These past few months I’ve been listening over and over to a brand new edition of an album that was released some 45 years ago – January 12th 1969. Led Zeppelin I – you know it- it has that black and white image of the exploding Hindenburg dirigible on the cover. Zep’s powerful blend of rock and blues on this album sounds more refreshing and addicting than ever. Why? Because guitarist and the guardian of Zep’s legacy, Jimmy Page spent the better part of this decade painstakingly remastering each of the band’s 9 albums with stunningly crystal clear results.
The Perfect Mix
Working with John Davis who remastered 2007’s Mothership compilation and later live reunion Celebration Day, Page used the original ¼ inch master tapes to punch up the over all sound of the band on Zep I. To my ears he has properly placed Robert Plant’s vocals and the band members instruments in the mix right where they’ve always needed to be in terms of superb, distortion free, high volume stereo separation as a good pair of headphones or speakers will attest. At last you can hear John Paul Jones’ bass and keyboards upfront and center and John Bonham’s drums are crisper than ever.
So far only Led Zeppelin albums I – III have been released, issued in lavish double cd cardboard packaging with lots of new photos. Each album comes with a second companion disc of alternative takes and rough mixes, although there are no real surprises. More like a glimpse of how Page and the band sculpted each song on their way to the finished product. Call them works in progress. Zeppelin I’s extra disc is the exception. It’s an edited mono version of a fiery live October 1969 Paris show that features several songs that appeared on their second album released that very month. Unlike the source material used for the companion discs on II and III, this one came from a file recording of French radio broadcast that was emailed to Page.
3rd Time’s the Charm
Although Jimmy Page hasn’t really put out any new music of his own since Led Zeppelin called it a day, he has done an admirable job of curating, if that is the word, the audio history of this band that was clearly his baby and vision from the beginning. Although this is the third time Zeppelin’s catalog has been remastered, Page can rest assured that with these editions he’s finally nailed it and he can now sit back and be proud.
Of the three releases, Led Zeppelin I remains my favorite of the entire catalog. This recording is simple and raw and was originally well engineered in the first place, without the overuse of filters, dubbing and extra tracking that was to follow. Led Zeppelin I is a monumental rock album that harkens back to a time when pop music was meant to stick in your head for months even years to come and possibly change your life. And the best part about this ultimate remaster? You can crank the volume all the way up to ten and it sounds absolutely gorgeous, despite what your neighbors next door might say – Eric Berg
Just released this week: Led Zeppelin IV (The “Stairway to Heaven” lp) and Houses of the Holy were released on Tuesday, Oct. 28th. I’ve listened to both of them once and the improved audio far surpasses any previous version. Next time I’ll critically listen with headphones.
The 1969 London concert: