Led Zeppelin – Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award (Empress Valley EVSD-329/330/331)

Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award (Empress Valley EVSD-329/330/331)

Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award is a potpourri by Empress Valley gathering together three fragments that has nothing to do with one another and presents them in one convenient package. Empress Valley packages this in a thick cardboard gatefold sleeve exactly as they did with Windy City II.  The photos are a little incongruous with the Hiroshima 1971 photo on the front and one from a 1973 press conference on the inside.  They also duplicate the picture from the “Unledded” recording found in The Concert File on the inside.

Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, WA – June 18th, 1972

Disc 1 (77:05): Announcement, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California.  Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – August 23rd, 1971:  Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven

The first approximately forty-five minutes of the first disc is the June 18th, 1972 Seattle fragment that has seen several releases over the years.  It appears on Trouble In Vancouver (LZP 388) on the old Gold Standard label, on the no label Sub Zep and most recently as a bonus on the Flagge title Axeman of Cometh with the June 11th, 1972 Baltimore tape. 

The tape is very good and clear and is of comparable quality as the older versions.  It begins with the house announcer saying the show will start at 8:30 to give the people from Vancouver more time to arrive.  After a small cut in the tape the drone used to open the show for the latter half of the tour is audible. 

Usually this lead directly into “Immigrant Song” but Plant interrupts it to have a short sound check and to address some hecklers before the band begin playing.  After “Heartbreaker” Plant says to the crowd, “What can we say?  Somebody tried to do a lot of damage in Vancouver, breaking down doors and all that old shit” and asks if anyone is from Vancouver to dedicate “Black Dog” to them. 

The band was originally scheduled to play that city on this date but the city were concerned about violence and cancelled the gig.  It is commonly assumed it is based upon the behavior of the manager at 1971’s show in Vancouver where they broke a government officials equipment but that explanation really doesn’t agree with Plant’s comments on the tape. 

It probably had more to do with the riot on June 3rd at the Rolling Stones’ concert in the city where, according to The Sun:  “The Rolling Stones and an ecstatic crowd of 17,000 were inside, flying stones and an unruly mob of 2,000 were outside…285 policemen faced a barrage of rocks, bottles and, for the first time in recent Vancouver history, Molotov cocktails…Thirteen of the police required hospital treatment…thirteen people were arrested…PNC directors will meet within the next few days to draw up new ground rules for rock concerts.” 

The riot occurred when fans attempted to snag free tickets and doors and windows were damaged in the melee.  Whatever the case may be the band delivers a set that sounds very much like the San Bernardino gig on June 22nd, being the standard set delivered very well. 

There are no hints they played any of the new material from Houses Of The Holy as they did the following night in Seattle and Los Angeles.  It is impossible to tell though since the tape ends after the first acoustic number and until the rest of the tape surfaces or a second source is found we’ll never know how this show ended.

Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – August 23rd, 1971

Disc 2 (57:48):  Celebration Day, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown (fragment)

The August 23rd, 1971 Fort Worth tape follows Seattle to roughly replicate concert order.  This previously unknown source first surfaced in the mid-nineties and was released by The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin on Hot August Night (TDOLZ Vol. 42) from second-generation copy.  The masters are now hoarded but this is the complete document.  The beginning of the show was taped by  “Nick” the taper, but he flipped the tape to record the “Whole Lotta Love” medley. 

He said to the fanzine Proximity  “I think I realized at that point that I was taping over a lot of good stuff from the beginning of the concert, and that I would rather have that than the end of the show. Then I just went home. We would just replay and re-live the concert for the next week or, until the next concert came to town, then the tape would go in the drawer!” (Vol 8, No. 26, July 1997). 

It is a very clear and enjoyable fragment capturing a hot performance.  Empress Valley comes from the same source as Diagrams and sounds almost identical so there is again no improvement.  It begins during the violin bow solo in “Dazed & Confused” and it is a great version with “White Summer” making a soft appearance about sixteen and a half minutes in during the coda section.

“Stairway To Heaven” has an interesting guitar solo.  There is a small cut after “Celebration Day” and Plant complains about the heat and lights and asks for the white spotlights to be turned off.  The acoustic set usually contained “That’s The Way” and “Going To California” but the latter was dropped for unknown reasons.  “Moby Dick” is incomplete cutting out at fifteen minutes into the drum solo.

“Whole Lotta Love” has the standard inclusions in the medley with Plant singing an unknown blues during the early improvisation.  The tape captures forty seconds of the first encore “Communication Breakdown”.  The sound quality is poor because the taper managed to sneak backstage and began recording the encores from that position until Richard Cole kicked him out.  It is a fascinating document and this release is the first time it has appeared on a silver commercial boot in almost a decade. 

Hot August Night generated a lot of buzz when it first came out and it is a mystery why other labels didn’t jump on it to make it more common than it is.  The original release has been sold out for a long time and Empress Valley did a good job in making it available again.  Anything from the seventh US tour has special appeal since it is one of Zeppelin’s most creative and important tours.  In place of finding the Diagrams release (nearly impossible these days), Ahead & After is a strong alternative.

Page / Plant “Unledded” filming sessions, Studio Two (London TV Studios), South Bank, London, UK – August 25th, 1994

Disc 3 (62:12):  Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, The Battle Of Evermore, Gallows Pole, The Rain Song, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Four Sticks, Friends (fragment)

The third disc of this three-disc collection is an hour-long raw soundboard fragment from the “Unledded” sessions in 1994.  The tape is very clear although the balance fluctuates between Plant’s vocal and Page’s guitar.  It begins with the Arabic music intro and runs until three and a half minutes into “Friends” unfortunately omitting “Kashmir” and “That’s The Way.” 

“If you bear with us a minute we just got to plug in” are Plant’s opening words.  The bulk of the television program comes from the second night on August 26th and it is great to have the first night in such excellent quality. 

They deliver a strong but nervous set with Plant talking a lot between numbers during tunings.  There is a short break edited out between “Gallows Pole” and “The Rain Song” and the only negative with the set list is that none of the newer songs like “Yallah” or “Wonderful One” weren’t played.  This tape probably could have stood as a solo release but is much better with the older fragments.

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