Bourbon Street Renegades (Empress Valley EVSD-180/181/182/ & SBC 4/5/6)
Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans, LA – May 14th, 1973
Discs 1, soundboard: Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter
Discs 2: The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed & Confused
Discs 3: Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown
Discs 4, audience: Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter
Discs 5: The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed & Confused
Discs 6: Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown
The soundboard tape for Led Zeppelin’s New Orleans show on May 14th, 1973 first surfaced with the myriad other soundboard recordings in the late eighties and early nineties. Unlike the others this has always stood out as being one of the most complete recordings available with the first two minutes of “Rock And Roll” being the only major gap. The old German label Flying Disc Music was the first to issue the soundboard in 1991 on Live And Led Live Part 1 (CD 6-825) (“Celebration Day” to “No Quarter”) and Live And Led Live Part 2 (CD 6-826) which has “The Song Remains The Same”, “The Rain Song”, “Dazed & Confused” and “Stairway To Heaven”.
Satellite issued The Longest Night (SA91.001) with “Dazed & Confused” out of order to place it on two discs in the same year and this was copied on Whole Lotta Rock on Triangle (PYCD 061-2). Tarantura were the first to release the whole soundboard in its proper sequence in 1995 on Drag Queen (DQ-001~3) and this was copied the same year on Johnny Piston & the Dogs on Thin Men (TM 005/6) with the songs again out of sequence to fit on two discs.
In 1999 The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin released a real nice version called simply New Orleans 1973 (Vol. 77). “Communication Breakdown” appears on Best Of Tour 1973 on Forever Standard Series (FSS 99-008) and earlier this year Beelzebub released this on cdr as Do The James Brown (BSD 89*90*91). Bourbon Street Renegades is the latest release with the soundboard on the first three discs and the newly circulating audience source on the second three.
Empress Valley use the audience source for the first two minutes and twenty seconds of “Rock & Roll”, to patch very small gaps in “Dazed & Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love”, and finally the post-show ambience after the encore. The label did a similar mastering job on this tape as they did on the July 6th, 1973 Chicago soundboard by fattening the bottom end trying to bring some liveliness to an otherwise sterile and clinical recording. Enjoyment of this is dependent upon one’s subjective tastes but it isn’t intrusive and they have succeeded on some levels by bring some weight to the recording.
However, the point of interest on this release is the second three discs with the previously uncirculated audience recording. This was produced by the same taper responsible for Led Zeppelin’s February 28th, 1975 Baton Rouge tape along with several others (Sirene used his tapes for the ELP From Benny To Baton Rouge and King Crimson Heritage releases). There was quite a lot of discussion on The Taper’s Den about this tape and it was finally posted as Freezer’s Revenge. Some problems with this transfer regarding speed issues and tape stretches exist.
Empress Valley claim to use a transfer of the master different than the internet source and this is accurate. They use a previous transfer made for a select few collectors. Once Freezer’s Revenge was posted one of the few made their copy available to recoup their loss. None of the problems with the internet source are noticeable on this release. It does sound very smudgy with a high pitched whine. The Tarantua release of this tape on The Witch Queen is superior to this set in every way.
It shares the same quality as the taper’s other Zeppelin release. It is slightly distant from the stage and has some tape flips with a cut at six minutes fifty-seven seconds into “The Rain Song”, but is an otherwise excellent stereo recording capturing the mystique of the performance perfectly.
Lisa Robinson called this show “the year’s best” in her review for Disc magazine and it is easy to understand why. This is a very good show that sounds much better on the audience recording and contains my all time favorite Plantation after “Black Dog”: “We’ve got to get these house lights down. It’s pretty pointless bringing our own lights…Mr. Cole, can you take your dress off and get these lights turned down please?” Plant explains they’ve been in the city for several days, which is a very long time on a tour, and they feel like they are playing in their hometown.
There are no surprises in the set list. “Moby Dick” lasts only twenty minutes and Plant makes reference to “The Crunge” as well as “James Brown” and “Cold Sweat” in “Whole Lotta Love”. Empress Valley package the six discs in a fatboy jewel case with some great Page photos in the inside. The first three discs are given a low catalogue number (the label are in the four hundreds by now) and the second three discs are labeled “Special Bonus Disc”. The front photograph comes from a different tour and is blurry. Overall this is a horrible job by Empress Valley and, if possible, you should pick up the Tarantura instead.