Led Zeppelin – Plant’s Influenza (Empress Valley EVSD 238/239)


Plant’s Influenza (Empress Valley EVSD 238/239)
Guildhall, Preston, England – January 30, 1973

Disc 1 (57:17):  Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-yr-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2 (67:51):  Dazed And Confused (includes Carry On, San Francisco), Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love (includes The Hunter, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, You’ve Got To Love Her With A Feeling, Boogie Chillun’, (You’re So Square) I Don’t Care, Let’s Have A Party, I Can’t Quit You, The Shape I’m In)

This tape has a very strange history.  The original Tarantura label folded in 1997 but in October of 1999, more than two years later, came the surprise release of Zep (TCD-100) commonly called “Four Cards” because of the cover artwork. 

This was announced as being a title that was supposed to come out in 1996 but got lost in the shuffle (so to speak) and took three years to come out. Zep claimed to date from the December 17th, 1972 Birmingham show and ran from the middle of “Misty Mountain Hop” through the first eleven minutes of “Dazed And Confused.” 

The following year Electric Magic released Strange Affinity (EMC-006A/B), a beautifully packaged two disc set which claimed to have the Birmingham fragment on disc one and “Stairway To Heaven” and “Whole Lotta Love” from the January 16th, 1973 show from Kings Hall in Aberystwyth in Wales.  

When Plant’s Influenza came out in late 2003 it proved everything assumed about this tape to be wrong.  This tape comes not from Birmingham but from the January 30th, 1973 show in Preston.  And the second disc of Strange Affinity has nothing to do with Aberystwyth, but is another fragment from the Preston show.

Plant’s Influenza is the debut for the most complete version of the tape with the first three and a half songs, “Rock And Roll,” “Over The Hills And Far Away,” “Black Dog,” the first half of “Misty Mountain Hop,” the latter twenty minutes of “Dazed And Confused” and the first three and a half minutes of “Stairway To Heaven.”  Reviews claim this tape is still not complete since the encore “Heartbreaker” is still missing.  This may be true, although the supporting reason for this, that it was mentioned in The Concert File, isn’t convincing.  Given the way the tape fades out at the end does support this, but after five years it still has not surfaced.  What is present is a very clear and enjoyable mono audience recording with the main set from the show. 

The audience were very quiet (and sarcastic) so there is very little interference and the music comes through very clear.  The only significant cut is a tape flip at 24:12 in “Dazed And Confused” which eliminates the return to the main theme before the third verse of the song. 

Led Zeppelin were originally scheduled to play in Preston on January 3rd but was cancelled due to Plant’s influenza.  This make up date was tacked on to the end of the itinerary and would be their final appearance in the UK for more than two years.  The tape begins with audience conversation and one punter saying, “my brain hurts” before the band launch into the opening “Rock And Roll” and “Over The Hills And Far Away.” 

“Thank you very much, good evening!  I see that since the last time they’ve managed to change the halls a bit.  Whatever happened to that nice old place?” Plant says, refering to the Civic Hall where they palyed on November 24rd, 1971.  “Fell down” someone close to the microphone shouts.  “It ain’t knocked down ’cause we passed it.  Its just got tin around the windows.”  Plant talks about the black lab and introduces “Black Dog.”  

Before “Misty Mountain Hop” Plant says, “We’re just getting over Scotland, which was much better than California last time.  That’s not too far from here.  This is for all the Jacobites still around.  This is what happens when you go through the municipal park on a Sunday afternoon and you bumped into a rizla agent.  You might laugh.  I bumped into one actually.” 

Zeppelin liked to create interest by playing medlies and this set list is characterized by four.  The one with this and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is the most bizarre since there is no strong thematic link between the two nor are they at the beginning or end of the show where it would be most effective. 

Page’s burst of notes on the guitar bridge is pretty cool though.  Before the next short medley Plant says, “Ladies and gentlemen.  This is the last performance, I mean this is the very last one for about a month.  And this is another song off the new album.  This is for whistling John Bonham. And it’s called ‘The Song Remains The Same’ and is relative to us traveling a lot.” 

Plant praises the  mellotron at the end of “The Rain Song,” as they prepare for “Dazed And Confused.”  At twenty-nine minutes long this is one of the longest played in the UK that winter.  At about 6:47 in the song Page plays the opening riff of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s “Carry On” right before “San Francisco.” 

During the violin bow section a heckler by the stage shouts “BORING!”  Page carries on anyway unmoved and the improvisation turns out to be one of their heaviest.  The final “Whole Lotta Love” medly reaches close to a half hour.  Page plays the riff to “The Hunter” from the old “How Many More Times” medlies and the rest of the band pick it up for a few bars.  Before “Boogie Chillun'” Plant sings the chorus from Freddie King’s 1960 hit “You’ve Got To Love Her With A Feeling”:  “I wanna tell you about my girl / my girl been out looking good / the cops took her in / that girl she didn’t need no bail / she wiggled one time and the judge put the cops in jail” 

The rest of the song contains the standard Elvis numbers ending with “I Can’t Quit You.”  It is a pity the encore isn’t present, but having the main set is tremendous and Empress Valley did a good job with the tape.  Compared to the older releases it is much clear with no distortion. 

Plant’s Influenza is worth having.   

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