The Awesome Foursome Live At The Forum (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1282/83/84)
The Forum, Inglewood, Los Angeles, California, USA – March 24, 1975
Disc 1 (53:19) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir
Disc 2 (57:33) No Quarter, Trampled Under Foot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (72:05) Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Heartbreaker
Hard to believe it’s been three years since Deus Ex Machina was released, the last full concert on Empress Valley’s Soundboard Revolution. While the label certainly generated plenty of buzz in the collectors community with the releases of the 1971 soundboard fragments, many rejoiced (Thank you Jesus) with the announcement of the forthcoming complete soundboard release of the first night at the LA Forum in 1975, a concert most are familiar with thanks to the excellent Mike Millard record. The soundboard revolution series consists of two versions, the first was a deluxe box custom gatefold sleeve housing the three disc set plus a 108 page photo book and three cards and finally a separate disc consisting of bonus material, of course at a premium price. There is also the no frills version, a simple three CD set in gatefold sleeve.
Like I said most are familiar with this concert thanks to the audience audio recordings, there are two such recordings with the best being the Mike Millard capture found on such titles as Crazed And Bemused (Black Cat Records BC22A-B), Get Back To L.A. (Tarantura T9CD-1), The Firecrackers Show (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ), Deep Throat (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 1256/57/58) and most recently LA Forum 1975 First Night (No Label). The second audience source has seen only one release in complete form, A Gram Is A Gram Is A Gram (Image Quality IQ-80/81/82). There is also a really nice audience video that lasts 18 minutes and while fragmentary, it was shot close to the stage and is a detailed audience view of the band. Lastly is the soundboard source, last year Empress Valley released about 66 minutes of the concert from the soundboard on the title The Night Stalker (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1118), a prelude if you like, to the complete concert and the subject of this new title from Empress Valley.
First off, hats off to Empress Valley for getting these soundboards out to the masses, in this age we live in, most every thing is available at our fingertips and all you need is to download it. This has been a sore subject for EV and surely other labels as the market for people wanting physical product is dwindling. So again, thanks to you for digging these gems out, where would we be without the Soundboard Revolution? Secondly many thanks for my source in Japan, I placed my order and within a couple days it was on my doorstep, incredible customer service from him as always. After many listens over the past couple days I really like this recording and concert. I am a fan of 1975 Led Zeppelin, so perhaps I am a bit biased when I listen. The first half of the concert is well played, the band is obviously happy to be back in Los Angeles playing for the “Children of the sun”, from the first song Jimmy is in good form and plays very well. Robert’s voice takes a couple songs to warm up, this is consistent with this tour, his voice being more hoarse than others, he works around it and a little raspy is good. Bonzo plays really well and John Paul Jones is his typical bad ass self.
Like many of the soundboards from 1975 John Paul Jones’ bass is a bit loud in the beginning and overloads for a bit of Rock And Roll, once the adjustments are made by the sound man it is smooth and very consistent for the rest of the concert. The instruments and vocals are all very well balanced and it is very clear and detailed, great to here the guitar and drums pan from left to right during Dazed and Moby Dick. My main issue with the sound on this title is that somewhere between the original tape source and this release there has been needless compression added in the lineage, perhaps to cut down on tape hiss or add some clarity or upper end I am guessing. This makes the cymbals sound swishy for lack of a proper word, and is most notable when Bonzo is really working his hi-hat cymbals. I have heard this trend growing and seems to be on the 1975 soundboards, I do not hear this on the Japan 1971 boards, they sound fantastic. This is certainly not a deal breaker, I simply back off on the treble and it made it much easier on the ears. It does have nice frequencies on the bottom end, there are times especially during The Song Remains The Same when Jonsey is in a groove slamming some killer bass grooves and it’s just perfect. When I compare the sound to the first release of the soundboard, The Night Stalker, I find the sound to be identical.
The performance is very good, I feel that the band peaked during the Vancouver and Seattle run, by the time they get to LA they seem tired and ready to just relax. That being said this is a very enjoyable show, Robert’s commentary is heartfelt, it had been a long tour and the band is happy to be at the end and in sunny Southern California. I listened a lot to the Millard recording over the past month prior to this soundboard release, as well as reading all the torrent notes weekly in the Lost And Found Mike the Microphone series. I have begun to understand Mike’s positioning during these runs and the difference between Long Beach Arena and The Forum. Mike was very close on this Forum run and Jimmy dominates in his recording of this concert, at times sounding out of sync with Jones and Bonham. In listening to this soundboard it is not the case, with the instruments in proper balance you find they are all right there and while Jimmy is not as fluent as the second Seattle gig, he is playing great for the most part, at times he just slows down. His solo in No Quarter and Stairway To Heaven are killer and while I was slightly annoyed with the mastering I found myself really enjoying this entire concert, in fact I find I actually prefer this soundboard over the Millard recording, I do hope future soundboards will have a more untouched sound, perhaps give a version with a flat transfer, not to beat a dead horse but this recording could have sounded incredible with the right mastering, I am not casting blame at EV as we have never heard what these tapes sound like in their unaltered form, we just get the finished product.
The packaging, well I bought the cheap version so I will have to wait until the bonus disc, with its version of Royal Orleans, shows up on you tube or something. For my version you get the three CDs, all with a painting of Jesus on them, housed in a 7″ gatefold sleeve with stock photos. I also got the promo card announcing a forthcoming release of the March 11, 1975 Long Beach show, certainly coming out to compete with Tarantura’s forthcoming updated Bootleg License title.