Led Zeppelin – Bath Of The Blues (Tarantura TCD-203 1/2, 204 1/2)

Bath Of The Blues (Tarantura TCD-203 1/2, 204 1/2)

Bath Festival, West Showground, Shepton Mallet, UK – June 28, 1970

If there is one Led Zeppelin concert from 1970 that has been iconic since the band played it, it is most certainly their performance at the Bath Festival of Blues & Progressive Music ’70. The band considered it a key gig right from the start, their chance to hit the home crowd with a visceral performance that had been such an important factor in breaking North America. In speaking to the press prior to the show Robert Plant had this to say “Bath is going to be my thing this year. So many people can be a really wonderful thing. The Festival feeling is something you really need. We all need it. I really hope there is no hassle so everyone enjoys themselves”. The music papers were rampant with false information, rumors of the band breaking up were making the rounds, we now know this was the complete opposite, in fact the synergy between the four was unparalleled. The last word came from John Bonham whose statement was direct, “To put an end to all the break up rumors, anyone who goes to bath will see and hear Led Zeppelin play as they’ve never heard us play before”. Most diehards know the story, Peter Grant had a perfect time spot, just as the sun would be setting, a natural light show for his musicians. The Flock was running over, Grant takes matters into his own hands and basically pushes them off the stage so that Zeppelin’s equipment could be set up. This paid off, the band plays a spellbinding concert that not only breaks them big in England, but goes down in history as one of THE best.

Raw Transfer and Final Mixdown

Disc 1 & 3 (65:36) Crowd, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Dazed and Confused, Bring It On Home, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Organ Solo, Thank You, That’s The Way (The Boy Next Door), What Is And What Should Never Be

Disc 2 & 4 (64:55) Introduction, Moby Dick, How Many More Times, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Long Tall Sally, Say Mama, Johnny B Goode, Bye Bye Johnny, That’s Alright Mama, Long Tall Sally, Bye Bye Johnny, Outro

There was a film crew documenting the event but in a sad twist of history, the footage was not usable, the only documents are a brief snippet of 8mm footage, a lot of pictures and thankfully two audience recordings. Up until ten years ago, the quality of the audience recordings was fair to good at best, overloaded and distorted and difficult to listen to, I can remember have the Le-Mon title years ago, I listened once and shelved it and eventually sold it. The source of the old bootleg titles was Source 1, this was first pressed onto vinyl as Knock Oneself Out Vol 1 & 2 (Magic Market MM-101 A/B), a title that Robert Goodwin rates the sound as “incredibly bad” and “horrible”. There was a compilation record featuring two songs, Bath Festival 1970 (Krishna Records), with much better sound, the proverbial light at the end of a dark tunnel. Early CD titles were Bath 1970 (Le-Mon Recording Co. LZ 1 & 2), Bath Stop (Image Quality IQ-069/70), and Bath Festival 1970 (Empress Valley 68/69). Then in 2010 an upgraded version of Source 1 was released and quickly pressed on CD as Bath Festival 1970 (Empress Valley 540/541/542/543), Bath Festival 1970 (Wendy WECD-128/129), The Boy Next Door (No Label), In Yokel Mode (Boleskine House Records BHRCD-3), and most recently Bath Festival of Blues & Progressive Music ’70 (No Label).

In late December 2019 Tarantura 2K made the announcement that they were releasing a new title featuring the Bath concert from the original Source 1 Krishna master tape. Like many I was excited but reserved at the same time. The general consensus of many I know is that Tarantura 2K titles were mastered horribly, incredibly loud, compressed and for the most part I have avoided buying them unless it was an absolute must have. After a few email conversations with those in the know, I was assured this title would be different, so I took the plunge, the only title I own of Bath is the No Label title The Boy Next Door, and it has served me well in the past 10 years.

First a bit of info on this new title, a four disc mini box set featuring a “Raw Transfer” set and “Final Mixdown” set with individual gate fold sleeves house in a mini box with OBI, you know the drill. The set comes in your choice of three different covers, I believe each cover was limited to 70 numbered copies. OK, on to the content, like The Boy Next Door, Tarantura 2K has used Source 2 to fill small gaps, they do not use it for the very beginning where Robert says “Hi….one two…”. I listened to the first four songs of the No Label title then proceeded to get into the first disc of the Raw Transfer. First off the sound is so much better even during the very unbalanced beginning of Immigrant Song, it brings a smile to your face. This is a major upgrade to what I have heard before. Yes this is the same recording yet the level of distortion is much less and there is a greatly improved separation between vocals and instruments that provides a clarity I have not heard in this recording prior. The recording is still thin and there is a small amount of tape hiss present, where the old The Boy Next Door was in the good range, this is in the very good range. The final group of encores are the worse sounding portion of the tape, and even then is greatly upgraded to what I have heard, the light at the tunnels end.

Both the Raw Master and Final Mixdown share the same content and disc times, the main difference being for the final mixdown there is less hiss and better lower frequencies, I have listened to both a couple times apiece and have not found myself preferring one over the other. This recording was purportedly made with an unknown tape recorder with a microphone on a 12 foot pole 200 yards from the stage, the latter is certainly not true. For a microphone twelve foot tall would put it at least six foot above the crowd yet this recording picks up coughs and audience interaction in very close proximity. Judging by the sound of this recording, our archivist was probably near a PA stack. There are gaps in the tape filled with Source 2, the first is a 1:32 gap between Since I’ve Been Loving You and the very beginning of the Organ Solo, from :32 to :35 of Thank You and finally a :15 second gap between How Many More Times and Whole Lotta Love, the seams are smooth and well handled.

What can one say about Bath? It’s one of the great gigs of the year, certainly on par with the March and September gigs at the LA Forum and is really only rivaled by the Second show at Madison Square Gardens also in September. The embryonic version of Immigrant Song is incredible, lyrics almost seem improvised on the spot. Dazed and Confused is spellbinding and the acoustic That’s The Way is somehow intimate among the crowd of 150,000 people. What can be said of the incredible How Many More Times in its last time being book ended by the “oldies” medley, and what a medley it is. The Neil Young songs, the Elvis songs set the mood perfectly blending contemporary and classical. The last medley is frenzied and orgasmic, Long Tall Sally, Johnny B Goode, That’s All Right Mama…this, my friends, is real Rock and Roll. Rather quietly T2K has released two essential tapes in the past year, this new upgrade and the Peach recording of the famous 9/29/71 gig.

After the dust had settled, the campaign was an obvious success and Robert had this to say, “We knew it was going to be a crucial thing. We went one and knew for the next two or three hours we were going to be the ones as far as holding our heads high. I think we weren’t into it until the acoustic number, when we all had a chance to sit down and take a look around. Then it was like clockwork. We looked at each other and we heard it was sounding good, and we looked down and everybody was grooving too”. Jimmy Page was equally moved, “There have been two or three magic gigs. Bath was one of them, because everything seemed to be right for us. The energy was monumental”. Last words go to one John Henry Bonham, “The atmosphere was fantastic really when you consider it was cold and windy. And even when it rained they sat through it and could still be happy. I didn’t think you could get an atmosphere like that at a concert”.

As previously reported, this new title features two gate fold sleeves house in a mini box. Each gate fold and box has its own OBI and there are three different covers to choose from. I chose the “Live Pics Box” and my number is 0042. I like the use of the less professional, rarer pictures used on the covers, the OBI of the Raw Source has a small reprint of a newspaper report entitled Bath Of The Blues, thus giving its name to this set. Each CD has a different picture on them, the Raw Source has two distant audience shots, the Mixdown Source has shots of Jimmy. First off I paid a reasonable price for this 4 disc set, always a plus as T2K has always been on the higher side of pricing. Secondly the packaging is great, something no one can argue about. Lastly this is a tremendous upgrade of an essential concert, now made even more enjoyable. From what I have been told, T2K has enlisted a new individual(s) to due their mastering and if this can be judged with this new release, we can expect good things from Tarantura in 2020.

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