Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin (Empress Valley EVSD-461/462)
Fairgrounds, Sydney, Australia – February 27th, 1972
Disc 1 (64:10): Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be
Disc 2 (64:39): Moby Dick, Rock And Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Thank You
Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin is the curious title for Empress Valley’s latest release chronicling Zeppelin’s only tour of Australia. The show in the country’s capital city on February 27th has two extant tape sources available.
The first release of this show came on the Australian label Black Cat on Australian Tour 1972 Part 1 (Black Cat BC-34) released in 1992. This title has “Immigrant Song” to “Dazed & Confused” from the Melbourne show on disc one and “Rock And Roll” and “Whole Lotta Love” from Sydney on disc two. The tape is poor sounding and runs too fast. In the summer of 2000 the Equinox label released a great seven disc box set called Thunder Downunder with all of the tapes from the tour that were available at that time (Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane).
Live In Sydney 1972 (Equinox EX-00-005) is a one-disc title that has the older audience source with “Black Dog,” “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” “Rock And Roll,” and “Whole Lotta Love.” The disc is complimented with the GTK television broadcast of “Rock And Roll” and the “Whole Lotta Love” fragment along with the Germaine Greer interview and a broadcast from Perth Radio.
In 2001 a longer and better sounding tape source surfaced. The taper captures the show from dead center, six feet back from the stage, and was able to tape the entire show except for the opening two numbers “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker,” and has the only encore section from the entire tour.
Tarantura issued it on Ayers Rock (Tarantura TCD-2), limited to 250 numbered copies, but this was criticized for overzealous remastering that basically killed an otherwise great tape with a layer of the metallic crunch. Further the label didn’t bother to patch two holes, in “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” and “Rock And Roll” with the first audience recording. At the same time the ones who found the tape issued their version on CDR titled Live In Sydney (Genuine Masters GM-LZ-27.02.1972-02 A/B).
Rumble In Sydney (Further Along FAP-010/011) came out in early 2004 and likewise suffered from too much mastering, although they did utilize the first tape to complete the show. Robbers Return (Sharaku Productions SHARAKULED-1-1,2) came out several months later, and the sound quality on this release is the same as on Rumble In Sydney, but again the first tape source wasn’t used to fill the gaps.
Genuine Masters re-released their version but on DVDR-A called The Rover’s Return (GM-LZ.27.02.1972-DVD-A-001) which was copied on silver DVDR with the same title on Digital Line (DL-602). Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin is a two-source mix with the final minute of “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” beginning at 3:40, edited in from the other tape as well as “Rock And Roll.” The sound quality is very good and clear. There was some concern expressed about the “metallic” sound plaguing this release. There are times, especially when the older tape source is used where it is faintly there.
Those who are particular about it will have an issue, but it isn’t to the point of distraction and Empress Valley is a big improvement over the original Tarantura release of this show. There are numerous small cuts between songs since the taper wanted to capture as much of the show as possible (his girlfriend can be heard nagging him about it), and there are two cuts in “Moby Dick,” at 11:23 and at 11:37. Despite this, most of Plant’s song introductions are present on the tape.
The tape begins with the final fury of “Heartbreaker” and Plant saying, “Good afternoon. Now listen. We’ve already come across the one problem that we were told about. There has already been some mistakes about this thing, but we don’t want to make any mistakes and neither do you, right? So don’t come past this barrier or otherwise we’ll be in the shit…And if it rains we’re gonna have to stop or else we’ll blow up. That’s a fact.” What follows is a heavy version of a new song “Black Dog.” There is a cut in the tape afterwards which eliminates “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” the normal fourth song of the set, and “Celebration Day.”
That song was played regularly in 1971 but dropped for the Australian dates. The taper did originally have these songs on the tape but dubbed over them in the intervening years. “Stairway To Heaven” follows and is another excellent version.
Before “Going To California” Plant says, “Let’s get some seating together. When people sit down they seem to be a lot quieter. That’s just about what we want at the moment. Not too far from that place New York lies near place called San Francisco. We should all say thank you to San Francisco for so many things, Love and Jefferson Airplane an all the beauty that came out of it. It’s got really twisted around now. Since they introduced an acoustic set to the act in 1970 the list in 1972 is the longest.
They added “Tangerine” while in Japan and “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” in the UK to make it four songs lasting almost twenty minutes in duration. In fact “That’s The Way” is extended to seven minutes in this performance with Page wandering around in the middle.
“Tangerine” is the weak link in the set. The acoustic arrangement is never really convincing, but “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” is a fun number and a great way to lighten the mood. The tape cuts in at the very beginning of “Dazed And Confused.” This version lasts for twenty-three minutes and Page produces otherworldly noises from the guitar before the lengthy improvisation that ranks among the better ones in Australia.
“Moby Dick” is eighteen minutes and Bonham plays furiously by the end. The “Whole Lotta Love” medley from Sydney is known mostly for the very rare inclusion of “The Rover.” It occurs right after “Hello Mary Lou” as they finish that tune and figure out what to play next in the medley. Page begins it and the rhythm section follow with Plant standing at the side.
They play the opening riff and through what would be the first verse and chorus before breaking down and going into “Let’s Have A Party.” It sounds very rehearsed and must have been a tune they began working on before the tour instead of being a spontaneous, on-stage creation. The song would be recorded with lyrics four months after this show and be released three years later on Physical Graffiti.
“Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” the 1952 hit for Lloyd Price, is another rare inclusion in the “Whole Lotta Love” medley played before “Going Down Slow, a piece that concludes every medley during this year. The two encores, “Communication Breakdown” and “Thank You” are holdovers from 1971. The latter has a five-minute prelude played on the organ where Jones plays in several different tempi leading into the bombastic ballad from Led Zeppelin II. Of all the Australian dates, this is perhaps the best known since television footage has been released officially.
Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin is packaged in the thick, cardboard tray with cardboard slip cover, the same style packaging they have used for all of their releases from this tour. There is effective use of several stage shots from the actual gig which is a benefit for this packaging. Empress Valley are able to dramatic photos for the covers to invoke an emotional response much like the vinyl sleeves were able to so. Despite the hints of remastering, this still sounds much better than the other silver releases that are out there and is an enjoyable listen of an important show.