Led Zeppelin – Casino Royale (Empress Valley Supreme Disc 2005 EVSD378/379)

Casino Royale (Empress Valley Supreme Disc 2005 EVSD378/379)

Montreux Casino, Montreux, Switzerland – August 7, 1971

Velodromo Vigorelli, Milano, Italy – July 5, 1971 (Disc 2 tracks 5-7)

Disc 1: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, Going to California, That’s The Way

Disc 2: Celebration Day, What Is and What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love Medley, Weekend, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed and Confused

The first of two shows in Montreux, this is a very good audience recording with slight background hum only noticeable in the quieter moments. The mix varies throughout the night but for the most part all instruments are audible with Plant’s vocals way out front and the bass a bit overshadowed at times. Some portions of the recording sound slightly distant while others sound very close to the speakers.  This tape is rumored to have been recorded in front of speakers outside the venue placed there to accommodate all the people that showed up and could not get in. A very nice gesture by Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin.

From the start of “Immigrant Song” it is apparent that the band is on and Jimmy’s playing is fluent and precise with the “Heartbreaker” solos a standout. Great version of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and a superb “Black Dog” sounds very similar to the studio version tonight.

Just after “Dazed” the tape starts to sounds gurgled, almost as if under water and the hum becomes more noticeable. Robert’s vocal performance is outstanding at the end of “Stairway to Heaven”, hitting all the high notes, but unfortunately, there is a tape flaw and a cut in the solo. The quiver in the sound is also noticeable throughout the acoustic set. The band gets lost for a moment in “Celebration Day” and the beginning of the slide solo in “What Is” has Page searching for the notes, but these things hardly detract from such an overall exceptional show. This may be the first live performance of “Celebration Day”, not inside a medley.

There is a slight increase in tape speed about two minutes into “Whole Lotta Love” but nothing too distracting. The medley here treats us to an unexpected, although short, version of “Ramble On”. This being played like the version on Led Zeppelin II and not with the “For What It’s Worth” arrangement as was used at the Boston Garden almost one year earlier. Eddie Cochran’s “Weekend” is the encore tonight. This predates the August 21 version at The Forum.

This recording is a nice surprise after all these years and a very welcome addition to the live Zeppelin catalog. Definitely Led Zeppelin at their best. It will be interesting to see what Tarantura does with this tape as their release, Peter’s PA, was scheduled shortly after Casino Royale.

The bonus tracks here are from July 5 in Milan and are an upgrade from the previous IQ release, Short Cuts. The recording is good with the vocals being very distorted. EV runs at the proper speed and is louder and clearer sounding, however, there is tape bleed on Empress’ version. Other music can be heard in the background most notably in the bow section of “Dazed”. This may be from boosting the levels but there are some tape flutters on IQ that aren’t on EV. Empress has a few extra seconds at the start of the tape and “Dazed and Confused” is five minutes longer than on Short Cuts.

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