Live At Southampton University Working Tapes (EVSD-493/494)
Old Refectory, Southampton University, Southampton, England – January 22nd, 1973
Disc 1: Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed & Confused
Disc 2: Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love (incl. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Boogie Chillun’, (You’re So Square) I Don’t Care, Let’s Have A Party, I Can’t Quit You), Heartbreaker, Thank You, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown
Live At Southampton University Working Tapes is the second silver release of the January 22 1973 show, following closely after The Great Lost Live Album on Nasty Music. Empress Valley didn’t tweak the tape as much as the other version and as a result is much closer to the version posted online with a thick, heavy bottom to the sound. In fact the timings of the discs are almost identical to the internet version. The dropouts and channel fluctuations are still present, as are cuts. The most noticeable are right after “Since I’ve Been Loving You” at 7:45 in the track right before Page’s “Old McDonald’s Farm” doodle, before “Stairway To Heaven” which eliminates Plant’s commentary (his introduction to the song is present, but it sounds as if he was saying more as the tape cuts in), and at 19:47 in the “Whole Lotta Love” medley, cutting out a bit of the guitar solo during the “I Can’t Quit You” section. The sound quality on this professionally mixed multi-track recording is excellent and one’s corresponding personal taste will be the deciding factor between the two silver releases of this show. Those who favor the fatter sound will enjoy the Empress Valley more, while those who favor a clearer treble will favor the Nasty Music version. Neither of the two releases are offensive to the tape source and are both excellent titles.
This show was added to the itinerary after the tour was scheduled, and reflects the band’s desire to play in smaller venues closer to the audience. They scheduled a “Back To The Clubs” tour two years prior, but the popularity of the band coupled with the scarcity of tickets guaranteed hard feelings by those who were not able to catch them on that tour. When a small gig was scheduled for this, their longest tour of the U.K., they made sure there would be no problems by playing the Student Union after a gig at the 2100 seat Gaumont Theater. There is a different tone to the show compared to others in England and on the continent in March. But this is primarily due to the different venue in which they performed. Zeppelin’s live sound is heavily dependent on volume and in a small venue such as the Old Refectory, the volume needed to be diminished. Instead of the bombastic theatrics that are needed to get the point across in an arena, shows like this one rely upon intimacy and subtlety. As a result the results are much more subdued than others. Plant’s voice is fine; Page plays well as does the rhythm section. The professionally mixed recording, despite the flaws mentioned above, is one of the best sounding Led Zeppelin titles available.
A characteristic it shares with all of Zeppelin’s legendary concerts is the building of the momentum throughout the show and ending with extended encores. The first half of the show is good but with some ragged moments. “Dancing Days” is weak; there are some missed cues during “The Song Remains The Same,” and Page plays out of sync with Plant during the “San Francisco” section of “Dazed & Confused.” The show becomes interesting during that song’s long improvisation part with the band hitting a deep groove right before the call-and-response part. The guitar solo in “Stairway To Heaven” reaches an intensity that is common for this tour, but is great to hear in such a clear recording. After a medley in “Whole Lotta Love” which reaches more than twenty-minutes, the encores seem to take on a life of its own. “Heartbreaker” is one of the more common songs played as an encore. “Thank You,” which is preceded by a mellotron solo, isn’t common, having appeared only in the opening night of the tour on November 30th in Newcastle and the first London show. the mellotron gives “Thank You” a softer feel as opposed to the organ used on record and in other live arrangements. The five minute prelude to the song contains references to, as LedMan points out, both “In The Light” and the 1968 Richard Harris hit “MacArthur Park.” To have such a clear recording of this rarity makes the show worth having. Working Tapes is packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve with several photos from the tour. (GS)