Live At Whisky A Go-Go!!! (Empress Valley EVSD 442)
Whisky A Go-Go, Los Angeles, CA – January 5th, 1969
(52:13): As Long As I Have You, I Can’t Quit You, The Train Kept A Rollin’, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Dazed And Confused, Killing Floor, For Your Love
At one time Empress Valley, known for packaging, remastering and finding new sources, were at the cutting edge for Led Zeppelin releases. Their most notable releases have been the 1975 soundboards. But since the release of the Nassau Coliseum 1975 show, they have been focusing not upon new releases as much as repacking and reissuing their back catalogue. Deep Throat, Royal Albert Hall and Orlando Magic are a few reissues and their latest are Maple Leaf Gardens and Firecrackers Explosions.
Live At Whisky A Go-Go!!! is perhaps Empress Valley’s most impressive release. Coming out late in 2006, it was a tremendously exciting release at the time and there were rumors that the taper had reel to reels for all of the Whisky shows and that Empress Valley would follow with the other nights. Nothing has surfaced in the intervening three years however.
Empress Valley first released the Whisky tape on both a DVDA and audio disc, but lately they have reissued the audio disc alone in a cheaply packaged, moderately affordable edition. This is good news since the original title is sold out and good news to those who are not wholly impressed with the DVDA format to begin with. The sound quality of the reissue is identical to the older one. And in the spirit of recycling past efforts, at the time my review of the show stated:
Led Zeppelin played their first concerts in Los Angeles right after New Years’ Day in 1969 with four nights at the trendy Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Strip. They shared the bill with Alice Cooper and took turns on succeeding nights as to who would be the headliner. Unlike the San Francisco shows, Zeppelin played one long set instead of two shorter ones. Rumors have circulated for many years that these shows were taped by a member of the audience and stories circulated in 2003 around the one who taped The Yardbirds’ final run of shows at the Shrine Auditorium in March, 1968 but those stories turned out to be false.
On Live At Whisky A Go-Go!!!, Empress Valley have finally found and released one of the tapes from this legendary run of shows. This tape of the final of four nights is a very good complete audience recording taped on reel-to-reel very close to the stage. The audience sounds very small (less than one hundred) and are very quiet and attentive with no obstructions what so ever. Of the 1969 audience recordings in existence this is among the better. Page’s guitar dominates in the mix with the vocals pushed back and there are trace amounts of hiss in quieter passages. Further, there is residue from an earlier recording on the tape that bleeds through in the early parts of the show.
It is imperfect but still a wonderful recording capturing Zeppelin at such an early stage. Jimmy Page mentioned that he had the flu this week and received medication from a physician so he can play and the performance is mind-boggling considering the conditions. The tape begins with some tuning and Plant’s sound check before he says “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Can everybody hear me? This is the last night from Led Zeppelin”. The set begins with the “As Long As I Have You” medley. It was usually played in the middle of the set although it served as the opener for the May 27th Boston show (and also its final recorded appearance).
This version is eleven minutes long and Plant sings Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” over the band playing “Fresh Garbage”. After the “Hush Little Baby” section Jones tries to lead the band into Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack” but the band don’t follow and end the piece as usual. “I Can’t Quit You” is played second as usual and at the song’s conclusion Plant says, “we’ll do things in a different order. We want to get people to rock and roll…This is called ‘Train'” before “Train Kept A Rollin'”. This is followed by the earliest live version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” which Plant introduces by saying, “It is traditional. You can hear this on the fantastic album coming out on the fifteenth, Herman’s Hermits Live At The Whisky A Go-Go”.
“Dazed & Confused” is introduced as another song from the album coming out and is very close to the studio version including the crescendo at the end. Plant begins the following number by saying, “if anybody was here last night…you know how we were saying we were getting over the flu…well we’ve all got it back again. We’re pleased to be here. We’ll carry on with a thing from Muddy Waters. We got it together anyway, by Howlin’ Wolf. This is a thing called ‘Killing Floor’ and I think that just about sums it up.” This version is very short, contains Page playing some very fast scales and omits Plant’s “squeeze my lemon ’till the juice runs down my leg” part.
“For Your Love” is the final song of the set and is introduced as something written by Keith Relf and was a number one hit for The Yardbirds. “Does anybody remember Keith Relf?…This is written by the bloke who wrote their numbers.” The only other recorded live version is from the Fillmore West five days after this in a fair to good recording, so it is a tremendous blessing to have a version so well recorded. It sounds very similar to the San Francisco version with psychedelic feedback and ending with a very long scream by Plant. There is a small cut around 4:17 omitting a bit of the guitar solo but is otherwise complete and ends with Plant saying good night.