Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX, USA – March 3, 1975
Disc 1 (54:58) Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir
Disc 2 (58:53) No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (59:13) Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog
It’s been a little over a year since the last installment of Empress Valley’s “Soundboard Revolution”, Texas Hurricane, that featured the band’s concert from Fort Worth, Texas in 1977, a concert made famous for the encore that featured Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs making a rare guest appearance. For this newest installment of the series, we are treated to the band’s stop in the same city some two years prior while the band was touring to support the recently released Physical Graffiti. What is most welcome to collectors is the fact that there had been no prior audio recording from this date, just a scant 4 minutes of silent 8mm video footage so we are getting a new concert in circulation , in incredible quality to boot. For those who like this sort of stuff, an enterprising fan has already synced this audio up with the 8mm footage, and did a marvelous job and is posted on youtube for your enjoyment.
While the 1975 American tour does not get the praise that previous tours do, I have always had a soft spot for this trek and find that for the most part musically the band is in good form for the majority of the tour. Of course Jimmy had the finger issue for the beginning and does take some abuse for the fluidity (or lack of) of his playing one should consider that the band had taken a year and half off from live playing. Robert also had his voice issues, something he would struggle with the entire tour. But for me the band played through these issues and quite well for that fact and by the time that they played Texas, they were really hitting a great stride. The recording featured here is excellent stereo soundboard, like many of the other boards from this tour John Paul Jones’ bass and John Bonham’s drums are a bit more prominent in the mix but unlike some others, the bass does not overpower or distort early on, in fact, this one has really nice balance from the start, although the audience is low in the mix. And like the other shows on this tour Robert’s voice does improve as the show goes on, but I am here to testify brothers and sisters, that the real praise goes to one John Henry Bonham, for his percussion skills on this eve is astonishing, many forums on the Internet are comparing it to his legendary performance from 6/21/1977.
Rock And Roll is typical 1975 version, the date is confirmed as Robert sings “Its been so long Fort Worth” and we find that Page’s fingers are a bit sticky during the solo but overall a good opener. Sick Again builds on that momentum, Page’s solos are warming up and Bonzo’s drumming is one fire! He is laying down some really nice fills making for a great version of the song. Plant’s inaugural speech “Good evening, tonight we intend to drink plenty of lemon and honey…and to have a really good time” and continues to praise the audience with niceties. The cross section part leads into Over The Hills And Far Away, really good version with the music machine locking in and playing a real laid back version of the song, Jimmy’s solo is really nicer on this one and it just roll. Jimmy is being harassed by his amp while Robert does an Elvis like intro for In My Time Of Dying. The pistons are pounding on this one, the instrumental break five minutes finds the guitar, drums, and bass locking in perfectly, even Robert’s raspy vocals when he cries “Oh my Jesus” seems to work well in true blues form.
Standard versions of The Song Remains The Same and The Rain Song are next, the latter features Robert’s voice being raspy and he does not push the high notes and Jones is being harassed by the Mellotron, something that Robert acknowledges at the songs conclusion. Thankfully he gets it under control for Kashmir, I prefer the 75 versions as I like the sound of the Les Paul over the Danelectro, it has a ballsier sound that I love. Jimmy seems to get lost about 7 minutes in but quickly finds his way. The “mysterious” fingers of John Paul Jones again come into play as the band go down for the next track, No Quarter. The song has been steadily building during this tour, this version is good but Page seems to have some guitar issues that take away from the effectiveness of his solo, you can almost see the others watch him try and get it together. He does recover, yet some momentum is lost but he does do some nice leads to save the middle section. Trampled Underfoot is a great 75 version, the band hits a groove and rolls with it, in fact the song is a set highlight even during the January shows when the band was struggling. With Bonham’s drumming being a highlight on this night, Moby Dick is one of the best solos on the whole tour, it just never gets boring and he keeps it steady throughout, as promised a truly “exciting musical event”!
Something that is annoying is that the Dazed and Confused intro is on the end of disc 2, so when you pop in the third disc it goes into an amp buzzing version of Dazed And Confused. There is plenty of room on the tape, during Robert’s chit chatting for his intro to be included prior to the song, a minor quip I know although people who put these shows on their iPods may prefer it since it will be more of a proper flow. Dazed is stretching out, getting longer with tonight’s version clocking in at 34 minutes. Page is having guitar issues prior to the prelude that leads into a heavy echo laden version of Woodstock. Jimmy’s fingers are nice and loose, something that he will need for the improvisational nature of the middle section. Jones and Bonham provide a rock solid foundation for Page and he seems to tease Walters Walk just before the start stop section and Plant does not push his voice but lets his vocal effects do much of the work. This version of Dazed can be best described as experimental, Page has, as Robert refers to as “time signatures”, that he explores making for a most interesting version of the pieces (they are pieces now). As usual Stairway To Heaven is the culmination of the band’s set, although Jones’ Mellotron is a bit high in the mix, Page plays a great solo and Bonham’s drumming is superb and Robert pushes his voice during the fast ending making for an incredible version of the song. Encores are standard for the 75 tour, Whole Lotta Love comes first, the middle section features a Crunge meets James Brown section augmented by the Theramin. The transition into Black Dog is very powerful and the band deliver an incredibly tight version that is kick ass, for lack of a better expression, Plant pushes his voice to the max that leaves the audience wanting more!
In typical fashion EV has released several titles containing this performance, I bought this version, three CD’s packaged in a simple gatefold sleeve, cool cover picture with Robert holding the snake, a live shot in the middle and a rather plain back cover as well as an OBI to boot. It also comes with a larger 7″ sleeve like what would be used for a 45 record that is also a gatefold and comes with an OBI as well plus an insert with an overview of the Starship luxury jet, similar to what is found in the Concert File book. Not sure what I am supposed to do with the larger sleeve, stuff the CD’s in it I guess. The other two versions are 9 disc box sets with other previously released soundboards from this tour, had it not been so close to Christmas I would have made the investment in one of the boxes but these dang kids want some presents under the tree this year. Again full marks go to EV for getting these soundboards out in circulation, while they are not cheap I am sure that it is costly for them to even get their hands on these from whoever the source is, and I have read some interesting theories on that subject. A great show, one that I am glad that it has finally seen the light of day.
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