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Trampled Underground: The Unofficial Recordings of Led Zeppelin

214 & 207.19; Cobla Standard Series 018 (58:28, 72:25, 56:01, 51:00)
21 March 1975; Seattle Center Coliseum; Seattle, Washington
Track Listing: Intro/ Rock and Roll/ Sick Again, Over the Hills and Far Away, In My Time of Dying, The Song Remains the Same, The Rain Song, No Quarter, Since I've Been Loving You, Trampled Underfoot (Gallows Pole lyrics), Moby Dick, Dazed and Confused (with lyrics from For What It's Worth, Woodstock, and I Shot The Sheriff), Louie Louie intro/ Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love/ The Crunge with Licking Stick-Licking Stick/ Black Dog (several slight dropouts), Communication Breakdown (very beginning missing)/ Heartbreaker
9 September 1970; Boston Garden; Boston, Massachusetts
Track Listing: Whole Lotta Love Medley, Communication Breakdown

Recording Quality: Discs 1-3 contain a near excellent audience tape source which clearly articulates each instrument. The vinyl revivalists at Cobla have left their signature all over this one: bright and clear, but far too hissy. One channel seems to contain more hiss... should you want to experience the romantic surface noise of records, turn your balance knob all the way to L and: SSSSSSSSS. I cut the treble a bit to listen to this. Unfortunately, the drums suffer as well- they sound distant and lack depth at times, although I believe the source tape to be responsible, as my vinyl version has the same quirk. Quality varies, with some tracks like "Song Remains the Same" harsher, but others like "No Quarter" a touch mellower and spectacular.

What follows is an unscientific comparison of these CD's to my vinyl version, which uses the same source. An unfair test, because the volume knob requires a higher setting to get the equivalent output level from the record, inducing surface noise. Still, with no EQ and the same output level, the Cobla CD's (which have no intrinsic noise) were nearly as noisy as the records. Compared to the vinyl, I found the CD's harsher, brighter, hissier, and cluttered by the cymbals; all characteristics of a "LiveR" sound. The vinyl proved mellower, with Page occasionally buried- maybe Cobla's reason for excessive treble emphasis. Despite the hiss, you can still take great pleasure in the sound quality. With the splicing of the sources, it's damn near complete with only a couple slight dropouts and all Plant's lectures intact.

From "Whole Lotta Love" onward, an inferior audience tape is used: the bass is distorted, but it's still good and listenable, sounding a lot like the complete 3/12/75 audience source. "Stairway" (last track on disc 3) may also be a cut and paste job from the two sources.

Overall Sound Rating: 7-9 (discs 1-3 Seattle), 5 (disc 4 Seattle), 6 (Boston 1970)

Comments: This 4-disc set represents a remarkable document. Zep didn't gig for the shows to be relived between your headphones. The 220 minutes of Seattle audio presented here, although stripped of the visual experience and physical presence of the band, resurrects the vibes and substantiates the legend of live Led. The set testifies to Zeppelin's efforts to keep its interest in the music- they play for themselves as well as the audience. This approach, dubbed by some "tight but loose," yields tonight the tour's most extended set, and better still, much inspired interaction.

This tour's PA mix pronounces Jones more than ever before; he and Bonham add heaviness to the already dark set. John Paul's R&B riffs keep time and melodically expand "Rock and Roll," while Page sustains the blue notes in his solo. I find tonight's preview of "Sick Again" more enjoyable than the album cut, with Jones's undulating fills high up on the neck, Bonham's high-hat in the pause between riffs, and the tight outro segment.

Tonight's "No Quarter" has garnered much praise, although some may mistake the song's 25 minute length as the trademark of quality. The trademark is never given so cheaply, bought for a few extra minutes of cheap piano arpeggios. Jones noodles away, wandering through parts of his keyboard solo. Overlooking a handful of boring moments, the song's still beautiful and dynamic. Dig on the main theme before the solo, the decaying echoes from the Theremin, moody piano/ drums action, and Jones taking the lead from Page during Jimmy's solo.

"Dazed and Confused" features eerie thematic coincidences on law, starting with Plant's comments on "a discrepancy involving a guitar and a man who's being held by the police... as we try to maintain law and order in society." Page once described live performance to an interviewer by saying "there's so much ESP involved in it... it is a sort of communication on that other plane," and the first fifteen minutes of this song might convince you. The drama builds with Jimmy's solo bridge into "For What It's Worth." With restraint and purpose, he outlines rich changes. Here Page favors lyrical construction over the riff-based approach. Next, a stylistic crossfade as he bends some blues licks and breaks into an understated rythmic passage. The band joins in. In mournful voice, Plant draws on the police paranoia classic "For What It's Worth" for some lyrics while Jimmy bows. The singer keeps up his preoccupation with the law, singing the line "I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy," over a throbbing reggae beat. Page strums on the upbeats and tacks on twenty-odd minutes of guitar mania after the bow solo. They close the track without reprising the main theme. As Plant exclaims afterward, "master guitarist Jimmy Page."

From one Jimmy to another, they dedicate "Stairway to Heaven" to Hendrix, a Seattle native. Some cute "Louie, Louie" riffs open the song, which inlcudes delicate phrasing and an atypical chordal segment of the solo. Although "the fishing wasn't as good this time," they push hard on the encores. You can hear Page singing backup on "Whole Lotta Love" before they slide into "The Crunge." Although Plant only sings about half the lyrics, Page, Jones, and Bonham strut it out in tight syncopation. Much better than the oft-ragged delivery of other nights near the end of the tour. Plant throws out just a few lyrics from "Licking Stick- Licking Stick" before Jones solos on some tasty staggered riffs beneath the Theremin. Still energetic, Bonzo hammers out some extra "Out on the Tiles" to introduce "Black Dog," which Plant doesn't wreck with his voice. He still sounds decent- not many hight notes, but his signature tone has been evident all night! His last "Drive me insane" scream overlaps Page's "Heartbreaker" intro. Jimmy solos with more fluency and less wandering than other tries from '75, getting into some blues at the end but nobody picks up on it like the 12 March Long Beach gig. Let me get back to the Edgewater Inn for some room service and a spot of fishing!

Packaging: Nice reproductions of the original vinyl jackets, but the front covers have little to do with Led Zeppelin. However, the radioactive man and another quasi-atomic landscape serve up some surreal effect, a trademark of vinyl packaging. The CD's replicate the album labels and feature the appropriate phrase "Continuing Saga," but omit some colors on the original vinyl discs. The Boston 1970 material fills up disc 4 with a classic Blueberry Hill era medley housing some "Ramble On" lyrics. A nice touch.

Bottom Line: This magnum opus is Zeppelin's "Finnegan's Wake." Sprawling, whacked-out, obscenely long and indulgent, but ultimately converging on many levels. The band maintains the original vision of aggression and dynamics. Mabye the mastering could be better, but the performance couldn't. Trademark of Quality withheld, although just barely. Reason: I had to ask myself, is this the definitive edition of this gorgeous concert? And my heart says yes, but my ears say less hiss would be better.

Eric Romano (8/9/96)

The review for "214 & 207.19" is ©1997 Eric Romano, and may not be reproduced in any media, electronic or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.

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