Memphis Tennessee 1970 (Empress Valley EVSD-446/7)
Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, TN – April 17th, 1970
Disc 1: Opening announcements, We’re Gonna Groove, Dazed & Confused, Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You, organ solo, Thank You
Disc 2: What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, How Many More Times (Bolero, The Hunter, Boogie Chillun’, Cumberland Gap, Memphis Tennessee, Ramble On, Tobacco Road, Mess O’Blues, That’s Alright), Whole Lotta Love, closing announcements
The tape for Zeppelin’s only show in Memphis on their spring, 1970 tour is a good, almost complete mono audience recording. The taper hits the pause button between all of the songs to save tape but this also eliminates Plant’s between song talking. It is a shame since according to him they have been wanting to play in Memphis since “before we were born” and it would have been great to hear his reaction to playing in the birthplace of rock and roll.
The tape first surfaced with two tracks on the well-known Maui Wowie (ML-006/7) hoax on the Missing Link label along with the September 19th afternoon tape from New York being passed off as a Hawaii tape. The first releases of the complete concert were on two releases from the mid nineties Memphis (NEP-001/2) on Neptune and Memphis 1970 on Zoso. Most recent release was on Memphis Underground on Magnificent Disc (MD-7001 A/B).
The short lived label tried to improve the tape through excessive remastering but managed to ruin it with the crunchy metallic sound smudging the music and creating an unbearable mess. Empress Valley, on the simply titled Memphis Tennessee 1970, also improved the sound quality but without the effects of past labels and have produced a very nice version.
The only defect found on this release is the left channel disappearing during “White Summer”. It reappears again six minutes into the track, but its presence is a strange. Overall this is one of the best concerts played on this spring tour. Empress Valley kept the taper’s introduction about going to the Zeppelin concert and this is followed by a DJ speaking about giving away an autographed copy of their albums before the band hit the stage.
“We’re Gonna Groove” is the opener and t he band hit a slower, funky groove in the middle of the song. “I Can’t Quit You” was played as a second song on the opening dates but had been dropped by this time and they follow with “Dazed & Confused”. “Heartbreaker” includes the spacey introduction. “White Summer” is more than twelve minutes long and is a masterpiece. It includes versions of “Bron-Y-Aur” as well as the strumming that can be heard in the Bron-Y-Aur cottage demos as well as t he descending riff from “Kashmir” at 11:20 into the piece.
Jones’ organ solo before “Thank You” is a bit different in Memphis. He plays the ice-skating rink music before getting into a bit of a Dieterich Buxtehude style sonata before leading the band into “Thank You”. The tape shows some signs of deterioration during that track.
“How Many More Times” is very long in this show and contains their only known version of “Memphis Tennessee” in celebration of playing there. “Mess O’ Blues”, which was also played in Florida on this tour, will be a regular inclusion in the 1971 “Whole Lotta Love” medleys. The song is halted several times for Plant to calm the audience down and begging them to not stand on the chairs in order to save Grant from being shot!
A surreal version of “Whole Lotta Love” is the encore and the tape ends with the taper recording his closing comments about the greatest concert he has ever seen. As good and clear as this tape is, it really makes one wish a better and more complete recording were to surface someday to truly enjoy it. The artwork is very simple yet effective with several photos from the actual tour. It is printed on regular dull paper instead of the glossy paper usually utilized by this label giving this a common and austere look but also very attractive.
This release, along with Just The Crowd And… and Young Person’s Guide, are from a more budget conscious Empress Valley. The label had a similar conscious several years ago by releasing some titles with the “Lifetime Achievement” sticker at a reduced price and have occasionally issued titles that are priced to own. Given the affordability of this release and the scarcity of good releases of this tape Memphis Tennessee 1970 is recommended.