Graham Reid | | 3 min read
In a recent interview – although more a passing comment it seemed – Jimmy Page indicated he was keen to get some new music together. That would be smart because 70 year old Page could be having the last rites read before Robert Plant would want to get Led Zeppelin together again.
As Elsewhere has noted previously, Plant is nowhere near as attached to the legacy of Led Zeppelin as Page who recently published a reduced format/price photo-autobiography (most of which were live shots of him on stage and most of those with Led Zepp) and for the past however long spent time curating the remaster/reissue of all of the Zepp albums and sifting through the tape boxes for additional material on a bonus disc.
On the evidence of the first three re-releases, he really needn't have bothered to go down to the vaults.
Elsewhere looked at those albums in depth here, and with only a few exceptions found the additional material enormously underwhelming.
What stands out however is just how Page-orientated they are. Songs without vocals, unappealing different mixes (the woeful and pointless Whole Lotta Love), the drummer's showcase Moby Dick without the drum solo, rough mixes of guitar overdubs, songs which clearly favour the guitar playing . . ?
This has all the hallmarks of a man wishing to remind the world that this was originally his band, albeit the fag-end of the Yardbirds before Plant and drummer John Bonham arrived, with bassist/keyboard player John Paul Jones.
That seems a little sad and somewhat desperate.
But given Plant has other things to do, Jones is occupied elsewhere and seeming not invited to participate, and the drummer is still dead, perhaps Page just felt he had a free hand to revisit this history in any way that pleased him.
If those first three albums disappointed in terms of bonus material – although the remastering of the original tracks is excellent – then it needs be said that expectations are extremely high for the reissue of the next two: Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZoSo) and Houses of the Holy.
This was when the band expanded its parameters even further into ambitious pieces like Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, The Battle of Evermore, The Rain Song and No Quarter. They also returned to some very hard rocking source material on Rock and Roll, D'Yer Maker and Black Dog.
These were the years of expansive thinking and sonic crunch.
The remastering certainly enhances that dimension of the original music but inevitably attention of fans going to fall on the extra disc of material which comes with ZoSo (derived from Page's runic symbol on the cover) and Houses of the Holy.
Again, longtime fans are forced to conclude that just about everything Led Zeppelin did in the studio was either released or dumped because on ZoSo we are again in the territory of different mixes of the album's songs rather than previously unheard material.
Accept that, and a few of the different mixes are interesting enough, if hardly earth-shattering or forcing a reappraisal of the band or the songs.
Nice to hear Jones' piano part a little more prominent in the closing overs of Rock And Roll (that makes sense given the nature of the song) and The Battle of Evermore and Going to California come in guitar/mandolin mixes from a Headley Grange recording (Battle without Plant and Sandy Denny's vocals, California is Plant-less), there's no great revelation in the Sunset Sound mix of Stairway to Heaven although as with most of these, the music has more of a presence than how the vocals were more obvious on the originals. You hear Bonham and Jones more prominently (although not the bass so much on Stairway), although the limelight still falls on Page. When the Levee Breaks does sound more punchy in the different mix, but . . .
And so it goes on ZoSo. And on Houses of the Holy.
Here are more more rough and working mixes; The Song Remains the Same, Over the Hills and Far Away and No Quarter come without Plant's vocals (the latter pretty interesting), The Rain Song is a mix without Jones' piano part (it's pretty, but why?), there's no different mix or alternate version of of D'Yer Maker . . .
It's impossible to tell what the average Zepp fan would want from this series, but you'd have to guess it is considerably more than this.
Jeez, even the Stones managed to find a swag of other interesting material for their Some Girls reissue.
There seems to be more than indifference between Robert Plant and Jimmy Page these days, the sniping and dismissive comments are blatant.
Given that situation, perhaps it explains why you get so many songs without Plant's vocals across the reissue programme.
It can hardly help lead to any kind of rapprochement between the two.
And, regrettably, the extra material on these reissues isn't going to appease many longtime fans either.
For much more on Led Zeppelin including archival interviews and reviews, start here.