Led Zeppelin – Wild West Side (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1656/57/58/59/60/61)

Wild West Side (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1656/57/58/59/60/61)

This new box set from Empress Valley features the newly surfaced Vancouver 1971 recording combined with the following two concerts in Los Angeles at the Forum under the banner “Wild West Side”. The name is appropriate as these three concerts are not only the first three gigs on the 7th American tour, but all on the West Coast of North America, hence the title. There are two gatefold sleeves housed in the box, Vancouver in one, both L.A. gigs in the other, both have an OBI as does the box and all packaging, while simple, features relevant pictures, a very exciting release. 

Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – August 19, 1971 

Disc 1 (44:32) Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way 

Disc 2 (48:57) What Is And What Should Never Be, Celebration Day, Gallow’s Pole, Whole Lotta Love, Weekend, Rock And Roll, Communication Breakdown 

Like the recording featured on the Led Zeppelin Was Good And Loud (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1665/1666) title, the excellent Zepfan podcast featured an interview with the taper of the recently surfaced Vancouver 1971 recording. Episode 9 has a great 35 minute interview with Trenton Waters, it has the whole back story of how and why he taped the show and other bands from that era he recorded as well. This is time well spent, check it out. 

Trenton captured an excellent snap shot of Led Zeppelin’s first gig on their 1971 North American tour. The sound quality is very good, the guitars and vocals overshadow the drums, although they can be heard just very low in the mix, curious is John’s cymbals are clearer. The guitars and vocals are nice and clear, there is some distortion but is minor as is the tape hiss. Overall a very listenable document that is a very easy and enjoyable listen. This title is the first to feature the complete T Waters recording. The fragmentary portion has been released on Death Of Sleeping Beauty (Empress Valley Supreme Disc Alias 89-90) and New Source Collection (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-871EX), this new title by Empress Valley makes these older titles obsolete. 

The recording begins with Since I’ve Been Loving joined in progress, picking up during Jimmy’s solo, there is some agitation in the crowd as evident by “Sit down you c*cksuckers”, Trenton is still adjusting his equipment and at 2 and a half minutes the recording improves for the better. Sadly there are tape pauses between most numbers so we don’t get to gauge the atmosphere inside the Pacific Coliseum other than the audience was semi crazed for Zeppelin, the shouts of sit down continue during a blistering Black Dog and while not clear or interfering with the tape it does seem like some commotion is happening. Black Dog is brutal the instrumentalists are extremely tight with Jimmy soloing at will and to perfection. 

After the tape cut we get part of Robert’s intro “…from a few years ago” that leads us into Dazed And Confused amid more shouts of of “Sit down”. The audience are beginning to settle down during the bow solo as Page conjures up the eerie sounds while Robert moans, Jimmy finishes with his bowed Mars interlude that’s spell binding that is merely a prelude for the fast portion that follows. The instrumentalists are locked in and Page unleashes a furious until about twelve minutes in where he gets into a variation of some Yardbirds sounding nostalgia. There is a cut at the 14:42 mark for a tape flip that removes a decent potion of the ending. We get a bit more of Robert’s comments “We take a little more time between numbers now cause old John Paul Jones is running around from one instrument to the next” which leads us into Stairway To Heaven. The audience is very calm and quiet as Jimmy begins, you can hear some disturbance in the distance. The band are very focused in their presentation, nothing is rushed as one gets the feeling of intense concentration in bringing the song to life for the first time on North American soil. Page’s solo is immaculate, it actually starts off slow, builds intensity and makes the Rock ending even more effective, the band receive a quiet ovation during a long coda, sadly there is a tape cut so we do not hear the full response. 

“Chris Bale 3976 Marine Paul River”. The band take a few minutes to get set up during which we can get an idea on Trenton’s location as the sound is very close to the stage. Page and Jones are reading their acoustics you can hear Plant “for God’s sake get this PA together…we got to get this PA together so it won’t f*cking cut off”, obviously they get it together for another North American first, a tranquil and lush version of Going To California. Finally the crowd seem to settle down for the acoustic music listening intently, a tape cut removes all comments during which they prep a wonderful That’s The Way, both songs beautifully captured in this recording, the sound is clear and detailed with the instruments having great separation, the crowd gently clap along during the latter, really enjoyable acoustic interlude before the Led enters back in the fold. 

A tape flip returns us to the action with What Is And What Should Never Be already in progress, the mics are obviously low but you can hear Plant sing “Sail away leave today Way up high in the sky” so we know we have not missed much. Page’s slide solo is captured well, you can almost here the echo from his amplifiers, there is distortion present from 1:38 to 1:58 from an unknown source. Celebration Day finds Page back on the double neck which is the preferred guitar for the song, the guitar adds the jangle that works as it almost sounds if two guitars were playing. These 1971 versions are always spot on and great listens, Page plays with what sounds as an almost picking style and is most effective. We stick with the double neck for Gallow’s Pole, the earliest versions from Copenhagen and Odense sound rather tentative but this version sounds more confident. 

Moby Dick was not played at this concert, or the first night in L.A. so we get right into Whole Lotta Love. Plant is excellent during the medley, he leads the band during Boogie Chillin’ to great effect, he gets the audience primed for the others who explode when they get into the main riff. Robert pays homage to Elvis during an excellent That’s Alright, Page in turn does his best Scotty Moore with added flair to boot. They move into another Presley hit with Mess O’ Blues, the playing is slick yet not overdone. Honey Bee begins a long blues portion much of it is instrumental, Plant sings a line from Sitting And Thinking “I’ll buy you fur coat for Christmas and a diamond ring” yet it is Page who is the true Star, he never gets lost or loses inspiration as he just churns out lead after lead to glorious effect. The song ends the set after 22 minutes of bliss with “Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, and myself” to massive round of applause. 

“We’d like to do ahh…Na let me think. We’d like to thank you very much anyway for being everything we expect Vancouver to be…it was too much”, what could follow but a great version of Eddie Cochran’s Weekend, this concert took place on a Thursday but for most that’s close enough. “We’d like to do just one more, this is another thing off the fourth album…Right!” and they rip into a furious version of Rock And Roll, these early versions are no nonsense stick to it and based upon the reaction from the audience, is an instant classic. Following a tape cut Robert tells the audience “We’re gonna thank you again, I think next time we’re gonna play a bigger place”, the band would not return to Vancouver until 1973 where they play the Pacific Coliseum once again. The final song is a excellent version of Communication Breakdown, the band still have more to give as they get chunky during the middle section before a high powered ending to this brilliant concert. 

The Forum, Los Angeles, CA, USA – August 21, 1971 

Disc 1 (79:39) Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day, That’s The Way, Going To California 

Disc 2 (62:29) What Is And What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love, Weekend, Rock And Roll, Communication Breakdown, Organ Solo, Thank You 

There are three known audio sources for this concert, Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura T4CD-1), The 7th American Tour (Whole Lotta Live WLL022/23), DX I~X (Mad Dogs DX3/4), and Wild Weekend (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol.38), all feature source 1. Firecrackers Explosions (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-305/306), Walk Don’t Run-Stairway To L.A. (TCD-81-1,2), and L.A. Forum 1971 (No Label 2016) all feature the gaps in source 1 filled with source 2. With the appearance of the fragmentary source 3, a few titles have hit the market featuring the inclusion of the source combined with the others, L.A. Forum 1971 1st Night: 3 Source Mix (No Label 2022), New Source Collection (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-871EX), and First Night At The Forum (Wisteria Records WISCD-2022-013). Empress Valley has used a mix similar to L.A. Forum 1971 1st Night: 3 Source Mix (No Label 2022), using the Eddie Vincent audio followed by a source 1 and 2 mix for the remainder of the concert. It should be noted that Graf Zeppelin used this same premise for New Source Collection (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-871EX) which features the Vincent tape with a source 1 patch to complete Black Dog which is the final song in the L.A. portion of that title. 

I’ve got the Tarantura clone title The 7th American Tour (Whole Lotta Live WLL022/23) as well as the New Source Collection (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-871EX), based upon the WLL title alone, I was in need of an upgrade for the first L.A. show. The sound of source 3 on this EV is very nice, the sound level is not as loud as the Graf title but not by much, I actually prefer the splice to source 1 during the Vincent recording bust, its a bit smoother on the ears where’s the Graf is more abrupt. The sound of source 1 when compared to my ancient Whole Lotta Live title is much improved. The WLL is a supposed close of Tarantura’s Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura T4CD-1) set, the volume is much louder than this EV set. The EV sounds clearer and has much better range of frequencies and a more natural sound, as one would expect since the WLL title is more that twenty years old at this point. 

The Forum, Los Angeles, CA, USA – August 22, 1971 

Disc 1 (75:56) Introduction, Walk Don’t Run, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be 

Disc 2 (69:13) Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Organ Solo, Thank You 

The second night in L.A. is another classic and certainly rivals the previous evening. The singular recording is near complete and features very good slightly distant sound, pretty much consistent throughout, very similar to the first night source 1. This recording has circulated in the collectors market for years with such titles as Walk Don’t Run (Mud Dogs-022/023), Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura T4CD-1), The Definitive Kingdom (Whole Lotta Live WLL020/021), Freak Out (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol.39), Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura TCD-82-1,2), Walk Don’t Run (Wendy WECD-33/34), and L.A. Forum 1971 (No Label 2016). Empress Valley has released this show many times originally as Firecrackers Explosions II (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-360/361), then most commonly is a 4 disc edition combined with the first night as Firecrackers Explosions (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-305/305 & 360/361). 

I only have the old yet excellent Freak Out (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol.39) in my collection but certainly can assume that EV is using the old version as when I put it in my computer drive it comes up as Firecrackers Explosions. As Gerard states in his review of Firecrackers Explosions II, EV has speed corrected the title and has a more natural sound than my old TDOLZ title which is loud and has too much emphasis on the treble. The EV is a very easy listen, it is certainly cleaned up a bit but there is just a faint amount of tape hiss and the bass is not overpowering, all instruments and vocals are clear and well defined, a really nice recording and this EV is my preferred version based upon my collection. 

As mentioned before the packing is effective, the Vancouver show is in its own gatefold sleeve featuring the same side stage live shot as the box cover, the same image is used for the interior as well. The L.A. shows are combined in one gatefold sleeve featuring live shots taken by Eddie Vincent who also recorded the first three songs from the three and half songs from the 8/21. As fans know, Eddie captured a few precious minutes of 8/21 in video, seek this out on Youtube as it is excellent. Everything has an OBI and it’s a really great package, while I had to pay up for the Vancouver show it was an easy decision as my only copies of the L.A. shows were older titles, so I upgraded at the same time. For those who have previous versions of EV’s Firecrackers Explosions or the Los Angeles 1971 (No Label 2016) collections may want to hold off as EV will more than likely offer just the Vancouver show at a later date.  

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