Jamming With Mick Ralphs!!! (Empress Valley EVSD-453/454/455)
Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – May 22nd, 1977
Disc 1: The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter (includes Nutrocker suite)
Disc 2: Ten Years Gone, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur-Stomp, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Kashmir
Disc 3: Moby Dick, guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love/ Rock And Roll, It’ll Be Me
Jamming With Mick Ralphs!!! is Empress Valley’s version of Zeppelin’s May 22nd Fort Worth concert. Like Complete Tarrant County Concert on Wendy and It’ll Be Zep on Silver Rarities, this is a mixture of the three common audience recordings edited to present as much of the show as possible. It begins with the first audience source that is fair, distant, and dominated by the shouting audience but clear enough to hear the music.
This runs from the beginning until about 4:45 into “In My Time Of Dying” where the second audience source is used. This source is still distant and noise but somewhat more dynamic and enjoyable than the first. This runs through until the “Ten Years Gone” fragment. The first source picks up again with “Going To California” and runs through the first thirty seconds of “Black Country Woman” where the second source is again used.
The second source is used until about thirteen minutes into “Moby Dick” where the third, amazing quality stereo audience source is edited in and runs pretty much until the end of the show. The first audience source is used for some shorter segments like the introduction to the encores, but mostly the Duck Walks And Lasers tape source is used. Generally speaking the sound quality of Empress Valley is an upgrade over Wendy.
The first two sources are still far from perfect but the label increased the volume without any attendant hiss making the show very enjoyable. It is a shame the gap with most of “Ten Years Gone” and “Battle Of Evermore” is still present, but for what we do have left this release is an excellent record of a truly enjoyable show. The previous evening in Houston was a very good show, but this one is much more loose and exciting and a good prelude to the Maryland shows that follow.
John Paul Jones’ dirty bass sound is very audible in the opening numbers and adds much needed bite. “In My Time Of Dying” has a miscue which causes a halt but the band start again and deliver an effective version. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is one of the most dramatic versions on tape and is among the greatest versions from the eleventh tour.
“No Quarter” is introduced as “a piano piece” and contains a tentative version of “Nutrocker”. It sounds like Bonham was caught off guard as Jones bands out the opening notes but it sounds like great fun. The band suggested to Jones that he keep it in for all versions but he wanted to keep his improvs open. Only in the opening night in New York do they play the piece before it disappears forever (unless future tapes surface from later in the tour confirming it was played again).
The acoustic set is also great fun and Plant sings about a yellow rose (of Texas?) in “Going To California”. “Moby Dick” is twenty-seven minutes long and is great with interesting drum patterns after Bonham bashed the “Whole Lotta Love” riff. The guitar solo is just over ten minutes and contains “Dixie” (aka “I Wish I Was In Dixie” and “Dixie’s Land”) followed by the “Star Spangled Banner”.
The final two songs “Achillies Last Stand” and “Stairway To Heaven” are very strong and the first encore is the tour debut of “Whole Lotta Love”. It is very short leading directly into “Rock And Roll” and this version will be featured on the majority of the rest of the concerts. Mick Ralphs of Bad Company joins the band on stage for a version of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “It’ll Be Me”, the first of two known times it was played as an encore.
Jamming With Mick Ralphs!!! comes packaged in the Empress Valley big cardboard block sleeve with the Rolling Stone cover on front featuring a photo from Madison Square Garden and a very dower looking Bonham on the back. It does seem to serve as a piece of catalogue filler (i.e., it musically isn’t an advancement over previous releases), but compared to the earlier compilations this probably deserves definitive status and is worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)