Thursday, March 21, 2019

Led Zeppelin - 1975 - Deus Ex Machina

Led Zeppelin
1975-03-17 and 1975-03-21
Seattle, WA
Seattle Center Coliseum

Deus Ex Machina (14 CD version)
EVSD 993-1006
July 2017 release

1975-03-17 Soundboard Master
EVSD 993-995

0101 Rock And Roll
0102 Sick Again
0103 Over The Hills And Far Away
0104 In My Time Of Dying
0105 The Song Remains The Same
0106 The Rain Song
0107 Kashmir
0201 No Quarter
0202 Trampled Underfoot
0203 Moby Dick
0301 Dazed And Confused
0302 Stairway To Heaven
0303 Whole Lotta Love
0304 Black Dog

1975-03-17 Audience Master
EVSD 996-998

0401 Rock And Roll
0402 Sick Again
0403 Over The Hills And Far Away
0404 In My Time Of Dying
0405 The Song Remains The Same
0406 The Rain Song
0407 Kashmir
0501 No Quarter
0502 Trampled Underfoot
0503 Moby Dick
0601 Dazed And Confused
0602 Stairway To Heaven
0603 Whole Lotta Love
0604 Black Dog

1975-03-21 Soundboard Master
EVSD 999-1002

0701 Rock And Roll
0702 Sick Again
0703 Over The Hills And Far Away
0704 In My Time Of Dying
0705 The Song Remains The Same
0706 The Rain Song
0707 Kashmir
0801 No Quarter
0802 Since I've Been Loving You
0803 Trampled Underfoot
0901 Moby Dick
0902 Dazed And Confused
1001 Stairway To Heaven
1002 Whole Lotta Love
1003 Black Dog
1004 Communication Breakdown
1005 Heartbreaker

1975-03-21 Audience Master
EVSD 1003-1006

1101 Introduction
1102 Rock And Roll
1103 Sick Again
1104 Over The Hills And Far Away
1105 In My Time Of Dying
1106 The Song Remains The Same
1107 The Rain Song
1108 Kashmir
1201 No Quarter
1202 Since I've Been Loving You
1203 Trampled Underfoot
1301 Moby Dick
1302 Dazed And Confused
1401 Stairway To Heaven
1402 Whole Lotta Love
1403 Black Dog
1404 Communication Breakdown
1405 Heartbreaker

Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, WA – March 17th, 1975

There have been many releases of this show in the past sourced from two audience tapes, but Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before? was the debut of the complete professional recording.  Unlike the Nassau Coliseum and Baton Rouge soundboards, Seattle is very clean and enjoyable sounding.  John Paul Jones’ bass is a bit high in the mix, but overall it is closer in timbre to the Dallas recordings.    

The first night is very good and is sometimes neglected in comparison to the more well known second Seattle show on March 21st.  Plant’s voice, which had been quite weak at the beginning of the tour is very strong and he’s able to unleash some impressive vocal dynamics.

A rather negative review was published in the newspapers.  “Squeeze all the air out of a three-hour Led Zeppelin concert at the Coliseum and you might have an hour of music and visual effects worth your attention.  Nevertheless, a sellout crowd that broke four plate-glass doors and brought a two-feet-deep stack of counterfeit tickets gust to get into the place, sat spellbound, despite the fact that ushers and police relieved them of the equivalent of a green garbage dumpster full of booze.  Led Zeppelin’s appeal might be explained by the fact that they’re known in the trade as a ‘street band,’ meaning that their following precedes critical attention by about two years.”

Although calling Zeppelin a “street band” is a bit condescending, the author does correctly point out that the band were ahead of the critics in the seventies.  The appeal is best summed up by Donna Gaines when she writes in Teenage Wasteland that Zeppelin brought grace to bleak suburban landscapes.  A trip to the record store to buy a Zeppelin LP was a trip to Camelot by restoring dignity to an otherwise humiliating life.  

The setlist in 1975 was all about journey, movement and travel, dramatically carrying along the listener.  Robert Plant himself emphasizes this ethic repeatedly on this (and other tours). Opening with the fanfare “Rock And Roll” segueing into “Sick Again,” a short commentary upon their previous tour, Plant sets the stage, joking with the audience how they’re happy to be back in Seattle “a town of great fishermen, including our drummer,” and that they  will offer “a cross section” of their catalogue. 

“Over The Hills And Far Away,” which “sums up the looking ahead and wondering,” follows.  Instead of being a travelogue, it sets an anticipatory mood for things to come.  The melody came out of various “White Summer” improvisations in 1970 and the solo lifted (more or less) from “Immigrant Song,” two other tunes with strong connotations of movement and change.

The newspaper article called “Kashmir” a “spooky tune” which has some distortion in this recording.  But the epics come off very well.  John Paul Jones’ piano solo in “No Quarter” sound meandering in the audience recording, but sounds much better on the soundboard.  Page’s dramatic crescendo is one of the high points of the night.

Plant begins to babble before “Trample Underfoot,” rambling on about the meaning of the song and offering soccer scores, telling Seattle “Wolverhampton Wanderers seven, Chelsea One. Trampled Underfoot.”

Before “Dazed And Confused,” while Plant is giving his long introduction, someone throws something on stage.  He reacts by singing the first line of Max Bygraves 1954 novelty tune “You’re A Pink Toothbrush.”  (Could we assume a toothbrush was thrown onstage?)  The song (sort of) gives this release a title.

“Dazed And Confused” reaches thirty-five minutes and includes the “Woodstock” snippet.  By this time in the tour the song began to take life past the previous tour’s improvisation to be a much more deliberate, slow, and drawn out affair.  Some may call it self-indulgence, but Page is taking his time to explore ideas more fully.  

“Stairway To Heaven” closes the show and the encores include “Whole Lotta Love,” with a long “Licking Stick” interlude, segueing into “Black Dog.” 

Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, Washington – Friday March 21, 1975

Well it’s finally here, Empress Valley’s “Soundboard Revolution” delivers the incredible second night in Seattle on Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American tour in amazing soundboard quality. After months of anticipation and more than a few delays we can finally put the concert on our players and listen to what for many, including myself, thought they would never hear. For me the second night in Seattle is a must have recording, it is a cornerstone to ones collection and just as important as the Fillmore West April 1969, Blueberry Hill September 1970, Vienna March 1973, or the LA Forum June 21 and 23, 1977 recordings, it’s just that damn good. We all know the story, the rocky start to the 1975 tour found the band not in the best of shape, but there were always inspired moments in even the most average of shows. The more they played the better they got, so much that by the time the band hit the West Coast they were starting to fire on all cylinders. The concerts were very long, incredible heavy and full of self indulgent posturing from the entire band, for me this is what I love about the tour.

In typical EV fashion, the concert was released in three formats, I chose the one that made most financial sense, The Standard Edition features both soundboard and audience recordings of the gig on 8 CDs packed in a box similar to the recent History Lesson DVD package, the set also includes a 24 page booklet filled with live shots, certainly a package worthy of historic concert. Like many, I have several versions of this concert on CD, EV’s Dinosaur In Motion and Tarantura’s Blow Jobs are both housed on my shelves and this concert does make its way into my player at least a couple times each year. Enough rambling, let’s dig in and get this thing playing…

... First off, push play and turn this sucker up. This is strictly a soundboard recording, it is virtually complete, only thing missing is the introduction and someone found that there is a cut at 12:50 in Moby Dick where 12 seconds is lost, other than that it’s all here. The sound is perfectly balanced, many of the 75 boards have over powering bass frequencies, not this one, in my opinion this is the best sounding 75 board since Flying Circus. My only real complaint of the sound is that the cymbals are a bit strong during the first couple songs. Soundboard recordings can be good and bad, you get clear and detailed sound but without the ambience of the audience and hall reverberation, it tends to show more warts, this is certainly true here. Typical with EV is the way they overlap segues into the next disc, they do so on this title, it doesn’t bother me but I do not usually put this on any devices where it would play continually.

Rock and Roll is very powerful, Page is fluent from the start, no BS you feel the band is on from the moment he breaks into the riff, even Plant sounds good and that’s saying a lot as his vocals took a song or two to get warmed up. For 1975, this is as good as it gets! The transition into Sick Again is fluent, no hiccups and the band nail the song as well.

Over The Hills And Far Away gets a nice ovation, even through the crowd is low in the mix you sense that they are very lively, in fact this gives a quite different perspective from the audience source where you have the distance. Great version of Over The Hills, John Paul Jones’ bass provides a nice fat backbone, his timing is perfect with Bonham’s drumming, they are one as well. Page’s solo, while not the best from the tour, is very good. There are a couple times you expect him to get caught up in the strings, yet he keeps going and going. Only thing I am left wondering is who Samantha was.

In My Time Of Dying is one of the best of the American tour, to listen to the detailed sounds of Page’s slide wanderings with Jones’ intricate bass playing and Bonham’s punctuating drumming and many times he is pushing Page to quicken the pace, just really superb playing from the band.

The Song Remains The Same and The Rain Song, the former is a really strong version crackling with energy and the band hammer down, great Page solo. Rain Song is good, but I find the heavy “I felt the coldness of my winter” section to be under whelming, Page seems to be having trouble and leaves it flat.

Kashmir, great version, I prefer the 75 versions with Page playing the Les Paul that provides a thicker sound, he also plucks a bit of White Summer as Plant is chatting away, a prelude towards the future!

No Quarter, John Paul Jones is the star on this song, his fills on the piano are very impressive to hear, he is in a jazzy mood and if I closed my eyes at times it sounds like I was hearing some free form jazz improvisation by the Grateful Dead, just listen to what the band is doing starting at the 18:30 mark, it’s out there!  Page is playing well and his solo is fluent but he never gets into the killer zone and seems content to let Jones’ star shine. Certainly one of the more unique versions.

Since I’ve Been Loving You, second of three versions from 75 is really good with Plant’s somewhat rough vocalization lending to the “blues” atmosphere created by the band. The song is part of their DNA, while not as intense as let’s say 1971 or as blistering as the 73 versions, the song retains a powerful musical force.

Trampled Underfoot, are there bad versions from 75? Me thinks not. This is one song that smokes every night, the instrumental passages are the best. Page, Jones, and Bonham lock and deliver some of the best fast paced boogie you’ll ever hear.

Moby Dick, John Henry Bonham has never sounded better, the drums are crystal clear in this recording and he feels like he is right in front of you, John played well during 1975 and this is a testament to his prowess, 26 minutes of pure unadulterated Bonzo! As for the cut, if some crazed fan would have never dug into it, you would never know it was there, but when you know it and listen to it, you can hear the slight change in his pattern.

Dazed And Confused, dedicated to the balances of law and order, we now know that a fan had given Page a guitar at some point prior to the show, a guitar he took from his teacher who promptly wanted it back. This song has been the focal point of my love for this concert since I first heard it on vinyl years ago. Clocking in at 40 minutes, the song is certainly top on most lists for 1975. All the pre oriental riffs playing is just as I hoped it would be, it is wonderful to have it in this quality, Page does have some guitar issues and can be heard tuning his guitar during the Woodstock portion. The bow solo is mysterious and the fast section lives up to expectations, Jones’ bass is a bit prominent during the latter parts of the song, James’ playing still overshadows the mix and is out of this world…”Master Guitarist Jimmy Page!”

Stairway To Heaven, dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, whose name seems to inspire the band as they take this song to the next level, simply a stunning version of the classic. Jimmy’s guitar solo is stunning and propels the song to great heights, the instrumental fury of the rhythm section matches his playing in complete synchronicity.

Whole Lotta Love from 75 for me just don’t really do it for me, although the late March versions are the exceptions, the initiation of almost complete versions of The Crunge minimally fill the endless boogie jams of the past, that being said this WLL > Crunge is pretty good, not as good as the versions that would be played in a few days time in LA, Plant throws in a few lines from Lickin’ Stick for good measure just prior to the Theramin section.

The transition into Black Dog is great, Bonham does a drum fill that lead into the iconic riff, Plant pushes his vocals a bit with good results, the call and response with the audience gives you a feeling of the atmosphere of the event…electric! Communication Breakdown is furious! Raw and just a blistering version with Page in full domination mode, just fantastic! He drives the band straight into Heartbreaker, Jones and Bonham have his back, one would think John’s extremities would be the consistency of jelly but he just hammers his kit relentlessly, an incredible segment of encores to end a most magical evening.

March 21, 1975: Audience Source 

The audience recording has had numerous releases, early vinyl titles like 207.19 and 214 (Rock Solid Records), compact disc titles like Seattle Supersonic (No Label 2017.19-214), Hammer Of The Gods (Last Stand Disc LSD 82/83/84/85), No Quarter (H-Bomb 93020104-7), Dinosaur In Motion (Empress Valley EVSD 172-178), Blow Jobs (Tarantura TCD 42-1/2/3/4), and Long Drive To Seattle (The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin TCOLZ 004-007) name just some of them.

The audience recording is the two source mix, the very good audience source is used through about half of Stairway To Heaven, the lesser source is used for the remainder and to fill a few small gaps in the first. EV has not used the same one they used on Dinosaur In Motion, but a new fresh master. I also dug out Tarantura’s Blow Jobs set, for the best title to this point. When compared to the old Dinosaur title, this new mix is brighter and just a bit louder with a richer sound. When compared with the Blow Jobs title, it has that brightness but is clearer and less harsh sounding and the mastering on Deus Ex Machina is excellent, and for what I want to hear based upon the two older titles, superior in my opinion. After several listens of the new soundboard, one would think that it would make the audience source obsolete, nonsense, this recording is like an old friend, and now we have a “definitive” version of the audience recording and for me a worthy addition to this set.

The packaging is nice, four full color gatefold sleeves wonderfully adorned with live shots and OBI’s hold each of the recordings. The 24 page booklet is great, there is an aerial view of the Seattle Center Coliseum that is great to have as I enjoy that kind of stuff, only thing missing would have been a pic of a ticket stub. There is a separate leaflet asking us to not copy and distribute, something that stems from the fact that this title showed up a day or so before its release on a well known torrent site, this also again opens up the opinionated conversation about pricing and free trading and the likes. The fact that I bought this title shows that I do contribute to supporting the label in the Soundboard Revolution, if they make money we get more, and I would like to see more. We have a tease of the 9/28/71 show, who wouldn’t like to hear that? Nonetheless, the four gatefolds, booklet and leaflet are housed in a box with an OBI the same as many of their recent titles, in all typically nice packaging and fitting for a show of such importance. Took a while, I have neglected other titles I want to get waiting for this as it was not cheap, but in the end a very worthy investment.