Black Beauty (Wendy wecd-77)
Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA – April 24th, 1969
Tuning, As Long As I Have You, Killing Floor, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Pat’s Delight
This tape from Zeppelin’s first night at the Fillmore West on their second US tour first circulated as a soundboard recording intended for a radio broadcast. Early releases like San Francisco ’69 on Aulica (A137), Fillmore West ’69 on Scorpio, and Who’s Country Joe? on Flying Disc (CD 6-824) gave this a January 9th, 1969 attribution.
Titles since then have been given the correct date and they include Cracker Jack Blues on Jelly Roll (JR15), Fillmore West on Last Stand Disc (LSD-9/10/11 along with the April 27th soundboard), Psychedelic Raw Blues on Immigrant (IM-017~18 along with tracks from Fillmore East and Dusseldorf), and Fillmore West 69 on House Of Elrond.
More recent releases include Blues Anytime on Empress Valley (EVSD 145), Conquering California on Dinopower Records (DP673). Listen To the Difference (EVSD-357) is Empress Valley’s second release of this show last year which they claimed is sourced from the original reel-to-reel and not from the source posted on the internet. Black Beauty sounds closest in timbre to the second Empress Valley release. It is more loud and clear than the older versions without any hint of remastering distortion present on the tape.
There really are not any bad versions of this tape, but this release on Wendy sounds very good and any comparisons with other versions are due completely to one’s preference. The earliest releases claimed this to be a professionally recorded tape made on January 9th intended for a radio broadcast that was not used because of equipment failure. It is now assumed to be an audience recording made either very close to the stage or on the stage itself.
It is excellent sounding picking up very subtle details and powerful. Negatively, it is very unbalanced with the bass and drums dominating with the guitar lower in the mix. The vocals sometimes sound like mere echoes and are difficult to hear. To make matters worse John Paul Jones has a serious blowout on stage during “As Long As I Have You” and the band take a while to recover and at one point leaving Plant to sing with Bonham and a tambourine.
The tape at that point is marred by low hums and buzzing noises. The other imperfection is the awful speed-up in the tape during “White Summer”. Earlier releases left it in but the newer titles have dealt with it by cutting it down or eliminating it altogether. Wendy does the latter and splice what sounds like tape from another concert. Again whether one like this approach or not is up to personal taste, but the defect is very jarring and any way to deal with it is welcome.
This concert was the first of four in San Francisco on their second U.S. tour. Zeppelin played two sets and this tape obviously documents only one. Judging by the set lists of the other shows this looks like the second, but Plant says “Good evening” after the first song so it could be the first set. The “As Long As I Have You” medley is interesting not only for the blow out but also for the inclusion of the Willie Dixon song “You Can’t Judge A Book”.
“White Summer” is introduced as “something old something new”. The tape closes with a great version of “Pat’s Delight”. Through all the years this tape has been circulating, there have never been any hints or rumors about a more complete version. Also no alternate source for this concert has ever surfaced leaving this a mysterious fragment. Although many collectors say this is great for the general collector, I disagree. It is too unbalanced and the band are fighting too many externals to be a good representation of early Zeppelin.
The audience recording from April 26 and the soundboard from April 27 are far superior documents than this one. Nevertheless for those who must hear this Black Beauty is a good and affordable way to obtain this show. Wendy use picture discs and thick glossy paper inserts that are beautiful to look at.