Led Zeppelin – Maple Leaf Gardens (Empress Valley EVSD-408/409)

 Maple Leaf Gardens (Empress Valley EVSD-408/409) 

Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, ON, Canada – September 4th, 1971

Disc 1 (74:36):  Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day, That’s The Way, Going To California

Disc 2 (55:57):  What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (includes Boogie Chillun’, My Baby Left Me, Mess O’ Blues, You Shook Me), Communication Breakdown, organ solo, Thank You

Three tape sources exist for Led Zeppelin’s final show in Toronto. First to enter general circulation is a very good soundboard fragment running from “Stairway To Heaven” through to “Moby Dick”. Scorpio were the first label to release this tape on the Jennings Farm Blues in 1990 along with the “Jennings Farm Blues” outtakes and was directly copied onto Farmhouse Blues (BK-11) on the Australian label Blue Kangaroo Records in 1992.

“That’s The Way” and “Stairway To Heaven” were included along with the Vancouver tape on the compilation We’re Gonna Groove (TGP 135), released on The Grand Pick label by The Swingin’ Pig people. This title was copied by the American Concert Series and released on Frame By Frame (ACS 027) in 1992.

The entire tape was released the following year on Black Dog Vol. 2 (BAN-054-B) on the Aussie label Banana. Zoso’s Back To Rock ‘n’ Roll (2-9095) on Oh Boy has the tape except for “Stairway To Heaven” and was issued with the 1973 sound check tape and the Vancouver 1970 soundboard. The final release of this tape was about a decade ago on Touch & Go by Antrabata and it hasn’t been seen since.

The first audience tape first surfaced in the early nineties and was pressed onto In A Daze (Keepout 93), Maple Leaf (BF-9601-A/B) on Baby Face and Live From The Midnight Sun (TDOLZ Vol. 018). Keepout’s title is incomplete since it is missing the organ solo and “Thank You”. The tape is a very good sounding audience recording that is full of cuts between tracks, more than a minute of “Dazed & Confused” and heavily cut in the organ solo.

Recently a second audience recording surfaced and Maple Leaf Gardens on Empress Valley is an edition utilizing all three sources. The older audience recording is used for the beginning and ending of the show. The newer audience source is used to fix the cut between 20:04 to 21:15 in “Dazed & Confused” and sounds much more distant and fuzzy than the first.

The older audience source tape, compared to the other silver boots, sounds much more clearly and without the hiss that especially plagues Live From The Midnight Sun. The soundboard tape is edited in with Plant’s introduction to “Stairway To Heaven” and runs through the end of “Moby Dick”. The first tape source comes in again with “Whole Lotta Love” and includes the encores “Communication Breakdown” and “Thank You”.

Empress Valley use a longer version of that tape which includes thirty-eight seconds from the middle of the organ solo that acts as a prelude to “Thank You”.

Some claim the latter part of the show comes from the new tape but the sound quality is the same as the first part of the concert, plus the audience comments around the taper are identical between Empress Valley and the older releases. For example, right when Plant sings the first lines of “Thank You” an audience member by the taper asks someone “is this seat taken?” right when Plant begins singing “Thank You”.

The annoying cuts between tracks present on the other releases is still unfortunately present on this, but Empress Valley handle the edits and transitions very well offering a much more smooth listening experience.

This show occurs during Led Zeppelin’s seventh full tour of North America. Ritchie Yorke introduced the band at the beginning (which is not present on any tape source) and he spends the first two pages describing his experience at the beginning of his book Led Zeppelin: The Definitive Biography.

His experience causes him to reflect: “ Much has been churned out about how Led Zeppelin made the people feel, but not a lot has been written about how the people made the band members feel. I suspect I might have got a tiny taste of it that stunning evening in the venerable old hockey palace, the Toronto Gardens. It was eerily exhilarating, and not merely from an ego point of view; there was a unique awareness of something beyond the well-documented realms of rational reason, a connection perhaps with another level of consciousness.”

There are no real poor performances on this tour, but the press were correct in reviewing this show as “inconsistent”.

They expended so much energy the previous evening in New York that many of the songs sound rote. “Dazed & Confused” especially contains some parts that are noticeably sloppy. On the other hand this show has one of the best versions of “Celebration Day”.

Many versions from 1971 sound distorted, but this version, with the frenetic bass underlying the ringing twelve string of Page’s double neck sounds great. Plant spends a lot of time talking about the need to sit down and the failure of the great festivals during the acoustic set.

Empress Valley brings back the fatboy jewel case for a two-disc set for this release and it is priced moderately. Until the entire soundboard surfaces (something Zeppelin collectors have been wishing for almost twenty years) this is the best and most complete version of this show.

Empress Valley re-released this title in the summer of 2009.  The contents are identical but the packaging is a single pocket sleeve made out of flimsy paper and priced higher than the original. 

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