The Legendary Boston Tea Party Tapes Vol. 1 (Empress Valley EVSD-498/499)
Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA – May 27th, 1969
Disc 1: As Long As I Have You (includes Fresh Garbage, Shake, Mockingbird), I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused (includes Move On Down The Line), You Shook Me
Disc 2: Pat’s Delight, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, How Many More Times (includes For Your Love, The Hunter), improvisation / Communication Breakdown
For this latest release by Empress Valley, and in fairness to its dedicated collectors, the notice “bootleg ears required” should have been prominently displayed on the packaging. The recording is good, to very good at absolute best, and it calls for a listener’s patience and dedication. That patience will be rewarded, though, as this show was predictably phenomenal in all of Zep’s electric blues. In all fairness, though, this is an audience recording from May, 1969, and the equipment was probably primitive.
“As Long As I Have You” is used the set opener, as compared to “Train Kept a Rollin'”, and it must have been thrilling to witness. The range in Robert’s vocals is amazing, and the arrangement is furious. It’s interesting that the audience noise between songs is very remote, but so are Robert’s comments, giving the distinct impression that the taper wasn’t particularly close to the stage. “I Can’t Quit You Babe” is introduced by Robert as “one of our favorites”, and their performance is excellent.
There is a nice distinction of the instruments with the beautiful vocals. “Dazed and Confused” was performed in its early 1969 version, which more closely resembled the album’s version and in no way what this song would become in the following years. The only slight drawback here is that the playing is so powerful that some of Bonzo’s playing is lost in the sound, but it’s minor. John Paul Jones’s playing is not lost in the mix, however, which is so important to a full listening experience.
In the violin bow solo, for a change, Robert sings about giving good love and moving on down the line, with some accompaniment from Bonzo while Jonesy flows along with them. This is rather fascinating, given the fully solo nature of the violin bow section of live Dazed performances. The remainder of Dazed is wild, with Robert and Jimmy’s call-and-response hitting those improbable highs. This is a fun listen, once those bootleg ears have adjusted. “Pat’s Delight” is simply amazing, and there are times when the audience’s enthusiasm for what John Bonham was doing (for example, the bare hands portion of his solo) evidences what a spectacular performer he was.
He employed some especially quick bass drum work during this solo, and I can just imagine all of those mindboggling crossovers between his mounted tom, floor toms, and snare. Oh, those lucky audience members! The show closes with a harmonica-driven improvisation that gradually swells before exploding into a perplexing rendition of “Communication Breakdown” that included some missed cues and a bizarre ending where the band stops as Robert began one of his viking wails. A hot performance that has been presented nicely in this title.
The packaging for this release is a bi-fold paper case that opens to display a crystal clear picture of Jones, Bonham, and Page (possibly during the beginning of Dazed?) when Bonham’s employing a cymbal choke. It’s a beautiful shot, with the 2 cream colored discs exposed for removal only by sliding them out toward the middle of the case. This requires care, though, as I can envision the paper case splitting over repeated removals of the discs. All in all, this is a fine release by Empress Valley that may appeal to a general collector of Zep, but will most definitely please all lovers of Zep’s music that devote the time to truly listen to this recording.