Led Zeppelin Was Good And Loud (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1665/1666)
Met Center, Bloomington, MN, USA – April 12, 1970
Disc 1 (63:42) Introduction, We’re Gonna Groove, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You
Disc 2 (51:37) Organ Solo, Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, DJ Outro
I have been enjoying listening to podcasts on work drives as a way to switch it up versus non stop music. One of my recent favorites is one I think many who read these reviews might also enjoy, it is called Zepfan – All Things Led Zeppelin hosted by Mark McFall who is also the curator of zepfan.com, an extensive online Led Zeppelin memorabilia collection. This podcast consists of 11 episodes as of December 2022, all these are extremely enjoyable and worth listening to, where all fine podcasts can be heard. Episode 007 features an interview with Michael Gillespie (no relation to Dizzy) who, in 1970, recorded Led Zeppelin’s concert in Bloomington, Minnesota during their fifth tour of North American in the spring of 1970. This is a previously unknown and unheard near complete recording by us at this moment, yet shortly after it was taped it was actually broadcast on the radio. While I could give you the low down, it is much better coming from the man himself so go seek out the Zepfan podcast and get the details.
Shortly after news of this recording surfaced, this podcast made the news as not only did it feature an interview with the guy who taped it, it also featured one song from the recording, Since I’ve Been Loving You. I fully expected this concert to be posted shortly after via a torrent site but things went quiet until Empress Valley announced this new title. While many may bitch and moan about a greedy bootlegger getting it, at least we have it. I ordered a copy and received it in just days, the long covid shipping delays are long behind us. It’s been in my home stereo and car for the past week and has brought me much enjoyment on these gray Ohio days. Alright let’s get into it, this is from an insert card that is included with this set and gives a brief testimonial on this recording:
12 April 1970 Recording of Led Zeppelin Concert in Bloomington MN.
I personally made said recording on tape cassettes tapes using a battery operated
Phillips recorder and Sony electret microphones. Those cassettes were subsequently
broadcast on radio stations CFRW and CKY-FM with the permission of Atlantic Records.
The original cassette tapes were destroyed and this off-air recording of the CKY-FM broadcast is, to my knowledge, the only remaining analog tape recording of the event...
The sound quality is overall good and at times borders on very good, mainly when the band is not going full blast when the quiet allows for more clarity. There is distortion and tape hiss as one would expect yet the individual instruments are discernible in the mix for the majority of the recording, at times the drums get buried, but overall a very listenable and quite enjoyable document. This is actually a broadcast version of the recording, not the master which has been lost to the ravages of time. Once you listen to the podcast you will find out that a stipulation of being able to broadcast this recording on the radio is the radio station water marked this recording with quiet “Your listening to Led Zeppelin on CKY-FM”. It’s very quiet and sounds like a muffled distortion for most of the time it happens which is on average, two times a song. There is an announcer talking over a portion of Dazed And Confused, the end of Since I’ve Been Loving You is cut off and there’s a cut during Moby Dick. Of note, there is an alternate recording of Bring It On Home that also exists, the quality much worse than this, see Ottawa 1970 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-414EX), needless to say this is a massive improvement to that recording.
The introduction features an announcer talking about the delay in tonight’s concert, there was a hockey game earlier in the day so there was much preparation in getting the ice covered and prepped for the mighty Led Zeppelin. He also tells them about a forthcoming concert by Crosby Stills Nash & Young which garners a huge ovation followed by what the crowd has come to see, Led Zeppelin. The band take the stage with We’re Gonna Groove and the taper wisely protects his microphone certainly due to the power of the band. The sound is muffled with the guitar and bass being clearest in the mix, Bonzo can be heard, just back farther. You can hear Robert sing “my baby’s coming back…when she gets back to me we gonna raise a family” then that’s pretty much it, Robert goes quiet and the rest is instrumental. Once the song is done the recording picks up Robert’s very quiet conversation with the venue staff, “What do you know about that? What do you know. It takes two minutes…What can I say, (more distorted chatter from Robert). We’re not believing this, it’s not really happening. Well what can we say, that’s seven minutes of our time, seven minutes of your time and look what happened. One , two…we’re not gonna give you anything until we know this P.A. won’t go off again, so…One…two…one…two. This is what they call a very large anti climax. ANTI CLIMAX. Is is going to go off again Mr Man in the Box? Right now I’ve got to stand with a bloody mic in the air all night. Nice microphone, these were last perfected in 1932. It belongs to Harry McCune. I’ve got two inches of mic lead. We’re super cool! We got some performing monkeys coming on in a minute, in fact they’re at the side now fixing the P.A. Pretend we haven’t started OK? We’re gonna start now”. Needless to say the band is furious.
Dazed And Confused follows after a tense three and half minutes. This is 16 minutes of intensity, the band certainly fuming about the crap equipment and focuses their anger on the music that is dark and intense. Plant’s mic is working fine as he scats with Page during the eerie bow solo, he soars during the fast section briefly showcasing his vocals over the instrumental madness. During the brief funky section he just wails and moans during a guitar and vocal call and response. At the 13:07 mark an announcer breaks in “Led Zeppelin will continue after the news…in Winnipeg it’s ten o’clock” during which the volume lowers. This is the main incursion to the recording. When the band gets back into the main theme Robert injects how he feels “Every day I work so hard bringing home my hard earned pay…I saved up my money I’m gonna buy me a new P.A., I did all I could but this isn’t my P.A.”. Afterwards Robert acknowledges it’s getting better and explains some of the frustrations…”everything that man builds falls apart eventually”.
Heartbreaker features the echoplex intro and outro that’s become standard for this tour, the song has gelled nicely by this point, Page takes his time during the Bouree section playing some really gentle notes before ripping into the blistering solo that leaves the audiences dumbfounded. The song has so much swagger and confidence and is becoming a set highlight. Plant starts clapping and tells the audience to “join us” as they get into the opening riff of Bring It On Home, the DJ “whisper” almost sounds like a creepy person trying to get up in your business. The sound is a bit muffled on this song, the bass overloads due to this, like the taper has the mic lower than before, this does not affect one’s enjoyment as it’s a great version of the song. Robert’s harmonica work really standards out, well captured by the periscope style microphone he’s using, Page backs him up with steady riffs and Bonzo pushes them both with his thunderous rhythms…a tour de force.
“We’d like to feature on guitar…Jimmy Page, White Summer, Jimmy Page…Ladies and Gentlemen”. Jimmy’s White Summer showcase is excellent, with only guitar and drums the recording device has no issues and the sound is in its most clear stage. If anything, once Bonzo joins in, it actually dominates the mix slightly which makes for a very pleasing listen as you get an idea of John’s simple percussive assist to the song, adding to the piece without dominating it. Typical for the 1970 versions Page can be heard referencing what would become Midnight Moonlight years later at the 10:38 mark. Afterwards Robert takes one final jab at the equipment “Ladies and Gentlemen I’ve got to say that never in whole experience of coming to America have we dealt with such a terrible P.A. company. It’s ridiculous…look at this…it’s like a periscope in a John Wayne movie”. He follows with his introduction for the next song, “you’ve heard something from Led Zeppelin I and II, this is a track from Led Zeppelin III…this is a very muffled version of Since I’ve Been Loving You”. The song cuts at the 6:30 mark but what is here is prime embryonic goodness, while these early versions lack the overall dynamics and sheer drama of what would be recorded and played later in the year, it is a fascinating glimpse into one of Led Zeppelin’s greatest songs. Crap P.A. or not, Robert sounds excellent, although you can hear the distortion of the vocal amplification, his power shines through. Jimmy plays a beautifully mournful intense solo sounding close to what would make its way onto vinyl, really, really good version of this song.
Tape cut due to tape flip one would assume, we’re back in the action for John Paul Jones’ organ solo which is rather short and sweet. The beginning sounds more like Pink Floyd from this era than Zeppelin but quickly moves into a familiar theme. I found Thank You to be quite interesting, it sounds like either Jimmy or Jonsey are adding some backing vocals on the lines “Tears of loves lost in the days gone by” and “Together we shall go until we die”, it sounds really good. There is some strange phasing sound going on during the second half of this song which is a little annoying but Page plays a stunning solo that helps. What Is And What Should Never Be has a false start, Robert tells the audience, who certainly by this time know the P.A. sucks, that they are really having a good time not wanting to take the frustrations out on the fans. They start again and play a great version of the Zep II classic. Moby Dick clocks in at 18 minutes even with the tape cut at 12:58, solid solo that the audience and myself enjoyed, they cheer and clap as he works through his spot and afterwards give him a huge round of applause.
Following Moby Dick the band plow right into Whole Lotta Love, as soon as Page hits that riff the audience rise to their feet and shouts of “sit down” are heard. The freak out section is interesting, amidst Bonzo’s drums and Jimmy’s Theremin you can hear Jonesy playing the organ in an avante garde fashion. I dig these pre medley versions of Whole Lotta Love, it was a hugely popular song and the audience go crazy when the band play it, there is something to be said for the straight forward versions, the song receives the loudest cheers of the night. Amid the shouts for “MORE” the band come back for a single encore, a rare, for the fifth American tour, version of Communication Breakdown that is stunningly furious. There is a chunky middle section that gets the audience clapping while Jimmy plays some bluesy leads, no vocal improvisations from Robert though. The DJ comments are a treat, they thank Mike and Atco plus give a description of the whispers that ties the entire experience together. Despite the P.A. issues this is a superbly played concert. The first half of 1970 was a very transitional period for Led Zeppelin and is very unique compared to other years except 1972 which was similar.
Typical for EV, this recording comes in two releases, the standard version with a gatefold sleeve and OBI, the other is the aforementioned sleeve housed in a box. I chose the standard version since my money tree has not been growing much cash lately. The gatefold sleeve features live shots from spring 1970, the interior has handbills and newspaper reviews of the event certainly culled from Led Zeppelin.com. I also really like what they put on the discs themselves, parts of the handbill, very cool. The mastering on this title is certainly tweaked but not for the worse. While this title is limited to 250 numbered copies (not sure how many the box version is), it will certainly be re released in months time in a more affordable package. This recording is a worthy addition to the Live Zeppelin cannon. and don’t forget to check out the Zepfan podcast.