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Mothership: The Very Best of Led Zeppelin Original recording remastered
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Vinyl, Box set, Original recording remastered, 29 Sep 2008
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MOTHERSHIP (The Very Best of Led Zeppelin)
· 2 CD comprehensive collection
· 24 tracks chosen and sequenced by the band members
· Remastered with the band members' oversight
· Liner notes by David Fricke
Where's the sense of reviewing an album filled with material that every right-thinking human being must already own? Well, let's not forget those over 80s and under 20s out there who may have yet to experience the full majesty of the band who set the benchmark for stadium-packing epic blues/folk rock. And, on the eve of the most hyped reunion gig of all time, Mothership lays it all out in chronological form.
Born from the ashes of the Yardbirds in 1968, Jimmy Page joined with fellow session monkey, John Paul Jones, and hotly-tipped West Midland youngsters Robert Plant and John Bonham This was alchemy of the highest order. Plant and Page's love of West Coast psychedelia, folk and primal blues was bolstered by Jones' arranging acumen and Bonham's powerhouse skinsmanship. Within weeks the first album was spawned. Already it contained the seeds of their greatest moments: The stinging bite of "Communication Breakdown", the doomy blues of ''Dazed And Confused'' and the widescreen pastorality of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You".
An ability to turn every live event into an extemporised trip through rock's back catalogue meant that the USA fell within months of hard touring. Missive number two contained more pilfered blues, but combined it with Page's now fully-matured Les Paul attack. Plant's wailing on "Whole Lotta Love" highlights the sexual nature of their cross gender appeal while "Ramble On" ushered in their ability to wrap nuance around sword and sorcery nonsense.
Now asssured of their place as rock gods, the band used the freedom to explore their gentler side on III. They drew on their love of SF tricksters like Kaleidoscope as well as English pioneers, Fairport Convention. Unfortunately this is where Mothership falls way short; opting to include the harder numbers rather than gems like ''Gallows Pole'' or ''That's The Way''. Shame...
By Four the band were unstoppable. "Black Dog" (tricky time signature yet hypnotic as hell), or the multi-part epic of "Stairway To Heaven": It all seemed so easy. To cap it all, "When The Levee Breaks" showed that their mastery of the blues was now a genre in itself. A juggernaut of ambient darkness, it's no wonder that people began to mutter about pacts with the devil.
On Houses Of The Holy the experimentation went a little awry. "No Quarter" is another dark classic but it's a mystery as to why compilers still include the dreadful cod-reggae of "D'yer Maker" (though Bonham's drums are jaw-droppingly amazing).
No matter, Physical Graffiti showed the band still had it in spades. "Kashmir" is eastern mysticism for the masses while "Trampled Underfoot" now added funk to their arsenal, and it worked.
Well-documented tragedy followed, yet Presence was still awesome. A true fan's favourite, the multi-tracked epic, "Achilles Last Stand" is a one-stop primer as to why Page is rightly regarded as a guitar master.
Last album, In Through The Out Door, saw the godlike status falter. Time was catching up. Truth be told, we were probably lucky not to experience Zeppelin through the 80s; a decade when nearly every contemporary went off the rails in search of new directions. This is why their legacy still stands proud. Of course to get the true picture you shouldn't bother with this album, just get the LOT. But Mothership still shows why the three-remaining English legends are just that. Peerless, in every sense of the word. --Chris Jones
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No need or point in going through a track-by-track rundown, except to say that most of the usual suspects are here, including one or two which most of us would happily have sacrificed for lesser known but perhaps better tracks from their relatively few albums.
I might have preferred Misty Mountain Hop (a tour de force for Bonham) instead of When The Levee Breaks, and I would have liked The Battle Of Evermore to have found favour in Page`s selection, Sandy Denny`s vocals lending a refreshing, pleasing poignancy after so much male chest-beating. (`Hey Ho!` indeed.)
It`s good to hear In The Evening and All My Love as the two final tracks, like a benediction.
Some songs had to be here: the opening four from their debut album are well chosen, Ramble On, Rock And Roll and Black Dog are essential, and if Whole Lotta Love were not present & correct, there might have been questions in the House - or at least in the garden.
Great sound, a near-perfect selection of Zep classics, not to mention an excellent booklet. We are indeed blessed.
Thanks, Jimmy. And thanks too to Percy, JPJ & the shade of Bonzo - channelling Thor, god of thunderous drummers!
Most of the best of the greatest.
Being a long time Zepp fan I am only too aware of the bad recordings of their music. Funny how such great songs of these standards can get recorded so badly.
I know they remastered there catalogue years ago so do not know how many times it has been done. I am not sure how much they can improve things either. This was ... made worse recently when I heard that you can IMPROVE the sound of CD tracks when converting them?! That was a mind melter for me and I kept asking myself how that could even be possible!
I am sure this collection is misisng a couple of tracks? Maybe I am wrong but I am sure there are tracks I used to listen to that are missing.
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