Amazing Second Detroit Tape (Wisteria Records WISCD 2020-001)
Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI – July 13, 1973
Disc 1 (65:59) Intro, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, 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 (73:44) Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (29:00) Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Dancing Days
Bonus CD-R (54:03) Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Dancing Days
It was quite a blessing when The Dogs Of Doom unearthed a near complete audience recording from Led Zeppelin’s second night at Detroit’s famous Cobo Arena in 1973. The only known recording up to that point was an incomplete soundboard tape of the last hour of the show made famous for the inclusion of the only known recording of Dancing Days played as the encore, and sadly incomplete. While the second leg on the 1973 North American tour started off a little slow, the band quickly returned to form and turned in two excellent concerts in the Motor City.
This new source is an audience source that is near complete save for a few gaps due to tape flips and according to the original torrent was recorded by a fellow named Jon Anthony. The transfer was not done from the master tapes as they do not exist anymore, so this version comes from probably a second generation source. The quality of this recording is in the very good range, it is a bit distant and picks up just a bit of the echo of the hall. It is clear enough that all of the instruments and vocals are clear in the mix, Plant’s vocals are more prominent than the instruments yet once the recording settles down all are easily discernible. There is also a small amount of tape hiss present but certainly does not interfere with ones listening enjoyment and certainly should be expected of a recording, and tape generation, of this age.
There are a few titles available with this material, Detroit 1973 2nd Night (No Label), Friday The 13th (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 1401/1402/1403/1404), Motor City Daze (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 1401/1402/1403/1404), The Last Dancing Daze In Electric Form (Tarantura TCD-213-ZOSO), and Detroit Rock City 1973 Volume 2 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-713A/B/C/D). For this review I will be using the Graf Zeppelin for comparison. First off the sound on this Wisteria title is really nice, it has a natural sound and is not overdone. It has the same volume levels as the Graf Zeppelin title with less hiss, so some noise reduction was done, but gently as too much will begin to give that metallic sound in its place. To my ears I hear just a tad more depth in the Graf Zeppelin, other than that both sound really nice. Wisteria has a few digital remnants during track changes and for some reason have made small cuts on the first disc removing about 12 seconds of tape between songs on the first disc. The cuts are difficult to hear and one has to time the between song distance to catch it, Bootledz evaluation of this title notes a digital tick during Whole Lotta Love, I did not detect one on my copy. This Wisteria title also came with a bonus CD-R of the soundboard source, like the audience source Wisteria has done noise reduction work and while the hiss is slightly less, it loses the warmth and depth found on the Graf version of the SB.
This recording follows the pattern of the other 1973 concerts, the opening of Rock And Roll into Celebration Day into Black Dog shows the band getting into the concert early on, the second night in the Motor City finds the band in a relaxed mood and the music flows nicely. “Good evening…well the way we are feeling I think we better welcome you to Detroit…last night we did the same gig here and it was and it was truly fine”, confirmation by Plant himself on the excellent first night in Detroit. He does try and set ground rules for this evening, “Listen I tell you what, before we start let’s have a little pact. We’ll play our balls off, you stop throwing those fire crackers and torches alright?”, getting the response he wants the band go into “A track off Houses of the Holy…it bares reference to…well to existence”, or as we know it Over The Hills And Far Away. It should be noted that due to the distance of the recording, I did not detect any loud explosions during the opening numbers but it was mid July in Detroit so shenanigans were certainly abound.
It seems like the Detroit crowd was arriving fashionably late as described during Robert’s introduction to Misty Mountain Hop, Robert turns in a fine vocal performance during Since I’ve Been Loving You, Page is still playing well but not pushing it although the heat is rising. Things begin to warm with an excellent No Quarter, Page turns in a perfect solo that seems to weave through the dry ice fog of Cobo Arena and rises to the sound surface just before the cut at the 7:05 mark, not much is lost and the sound improves slightly perhaps due to mic repositioning. There is some really nice interplay between Page, Bonham, and Jones and the solo after the tape flip is very exploratory with the musicians in sync with each other…fantastic. Plant pays homage to the Grande Ballroom and dedicates The Song Remains The Same to the hallowed Detroit concert venue immortalized on the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams record. Divine inspiration? Perhaps as the band begins to kick into high gear playing stellar versions of TSRTS and The Rain Song, a fact that is acknowledged by the audience who gives the pieces a fine ovation.
“Meanwhile back in the jungle…” is the lead into Dazed And Confused, Jonsey’s first bass notes elicit a loud ovation from the audience and we prepare for an excellent and exploratory version of the song. Plant’s vocals during San Francisco and prior to the bow solo are wonderful, Bonzo is right there and punctuates Page’s movements to perfection while, at times, directing the flow. Page gets into some interesting rhythm patterns prior and during the tape cut at the 21:58 mark that evolves into the breaks and response section. Jimmy’s playing is very fluent during the songs entire 33 minute length, this version rivals the best of the tour. As usual Stairway To Heaven garners a massive response from the crowd, by this point the song is excellent on every night and is a celebration of the Holy.
Moby Dick clocks in at close to a half hour, the crowd seem a little bored about 10 minutes in and several loud explosions are heard, leftovers from the 4th of July no doubt. While the audience tire easily, Bonzo keeps up a great pace and his solo is actually very entertaining, an overture of pounding rhythms at their finest. His solo gives time for some quiet commentary that provide the location of the taper being in the upper seating deck as a woman comments she “can’t walk” and further comments of the steep stairs. The cut at the 22:22 mark is not noticeable and had I not known it was there would not have caught it, hidden in the hand tympani portion. “John Bonham…The only drummer left in Rock”, our dear John only takes a minute break then leads the group into a fat version of Heartbreaker. Five minutes in, Jimmy breaks into a bit of Bring It On Home much to the delight of the audience, he then leads back into Heartbreaker and rips into a fantastic solo.
Even in its condensed North American arrangement, Whole Lotta Love still delivers, during the Boogie Chillun section Robert gets into some Elvis inspired vocals much to my delight (I am a big fan of The King), and Jimmy’s soloing is incredibly fluent and delightful. The band return to play “One more….a track from Houses Of The Holy. It’s about the sort of the fetish for fifteen sixteen year old chicks who seem to wait at bus stops after they come out of high school…it’s called Dancing Days”, Robert’s intro is met with many cheers of approval. Finally we get the only complete version of the track from the North American tour, the recording quality is at its peak as well so this is extremely enjoyable to have this version in this quality, and also a great way to end an excellent two day stop in Detroit.
The packaging is full color inserts with live photos of the band, the rear cover has a photo and write up from the Detroit press which is a nice addition. This is all housed in a fat boy jewel case plus let’s not forget the OBI, the folks at the Wisteria Lodge turn out nice looking product. This is a nice sounding version of the tape, as I have said before, if they would tighten up their quality just a tad, this would rival the Graf Zeppelin as best version of this show but tape cuts and digital noise at track changes let this title fall short.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)