The Lost Sessions Vol. 9 (Eelgrass EGL20218)
(52:03): Stairway To Heaven (instrumental, take 1), Stairway To Heaven (instrumental takes 2-4), Stairway To Heaven (vocal takes 1-2), Stairway To Heaven (outtake), blues guitar instrumental (takes 1-2), Black Dog (takes 1-3), No Quarter
Lost Sessions Vol. 9 is an essential collection of outtakes from the sessions for the fourth album. Recorded at Headley Grange in January 1971, most of the tracks on this disc have been in circulation for a long time, first surfacing on vinyl on Inedits (LZ 1-2), And IV To Go (Ugly Duckling CY 6482 A-B), Studio Rehearsals January 1971 (Rock Live 2-A-B), Led Zeppelin IV Studio Rehearsals January 1971 (RL Records 2), and Studio Rehearsals 1967-1971 Part 1&2 (Grasshopper GH-R-108 A-B).
Previous releases on compact disc include Hairway To Steven (Invasion IU 9645-1), Gems And Jams (ZELCD101), More Than Something Else (Aulica A-12), Shenandoah (Aulica A-125 100/MIA/ACT-1), Studio Gems Vol. 2 (Kobra Records KRLZ 02), Ultra Rare Tracks Volume 1 (Missing Link ML-001), Stairway To Heaven Sessions 1970-1971 (Zoso’s Company ZOSO-9301/2) and its clone Stairway To Heaven Sessions 1970-1971 (Live Storm LSCD 52631), Stairway Sessions (Silver Rarities SIRA 71), Brutal Artistry (Midas Touch 72731/2/3), Sessions (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin Vol. 49), Ultra Rare Trax Part 2 (Savage Beast Music SB-969631) and All That Glitters Is Gold (Celebration Definitive Masters CSM-001 A/B).
Several big box sets also contains most of these including Through The Years (Big Music BIGBX-002/BIG-4001/4002/4003/4004/4005), Sessions (Antrabata Reference Master ARM 1-11), and Studio Sessions Ultimate (Scorpio LZ-07001~12). Eelgrass is a straight copy of The Lost Sessions Volume 9 ~ All Roads Lead To Headley Grange 1 (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 450) in the same sound quality but much more affordable. The appeal of this release is the brand new “Stairway To Heaven” outtake that contains the final lyrics but a different guitar solo in the middle offering new insight into the development of the song.
The disc begins with a simple three minute long run through of the melody with Page on guitar and Jones on keyboard. This seems to represent the earliest attempt and is interesting because it opens with the familiar melody, leads into contrasting section that isn’t familiar, and then returns to the original melody unlike the final version of the song.
The second track contains three more instrumental takes still with Page and Jones. The second rehearsal contains the opening melody and the “fanfare” that would be used as the transition between the verses and the guitar solo. The playing stops as Page tells Jones what he is looking for in the melody.
The third take picks up with the fanfare and Page playing the flighty riff that would be used for the first part of the solo in the final version. The fourth take begins with Page playing the “transition” riff used in the final version of the track (“oh, and it makes me wonder”) followed by the fanfare and the beginning of the solo again. This ends with Page on electric guitar playing an unknown pretty little melody and scatting along, something which wasn’t used again.
First vocal take sounds like it comes from the same sessions as the instrumental takes. This time Page and Jones are joined by Plant and the song begins to take more recognizable shape. The first two verses are nearly identical to the final version in both words and melody. There are no lyrics during the transition and no third verse, so Plant returns to a combination of the first two.
There is the fanfare and the opening riff for the solo, but then the song returns to the transition melody before ending and the entire run through takes six minutes. The second vocal take is similar to the first, except that Bonham finally joins the band in the third verse which Plant scats.
Bonham and Page are a bit out of sync during the fanfare. Page replaces the acoustic guitar for the electric and plays a rudimentary solo that has similarities to the final version used on the LP. There is no final verse after the solo, but the does have the final “and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.” The track end with some congratulatory conversation between the band with Bonham in particular sounding very pleased (“bloody ‘ell” he shouts).
The final “Stairway To Heaven” outtake surfaced recently. Although it sounds legitimate, it probably comes from the sessions at Olympic studio and not Headley Grange. The vocals and drums are the same as the final track. The recorders at the beginning sound different, and this take also has a different guitar solo. It has heavy echo and is much more fluid that the one used on the commercial version.
The balance of the disc is filled with a six minute amateur recording of Page on acoustic guitar playing some catchy riffs accompanied by Jones (probably from the same sessions which produced the instrumental run through of “Stairway To Heaven” at the beginning of the disc). It sounds very similar to “Down By The Seaside,” recorded in 1971 and released in 1975 on Physical Graffiti.
Parts of “Gallows Pole” are also present on this track. This is followed by the initial rehearsals for “Black Dog” where Jones teaches Page the riff. This is a seven minute long amateur recording with three takes of the song in fair to good quality. The disc ends with a demo with the first jazzy attempt at “No Quarter.”
This is packaged in a normal jewel case with many photos from backstage at the Lyceum in 1969. Since this is a copy of the Empress Valley release they retain the name even though Eelgrass never issued volumes one through eight. However, these sessions are essential to have and this is a good, cost effective way to obtain them.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)