Friday, November 23, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 1 of 2

Time to get the Led out. With all the hype surrounding the release of the Mothership collection last week and their reunion show in London next month, not to mention Robert Plants's recent solo triumph with Allison Krauss, I've been listening to a ton of Led Zeppelin lately. That, in turn, made me realize that a Zep boot is long overdue in this series. There are scores of great recordings to choose from -- in fact Zeppelin probably joins The Beatles, Dylan and The Rolling Stones as the most bootlegged acts of all time.

But while any number of live recordings by the mighty Led Zep would certainly qualify for "classic" status, it's this massive 4-disc box set released by Empress Valley, collecting all of their appearances on BBC radio between 1969 and 1971, that I return to most often. (Some of this material appears, in slightly different form, on the official BBC Sessions release in 1997, but this set is far more exhaustive and about twice as long.) The performances are consistently spectacular, and with one exception (the March, 1969 appearance on Alexis Korner's "Rhythm and Blues" program in the middle of Disc 1, which is muffled but still very listenable), the sound quality is equally fantastic throughout.

We'll start with Discs 1 and 2, which compile the band's earliest (and bluesiest) sessions for various BBC radio hosts. Then I'll be back in a few days with Discs 3 and 4, on which you get the entire two-hour session that the band recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" show on Radio One in April of 1971, seven months before the release of Led Zeppelin IV, playing new songs like "Black Dog", "Going To California" and "Stairway To Heaven" to a small theatre audience (it's unsettling, in fact, to hear the latter get no reaction at all from the crowd), and at the absolute peak of their legendary powers.

This is just essential stuff. If you're having any doubts about wanting to devote your bandwidth to such a massive set, listen to the first track on Disc 1, a raunchy troll through "You Shook Me" that confirms what a stunning live act Zeppelin was from the very beginning, and I guarantee you won't be able to pass up the rest. Positively jaw-dropping.



Disc 1 (1969):

01 You Shook Me
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Dazed And Confused
05 Alexis Korner intro
06 What Is And What Should Never Be
07 more chat
08 I Can't Quit You Baby
09 more chat
10 You Shook Me
11 Sunshine Woman
12 The Girl I Love Has Long Black Wavy Hair
13 Communication Breakdown
14 Something Else
15 What Is And What Should Never Be
16 Group interview with Chris Grant
17 Whole Lotta Love
18 Communication Breakdown
19 What Is and What Should Never Be
20 Travelling Riverside Blues

Disc 2 (1969-1970):

01 Alan Black intro
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Alan Black interview
05 Dazed And Confused
06 Interlude with Adrian Henry
07 White Summer-Black Mountain Side
08 You Shook Me
09 How Many More Times
10 White Summer
11 Black Mountain Side

I'll be back with Discs 3 and 4 early next week. Turn this up LOUD and enjoy.