Black Beauty Carnegie Hall 1969 Early Show (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-1017A/B)
Carnegie Hall, New York City, NY, USA – October 17, 1969
Remaster # 1
Disc 1 (77:42) Introduction, Good Times Bad Times – Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, White Summer incl. Black Mountain Side, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, How Many More Times (cut out)
Remaster # 2
Disc 2 (77:42) Introduction, Good Times Bad Times – Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, White Summer incl. Black Mountain Side, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, How Many More Times (cut out)
From out of no where comes The Dogs Of Doom Liberation Series Vol. 22 featuring a previously unknown recording taken from the first concert of Led Zeppelin’s fourth tour of North America, October 17, 1969 at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall. Led Zeppelin was the first Rock band to be invited to play at the venue since The Rolling Stones back in 1964. The recording is an audience source and is taken from the master cassette, the gentleman who taped the concert also taped their July 13, 1969 performance at The Singer Bowl, sadly that cassette has been lost to time. The recording from Carnegie Hall is the first of two shows that evening and is a good yet boomy sounding tape. There are several cuts throughout the recording and the tape ends three and a half minutes into How Many More Times. The guitar is in the forefront, the bass is present but tends to overpower the middle frequencies, the vocals are distant but discernible and the drums are mostly difficult to hear. Don’t let this description fool you, this is a very listenable and very enjoyable recording.
Graf Zeppelin have done little to the original recording, adjusted very slightly for pitch and channel balance. This new title features two versions of the same tape, disc 1 is Remaster 1, disc 2 is Remaster 2. The first disc sounds most like the original recording, the second disc sounds a bit brighter and clearer with better frequency range, the bass has been reduced a little bit which helps with the clarity. I guess if I had to choose one or the other, the second disc does sound better but I am certainly glad to have both.
To play a venue like Carnegie Hall was a big honor and a huge accomplishment for the band, Robert had this to say “It is a big prestige thing, being asked to play there. You have to wait until you’re asked to play at the hall by a committee that runs the place. I don’t know why they asked us. Could they think us a nice group?”. A virtual who’s who of popular music in the Forties and Fifties have played there, the 2,800 seat Hall was certainly considered hallowed ground for drummer John Bonham who reportedly said “This is it lads, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, they’ve all played here so I’d better be good tonight”. The invitation to play Carnegie Hall is what prompted Peter Grant to set up the three week tour, there was certainly a demand for the group, such was the whirlwind year of 1969.
“Oh wow look at those pants” is either the taper or his wingman’s response to the band taking the stage, Jimmy had on some shiny silver pants and a pink shirt, or was it salmon color. The band receive a huge ovation, Robert greets them with “How are you?” and there is a tape cut followed by Robert explaining the need for a tune up, he has to play a note on his harmonica to assist Jimmy. They finally get going and tear into the Good Times Bad Times opening segue to Communication Breakdown, the middle section of the latter has Jimmy play a bit of what very closely sounds like Hendrix’ Third Stone From The Sun and at times almost seems like he is listening to the tuning of his guitar being not quite right. After the song there is a long pause while he again tunes his guitar and Robert says “Thank you something wrong with the PA which would explain…We’d like to with something off our first album written by Willie Dixon. This is called I Can’t Quit You…sorry about the delay”. The story went that the band was late getting into NYC and some of their gear was rented, certainly not Jimmy’s guitar. After a minute and a half they get it together for a crushing version of I Can’t Quit You, Jimmy rips into his leads, extremely fluent and quite fast.
More tuning follows a devastating version of Heartbreaker that sounds quite like the studio version except with an incredible guitar solo and a small bit of tuning, Jimmy is taking no prisoners he is almost relentless in his attack. Once Jimmy gets tuned again, Dazed And Confused begins proper, the audience give his Wah effects pedal a massive ovation, they know what is coming, Jimmy’s Tour De Force. The song is well played, much has been said about his guitar tone in this recording, this song is one such example. There is just the right amount of distortion present that gives it a nasty yet ominous sound, late 1969 versions of Dazed are excellent, very focused with Page changing the mood at will. This version starts off rather standard, it does not end that way, Jimmy uses the light and shade concept to create a tense feel, your waiting for him to explode yet he keeps it toned back, the tension remains until the end.
White Summer / Black Mountain Side is very well captured in this recording, without the full band playing the instrumental piece takes full advantage of the venues acoustics, you even pick up a bit of hall echo. About 9:36 in, Jimmy plays a small bit of what would become part of his Swan Song instrumental which eventually morphed into Midnight Moonlight. The audience is quiet at the beginning of What Is And What Should Never Be, like Heartbreaker it’s close to the studio version, at this time still days away from being released. This version finds Robert’s vocals mellow, singing versus going for that early raw power. Even Jimmy’s slide solo gives that mellow feel, killer version. The taper managed to capture John Bonham’s complete drum solo, Moby Dick, and it’s a testament to his quote earlier in this review, he rises to the occasion and plays not only a bombastic solo, but a well paced course in rhythmic percussion. The instrumental intro is a bit off kilter, certainly new to the repertoire the band struggle a bit with the timing, brought a smile to my face thinking of them thinking “how does this go again?”. John has the audience eating out of his hand, they are very into it and respond constantly as if telling him “Yeah Bonzo Yeah”, he gets some pretty complimentary whistles as well, a real joy to listen too. As mentioned, How Many More Times cuts at the 3:25 mark, a bummer as by this time your ready to continue the ride.
The packaging is excellent, all of the photographs Graf Zeppelin have used come from the Carnegie shows, curiously there is only one black and white shot of Jimmy playing the famous Black Beauty Les Paul, his prized guitar that would be lost the following year while on tour. The artwork also gives credit to The Dogs Of Doom, a group that are certainly not looking for praise from bootleggers but a nice touch nonetheless. Numbered sticker, the CD’s have a picture of Jimmy shaking the audiences hands, the same pic that adorns the front cover. There are several versions of this Carnegie Hall recording, do yourself a favor and get one, it does not disappoint. For those interested, there is a podcast interview with two members of The Dogs Of Doom on the Earmob podcast, easily searched and available for a listen.