Over the past few years Empress Valley have released some really nice box sets focusing on specific runs of concerts that are important milestones in Led Zeppelin’s concert history, Thunder Down Under – The Complete 1972 Australian And New Zealand Recordings, The Garden Tapes – The Song Remains The Same Concerts, and Earl’s Court – The Final Option. For their newest effort they chose to focus on Led Zeppelin’s second trip to Japan, a short tour consisting of six concerts that took place in the fall of 1972. After the success of the first Japanese tour in September 1971, plans were made for a return visit with Led Zeppelin again playing multiple nights in Tokyo and Osaka plus one date in each Nagoya and Kyoto. Compared to the previous year, the concerts were rather low key and subdued. The set list would go through changes as they were developing new pacing and dynamics of the concerts. They had been playing the same basic format for the past two years and this new sequence would feature Rock And Roll as the new opener, Dazed and Confused as the showcase number and Stairway To Heaven as the culmination of the set. The songs from the forthcoming, as of yet untitled, fifth record would be a major part of the set and Whole Lotta Love with its rich rock and roll Medley would retains its spot as encore. The tour did garner much attention from the tapers, multiple audience sourced documents/recordings exist for all six of the concerts, Led Zeppelin’s live prowess had quickly become legend.
This tour has also gotten much attention in the collectors markets with all six concerts being released multiple times and the premium labels have put together some very nice box sets documenting the entire tour. In 1992 the original Tarantura label released a deluxe 14 disc collection entitled The Campaign 1972, the set boasted front cover art based upon the famous “The Effect is Shattering” Houses of the Holy Advertisement featuring a powerful blast to the head and individual CD sleeves featuring traditional Japanese artwork with a Zeppelin somewhere in the scene. A wonderful set that continues to draw hefty prices. The last complete collection of this material dates back to 1999 when Last Stand Disc released Live In Japan 1972, a 12 disc box set featuring upgraded sound compared to the Tarantura but with less extravagant packaging, a hinged box with the “The Effect is Shattering” Houses of the Holy Advertisement featuring the head between two train car couplers and CDs housed in plain sleeves. Empress Valley has never presented this material in a collected form until now, in June 2018 the label released Complete Live In Japan 1972, a 12 disc set featuring the best recordings from each of the concerts with gaps filled by the next best source. The box has the same dimensions for the Ally Pally and History Lesson and several other sets, it comes in two different editions, The Campaign features “The Effect is Shattering” gun blast art on the cover, The Overture features “The Effect is Shattering” train couplers art, both have a slight holographic shimmer to them. Both versions have the same content, the CD’s are housed in three full cover sleeves (two concert per sleeve) featuring a live shot from the tour, looks like the Budokan October 3 concert. There are four stage pictures in a small envelope from the same concert, a fold open flyer with traditional Japanese art work that is quite beautiful and lastly let’s not forget the OBI. The packaging is beautiful, simple and effective.
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – October 2, 1972
Disc 1 (74:35) Introduction, 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, Dazed And Confused
Disc 2 (57:34) Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Crowd Anticipation, Heartbreaker, Crowd Anticipation, Immigrant Song, Communication Breakdown, Outroduction
The first night of the tour finds Led Zeppelin playing to a capacity audience at the world famous Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. There are eight known audience recordings in varying degrees of quality and completeness, Empress Valley uses the best recording as a basis for this concert. The recording has been released many times previous, early vinyl titles like Live At Budokan 72 (New OG 1149-50A-B), Live In Tokyo 10/2/72 (Toasted 1901 A-D), and Live In Tokyo Oct 2-3 1972 Budokan Big Hall (LLX 1233-4-5-6). On compact disc we have titles like No Use Greco (Tarantura GRECO 1), Dancing Days (Aphrodite Studio AS 91LZ002-3), Eastern Front (Great Dane 9226A/B), The Campaign (Tarantura 1972-5-1-12), Live In Japan 1972 (Last Stand Disc LSD 65/78), Presentation 1972 (Patriot 002-1/2), The Overture (Sanctuary TMOS-97201 A/B), Led Zeppelin Is My Brother (Empress Valley EVSD 319/320), and Budokan 1972 1st Night (No Label).
The recording is a near perfect, excellent audience recording, the taper was close to the stage and captured a clear, detailed and very enjoyable capture. The concert is virtually complete, there are a few cuts in the tape but none during the music, those few gaps are filled with other sources making as complete overview of the concert as possible. I pulled out my old go to version of the concert, EV’s Led Zeppelin Is My Brother, this new version is just a bit clearer and brighter. It does not sound like manipulation rather a better transfer, the very slight amount of tape hiss is still present as well. The second disc is also longer as the label has patched the missing parts of audience cheering, the transitions are very smooth and well handled.
The concert itself is merely a “nice starter”, the set list has had a near complete makeover, Rock and Roll is a natural opener and is played stand alone style yet hard to replace the Immigrant Song > Heartbreaker salvo from the previous year. This song would be the opener for the next couple years, not until the American tour in 1973 and the Rock And Roll> Celebration Day> Black Dog sequence would it be most effective. Starting their concerts with a killer one two punch has been a tradition since their earliest performances.
After being played very sporadically, Misty Mountain Hop finally gets a full time slot in the set, linked with Since I’ve Been Loving You, albeit with a pregnant pause, this would soon develop into a moment of high drama with Page playing a show stopping flurry of leads, here it is just good. The band have added even more previews from the fifth record, The Song Remains The Same and Rain Song get their inaugural performances, fully realized and very effective, Robert refers to it as Zepp on this night. This concert also marks the first time the Mellotron was used by John Paul Jones, the tape replay machine was used to allow Jones the ability to mimic the string arraignments during The Rain Song, the first version of the song is superb, the heavy section is very dynamic and quite impressive.
The Whole Lotta Love medley is a typical concert high point, Elvis numbers are always fun for the audience (and myself also, big Elvis fan), they play a great version of My Baby Left Me, Page rips some of his most tasty leads of the night during the song. Like the 1971 tour, the band digs out some very old numbers as well, Plant forces a bit of Killing Floor, aka the Lemon Song and after the group gets it together they manage an impressive version. The crowd awakens for the encores, Heartbreaker is well received and after a long period of clambering for more, the group returns with Immigrant Song and Communication Breakdown to end the concert proper, Jimmy hits the Wah pedal during Communication Breakdown and elicits a loud cheer from the audience, and me!
1972 Japan Tour Tokyo 1003
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – October 3, 1972
Disc 1 (55:10) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, 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 (79:32) Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Crowd Anticipation, Immigrant Song, Crowd Anticipation, The Ocean, Outroduction
The second night at Budokan is another somewhat tentative concert by the band and follows a similar pattern to the previous evening, that of the performance building and by the time of the encores, the old building has been really heated up. A staggering nine separate recordings exist from this concert, again in varying degrees of completeness and quality. For this version EV uses “source 3” as its foundation, this recording has been released on a few compact disc titles, 2nd Night In A Judo Arena 1972 (Tarantura T2CD-6-1,2), The Campaign (Tarantura 1972-5-1-12), Live In Japan 1972 (Last Stand Disc LSD 65/78), and Tokyo 1972 2nd Night (No Label), the label uses source 4 to fill gaps due to it being sonically similar and a bit of two other sources as well. The recordings are very good, again clear and detailed with the main source being a bit bass heavy that gives low end rumble but it has a very powerful sound because of it, it seems to accent Bonzo’s drumming, The Hammer of the Gods. The upper frequencies offer some crisp detail and all instruments and vocals are cleanly defined, both recordings are a bit more distant so the overall feeling is much more ambient than the previous evening, the audience sounds more animated.
For those who are familiar with the older Tarantura and LSD titles will find the sound much improved, the older circulating copies sounded like they had some sonic manipulation done to them, this version sound like a more direct, non tampered with version of the tape. I was somewhat surprised with this as EV had released the concert as part of their “Rock Explosion” series using the near excellent source 6, after several listens of both sources I find both compliment each other nicely and surprisingly I prefer this version of the concert, by the time the band are playing Since I’ve Been Loving You I was hooked by the sounds, sometimes the best sound is not always the best listening experience.
For the second night in Tokyo, the band moves Black Dog to second spot after Rock And Roll, yet both are not connected but makes for a stronger opening. Black Dog would retain second spot for the remainder of the tour. Other than some brief tuning, the band waste little time with chatter and seem content to just hammer the set out. Page is harassed by his acoustic guitar prior to Bron-YR-Aur Stomp, he can’t seem to get it in tune and Plant fills in the gap by asking “just one moment Gentlemen and Honorable Ladies, and Geisha’s”. Gone are the long acoustic sets of previous tours, the singular acoustic number is a perfect excuse for a hoedown, the audience clap along and enjoy the looseness of the song.
The Song Remains The Same is called The Overture at this concert, this version reminds me of the studio version, Plant’s vocals have the soft high sound to them, like a warm summer day. The Mellotron is clearly heard in this version, it sounds like Jones has to cohere then a bit at the beginning, once they get going it adds the needed orchestral vibe. Dazed and Confused is missing from source 3 so we get a nice chance to hear and enjoy source 4 for Dazed And Confused. It sounds like the taper was in a similar position to source 3 but this version does not have much bottom end and favors upper frequencies but is very clear and detailed. There is just a bit of audience noise making for a nice ambient recording, Plant’s vocals are in the forefront so we get to hear all his scat vocalizations. You can hear a couple source changes sporadically, just a few seconds, the splices are perfectly done and if not for the timbre change, you would not know it. The playing in Dazed finds the band shaking off a bit more of the cobwebs, Jimmy plays some great leads during the fast section after the bow solo and the rhythm section of Jones and Bonham are their typically perfect for this era.
Whole Lotta Love continues to change and evolve, Plant teases Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoes just before they launch into it eliciting cheers and laughs from the audience. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love now has lyrics and continues to evolve, by the next year it will become a powerful force during the European tour. The band continues the Elvis tribute with Let’s Have A Party and get into a killer bit of You Shook Me, as with the previous night, Page uses these songs to just soar by playing almost lyrical and quite fluent lead guitar. The encore cheer is interesting, someone close to the taper has what sounds like a cowbell they consistently beat on until the band returns and someone else has a clown horn that alternates with the bell, sounds like a crazy circus cheer. Immigrant Song is an encore mainstay, the song was very popular in Japan although it sounds a bit out of place when not coupled with Heartbreaker, old habits die hard I guess. The Ocean makes its one and only appearance in Japan as the final encore, amazingly you can clearly hear John Bonham counting in “One…two…three” yet sadly no “We’ve done four already” bit, again the temperature is raised by Whole Lotta Love and the encores!
Osaka Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – October 4, 1972
Disc 1 (75:45) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-YR-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused
Disc 2 (46:03) Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Crowd Anticipation, Heartbreaker, Immigrant Song, Outroduction
The first night in Osaka and the band seems to be more relaxed, perhaps the jet lag was behind them and they have adapted to their surroundings so to say. There are three known recordings from this date, all falling into the good to very good range. EV uses a mix of all three recordings using the second and best source as a basis, it is clear and detailed and supposedly been taped in the 5th row. Previous editions of this material can be found on such compact disc titles as Osaka Tapes: Raw Tapes (Amsterdam AMS 9610-2-1/2), Connextion (Amsterdam AMS 9612-2-1/2), The Second Daze (Mud Dogs 011/012), The Campaign (Tarantura 1972-5-1-12), Live In Japan 1972 (Last Stand Disc LSD 65/78), Moral Reader (Wendy WECD 94/95), and most recently Osaka 1972 1st Night (No Label). I have the recent No Label that uses source 3 as its foundation and this version is easily its equal.
The band hit the stage and get to it, very little chatting from Robert, in fact he introduces Over The Hills And Far Away while Jimmy is playing the beginning, after getting into some tasty leads during Black Dog, Page seems to have hit a bit of a stumbling block during Over The Hills, always on the edge…but effective! The transition from Misty Mountain Hop to Since I’ve Been Loving You is spot on, Jimmy was ready and nails it, in fact this is one of the best versions of the song from this tour, Page is in no hurry and he plays some nice quiet notes, not pushing at all, only adding to the drama. Plant does not seem to be pushing his voice, he sounds good just keeping it simple and not going to the high sustained notes, not having to battle the loud instrumental machinery (Nice Luis Rey Reference) he sounds joyous on Bron-YR-Aur Stomp.
Dazed and Confused is superb on this night. Page plays an embryonic passage that will soon evolve into San Francisco, even in this early stage it has an eerie sound with Plant’s moaning scat in the background. The post bow solo has Page seemingly improvising several themes trying to connect them all without loosing coherence, easy for him to do with the steady rhythm section of Jones and Bonham laying the foundation. Very enjoyable version of Dazed, made even more enjoyable by the great recording.
Other than the orchestra needed for The Rain Song, the Mellotron is also used for the flute like beginning of Stairway To Heaven, giving the piece a pastoral feel. Again Whole Lotta Love steals the show, Bonham kills it during the jam right before Everybody Needs Somebody To Love unleashing a thunderous barrage letting the band know he means business. The medley feature some more Elvis standards, it is documented that the band caught one of The King’s concerts at Madison Square Gardens prior to the stop in Buffalo in June and must have been an inspiring experience. Heartbreaker makes its second, and last, appearance in the first encore spot followed by the now obligatory Immigrant Song ending a superb, and vastly underrated concert.
1972 Japan Tour Nagoya 1005
Nagoyashi Kokaido, Nagoya, Japan – October 5, 1972
Disc 1 (77:58) Introduction, Rock And Roll, 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, Dazed And Confused
Disc 2 (47:05) Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Crowd Anticipation, Mellotron Solo, Thank You, Outroduction
Fourth concert of the tour has the Zeppelin boys playing their only live concert in the city of Nagoya, while the rust has been shaken off the band seem in a hurry, after this concert they have a three day mini vacation. There are two known recordings from this concert, both incomplete but when edited right we can hear the full concert. This title uses source 2 as its foundation with source 1 filling a few gaps in the main set and for the encore. The Campaign (Tarantura 1972-5-1-12), Live In Japan 1972 (Last Stand Disc LSD 65/78), Live In Nagoya (Smile TOE 001), The Geisha Boys (Akashic AKA-9), Rock N’ Roll Springtime (Image Quality IQ-053/054), Dragon (Flagge), Sakura Looking Up! Great Discovery (Jelly Roll 10/11), High Noon (Wendy WECD 56/57), and Rock Explosion ’72 Live at Nogoya Kokaido (Empress Valley EVSD691/692) are all compact disc titles featuring this material.
Source 2 is a good to very good recording, it is a clear and fairly detailed document, the lower frequencies are a bit muddy but it captures the atmosphere perfectly. Source 1 is merely a fair more distant recording. For this version EV uses a similar mix as their Rock Explosion title with significantly upgraded sound. The hiss is greatly reduced, the volume is a bit louder and the sound is significantly clearer, it is not the mastering but a far better generation tape used, we can now enjoy this concert in best quality to this point, in fact this is the one recording that really surprised me, happily I might add.
The audience sound excited to see the band. As soon as they start Rock And Roll, they quiet right down. The sound quality improves and by the time the band plow into Black Dog it is clear and enjoyable. Page gives the solo a great workout and the audience duly rewards him with a nice ovation at its conclusion. The is the only concert on the tour not to feature Over The Hills And Far Away that usually follows Black Dog, yet Roberts opening remarks he states “Very nice for English boys to be in Nagoya…here is song off fourth LP…it’s called Misty Mountain Hop”. Page’s guitar seems to drown out Jones’ organ a bit giving the song a heavier sound that is really great, again he plays a great transition solo into Since I’ve Been Loving You that instantly changes the mood, he seems to toy a bit with the audience before playing the main guitar lead and the whole effect is like hearing the band in some subterranean small and smoky blues club.
Page has to do a bit of tuning prior to Dancing Days, they sound as if they are playing to an empty hall, the Japanese audience is extremely quiet as they listen to the song for the first time. “Too many Geisha’s spoil the broth…Here is song with John Bonham singing” is Robert’s chatter prior to Bron-YR-Aur Stomp. The recording is so clean you can almost make out the onstage chatter as they set up chairs at the front of the stage. It immediately gets the crowd involved as they clap perfectly in time with the song making for a very enjoyable version of the song. The Song Remains The Same is called The Overture on this night and sounds a bit tentative.
Dazed and Confused is again a show stopper, an audience member laughs with joy upon hearing the beginning bass line, Page is in no hurry to get things going and again seems to toy with the audience and sounds like he even throws Robert a bit out of time. The real journey begins once they begin section 3 and the instrumental wizardry weaves its magic on us. The song features an instrumental version of The Crunge and at 19:20 Page begins to play a bit of As Long As I Have You, pure nostalgia for sure. Stairway is very well received and they get a nice ovation as Robert begins singing, Jones’ Mellotron drowns out the guitar during the first few minutes.
The place gets hopping with another brilliant Whole Lotta Love and the audience begins to get loose. The Theramin section gives way to a great Everybody Needs Somebody To Love and the medley of oldies is great. Robert works the crowd up before Let That Boy Boogie and has a blues “conversation” with them, the bass seems to overpower everything but the vocals, Page lets it rip for his solo that is extremely fluent. As usual the band gets into a bit of Elvis with Let’s Have A Party and another ‘69 flashback with You Shook Me to round out the medley section in superb fashion. The encore is unique, the only version of Thank You from the Japanese 72 tour, Jones does his organ solo as a prelude and includes the traditional folk song Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossom Cherry Blossom) that is very well received by the audience, a fantastic ending to a well played, very laid back concert by the band.
Osaka Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – October 9, 1972
Disc 1 (76:35) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused
Disc 2 (69:03) Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Crowd Anticipation, Stand By Me, Immigrant Song, Outroduction
After three days of rest, the band is back in the familiar city of Osaka for the best concert of the tour. The playing is sharp and inspired, so much that John Bonham even revives his Moby Dick solo…the vibes are real! There are four know recordings from this concert in varying degrees of completeness and for the most part they all have passable sound. For this set EV uses Source 2 commonly referred to as the H-Bomb source along with filler from sources 1 and 3. The taper was positioned in the fifth row and was able to get a great recording, albeit slightly unbalanced, he must have been in front of Jimmy’s amp as the guitar is slightly in the forefront, the rest of the band can be clearly heard and is really a nice document. There have been several recordings using this source dating back to vinyl on titles like Live (No label / matrix#), My Brain Hurts (Idle Mind IMP 1115A-B) and its reissues by Jester and renamed as Dedicated To John Henry Bonham. The concert has seen steady distribution on compact disc as Let Me Get Back To 1972 (H-Bomb HBM95R01/2/3), Tapes From The Darkside (H-Bomb HBM9301-3), Live In Japan 1972 (Last Stand Disc LSD 65/78), most releases of this concert use mixes of several sources as does this new version, The Campaign (Tarantura 1972-5-1-12), My Brain Hurts (Tarantura TCD-16-1/2), Moby Dick (Bolkskine House BHRCD-10), and Stand By Me (Wendy WECD 50/51).
Digging deep was needed to access this version, I needed to dig up an old version of the H-Bomb title Let Me Get Back To 1972 (many thanks to WGPSEC). This new version is a significant upgrade and is sourced from a very low generation of the tape. The old H-Bomb source was rather dull and had some noticeable tape hiss and had speed problems, the section around Everybody Needs Somebody To Love was very evident on the H-Bomb source, this new version does not have this or any speed issues. The sound is louder, cleaner, greatly reduced hiss and one can instantly notice is not heavy handed mastering but a much better version of the tape. I’ve been listening at a loud volume and it delivers a strong enjoyable sound. It seems the band really enjoyed playing in Osaka, the previous year provided two of the best concerts of all 1971 and while the playing thus far has been solid, the second night in Osaka is really special, the band delivers on all fronts.
The concert hits the note from the first song, although it seems there is some equipment adjustments needed as after Rock And Roll Robert talks of a problem and judging by the vocal levels, guessing a PA issue, Black Dog is the answer, then the best version of Over The Hills And Far Away follows, Plant’s voice has warmed up and the instrumental machinery is warmed and running like a precision machine, Page flies during his solo. Plant manages to get an introduction in for Misty Mountain Hop due to some tuning by Page, he talks of getting busted, something that can’t be talked about in England or America. Dancing Days is consistent with the other shows on this tour, the song has been a solid part of the set throughout. Bron-YR-Aur Stomp has been, sadly, dropped from the set, perhaps they knew Bonzo wanted to do a drum solo. Robert talks of being in Hong Kong over the previous days and then introduces The Song Remains The Same as “The Campaign”. Like the other tunes from the forthcoming fifth record, both The Campaign and The Rain Song have been very strong, although Page’s guitar is a bit out of tune prior to the solo that renders this version a bit flat, The Rain Song is superb though.
Dazed And Confused is excellent, the best version of the song from this tour. The beginning has that mysterious quality to it, Bonham is amazing, he does a couple short fast fills, pauses then hits the gong to great effect. The quiet section before the bow solo has Page working with San Francisco, this bit of improvisation inspires Robert who starts singing lines from Neil Young’s Down By The River, the audience gives them a nice round of applause for their efforts. During the slapping with the bow, Page seems to be in some unspoken dialog with the audience, the short section has a very intimate feeling. The audience seems to hang on every note and sound emanating from Page’s guitar, the Grand Sorcerer of the Magic Guitar in complete command. The fast section is good as well, as with the other shows from this tour Page plays a bit of The Crunge and seems to be working out new places to go making for an interesting, and well received version clocking in at close to 30 minutes.
Plant does a bit of hoedown improvisation prior to Stairway To Heaven, the intimate setting of the 2,700 seat Festival Hall sounds like a gathering of friends for those short few seconds. I love the Stairway’s from 72, they play it with confidence and it’s not yet a burden, Plant hits the highs as well, his voice has recovered sufficiently. Robert introduces “Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we have an added pleasure John Samurai Bonham” in a moment of sheer hilarity, until you hear the drum solo. He plays with precision and the 16 minute solo is fast and intense and by far one of the more enjoyable Mody Dick’s I’ve heard. Whole Lotta Love is again a show highlight, it’s nice to hear it without the speed issues. Page gets into some cool riffs, he plays a couple notes of The Stones’ Satisfaction, Etta James’ Somethings Got A Hold On Me, Robert conjures up his Elvis roots again with Milk Cow Blues, Heartbreak Hotel, and Wear Your Ring Around My Neck and the medley ends with a superb Goin’ Down Slow, Page going from slow to incredibley fast and detailed leads that tease the audience to their delight, the last few seconds are sadly cut. The encores are interesting, first the band play a stand alone version of Ben E King’s hit Stand By Me that has Robert introducing Bonzo who does add backing vocals here and there, such are the happy feelings shared by group and audience. The song meanders along for 6 minutes and while an interesting oddity, never really hit me like Blueberry Hill. With just a minute to catch ones breath they plow into Immigrant Song full force and it’s a spectacular ending to a really great concert.
1972 Japan Tour Kyoto 1010
Kyoto Kaiken, Kyoto, Japan – October 10, 1972
Disc 1 (55:44) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused
Disc 2 (45:27) Stairway To Heaven, Over The Hills And Far Away, Whole Lotta Love, Crowd Anticipation, Immigrant Song, Outroduction
The final concert in Japan is a quick one, the band further cut the set down, Dancing Days is the latest casualty. While being the shortest of the six concerts the playing is really good and quite inspired, the band hammers the gig out in record time like they have a train to catch. There are three known sources for the Kyoto gig, the first is rather poor sounding and used on very early titles like The Campaign (Tarantura 1972-5-1-12), the second main source and third filler source are much better and have been used on the following titles, Live In Japan 1972 (Last Stand Disc LSD 65/78), The Last Night In Japan (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ 078), Mirage (Flagge), Live In Kyoto (Empress Valley EVSD 693/694), The Old Capital (Wendy WECD 66/67), and Evil Spirits in Kyoto (Tarantura TCD 170-172).
The sound quality of the main source 2 is overall very good and noisy, the vocals and guitar are in the forefront, the bass and drums are audible just not as clear and they are just a bit thin and raw sounding. Compared to Live In Kyoto its hiss is louder but it’s clearer, brighter and sounds more natural, you can hear the noise reduction on the older EV title and for me, not a huge upgrade but a more natural sounding one although not as significant as the Nagoya and second Osaka shows. “Nice to be in honorable Kyoto” is Roberts intro, albeit a bit prematurely as even Bonzo starts his drum intro to Rock And Roll then stops till the others are ready.
Misty Mountain Hop is introduced as being about “Japanese grass”, again the smaller venue has an intimate sound and feel to the concert, this is highlighted during a killer Since I’ve Been Loving You. Jones’ organ is clear in the mix, an essential element as it helps lay the blues foundation and Page lays down a passionate solo coupled with Robert’s moaning is perfection. The Campaign is played quite fast and the version of The Rain Song is just wonderful. When I look back at each of the six concerts, The Rain Song has been a highlight each of the times it was played. Dazed and Confused clocks in at just over 18 minutes, a compact version but still retains its intensity, perhaps a bit more. No “San Francisco” or Crunge workouts but the bow solo was great and the fast section was, well fast. In a bit of hilarity, after the song ends Plant says “If the man who’s sleeping in the front row will you please stand up”…who could sleep after that?
Another curiosity of the set is that Over The Hills And Far Away is played after Stairway To Heaven, Robert introduces it as “honorable track of fifth LP” while pointing out someone taking pictures. Whole Lotta Love has many a highlights, Freddie King’s Hideaway, Elvis’ That’s All Right Mama, and a rare version Brenda Lee’s Lets Jump The Broomstick along with the usual boogies. The sole encore is Immigrant Song, and like the previous night in Osaka, contains a bit of the old Yardbirds nostalgia You’re A Better Man Than I.
Final thoughts, Empress Valley have nailed this set. They present each concert using the best tapes for each and filling gaps with the next best one making for a very pleasurable listening experience. What I like about this set is that there is no unnecessary filler found on previous box sets, I do not need poor sources mixed with better sources done in redundancy and they gave us the best of the best. Speaking of sound quality, the label has done a great job by using low generation tapes and not tweaking the hell out of them, we get nice, natural sounding recordings. There are several upgrades in this set, Nagoya, and the second night in Osaka have been significantly upgraded, the other four are easily on par, and if anything a bit better than what has been released before. The mastering of the sources and edits are smooth and well done. The packaging is simple yet effective, while some expect more from a premium label like Empress Valley, we do get some cool extras and by keeping it simple it can be offered at an attractive price. Great box set and well worth seeking out.