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Led Zeppelin – Hellfire Club (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-919/920/921)

Hellfire ClubHellfire Club (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-919/920/921)

Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland USA – February 10, 1975

Disc 1 (58:09) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir

Disc 2 (52:47) No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick

Disc 3 (61:12) Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Heartbreaker

We did not have to wait long for this one…from out of the blue Empress Valley hits us with a new installment in their “soundboard revolution” series with a couple of exciting new titles featuring the bands stop in Landover, Maryland on February 10, 1975. Typical with the series, the new recording comes in two packages, Ultra Violent Killer Droog is a deluxe 6 disc set featuring the soundboard and audience sources, and Hellfire Club contains just the soundboard. The audience source was distant with fair sound and only had one previous title, Heavy Zeppelin (TCOLZ 008/009/010), please follow the link and enjoy Gerard’s review of this title. The sound on this new release is excellent and well balanced, Jones is typically just a tad high in the mix but unlike many of these boards, is not overwhelming. Even at the beginning and while we all would like just a tad more audience mixed in, the recording has a wonderful ambience. You can hear some chit chatting from the band as they ask for the monitors to be adjusted giving a bit of intimacy to it. I had been hoping a recording from earlier in the tour would surface, so for me I jumped on this as soon as I saw it. 

Rock And Roll finds the band playing well early on, Plant’s voice is rough as expected and he does not push it but the worst for him is yet to come, the instrumental “machine” is thundering along with Page playing a great solo. Sick Again follows and Plant’s voice sounds very rough, almost makes you cringe when you first hear it, thankfully it starts improving by songs end. Showing no signs of an injured finger Page’s playing early on as they continue the “dream” during Over The Hills And Far Away, his solo starts out a bit slow but quickly evolves into a nice laid back journey and Robert’s voice is starting to recover. Robert talks of new material “falling out of us” and asks the crowd if they have heard any on FM radio and they play something from their roots. In My Time Of Dying is a complete band song, the interplay of the musicians is spot on, Page lays down some of his best leads during this song.

Robert is chatty during this show, The Song Remains The Same gets its usual introduction and Plant mentions Kuwait, something that made me reflect on the world today and how years ago, a couple of hippy musicians from England traveled in the Middle East enjoying the culture of these regions, and in speaking of Kashmir, having the indigenous music influence their creativity. I prefer the 75 versions of Kashmir, more focused and heavy, Plant does not force the high notes, yet some of his oohh’s sound a bit painful. The introduction for No Quarter is a bit screwed up, the majority of it is on the tail end of the first disc, it sounds like Page is having some technical problems, he seems tentative in getting into the middle section and it hampers his solo at the beginning and while he recovers some fluidity, he never manages to fully get it off the ground. This carries over into a somewhat lack luster version of Trampled Underfoot where Jimmy struggles to sync with the rhythm section and boarders on erratic during his solo with some really interesting results.

Robert’s introduction to Moby Dick finds him referring to him as “ultra precise” and making a reference to Karen Carpenter, who Bonzo came in second to in Playboy magazine’s music poll. While it sounds like Jimmy needs as break, Bonzo sounds like he is just getting warmed up and plays a very enjoyable drum solo, he plays a phased section that reminds me of space during a Grateful Dead concert. Dazed And Confused clocks in at over 30 minutes, Heavy Zeppelin at its best. Since making its return to the set a week earlier the song is still a work in process as Page recovers his finger strength, the oriental riffs section is slow and mysterious and works well with Plant’s vocal effects as he swirls through Page’s mists. The fast middle section is really good with Page being pretty loose and fluent and the music is recovering some of primitive fury. Stairway To Heaven is the culmination of the show, Page plays a great solo yet Plant does not push it during the hard rocking finale as his voice is rough and raspy for the ending.

The encores are typical for the tour, Whole Lotta Love sounds a bit under whelming and Page’s fingers struggle with the complexity of Black Dog yet he manages to lay down a great solo. As we know from the audience source, the intensity of the audience leaves the band empowered and they play a second encore of Heartbreaker, Page plays an almost stuttered riff at times making for an interesting version but thankfully John Bonham is behind him and gives the song a kick in the ass making for a strong ending.

The packaging is a simple gatefold sleeve adorned with pictures from the tour, as with many of the new and re-issue titles, an Obi is included as well. I would hope that this title would be somewhat well received as I would love to see something even earlier get a SB treatment, Chicago or Cleveland would make for interesting listening for sure. Again props to EV for getting these boards into circulation, 1975 is getting some much welcomed love!  

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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4 comments

  1. Lets hope that the forthcoming Seattle 3/21/1975 Dues Ex Machina release will be of equal quality, I love the 1975 SB’s and am anxiously awaiting any release date info. Should be quite the event, and one would hope that the LA 75 shows will be released at some point as well

  2. I find LedMan’s comments curious and I’m with schriste. The instrument separation is one of the best of any Zep boot I own (and I own many!) and the performance is relaxed and quite good. They seems to be having a good time. Kudos to EV for this release. To me, highly recommended.

  3. This show is so relaxed and rocks so hard it’s ridiculous, this show reminds me exactly why I love live Zep sound board releases, no two shows are alike, as far as sound quality goes this is one of the best sounding from the wonderful batch of 75 releases, almost perfectly balanced, yes plant is in rough voice, yes page is sloppy at times, yes jones and bonham rock, yes I love this show. sc

  4. I’ve listened to this release 5X so far and find it a very uninspiring performance. Plant sounds rough as Relayer67 mentions and Page sounds sloppy. I know his finger was injured which is probably a major factor regrading his performance.

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