Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Led Zeppelin - BBC Sessions

This 2-CD set (a limited run included a third CD of interviews with the band) compiles four different BBC sessions from 1969 along with a 1971 live concert. Their early shows/performances were especially incendiary so this is certainly Zeppelin in its prime!

Being from 1969, the BBC sessions obviously focus on the group's first couple of records, although they would never play a song quite the same way twice - especially Jimmy's solos, although everyone takes off on tangents here'n'there. There are raw'n'raucous takes on "You Shook Me", "I Can't Quit You", a ravin' "Communication Breakdown" with an extra jam thrown in, a ferocious "Dazed and Confused" (with Jimmy's violin bow madness) and then one that wasn't "officially" recorded, "The Girl I Love", which has bits that were later incorporated into songs like "Moby Dick". From there we get "What Is and What Should Never Be", another "Communication Breakdown", the cool acoustic slide-driven "Traveling Riverside Blues", their massive hit, "Whole Lotta Love" (with Jimmy's echo-drenched theremin freak-out) and a nod to their early influences, a heavy take on Eddie Cochran's "Something Else" (well preceding Sid Vicious!), with John Paul Jones doing some cool, 50's piano-poundin'. One more time through for "Communication...", "I Can't Quit You" (with a fine blues guitar solo, albeit with Page's wildness), "You Shook Me" (love the slide and Jones' organ! Nice dynamics for the harp solo, too.) and a loose jam on "How Many More Times" to close out CD 1.

For the live set from '71, they open with their latest hit, "Immigrant Song" that breaks right into "Heartbreaker" and then into the fantastic minor blues of "Since I've Been Loving You". Previews of the fourth album were hinted at months beforehand, with a faithful rendition of "Black Dog", followed by the older "Dazed and Confused" with its psychedelic violin bow break before moving into "Stairway to Heaven", which, naturally, no one recognizes yet, but is met with respectful silence. The band continues with another new tune in a short acoustic set (mandolin and guitar - with Bonzo presumably sitting it out) of "Going to California" joined by "That's the Way" from the third album before going back to the bombast with "Whole Lotta Love" that, after a bit of psych-theremin, incorporates a medley of blues and 50's songs - "Boogie Chillun'" (John Lee Hooker), "Fixin' to Die" (Bukka White), "That's Alright Mama" (Arthur Crudup) and "A Mess of Blues" (as recorded by Elvis). They close out the set with the dramatic, organ-led "Thank You" to show their appreciation to the audience.

Pretty terrific performances all around - if you are a fan, this is pretty much a must-have.