Led Zeppelin: Coda, Deluxe Edition (Warners)

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Led Zeppelin: Bring It On Home (rough mix)
Led Zeppelin: Coda, Deluxe Edition (Warners)

Even the most ardent Led Zeppelin fans are prepared to concede -- when they are claer-headed -- that the final studio albums Presence ('76), In Through the Out Door ('79) and Coda ('82, released a couple of years after they had broken up) are patchy . . . at best.

Which may explain why the Jimmy Page remastered editions of all three of these have now appeared simultaneously, although crueler critics (this one included) would argue Page's idea of bonus tracks (rough mixes, instrumental versions and such) have hardly made a compelling case so far to collect-the-series.

Coda was a real hotch-potch collection of live tracks (with crowd noise removed, various parts rerecoded and dropped in) and some rather lesser moments.

At least it seemed that way at the time, but that was a time of Zeppelin weariness after its indifferent predecessors and the bombastic Song Remains the Same.

Does it come up any better today, especially in the deluxe edition which blows out with two extra discs (yep, rough mixes but also some unreleased tracks and two tracks recorded with Indian musicians in Bombay)?

Well, it is still a slightly bewildering album because the songs (and most especially those on the extra discs) came from various parts of the band's career and yet . . .

The version of Friends (from Led Zepp III) recorded in Bombay is pretty good (despite the straight-ahead tabla part), almost the way it should be, and the early blues belters like Bring It On Home in a rough mix have a dirt'n'grit that is palpable.

There's also a fine version of Travelling Riverside Blues from a BBC session which has only been previously available on bootlegs. And other tracks worth discovering.

Elsewhere has been increasingly derisive about these remastered/expanded Led Zeppelin discs (see here and here) but this driftnet trawl through their vaults is actually more interesting than it once was.

Only a bit, but a bit more than we had any reason or right to expect. 

For more on Led Zeppelin at Elsewhere including archival interviews start here

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