Led Zeppelin – Three Days After (Empress Valley EVSD-434/435/436)

Three Days After (Empress Valley EVSD-434/435/436)

The Forum, Inglewood, CA – June 3rd, 1973

Disc 1:  Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Bring It On Home Introduction/Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2:  Dazed And Confused (includes San Francisco), Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick

Disc 3:  Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love (includes The Crunge, Boogie Chillun’, I’m Going Down, I’m A Man, The Hunter, Boogie Chillun), The Ocean, Communication Breakdown, Organ Solo, Thank You

Three Days After is the second Empress Valley release in a row which attempts to release a decent version of a well known but flawed tape.  This six-disc set, utilizing a name that has always been associated with the show, presents the only extant tape source which was produced by the TMOQ people.  It is a very good to excellent audience recording with fantastic dynamics preserving a magic Led Zeppelin performance. 

The problem is the first half is plagued with faulty equipment and tape making it a difficult listening experience.  The first vinyl release Three Days After on Trade Mark Of Quality (TMOQ 72016 A/D) used only the last eighty minutes of the show, from “Stairway To Heaven” to “Thank You” which was largely unaffected.  Subsequent pressings on Rock Solid Records, Toasted, Archipelago and Sin City Social use the same section of the tape.  The vinyl was first copied onto compact disc for the Flying Disc set The Trade Mark Of Quality Masters (FD 101-105).

The other two compact disc releases feature, for the first time, the entire tape flaws and all.  The first was Three Days After on Silver Rarities (SIRA 96/97) released in 1993 which was followed by Three Days After on Cobra Standard Series (013).  The former release edited out the worst parts and the latter left them all in and sounded horrible and no boot label has touched this show since.  The problems start at the very beginning of the tape with the left channel cutting in and out. 

Sometimes it is weaker than the right and other times it is completely absent, and this goes on for the first hour of the tape.  In addition there is a big cut in the middle of “Black Dog” omitting the latter half of that track and the beginning of the next with the tape resuming at the end of the guitar solo in “Over The Hills And Far Away”.  

“Misty Mountain Hop” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” has some interference but is listenable.  Serious problems begin again in the first verse of “No Quarter” and the tape wobbles and speed-ups through 6:40 in “The Rain Song” when it clears up and remains so until a cut at 7:38 in “Dazed & Confused” where the wobbles come back for two minutes. 

This clears up but the left channel drops out again at some points during the track.  Afterwards it settles down and is great until the very end of the show.  Empress Valley produced a six-disc set where they present the unadulterated stereo recording on the first three discs and the same exact tape with the same timings and catalogue number on the second three discs but in mono. 

The stereo version is a tough listen since the left channel keeps cutting in and out throughout the first hour of the tape.  The second three discs are an attempt to help smooth over the problems and present a better listening experience and it works to a degree.  The right channel is duplicated to create a faux stereo effect and sounds nice.  But the tape wobbles and speed issues are on the actual master cassette there is very little anyone can do and the label makes a brave attempt but the problems are just as annoying on the mono as it is on the stereo.  For the parts of the tape that are not affected with problems the sound quality is excellent.

And the truth be told the last hour and a half is the best part of the show.  The first part, ruined by the tape, is good but nothing to distinguish it from any other.  It’s only when they play “Dazed & Confused”, which alternates between haunting and outright brutal, when one realizes this is going to be a special show. 

Plant speaks at length about Jimmy’s swollen finger this show was originally scheduled for June 1st) and “Heartbreaker” is dedicated to the “world’s worst group…Slade” and leads into the longest version of “Whole Lotta Love” on this tour.  Three great encores, including an emotional version of “Thank You”, close the event.  With partial soundboards surfacing for San Diego, the first Los Angeles and San Francisco concerts, it has always been hoped one would surface for this show.  Aquarius 11 in the liner notes expresses the same sentiment, and hopefully either a complete soundboard, or one covering the first half of the show, will one day surface.  Three Days After on EV is an admirable release that is enjoyable and is worth having.

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