REMASTERS 23 YEARS GONE TBL ARCHIVE SPECIAL / ROBERT PLANT ON BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC AND DANNY BAKER BBC 5 LIVE INTERVIEWS/ AMNESTY DVD BOX SET WITH PAGE & PLANT/JOHN VARVATOS ROCK IN FASHION/DL DIARY UPDATE
TBL ARCHIVE SPECIAL -THE REMASTERS RELEASES - 23 YEARS GONE
It’s amazing to think that before October 1990, the only way of hearing Led Zeppelin’s music was via the ten original albums – ie the eight original studio albums, the Song Remains the Same soundtrack and the posthumous collection Coda.
There were no greatest hits albums, no BBC sessions, no 1972 live albums and certainly no i-tunes.
Their albums had been released on CD – alebit not from the original masters and transferred via analogue tapes. The results were mixed. I did a feature in Record Collector in early 1990 reviewing the original CD’s (I’ll need to dig that one out) ,blister fully unaware that Jimmy was about to overhaul the entire catalogue for CD.
Thus the arrival in the Autumn of 1990 of the five LP CD box set and double Remasters compialtions was a very big deal indeed.
I wasn’t the only one I am sure who had not paid much attention to the studio albums in recent years. My Zep listening time was taken up analysing the many Zep shows that were appearing on CD sets and the fresh outtakes that had surfaced. The arrival of the Remasters sets changed all that. Suddenly we all realised just exactly what it was that had made this band so special. Lapsed fans got back on the wagon –a whole new generation of younger enthusiast’s also jumped aboard. Overnight Led Zep’s stock shot up…and it’s kept on increasing ever since.
It’s now been on the increase some 23 years…and to commemorate those crucial October 1990 releases - here’s my original take on it all, written upon their release in October 1990…
LED ZEPPELIN REMASTERED…
DAVE LEWIS REVIEWS JIMMY PAGE’S DEFINITIVE COMPILATIONS OF ZEPP’S BACK CATALOGUE
Earlier this year, I summed up my feature in Record Collector on Led Zeppelin On CD by offering Atlantic Records the following advice: “In the light of the shortcomings of the Led Zeppelin CDs, it would be good to see Atlantic embark on a re-mastering job to eliminate some of the errors that have occurred. An even better idea would be for Jimmy Page himself to oversee such a project which could easily take the format of a special box set release. Atlantic Records take note!”
At that time, I was unaware of Atlantic’s plans to produce just such a set, so it came as a pleasant surprise to learn that my request was about to become a reality. The project began to take shape when Jimmy Page was approached by the label to remaster the original Zeppelin catalogue for a compilation release. Dissatisfied with the general reproduction of the available CDs, Page jumped at the opportunity to restore his old masters to the standard he envisaged. Studio time was booked at New York’s Stirling Studio in May, where Jimmy spent a week with engineer George Marino digitally transferring the material from, in most cases, the original two-track master tapes.
The project in mind was a multi-track box set release for which Page drew up possible track listings for the other two ex-members to sanction. “I really wanted to improve the release”, Page is quoted as saying on the officially press release; “basically it’s the same picture with a different frame”. John Paul Jones added: “The songs sound as fresh now as when they were first recorded, and the new positions in the running order seem to put them in a totally different light.”
The original concept was to package 54 remastered tracks in a deluxe box package with a 36-page book of photos and essays. Atlantic’s European distributors East West were supremely keen to also issue an edited version aimed at the mainstream market. And so a condensed version with 24 tracks on a triple album and 26 on a double cassette and CD was also prepared — for Europe only.
This release, under the title “Remasters”, formed the major spearhead of WEA/East West’s Christmas market campaign. After all the years of avoiding the greatest hits treatment, the Zepp catalogue received the full commercial push as East West undertook a massive marketing campaign to back to October 15 release of “Remasters”. Window displays were installed, including inflatable blimps which are sure to join earlier models as collectable Zep items. Mysterious teaser adverts appeared in the music press depicting the shadow of the Zepp airship looming over several international locations, recalling the similar obscure ads placed as a trailer for the band’s fourth album. Even a TV advertisement was prepared, set to appear on screens across the country in the run-in to Christmas.
But East West did fail in the final quest to fully commercialise this “Remasters” package: they did not receive the blessing of Page, Plant and Jones to issue a U.K. single. The plan was to issue “Stairway To Heaven” on December 2 as a four-track CD single and 12″ picture disc, with “Whole Lotta Love”, “Immigrant Song” and “Good Times Bad Times”. Although the classic Zep anthem would have been a strong contender for the Christmas No. 1 spot, the no-U.K.-singles rule prevailed. This collection of tracks subsequently surfaced in two already well-in-demand U.K. promo items. The first is a four-track 10″ pressing (Atlantic LZ 2), housed in a black sleeve depicting the specially commissioned Mission Control-designed colour illustrations that mirror the images of the band’s famous four symbols. There is also a four-track promo CD single (Atlantic CD LZ 1), packaged in a cardboard oblong box. Both items are definitely prime additions to any Led Zeppelin rarities
The condensed “Remasters” set duly surfaced on schedule, and entered the U.K. album chart at No. 10. As a layman’s introduction to the group, its track listing does include the majority of Zepp classics, though I was surprised to find that “When The Levee Breaks” and “The Ocean” — two tracks which have been heavily sampled by other artists, and have this found their way to the forefront of the Zepp canon over the last decade — had both been omitted. I personally would have viewed these tracks as more historically representative than lesser stepping stones such as “Celebration Day” and “Houses Of The Holy”
While there can be little complaint about the overall musical content of “Remasters”, or the typically offbeat sleeve design concept of the Zepp shadow looming over a mysteriously carved cornfield, the lack of any track details on the sleeve is a disappointment. Despite the fact that Atlantic’s press release for the condensed set promised “extensive sleeve notes” on the vinyl edition, purchasers of “Remasters” are afforded none of the intensive recording data to be found in the box set booklet. There is not even any indication as to which album each track came from. As the set is obviously aimed at the less committed fan, surely this would have been a simple device to draw attention to the entire Zep catalogue.
Unfortunately, omissions such as these present “Remasters” as something of a cold marketing ploy issued to cash in on the peak consumer period. Compared to the deluxe box set package, it certainly pales considerably. At nigh on £20 a throw, “Remasters” should have been presented with far more information, and some additional alternate photos. That’s particularly the case, given the fact that completist collectors will need this set as well as the extended box, as it strangely contains one remastered track not to be found anywhere on the box set — namely the first album opener, “Good Times Bad Times”. The fact that all the different formats of “Remasters” are scheduled to be deleted on March 31 1991 will also add to its desirability to the keen Zep enthusiast.
And now to the box set itself, simply titled “Led Zeppelin”. This is beautifully packaged in a strong 12″ box with a slightly different view of the ‘Zepp over cornfields’ scene. The accompanying 36-page book is also of superb quality and contains some wonderful photos. The three essays by noted American critics Robert Palmer (who coincidentally also wrote notes for the Rod Stewart “Storyteller” set), Kurt Loder and Cameron Crowe are admirable summaries of the band’s career. However, for all his “front row seats to the Zepp experience”, Crowe manages in the space of eight pages to document wrongly the date of the release of “Houses Of The Holy” (March ’73, not May), the date and location of their meeting with Elvis (L.A. in May ’74, not Las Vegas in 1972), the date they flew to Stockholm to begin recording “In Through The Out Door” (November ’78 not January), and the date of Live Aid (July ’85, not ’87).
While it’s great to see a full track rundown of when and where each track was recorded, some errors again creep in. Two of them can be put down to the confusion some researcher had about the different way dates are printed in the U.K. and U.S. — the recording date of the Albert Hall rehearsal take of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” was actually January 9 1970 (9/1/70 in U.K. usage) and not September 1 1970 (9/1/70 in American eyes). Similarly, the recording date of “Bonzo’s Montreux” becomes December 9 1976 instead of September 12. Elsewhere, printing gremlins creep in on the “Gallows Pole” entry which has it being recorded in 1972 and released on “Led Zeppelin 3″ in 1970. I would also question the actual release dates^ of some of the albums in the U.S. discography — the soundtrack album, for instance, being a month out. This may seem like nitpicking, but I cannot be alone in finding such errors annoying, particularly as “Led Zeppelin” was designed as a definitive retrospective.
And the music? In compiling 54 tracks, Page was faced with the difficult task of knowing what to leave out. Obviously everyone has different favourites and a set list like this is always going to be disappointing. For me, the biggest letdown is the lack of tracks from “Physical Graffiti”, by their own admission Led Zeppelin’s premier achievement on record.
But what is included is a truly wondrous cross section of the musical diversity that coloured the Zeppelin catalogue during their 12-year reign. In remastering the tracks, Page has added a punch and clarity that the original CDs sorely lacked — without tampering with the original tapes, so there is no remixing here aside from the new Bonzo creation, which I’ll come to in a moment. The cleaning-up of the analog tapes also greatly helps the light and shade of tracks like “The Battle Of Evermore” and “Ten Years Gone”, while Page has restored the correct studio banter to the ending of “In My Time Of Dying”.
Some of the anomalies and surprises to be found in this mammoth collection include the fact that the timings of many tracks here are vastly different to the claims on the original albums. For instance, “Kashmir” (previously listed as 9’41″) now appears as a correct 8’31″, though the tracks are absolutely identical. The only piece amongst the 54 which I have noticed being different to the original is “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. The “Remasters” take is 12 seconds longer than the “Presence” original due to the inclusion of an extra guitar riff chorus on the intro. Elsewhere, the three-second white noise count-in on “Immigrant Song” is deleted here, as is the eight-second intro to “Tangerine”. But the warming up of guitars on “Black Dog” is present, and sounds much more pronounced than before.
It’s interesting to hear familiar classics placed in a different light — “Heartbreaker” now segues instantly into “Communication Breakdown”, for example, rather than “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid”, while “The Song Remains The Same” drifts into “Ten Years Gone”. The sequencing of the tracks does, as John Paul Jones noted, put them in a new context.
Finally, some new delights. In merging John Bonham’s “Moby Dick” with his later “Bonzo’s Montreux”, Page has produced an affectionate tribute to the late drummer, achieved with Synclavier programming at Atlantic’s studios in New York earlier this year. Some might question whether he should have tampered with the originals, but the finished track mixes elements of Bonham’s developing technique over seven years. It’s also a joy to hear the “Zepp 3″ leftover “Hey Hey What Can I Do” — a warm semi-acoustic groove previously only available on the B-side of the U.S./European “Immigrant Song” single, and on the long-deleted “New-Age Of Atlantic” sampler LP.
Also included are two much-bootlegged BBC recordings, which sound superb. “Travelling Riverside Blues”, a Page/Plant arrangement of the old Robert Johnson blues classic, is a prime mid-’69 remnant with a spiralling Page slide guitar riff and some dominant Bonzo bass patterns — all now heard to their full effect for the first time. “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” comes from the live Playhouse Theatre show recorded on June 27th 1969, and brings back many nostalgic Zep memories.
Of course, there will be a school of thought that Page should have used this box set project to issue more unreleased gems — many of which have turned up on top quality bootleg CDs over the past year. There was also scope here for the much vaunted chronological live album idea which Page often hinted at in the latter Zepp era. Though there may be few fully-fledged studio tracks with finished vocals in the vaults, recent bootlegs have proved that there are some tantalising alternate takes which would have added spice to the set. “Led Zeppelin” is superb in its own right, but many enthusiasts will view it as a missed opportunity to hear more enlightening live and studio cuts. Certainly one CD of rare material would have made the whole thing much more worthwhile.
My personal choice of a bonus rare CD of material which is known to exist would have lined up like this: “Communication Breakdown” (live Royal Albert Hall, 1970); “Jenning’s Farm Blues” (electric studio rehearsal of “Bron Y Aur Stomp”, 1969); “Blues Medley” from the “Hats Off To Harper” session (1970); “No Quarter” (instrumental studio out-take, 1972); “Over The Hills And Far Away” (live in Dallas, 1975 U.S. tour); “Tangerine” (live, Earls Court 1975); “Trampled Underfoot” (live, Earls Court 1975); “The Song Remains The Same/Sick Again” (live, New York 1977); “Ten Years Gone” (live, New York 1977); “Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” (live, Zurich 1980); “All My Love” (alternate extended version, 1978). But maybe Jimmy is saving that lot for the “Re-Remasters”!
Overall, despite the misgivings about the track listing, some irritating errors in the booklet and the difficulty of pleasing collectors old and new, the “Led Zeppelin” box set is a worthy investment, and compares well with similar packages by other artists. Certainly, in restoring the Zeppelin catalogue to CD with the sound quality it deserves, Page has done a superb job. With the incredible resurgence of interest in the band in recent times — they must surely be the most popular defunct band outside of the Beatles — the set is sure to be in huge demand.
This collection will stand as a lasting testament to the sheer diversity of Zeppelin’s recorded work. It should also prompt re-examination of epic works such as “Achilles’ Last Stand” and “In The Light”. The latter track’s final few minutes, capturing Jimmy’s overdubbed guitar parts rippling across Robert’s chorus, the Jones drone and Bonzo’s timely hammering, is perhaps the most impressive section of the entire 54-track set. And it sounds glorious.
Will they reform? Will there be a live chronological video to supplement this release sometime next year? The remastered “Led Zeppelin” set should keep all Zepp fans riveted to their turntables as we await the next chapter in a story that is far from over.
First published in Record Collector December 1990
Copyright Dave Lewis/Tight But Loose
Robert Plant on Radcliffe & Maconie show BBC 6 Music: Wednesday October 16th, 2013.
Thanks James Cook for this heads up on this one …
Robert Plant’s Soundcloud just uploaded the version of Black Dog from Radio 6
Above photo by Gary Foy for TBL
Robert Plant on Danny Baker show Radio Five Live: Saturday October 12th, 2013.
And here’s the link to the excellent very relaxed Robert Plant interview with the always entertaining Danny Baker…again some tongue in cheek comments re JPJ…
Amnesty DVD box set due with two 1998 Jimmy Page/Robert Plant Performances:
On November 5, Amnesty International will issue !RELEASED!, a six-disc DVD box-set and two-disc companion CD of the historic Human Rights Concerts, featuring artists like Bruce Springsteen, U2, Radiohead, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Joan Baez, Peter Gabriel and more – see link at
John Varvatos Rock in Fashion book:
Thanks James Cook for flagging this one…
Renowned menswear designer John Varvatos shares the personal notebook he has kept over the years, and some of the greatest rock & roll photographs of all time, in John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion (Harper Design), which publishes today. Written by John Varvatos with Holly George-Warren, the book explores how evolving styles in rock have impacted fashion and pop culture over the past five decades, while revealing how rock & roll style and photography have deeply influenced Varvatos’ own fashion design sensibility.
The richly illustrated, 272-page, oversize hardcover, which retails for appx. $60, is available in John Varvatos boutiques as well as bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, and through online venues at JohnVarvatos.com and Amazon.com.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the music I discovered growing up in Detroit in the late 1960s and 1970s,” says Varvatos. “There are traces of it in the way I dress and the look of my menswear collections over the past dozen years. Overall, this book is a collection of visuals that have been meaningful to me and have made a lasting impression on my work.”
The book offers a personally curated collection of 250+ images, many of the most provocative shots by top rock photographers from the 1960s to today. It also includes many never-before-seen images of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Green Day, Jack White and Kings of Leon, among others, from such legendary photographers as Elliott Landy, Bob Gruen, Lynn Goldsmith, Gered Mankowitz, Janette Beckman, Robert Knight, Raeanne Rubenstein, Ken Regan, Neal Preston, Timothy White, Baron Wolman and Robert Matheu. The cover features Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd, photographed by Mick Rock in 1969.
Intermingled are images by Danny Clinch for the John Varvatos seasonal brand campaigns, which over the years have featured such musical artists as Jimmy Page, Velvet Revolver, Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, Perry Farrell. See more at
Dave Lewis Diary Update:
I’ve been powering on this week with text and design work in progress for the next TBL magazine – issue 36 which I am hoping to have ready for distribution in November.
There’s a lot of great stuff lined up including Mike Tremaglio’s superbly detailed July 1973 tour log, a fresh reappraisal of their early 1975 performances by new TBL contributor Andy Crofts, a look behind the writing of the new Robert Plant biography by author Paul Rees, an in depth interview with legendary NME scribe Charles Shaar Murray, on the spot Sensational Space Shifters reports plus an exclusive interview with SSS bassist Billy Fuller, latest Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones news, Nick Anderson Collectors Column, Jeff Strawman Instrument Watch and more. It’s another packed edition and it’s coming your way soon.
Knebworth book wise – its’ been a bit of a fraught week with the final checking and overseeing of the proofs -this is always a difficult process and I’m feeling a bit nervy about it all -I spent another two hours looking over it very early this morning. It’s now over to the printers to do their bit …I can say having had another long look at it all, well it does look pretty special and I am more than pleased with the end result of all the effort…hopefully you will be too… more on all this as it unfolds…
Before the week’s slog there was respite last Saturday in Nottingham. It was great to meet up for a bit of a reunion with my good friends Dec, Viv, Barry, Budge and Trev (the latter trio who I had the pleasure of working with in WH Smith circa 1977-1982) in a pub crawl organised superbly by Alan Stutz (who holds the status as being one of the first people ever to receive the first TBL mag and give me feedback on it way back in 1979 .) Despite the rain, we visited some very fine pubs including the oldest Inn in England the Olde Trip to Jerusalem. A quick visit to Fopp secured a copy of the 1972 Peter Frampton album Wind Of Change on vinyl for a mere £2. Bargain!
The highly enjoyable Robert Plant radio interviews have been a clear reminder that he is out and about at the end of the month – it’s not looking feasible for me to attend the Manchester gig –just too much going on here with the impending projects but I am aiming to be at the Royal Albert Hall Bluesfest gig.
It was great to hear Robert talking about the reissue project and the prospect of hidden gems – here’s hoping a release schedule will unfold over the next few months.
Playlist wise the aforementioned Peter Frampton album has been on alongside the Remasters box set on vinyl, Dave Mason Scrapbook double LP, the Crobsy Stills & Nash 4CD collection (the new Graham Nash biography is one for my list) Bob Dylan Planet Waves LP and the Coda LP has also hit the mark this week.
Here’s a bit of a quirky clip Gary pointed out to me when he was here last week – a spirited version of an old chesnut re roasted on this occasion in the confines of Molyneux Stadium in Feb 2010 – the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC – (oh and talking of football how pleasing it was to see England do exactly what was required to ensure of our presence in Brazil next summer).
Here’s a bit of a duet and this one’s more a case of raising roof than raising sand…
Take it away –this one’s for Steve Bull
Until next time…Keep listening, keep reading…
Have a great weekend
Dave Lewis/Gary Foy – October 17th, 2013.
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