Led Zeppelin – Live In Central Park (Empress Valley EVSD-456/457)

Live In Central Park (Empress Valley EVSD-456/457)

Schaefer Music Festival, Central Park, New York – July 21st, 1969

Disc 1 : The Train Kept A Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed & Confused, You Shook Me, White Summer – Black Mountain Side, How Many More Times (includes Woody Woodpecker Song, For What It’s Worth, The Hunter, The Lemon Song), Communication Breakdown

Bonus disc, Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA – August 8th, 1969:  Train Kept a Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, I Gotta Move/improvisation, Dazed and Confused, White Summer, You Shook Me, How Many More Times

Live At Central Park is Empress Valley’s version of the often-released Central Park show from the summer of 1969.  There have been many releases of this tape beginning with Super Stars (TNT-910117) on TNT followed by Schaefer Music Festival (Rock Calendar RC 2107), followed by Twist (no label), Complete Central Park (TMOS96901) on Sanctuary label and most recently on Woody Woodrocker Show (TCD-23) on Tarantura.  It is a very clear, detailed and up front audience recording and among the many that have surfaced from Led Zeppelin’s summer of festivals.  The only drawback is the minor amount of tape hiss present. 

Empress Valley sounds as good as the Sanctuary and Tarantura versions.  It isn’t as loud as Sanctuary or as “fat” sounding as the Tarantura, and the closing remarks by the tapers at the end of the show are missing.  Central Park is a popular tape because it presents their shorter and more intense festival set debuted earlier in the summer.  It has both “You Shook Me” and “White Summer/ Black Mountain Side”, two songs which would be alternated in other concerts pushing the duration to just over an hour played in front of a vocal and rowdy New York audience. 

Zeppelin played two shows that day for the Schaefer Music Festival and this tape documents the early show at 7pm.  No tape has ever surfaced nor even hinted for the late show so this is all that exists from that day.  The show opens with the double attack of “Train Kept A-Rollin'” followed immediately by “I Can’t Quit You Babe” before a very nervous sounding Plant says,  “we’d like’s getting a bit dark innit?”

What follows is a fourteen-minute version of “Dazed And Confused” sounding very similar to the June BBC recording.  Plant adds his orgasmic moans before his non-sequiter interjections during (“I want you to talk to me”) and after (“bamma lamma ding dong”). 

Afterwards Plant becomes apologetic by saying, “Let me tell you, we’re really pleased we weren’t playing here last week despite the fact that we wanted to play because it was so hot.  So it seems we read the cards right because it said it’s gonna be cool.  It’s cool.  It’s COOL.  We got a new album coming about the second week in August but at the moment there’s been a bit of a delay on it.  And there’s been a bit of a delay on us getting the numbers ready for stage because we’re still doing the old ones.  We’d like to do something that was…” 

A heckler interrupts Plant with “White Summer!”  “In a bit.  It was written by Willie Dixon.  It’s a thing we in England heard on and EP called Muddy Waters Twist.  I don’t know what that means really but this is called ‘You Shook Me'”.  What follows is a slow, heavy version of the blues piece with Plant struggling to reach the high notes by the end.  There is another heckler at the end to which the audience laughs, but what he says is inaudible. 

There is some audience commotion at the end of the piece and Plant chides the audience to be quiet.  “White Summer”, which was requested by the audience, sounds fantastic in this show with Page pushing the boundaries of the eastern scales.  “How Many More Times” contains the earliest reference to “For What It’s Worth” and the only one for the Woody Woodpecker theme, imitating Page’s staccato riffs.

A short, compact version of “Communication Breakdown” is the only encore before the band leave the stage for the second performance of the evening.  The mc comes on at the end to point to the exits but EV edits out the conversations between the tapers afterwards.  It is not a major loss but it does add to the atmosphere.  The first edition of Live At Central Park comes with a free bonus silver cd containing the Rubber Dubber master of the August 8th, 1969 San Bernardino tape.  (On the back EV encourages the buyer to look at their copy for this). 

This tape first surfaced more than a decade ago and really hasn’t been seen since its initial release.  Many collectors claim this is clearer than the Rubber Dubber tape although it is tough to tell listening to this.  The taper was close to Page’s amplifier and he drowns out the rest of the band.  He is having a good night but it is distant, distorted and disturbing making this is a tough listen which will appeal to completists only.  This title is packaged in a double slimline jewel case holding the two discs. 

Since there are several photos from this show it would have been nice to place one on the front cover but Empress Valley chose an older picture with Page playing the telecaster from the first two tours.  The back has a rare photo of Page in the studio playing acoustic guitar dating from the Led Zeppelin II sessions.  In line with other current releases, Empress Valley priced this moderately making it very appealing to those who missed out on the Sanctuary and Tarantura issues.  The New York tape is one of the best from Zeppelin’s first year and is an essential show to own.

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