Bloomington In Raw (Boleskine House Records BHRCD-20-1,2)
Met Center, Bloomington, MN, USA – January 18, 1975
Disc 1 (55:09) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, When The Levee Breaks, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir, The Wanton Song
Disc 2 (71:48) No Quarter, Trampled Under Foot, Moby Dick, In My Time Of Dying, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog
The release of the widely praised Bloomington January 18, 1975 soundboard recording has provided a nice selection of titles to choose from, this wide distribution ensures the masses can enjoy this incredible recording and performance. A brief bit of history of this recording, snippets of the soundboard have been circulating since 2020, these began to appear on such titles as Wanton Song 1975 Met Center (No Label), All Is Safe For Rock And Roll (Eelgrass EGL20280/81/82/83), and Bloomington 1975 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-118A/B). When Empress Valley released the complete recording in 2021 as Jesus (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1280/81) on a deluxe package it was confirmed that there was a cut in Wanton Song and No Quarter, thankfully the rest is complete. When the Eelgrass label released Salvation Through Him (Eelgrass EGL20286/287), they made the decision to break their usual trend of simply copying the EV titles and added the audience recording to complete the missing portions of the SB. Empress Valley would go on to release a budget version of the SB as First Campaign (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-EVSD-1280/81), and finally Moonchild records threw their hat into the fray with Hello Twin Cities (Moonchild HELLO TWIN-1/2).
For the past twenty years Empress Valley has been giving collectors soundboard recordings from Led Zeppelin as part of their “Soundboard Revolution” series, the Bloomington soundboard came out differently beginning with the teaser snippets a year before the full recording. When the Tarantura label confirmed it will be releasing their version of the SB in late 2021, they made a claim that their title would be taken from the master cassette and will be an upgrade in sound to the EV version. Like EV, Tarantura released both deluxe and budget versions, their deluxe edition would be a 4 disc set featuring both soundboard and audience recordings all mastered by Enigma. Collectors could choose between three different versions of the artwork of the outer box. Their budget version would come out on their Boleskine House Records label and feature the soundboard portion only and is marketed as being from a raw transfer with no remastering. Intrigued I pulled the trigger and ordered a copy, the subject of this review.
I’ve now got three titles featuring the soundboard, Salvation Through Him (Eelgrass EGL20286/287), First Campaign (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-EVSD-1280/81), and this new Boleskine House title. This review is simply about sound quality only, I’ve reviewed the SB and audience sources previously. The EV and Eelgrass have the same sound and mastering of the soundboard, again the only difference is Eelgrass used the audience recording to complete Wanton Song and No Quarter. The sound of this title by Boleskine House is a noticeable improvement over the EV / Eelgrass titles. It sounds cleaner and has a much better range of frequencies and a warm inviting sound. The sound levels are consistent with the other titles yet with better definition and clarity. I have no idea if Tarantura and Boleskine House used a different transfer of the master tape or simply had better mastering, I prefer the sound of this Boleskine House title over the EV, it is that simple. There are different disc times as well, Boleskine has done pitch adjustment, slowing down the tape by about 1.5%, their track changes are slightly different as well. Content wise there is no new tape, the speed difference is so subtle I didn’t detect it when listening.
I read somewhere on line that supposedly a Led Zeppelin specialty shop in Japan is reported to have the master tape displayed in their shop, all fun stuff to read about but for me, the sound is the star of this new title. Boleskine House packaging is simple, cardboard outer sleeve featuring black and white pictures of Robert and Jimmy taken during the rehearsals the prior day, the CD’s have old school pig bootleg labels on them, simple packaging and very effective. As you can see on the cover pic there is a small hand drawn card that was included, there was also a personalized one wishing me to stay well and Merry Christmas, very nice. I do have the Tarantura Two And A Half Finger Show box set featuring the SB and audience recordings but have not had the chance to listen and compare, I will do a review of that hopefully very soon.