was amongst the best there was. Hoping to form a new band (or continue the Yardbirds) Jimmy spotted the teenager Robert Plant whose unique vocals would add an other-worldly edge to what Page had in mind, while John Bonham was a friend who has happy doing the local clubs to support his family. After some negotiations the band was formed and began to jam- there was an immediate chemistry in the group with each member providing something vital. They soon created a number of original tracks based on these jam sessions as well as some re-workings of blues classics and entered the studio to make the album. It was ready in a couple of weeks and kick-started the heavy rock and metal genres.
‘Good Times, Bad Times’ opens with the dual attack of Page and Bonzo, with Page’s dirty, heavy chords backed sublimely by the double kick (on a single kick drum!) drumming. There is a fantastic riff with lots of overdubbed distortion and extra licks and the song introduces us to the ‘live’ recording process- most of the tracks were laid down live with Page sticking microphones all over the room, and extra vocals etc would be added later. Plant is fairly restrained here, saving the more acrobatic vocals for later tracks.
‘Babe I'm Gonna Leave You’ is a cover of an Anne Bredon song but the band was inspired by Joan Baez’s version. The song uses a quiet/loud dynamic which would be a frequent hallmark of the band, starting out with a sultry, downbeat acoustic section before caving in on itself with a catastrophic heavy part which has inspired any number of metal bands. The middle part features siren effects, crashing percussion, screamed Plant vocals, and a descending attack of chords from Page. There are superb guitar parts throughout with enough speed and twiddling to make any guitarist drool.
‘You Shook Me‘ is another cover, this time from Blues legend Willie Dixon. The song led to a rift between friends Page and Jeff Beck who had also released the song months earlier. The Zep version is much more raucous and sexual thanks to the pulsating bass by Jones, the plodding by Bonzo, the call/return vocals and guitars as well as the string bending and piercing high notes which drift and slide from both Page and Plant. Jones also gets to show off his versatility with a strong organ solo while Plant gives the harmonica a go. The reverb and effects on Page’s solo towards the end add a ghostly tone.
‘Dazed And Confused’ is for many Zep’s signature song. It was at least until the second album came along and it remains one of their best known and well-loved songs. Notable for its famous riff and for Page’s bowing technique on the guitar it is a chaotic epic full of many of the band’s trademarks. Opening with a tumbling bass line and weird harmonics Plant bemoans the dangers of loving certain women before the lead riff wails its way into the song. We get an experimental middle section with weird guitar sounds which Plant matches with his yelping to create a strange relationship. The song picks up pace and the band stomp their way through a high speed section full of manic playing from all, almost single handedly defining hard rock as they go- just listen to Bonzo do whatever he likes throughout.
‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ shows us a more gentle side with a Stones style track. Opening with wonderful gospel organs from Jones which soon shift to a more Blues style as Jimmy’s steel guitar stumbles in, it is a song about a man who wants revenge on a girl who was unfaithful to him. Perhaps more than any other Zep track we get a huge sing-along chorus with generous melodies. The song ends with an eastern flavour to segue into the next track.
‘Black Mountain Side’ is an instrumental track which basically highlights Page’s skill and the band’s love for The Orient which would grow over the next few albums. Page makes his guitar sound like a sitar and we got some nice tabla playing. The song was influenced by a similarly titled Irish folk song which Sandy Denny and Bert Jansch had recorded but the band use it here as a link between the calm of Your Time and the storm of Communication Breakdown.
‘Communication Breakdown’ opens with a terrific, high speed riff with is in many ways a precursor to punk. Plant shrieks throughout, Page even does some backing vocals, and we get a frantic solo in the middle. This is one of their few most obviously commercial songs- short, big chorus, and a simple verse, chorus format.
‘I Can't Quit You Baby’ is another Dixon cover, this time sounding like much of the English Blues of the time. Page and Bonham have plenty of space to riff and jam while Plant improvises with each phrase. There is a long middle section where Page gets to show off his growing skills and experiments with different tuning. The song is quite slow and doesn’t have some of what makes the other tracks special.
‘How Many More Times’ is amongst the greatest jam songs ever. The band by this point were tight after plenty of shows and knew when each member was going to start, stop, slow down, or speed up. It is the longest song on the album and is split into several sections all linked by the excellent lead riff. In the middle Page whips the bow out again for some weird sounds while Plant throws out the usual Blues lyrics. This builds to the ‘hunter’ section before speeding up for the climax.
When the album was released at the end of the 60s, critics did not appreciate it- comparing it to some of the other heavy blues bands of the time whilst complaining that it was perhaps too lewd, raucous, and free. It wasn’t until the band continued to release more material that critics were swayed, although it must be said that Zeppelin have always been a fan’s band. The album sold well in Britain and thanks to constant touring it cracked in the US. It was only a matter of time before the monster grew, smashing all previous records, and becoming something mythical. The seemingly overnight success saw the band labeled as mystics possibly in league with Satan which of course propelled the group even further into superstardom. This debut is a rock classic; it has two or three of their most popular songs and while the rest are merely updated blues standards they are played with such swagger and energy that it feels revolutionary and the listener cannot fail to be swept along.
Someone characterized the global rock music scene in the 1970s like this:
"Well, there was Zeppelin" (pause) "...and then there was everybody else..."
In so many ways, this 1969 debut album was the greatest achievement of all for Jimmy Page's all-new and completely unknown band. The ex-Yardbird engaged Peter Grant as the (not-yet-existing) band's manager, and professional multi-instrumentalist session-musician John Paul Jones. He then went to a West Midlands pub to hear a 19-year-old unknown R&B singer so steeped in the blues idiom, with such a powerful & distinctive delivery that Page reportedly couldn't believe he wasn't already a famous name with a recording contract: Robert Plant & Jimmy Page hit it off personally and the band had its front-man. Plant brought his fellow `Band of Joy' member Bonzo as drummer, the ideal fit with the new band's style, and a legend was born.
The founder of Atlantic records Ahmet Ertegun took a chance on Page's new band and offered them a record deal, and this classic album is the result. It's one awesome achievement.
The music is powerful R&B with strong dynamics right from the start of the tight, rock-oriented and melodious opener `Good Times Bad Times' followed up by the acoustic guitar based powerhouse `Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' (a classic rarely played onstage due to its complexity & multi-tracked instruments). Then a heavy re-work of Willie Dixon's `You Shook Me' moves into `Dazed & Confused', a long weighty minor-key blues number with slow bass-dominated rhythm and Page's precise and gutsy guitar refrains supporting Plant's wailing, powerful & articulate vocal line - the defining moment of the album.
The anthem-structured `Your Time is Gonna Come' (the only track which now sounds dated due to the electric organ) leads to acoustic instrumental `Black Mountain Side' before the frenzied rocker `Communication Breakdown'. Another highpoint `I Can't Quit You Babe' a slow restrained blues number with vocal and lead guitar chasing each other in counterpoint leads to the storming closer `How many More Times'.
The band plays with confidence and hits you right between the eyes; they got the mojo working straight away and never let up. The album redefined the landscape and raised the bar, was an instant best seller and made Led Zeppelin an international supergroup.
Greater things were to follow.
on 24 September 2003
It all makes such perfect sense now in retrospect. You take two of the premier sessions artists in England rising from the ashes of the Yardbirds and pair them up with a couple of unknown 19 year olds from the Band of Joy and form one of the greatest rock groups of all time. Led Zeppelin's debut album remains a classic and its showpiece "Dazed and Confused" is the song I have listened to most often in my life; my favorite part is Bonzo's cascades on the drum as Jimmy Page loses the violin bow and finishes his guitar solo (I have learned from a reputable source that the song was originally written by Jake Holmes as a folk-rock type song, but uncredited on the album). One of the great things about the new Led Zeppelin double-DVD is that there are another four versions of "Dazed and Confused" on it, although admittedly you have to look for some of them. I finally get to see Bonzo do that bit on what, by contemporary standards, is a kiddie drum kit.
"Communication Breakdown" is the one "single" from the album because from the very beginning Led Zeppelin's best tunes were just too long for airplay. "Dazed and Confused" is 6:27, Page's acoustic arrangement of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is 6:40 (the second best track on the album) and the final track, the under-rated "How Many More Times" is a heck of a lot longer than the "3:30" that is listed in the liner notes (go figure). The album begins with the introductory hard chords of "Good Times Bad Times" but also features the acoustic guitar and tabla drums on the folksy "Black Mountainside" as the group mixes and matches music styles. At this point Robert Plant is just handling the vocals, with Page, Jones and Bonham responsible for the new songs. For good measure they toss a pair of Willie Dixon's blues tunes, "You Shook Me" and "I Can't Quit You Baby," to reveal the exact nature of the group's musical roots even as they were on their way to being the definitive heavy metal band.
Everything that comes afterwards in the musical career of Led Zeppelin all comes back to the ground they claim on this album. Future albums will vary the calculus in terms of how much hard rock, acoustic, or blues appears on a given album, but you will find the template for the group's success laid out on this self-titled debut effort where they establish their album-oriented perspective. This is guitar rock beyond what we had heard in the distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. Ultimately, what makes it a great debut album is that Led Zeppelin continues to build on those foundation in eight more classic heavy metal albums over the next dozen years. This is one of the few albums that I still as vinyl (object d'arte), cassette (emergency use if the CD player in the car breaks down), and CD. If I get stuck on a desert island, guess what album I want...
on 16 August 2004
Zeppelins first album was a perfect example of classic hard rock with a great bluesy touch.
The album opens with the hard rocking 'Good Times Bad Times', with a great riff and pounding, soulful bass courtesy of the underrated John Paul Jones. The mood then suddenly changes with Zeps acoustic interpretation of the heart-wrenching Joan Baez number 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You', and is followed by the Willie Dixon blues classic 'You Shook Me', in which Robert Plant delivers an outstanding vocal performance. On track four Zep return to hard rock with the epic, swaggering Dazed and Confused, with excellent precision drumming from the late, great John Bonham. Zep then proceed through the slow burning 'Your Time Is Gonna Come', which leads onto a re-interpretation of Bert Jansch's 'Blackwater Side', here re-named 'Black Mountain Side', with added tabla drums and acoustic guitar. Next up is the B-side of 'Good Times Bad Times', the rocking 'Communication Breakdown', and another Dixon blues standard, 'I Can't Quit You Baby'. The album then closes with 'How Many More Times', a showcase of the musical talents of this seminal band.
This album is definately one of the greatest ever, a winning combination of blues and rock, which will never be bettered.