The Drag Queen Of New Orleans (The Godfatherecords GR 305/306/307)
Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans, LA – May 14, 1973
Disc 1: Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Bring It On Home Intro/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, Stairway To Heaven
Disc 3: Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown
This show in New Orleans was ten days into the first leg of Led Zeppelin’s American Tour and the band were really hitting their stride. Plant’s vocals are a little rough in spots but he does improve as the show goes on, however, there are many occasions where this adds emotion to his performance. The band more than make up for it as this is one of those nights where they just clicked and the performances keep getting better as the night progresses. New Orleans is also among some of the better sounding soundboards to surface from Zeppelin’s 73 tours, having a nice balance between the instruments.
Some of the first releases to compact disc were Live And Led Live and Live And Led Live Again from Flying Disc, Johnny Piston & the Dogs on Thin Men, and Drag Queen on the original Tarantura label. New Orleans 1973 on TDOLZ came out in 1999 and like all the others was exclusively from the soundboard. In 2006 a virtually complete audience source became available and both Bourbon Street Renegades on Empress Valley and The Witch Queen on Tarantura were released as 6CD sets containing both the audience and soundboard sources. The Drag Queen Of New Orleans from Godfather is the latest presentation of the New Orleans show this time in a 3CD format that gives priority to the soundboard with the audience source used to fill a couple gaps.
Godfather use the excellent audience source for the first two minutes of “Rock And Roll” and transition to the soundboard just before Jimmy’s solo. The overall speed of the board tape runs slightly slower and isn’t really off by much so it isn’t a factor. The show is not without its problems. They band can’t seem to get the venue to turn the house lights down and after “Over The Hills And Far Away” Plant mentions the police presence and the fact that people are in the aisles. A really good “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is marred only by Plant’s vocal breaks. The first is almost disastrous but he makes do and the break after Jimmy’s solo is painful to hear him try and push it.
“No Quarter” is a highlight and Jones’ keyboards sound great in this recording. The Mellotron is also very prominent in “Rain Song”. No attempt to fill the gap in the soundboard source at the end of “Rain Song” due to the fact that the audience source is cut here as well. “Dazed And Confused” contains brief references to “Crossroads” and “Cat’s Squirrel” before settling into the “San Francisco” section. Page’s “Stairway To Heaven” solo is very smooth and Jimmy really develops some nice riffs here. John Bonham is introduced as “the Drag Queen from New Orleans” before 20 minutes of “Moby Dick”. Plant calls for “The Crunge” and “Cold Sweat” in the improv section of “Whole Lotta Love” but unfortunately doesn’t get it. Jones plays some impressive stuff under the Theremin solo and he and Bonham are really locked in. The audience source is used again to cover a gap in the “Whole Lotta Love” medley and the cross fades are almost seamless and are handled very well. “Communication Breakdown” has the “Cold Sweat” reference again in the middle jam and Robert’s vocals have somewhat improved for this track but what stands out here is Page’s blistering solo, proving the night belongs to him.
When compared with The Witch Queen, Tarantura got a livelier sound out of the audience source but the soundboard I thought was a bit better on Godfather. It is a bit crisper in the highs and the bass has a nice definition without overloading the recording. Bringing up the highs also brings up the hiss a little more so it comes down to personal preference. Either way, Godfather did a great job with the EQ and brought some life into the recording that is lacking in a lot of 73 soundboards.
As always, Godfather has some of the best packaging utilizing the triple gatefold paper case again, packed with photos and a short essay. The Drag Queen Of New Orleans from Godfatherecords is an excellent way of obtaining the (almost) complete performance without having to shell out for the more expensive six disc sets and can be easily recommended.