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Led Zeppelin – Sweet Dreams, Chicago (Empress Valley EVSD-347/348/349/350/351/352)

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Sweet Dreams, Chicago (Empress Valley EVSD-347/348/349/350/351/352)

Chicago Auditorium, Chicago, IL – July 6th, 1973
Disc 1 soundboard recording: Rock & Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2: Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 3: Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown
Disc 4 audience recording: Rock & Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 5: Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 6: Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

Ever since the soundboard for Zeppelin’s July 6th show in Chicago (the first on the second leg of their long ninth tour of the US) surfaced, this has been considered one of the very worst concert of their career. For whatever reason Robert Plant’s voice is almost completely shot and the band sounded quite rusty. It seems the month long break was a hindrance and not helpful. Another distraction noted by Plant on stage is the constant fighting by the audience in front of the stage which became severe enough for the police to get involved.

The soundboard recording was released twice about ten years ago, surfacing as Second City Showdown on Midas Touch and in the Grandiloquence box set on Antrabata. The soundboard recording shares the same characteristics of the other boards from this tour: excellent sounding but very flat and lifeless. It’s great to have such documents but many collectors prefer the audience recordings from this era as being more enjoyable and more authentic representations of Zeppelin’s performances. This board stands out because it contains the whole show and isn’t simply a fragment.

Empress Valley promised an upgrade of the soundboard and they have succeeded. This version sounds better and is more complete. But Zeppelin collectors will be more interested in the newly discovered audience source. It is clear but very distant, picking up much of the echo in the venue. The Chicago Auditorium was criticized for having poor acoustics and this tape is proof of that. But despite all that the actual concert sounds a bit better than on the soundboard since the echo is able to cover up some of the distressing mistakes and Plant’s weak vocals. Where the soundboard makes them sound sluggish, the audience makes them sound like a menacing death machine rolling over the audience. This source lends credence to the Chicago press who gave these show excellent reviews.

The taper was too far from the stage to record the chaos in the audience that night. But many bangs and explosions are clearly audible during “Rock And Roll” and at other points throughout the evening. The main three-disc release only has the soundboard recording and the strictly limited edition of three hundred copies has both soundboard and audience. The more obsessive Zeppelin collector will want the limited edition for the audience source. The packaging is very good: all in black and white with several scarce photos from the tour. There are liner notes printed on the front insert titled “Almost Famous” describing the show and tape sources.

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Led Zeppelin - Sweet Dreams, Chicago (Empress Valley EVSD-347/348/349/350/351/352), 2.5 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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