Led Zeppelin – Bonzo’s Birthday Party (WECD-42/43/44)

Bonzo’s Birthday Party (WECD-42/43/44)

The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – May 31st, 1973

Disc 1:  Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2:  The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 3:  Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean, Communication Breakdown

Wendy’s Bonzo’s Birthday Party, released in April 2005, is a redaction of the soundboard and two audience recordings.  It is their attempt to present the concert in its entirety.  The first hour of the soundboard surfaced in the fall of 1999 on Bonzo’s Birthday Presents (CDM-001) on the Celebration label, their very first release.  Three years later the second hour appeared on both Watch Tower (WT 2001041/42) and Empress Valley’s Bonzo’s Birthday Party Definitive Edition (EVSD 171/172).  The first audience recording is used for the beginning and runs to the first verse of “Rock And Roll”. 

It is used again for several holes in “The Rain Song” and “Dazed And Confused”, and picks up again with “Moby Dick”, “Heartbreaker”, “Whole Lotta Love” and the first encore “The Ocean”.  The third and poorest sounding tape is used for the second and final encore “Communication Breakdown”.  There have been multiple releases of the audience tapes including several editions utilizing all three, and it sounds as if Wendy used Bonzo’s Birthday Party (Vol. 90) on The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin, one of their last and greatest releases. 

This is the first time the audience sources were used to complete the show, but Wendy equalized the soundboard recording a bit too much and it produces an unwanted crunchiness to the music that isn’t present on prior releases.  It is a shame because this could have been a killer release except for that flaw.  Since this show has been in constant circulation for more than thirty years it is familiar to all Zeppelin collectors. 

Robert Plant himself calls this show “magic” and it is given how loose everyone is and in the mood to party.  Jimmy Page hurt his finger several days before when they were throwing beer bottles out of the hotel window (so the story goes) and the first LA date on May 30th was canceled.  His injured finger is noticeable with some bum notes in “Rock And Roll” and especially “Celebration Day”, but with “Black Dog” he hits his stride.  Plant suggests the name of the recording after “Over The Hills And Far Away” and says he had known Bonzo for fifteen years “and he’s been a regular bastard”. 

The new songs from Houses Of The Holy “No Quarter”, “The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” sound magnificent from the soundboard.   “Dazed And Confused” is introduced as something as old as the band and is, “as you say in your country, a far out heavy trip.”  What follows is one of the best half hour versions of the songs available.  “Stairway To Heaven” is dedicated to Bonzo and Plant allows him to bash his balls out for “Moby Dick”.  After the “Whole Lotta Love” finale the audience are rewarded with two encores. 

Overall this show is a must have for any collection although Wendy is not it.  It has caused interest in people that the soundboard recording has been trickling out in stages over the years and there is hope that someday the final hour will somehow be liberated from the hoarders who are holding it hostage for, what can be assumed, vast amounts of money.  That is the sad state of affairs with Led Zeppelin tapes and it deprives everybody from these great recordings. 

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