Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Led Zeppelin 07/17/1977 Seattle

As far as bootlegs go, in and of themselves, there are three recording artists whose identity as musicians really go hand in hand with the existence of unofficial recordings. the first of these, obviously, is the Grateful Dead. During the last dozen years of the band's existence, if not longer, you were not even a real fan of the Grateful Dead unless you exchanged live show cassette tapes with your brethren. Another is old Bob Dylan. Not long after he killed folk music and plugged into celebrity, he kick started the black market recording industry by simply being fascinating enough to his fans that they were interested in every stray word and note that could be captured from him. Coming in at third place is Led Zeppelin.

I'm talking audio boots here. There is an industry of Zeppelin bootlegs. As recently as 2004, Page was in a courtroom wringing his hands over people selling this stuff. There's an audience for it. Unlike a lot of acts, the songs sounded a little different every time they were played.

Preparing to write something about Zeppelin, I gave another look to their fairly recently released 2 DVD set, and felt kind of relieved. Famous rock and rollers lost their appeal for me a long time ago. And writing a blog about them is more than a little tedious. But I have my vague reasons. And so yeah, I'd rather be listening to nose bleed techno, or folk crunk grime fusion, or 1910-era gamelon recordings or anything that I couldn't have imagined yesterday. But frankly, I had the damn thing on in the background while I was working through some internet or another and I have to confess it didn't bother me one bit. Some of the Earl's Court acoustic stuff, in particular, comes across really well.

Beyond what the group put together to create the DVD set, there is really not a wealth of unseen video out there. The fan has three things to chase down. First, there apparently are more complete versions of 3 of the 4 shows that comprise the official release. Traders have assembled and reassembled the footage for them multiple times. And will go on upgrading them long past our lifetimes, seeing as the analog materials can be tweaked for hi def...higher def....3d def i.e. whatever consumer electronics is going to string us out with....Second, there are snippets of things, a few tv appearances- super 8 concert footage etc. Third... I believe that there are a few complete shows on the 1977 North American tour that cameras happened to be rolling for. I asked one of my Zep collector friend for a copy of one of them and wound up with the proshot Seattle kingdome

DVD 1: 1. The Song Remains The Same 2. Sick Again 3. Nobody's Fault But Mine 4. Over The Hills And Far Away 5. Since I've Been Loving You 6. No Quarter 7. Ten Years Gone 8. Battle Of Evermore 9. Going To California 10. Black Country Woman 11. Bron-yr-Aur Stomp
DVD 2: 1. White Summer / Black Mountain Side 2. Kashmir 3. Out On The Tiles Intro / Moby Dick 4. Guitar Solo 5. Achilles Last Stand 6. Stairway To Heaven 7. Whole Lotta Love 8. Rock And Roll

Now, my review of what I have is not going to be as useful as it could be. Apparently, someone has taken a disc that a bootlegger has professional mastered and played it back while copying it with a stand alone burner...Hence the menu that I snapped above. Automatically we are faced with a lack of quality from what was originally made. I can tell you that the original bootlegger, Celebration, had enough cheek to place their own logo in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. It appears there through the entire show. This automatically tells you that the Celebration release is not the one that you want. The video is grainy but watchable, the audio however, occasionally has split second drop outs and warbles that are very grating. Once again, I don't know if this is because of the Celebration title itself or the way my copy was burnt...

As far as the performance itself, there are arguments among the fans about how this rates compared to all the other dates for which there are recordings. I feel it's pretty fair. I was really impressed with Jones improvising all his little nuances and variations at the last half of "Stairway". Bonham really puts his all into the rolls on "Sick Again". But the encores are half-hearted, shortened versions of the songs. The "Moby Dick" straight into theremin wankery part of the show goes on for a seeming forever. People must have been climbing the walls.