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LED ZEPPELIN IV & HOUSES OF THE HOLY OLYMPIC STUDIOS PLAYBACK EVENT REPORT PLUS EXCLUSIVE TBL TRACK BY TRACK COMPANION DISC PREVIEW

1 October 2014 6,375 views 10 Comments

 

olympia sept 6

Led Zeppelin IV and Houses Of The Holy Playback Event:

 Tuesday September 30th, 2014:

Olympic Studios, Barnes, London 

Hosted by Jimmy Page 

Right…here goes…

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the Led Zeppelin IV-Houses of The Holy playback hosted by Jimmy Page at Olympia Studios this afternoon.

We arrived in the late September sunshine via a coach from the Warner Music office just after midday. We were taken to the very plush Olympic restaurant with the food served on Led Zep inscribed napkins and the drinks on coasters depicting the dual art work of Led Zeppelin IV and Houses Of The Holy (see pic below). The playback presentation began just after 1pm.

Also in attendance, Zep reissuing mastering engineer John Davis, Jorgen Angel (who took the first live pics of Zep in 1968), Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, Brad Tolinski from Guitar Player, Ross Halfin, Pete Makowski, Liz Barnes at Planet Rock and a large press contingent – this was much more high profile than the March playback.

Robin Hurley consultant to Warner Music introduced the event and to mass applause  Jimmy walked on to the stage in usual black attire. Jimmy spoke a few opening words about the two albums and what we were about to hear – ”Hang on to your seats , I’ll see you at the other end…”

In simply stupendous sound quality though the Olympic cinema PA , we were then afforded the following previews in a sequence compiled by Jimmy… these are the notes I made as they were played with the screen depicting striking images and photos from the era throughout…

Rock And Roll (Alternate mix) 3.39

Fuckin’ hell! Loud ! Guitar slightly cleaner and clearer while the piano is slightly down in the mix – the economy in the playing – oh yes!

Misty Mountain Hop (Alternate mix) 4.50

Straight into this …a punchier mix with differing guitar solo treatment effects on the guitar solo. More emphasised double track on the ‘’I really don’t know oh oh’’ fade – I’d forgotten how much this track swings – another revelation..

The Battle Of Evermore (Mandolin guitar mix from Headley Grange)

An instrumental backing track – this brings the chiming quality of the mandolin and acoustic guitars to the fore. Might be a tambourine in there too – faded after about two minutes and into..

The Song Remains The Same (Guitar overdub reference mix) 5.30

All instrumental and you can plainly hear the guitar army unfolding – it’s total invigorating. Listening to this epic opener in all its instrumental glory, it’s clear to detect that this was a forerunner for the similar guitar army assault on the senses delivery of Achilles…faded just before where the opening verse would come in…

The Rain Song (mix minus piano) 7.45

Slightly different vocal effect and the drums are much more prominent in the mix at times. The piano is in there but buried deep within.

First well up tears and lump in my throat moment for me as Bonzo strides into the finale – this provided another revelation moment. I have never previously realised before the sheer expertise of his playing on this – as an important percussive statement as Moby Dick etc… and I realised it as the tears came to my eyes marvelling at the sensitivity of John Bonham’s immense musicianship…

No Quarter (Rough mix with JPJ keyboards – no vocals) 7.03

Another standout highlight. Instrumental mix with JPJ piano prominent – theremin prominent and the drums crystal clear. Another well up tears moment for me at the point where the expected  Page solo has yet to be added and JPJ extends his keyboard input on grand piano sounding superb. His input here has the feel of the 1973 live versions. More keyboard overdubs as it fades. An enlightening mix that highlights John Paul Jones incredible contribution to this track. As I was hearing No Quarter it unfold I had a flashback to the first time I heard on the when I was a mere 16 year old on the night of March 20th 1973 when it was previewed on the Whistle Test…the effect 41 years on here today now I am 58 was equally shattering…

Black Dog (Basic mix with guitar overdubs) 4.34

There’s a greater emphasis on the double track vocals on the chorus and you can here John Bonham stick count in between verses.

The guitar solo that closes the track on the official album has yet to be layered allowing the listener to hear Robert’s vocal ad libs more clearly in the mix. This accents phrases such as ‘’push me baby’’ and ‘’feels good’’ to greater effect on the fade. Loud and absolutely proud…

And finally..

Stairway To Heaven Sunset Sound mix) 8.03

Increased reverb on the acoustic intro as the recorder comes in. The keyboards are more prominent at times. The guitar solo has mix differences after the ‘’To be a rock and not to roll’’ line. More echo on Robert’s final line. Completely magical…simple as that…

Phew…whilst these performances are all alternate mixes as opposed to alternate versions, it does not detract from their impact – and it’s like the song says -if you listen very hard -the tune will come to you at last…

Afterwards Jimmy conducted a very interesting Q and A –

My question was the first up as follows: ‘’When you initially commend recording the fourth album in late 1970, was the band’s confidence knocked in any way by the negative reviews of Led Zeppelin III?’’

Jimmy replied that was not the case –they were all united in what they wanted to achieve with the fourth album and it was a case of ever onward. He also talked about being seen to be playing in the future. He answered the questions articulately and with humour.

Here’s a summary of the Jimmy Page Q and A

Talking about how the Song Remains The Same came into being he said

‘’It was going to be all instrumental like an overture that then segued into The Rain Song – I thought it would be something different that Robert did not come in for so long. In fact it was going to be called The Overture. It had that guitar layering which I’d worked on at home. Later Robert came up with the lyrics. The overdubs were done quite quickly here in studio number one’’

On the recording of Led Zeppelin Zep IV:

‘’Headley Grange allowed us to stretch out – the whole process of recording there gave the album it’s character. It captured the essence of what the performances were.’’

On the Stairway To Heaven Sunset Sound mix:

‘’I think that sounded fantastic earlier in here – the depth and layers to it…’’

On the longevity of the band:

‘’Because Led Zeppelin weren’t having to worry about doing singles, each time we went in to record, it was a body of work for an album. So you could get the shift and the movement forwards as opposed to having to be rooted back to a single that might have been done a year ago.We did not have to worry about singles…the body of the work was the album and then we would spread the word at live concerts. We had the freedom at our disposal.’’

Commenting on a question that there was some original hiss on the recordings (it was evident in No Quarter):

‘’That can add to the ambiance as these are analogue recordings – to de- hiss sometimes loses that ambience.’’

On the source for the companion discs:

‘’Everything is from analogue quarter inch tapes – that’s what I worked working from and it has thrown up surprises like La La on the led Zeppelin II companion disc – and there are more surprises ahead’’

On JohnPaul Jones:

‘No Quarter certainly showcases his talent and his instrumental musical abilities. It was really important to showcase everybody’s talents within this project’’

On John Bonham:

“Listening to John Bonham is just a sheer celebration of his playing – it can’t help but fill you with so much joy.His  sensitive palying on The Rain Song – well he  was such a master crafts man’’

On the modern music industry and so called death of the album:

“The Led Zeppelin of then and the new bands of now come form completely different worlds. I prefer to hear an artist’s work and what they can do so, as far as I’m concerned, I’d get a lot more out of a collection of songs, to be able to understand what the musician is doing. The album’s not dead for me; I still buy vinyl albums.”

On the subject of his forthcoming book publication:

”I didn’t want to write an autobiography – I always said if I did I’d want it to be published posthumously.”There’s two good reasons for that; the first thing is you can’t get sued, and the second thing is, you don’t have to promote it! (much laughter in the room). Compiling it as a photographic record I think was more interesting because every picture does tell a story.”

Asked which of his songs he sang in the shower:

”Godlfinger” was his tonge in cheek reply (he was on that 1960s session)

On the predictable reunion question:

“I don’t think it looks as though that’s a possibility or on the cards, so there’s not much more I can say about that.I’m not going to give a detail-by-detail account of what one person says or another person says. All I can say is it doesn’t look likely, does it?”

On the subject of performing on stage again:

‘’I want to be seen to be playing and that will manifest next year.

If I was to play again, it would be with musicians that would be — some of the names might be new to you,” I haven’t put them together yet, but I’m going to do that next year. If I went out to play, I would play material that spanned everything from my recording career right back to my very, very early days with The Yardbirds. There would certainly be some new material in there as well.

I love playing live, I really do. Live concerts are always an interesting challenge because it means you can always change things as you’re playing every night. You can make it even more of an adventure. I would play all of the things I’m known to play — instrumental versions of ‘Dazed And Confused’, etcetera, etcetera…”

* As for the above comments re performing again – I know we have heard similar statements before – I for one have faith that he really will get down to being ‘seen to be playing’ as he put it sometime over the next 12 months…

……………………….

olympic sept 1

In summary – this was another life affirming experience for me – I’ve been a fan of this music since I was 13 and to hear it reverberating around this historic landmark where much of it was recorded and mixed, in the company of the man and master musician who’s vision made it and continues to make it so real…well, awe-inspiring doesn’t even get close..

 Dave Lewis – October 1st, 2014.

……………………………

 LED ZEPPELIN IV AND HOUSES OF THE HOLY COMPANION DISCS – TBL WORLD EXCLUSIVE: TRACK BY TRACK PREVIEW:

 I’ve also had an advance preview listen to the complete companion discs of Led Zeppelin IV and Houses Of The Holy

Here is an exclusive TBL preview of the complete content of the forthcoming companion audio discs with my notes on the mix differences etc. 

Led Zeppelin IV

The Companion Audio Disc:

Black Dog (Basic mix with guitar overdubs) 4.34

There’s a greater emphasis on the double track vocals on the chorus and you can here John Bonham stick count in between verses.

The guitar solo that closes the track on the official album has yet to be layered allowing the listener to hear Robert’s vocal ad libs more clearly in the mix. This accents phrases such as ‘’push me baby’’ and ‘’feels good’’ to greater effect on the fade.

Rock And Roll (Alternate mix) 3.39

Guitar slightly cleaner and clearer while the piano is slightly down in the mix

The Battle Of Evermore (Mandolin guitar mix from Headley Grange)

An instrumental backing track – this brings the chiming quilty of the mandolin sound to the fore.

Stairway To Heaven Sunset Sound mix) 8.03

Reverb on the acoustic intro as the recorder comes in.

The keyboards are more prominent at times. The guitar solo has  mix differences after the ‘’To be a rock and not to roll’’ line . Slight echo on Robert’s acapella final line

Misty Mountain Hop (Alternate mix) 4.50

A punchier mix with differing guitar solo treatment effects on the guitar solo. More emphasised double track on the ‘’I really don’t know oh oh’’ fade.

Four Sticks (Alternate mix ) 4.33

Commences with a 1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3- 1 count in from Bonzo  similar to the bootlegs (this is the only piece that may have appeared on bootleg before)

Slightly cleaner vocal with less echo. Drums higher in the mix and hi hat prominent

Guitar higher in mix before the refrain across the synth part. Stereo panning on ‘’oooh yeah’’ finale on the fade.

Going To California (Mandolin guitar mix) 3.34

Instrumental backing track – Robert’s deep breath can still be heard on the intro. Mandolin sounding very impressive in isolation – in fact hearing the track this way demonstrates the acoustic mastery of Jimmy and John Paul Jones.

When The Levee Breaks (Alternate UK mix in progress) 7.10

Strident intro with cleaner vocal and harmonica echoed to greater effect. Phased guitar more prominent – harmonica part at 4.39 clearer. Clearer added guitar parts across the speakers around 6.35.

……………………………. 

napkins

 

Houses of The Holy

Companion Audio Disc

The Song Remains The Same (Guitar overdub reference mix) 5.30

All instrumental and you can plainly hear the guitar army unfolding and it’s total invigorating. The overdubs at 1min 03 and 5.02 are previously unheard. Listening to this epic opener in all its instrumental glory, it’s clear to detect that this was a forerunner for the similar guitar army assault on the senses delivery of Achilles Last Stand. A prime example of the guitar compositional skills of Jimmy Page. Just incredible.

The Rain Song (mix minus piano) 7.45

Slightly different vocal effect and the drums more prominent in mix at times. The piano is in there but buried deep within. John Bonham’s contribution – simply a revelation.

Over The Hills And Far Away (guitar mix) 4.22

Backing track instrumental. More echo on the guitar and JPJ bass is well up in mix. At 3mins 58 where the treated guitar section comes on the official album, there is a totally different acoustic guitar complete ending. The point where you expect the treated guitar part to come, in only for it to switch to an acoustic ending is wonderfully disorientating.

The Crunge (Rough mix) 3.16

Count in as on the album. Vocal and keyboards up in the mix

Dancing Days (Rough mix with vocal) 3.46

Noticeable for the a more heavy reverb on the vocals which reminded of Lennon’s work with Phil Spector’s on Instant Karma.

No Quarter (Rough mix with JPJ keyboards – no vocals) 7.03

Another standout highlight. Instrumental mix with JPJ piano prominent – theremin prominent and the drums crystal clear. At 4 mins 07 the Page solo has yet to appear and JPJ extends his keyboard input on grand piano sounding superb. His input here has the feel of the 1973 live versions. More keyboards overdubs as it fades. An enlightening mix that highlights John Paul Jones immense musicianship.

The Ocean (working mix) 4.28

No count in -cleaner solo at 1.45 leading into the -backing vocals down in mix. The ‘’la la la la la ‘’ vocal more pronounced in mix at 2.09. Robert’s addition ad-libs on the do-wop speeded up finale are slightly clearer.

……………………….

Folks – If you thought you really loved Led Zeppelin IV and Houses Of The Holy…well think again, because you are about to love them a whole lot more believe me …and yes, get ready to party like it’s 1971 and 1973..

DL – October 1st, 2014

……………………….

The Guardian preview of The Rain Song (mix minus piano):

Here’s the preview of the alternate mix of The Rain Song via The Guardian website for UK listeners :

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/sep/29/led-zeppelin-unreleased-version-of-rain-song

US link:

http://pitchfork.com/news/56883-led-zeppelin-share-alternate-mix-of-the-rain-song/

Jimmy Page comments on The Rain Song companion disc version:

“The Rain Song” is the sort of piece of music that Led Zeppelin could approach and do so successfully and so masterfully. This whole genre of the sensitivity, where it can sort of caress you, it’s something that I’ve always been very proud of. The companion disc version is really a good blend of everything that’s actually being played.

……………………

YouTube Led Zeppelin IV Unboxing clip:

 

Until next time…

Keep listening, keep reading…

Dave Lewis/Gary Foy – October 1st 2014.

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10 Comments »

  • Jerry Shriver said:

    Hello, David,
    Could you please contact me via the e-mail address above in regards to a story I am writing for USA Today on the latest Led Zep reissues?
    Thanks you,
    Jerry Shriver
    USA TODAY

  • dukeman said:

    I agree with my fellow fans above.How many more times do we have to buy the same old stuff.It’s beginning to feel like a money making project!

    Come on Jimmy look to the future,the Led Zep reunion is never going to happen so lets get on a do something new we can all look forward to.

  • Graham Rodger said:

    Must be frustrating for Jimmy to see David Gilmour releasing an album of previously unreleased instrumental Pink Floyd material on 10th November, featuring newly recorded elements, bolstered by a worldwide advertising campaign… and then there’s David’s new solo album and tour set for next year… he must be thinking – lucky bastard…! Now that’s something to get excited about.

  • Graham Johnson said:

    I worship Jimmy Page, I really do. But what a wasted talent spending all his time just sitting around and looking backwards regurgitating the same old same old. However brilliant.

    I’m sure to some ears they sound better and fresher but to me they’ve always sounded fantastic and still do. There is just limit to how many times I can buy the same songs in a slightly different format.

    On these two re-issues the companion discs don’t even have any new material just re-mixes as far as I can see.

    We’ve had nothing new from Jimmy, plenty of promises, plenty of false dawns and nothing else. I suspect we never will. Such a shame and such a waste of a genius.

    I really am past getting excited about these two re-issues, at least the first three had something new on them but backing tracks with bits missing. Really?

  • Wools said:

    Dave,
    Great question to open the nights proceedings with Jimmy Page. I would be certain that a sense of “let’s show them” must have been present during the album genesis and work through. What an event it must have been to attend!
    I remain hopeful that 2015 will bring Jimmy Page back to the stage as his journey expressed “live” from the beginning through all of his recorded history would be quite iconic and very unique; a must see for me.

    Wools
    Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Graeme said:

    Superb stuff Dave. Thanks for the prompt and passionate reviews of the latest reissues. Mouth watering prospects and I can’t wait to blast them out later this month. All best mate.

  • Bob Flux said:

    Really interesting review, Dave – much appreciated. Once again, though, and as with the first three reissues, despite the sonic improvements that have been made it still doesn’t sound as if there’s enough of interest on the bonus disks to make me want to go out and buy them. There just isn’t sufficient difference there, to be honest, between the bonus tracks and the originals – there really isn’t. For example, I’ve heard the alternative mix of Black Dog online, and it is effectively just the same track that we’re all familiar with but minus the guitar solo; it just isn’t enough to get me excited, I’m very sad to say. As I’ve said before, I know Jimmy can’t suddenly produce undiscovered gems, unreleased classics and badass jams from nowhere – if they don’t exist, then they don’t exist – but I would have much preferred to hear properly remastered versions, say, of the alternate vocal take of ‘Levee’ that is available on YouTube, or some of the initial run-throughs of Black Dog from Headley Grange that are available on bootleg, where you can hear them grappling with the tricky riff and can almost hear Bonzo getting ready to hurl his sticks across the room! Now, that would have been cool, and much more preferable to hearing the same version of Black Dog that we already know but without that stellar guitar solo – not even with an alternative guitar solo! Sonic improvements and the brilliant ‘La La’ aside, I remain disappointed with the bonus disks released so far.

    But Jimmy’s mention of playing live again IS enough to get me salivating! I just really hope that he actually makes it happen this time. More than anything, I’d love to hear some new music from him. Here’s hoping. No-one can rock like our Jim.

  • Stephen said:

    I personally do no see the point in releasing alternate mixes, the majority of which are extremely similar to the original, or missing vocals. It’s an opportunity missed to show Zep doing some early incarnations of songs. That would have been much more interesting. Most people will listen to the alternate mixes once and that’s it. There’s a brilliant version of Swan Song on youtube. If he doesn’t include that with PG, it’s a travesty. Bah humbug! 🙂 ITTOD is the one album where alternate mixes could be a revelation. As Plant vocals were buried in Carouselambra and the whole production, in general, was a bit muddy.

  • Byron Lewis said:

    Can’t wait for the Guardian event night on 15th, I do hope any reunion questions are binned, he must surely be tired of them by now.

  • Richard Grubb said:

    Spectacular stuff!

    Only weeks away now…the Sunset Sound mix for Stairway and TSRTS guitarmaggedon (or whatever it’s called!) are the ones I’m most looking forward to!

    Tick tock…

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