Bootleg License (Tarantura TCD-211, 212 Live Box)
It’s been 12 years since Tarantura released their deluxe edition of Led Zeppelin’s two concerts in Long Beach, California during their 1975 North American tour, entitled Bootleg License. The name Bootleg License comes from an actual Bootleg License that was given by the Bootleggers Association of California who wanted to officiate those who distilled, created, and marketed such liquids as Hooch, Mule juice, sweet spirits, joy oil, bottled heaven and of course, embalming fluid. All bootleggers need a license, even those who produce ROIO’s into sell-able products. Seeking to improve upon their original release, the Tarantura label has released both concerts again in this new 45th Anniversary Edition again in deluxe packaging consisting of two gatefold sleeves for the CD’s as well as an insert documenting the sources used, all housed in three different beautifully ornate hinged boxes complete with a magnet close. Two of the three box styles feature the bootleg license cover in either black or yellow coloring, the third features live pictures of the group, each box style is limited to 75 copies each. Like most of Tarantura’s recent releases, this set features sound by Enigma, whose mastering skills combined with the packaging made me seek out this title.
Acme Quaalude March 11, 1975 (Tarantura TCD-211 1-3)
Disc 1 (43:43) Announcements, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2 (63:06) Kashmir, No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (54:36) Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Applause, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog
There are three known audio sources for the first night in Long Beach. The first is a near complete excellent audience recording done by Mike Millard, this recording makes up the bulk of the releases dating back to vinyl on How Many More Times (Moby’s Dick LZ 31175 A-F) and the plethora of compact disc titles Long Beach Arena Complete (Confusion Records CONFUSE 001), California Graffiti (Masterport TSTC403090/1/2), Long Beach 1975 (Last Stand Disc LSD-31/32/33), Long Beach Arena 1975 Parts 1-3 (Flying Disc CD 6-827/828/829), Pussy And Cock (Tarantura T3CD-6), Long Beach Continuous Performances (Wendy Records WECD 115-117), Zeppelin L (Akashic AKA-7), and California Sunshine (Badgeholder BH008-01-02-03). The second audience source is an incomplete very good recording that begins during No Quarter till the end of the concert. This source was used to fill small gaps in the Millard recording for the titles In The Shadow Of Midnight (Empress Valley EVSD-294/295/296), Bootleg License: Acme Quaalude (Tarantura TCD-77-1,2), and most recently Long Beach Arena 1975 1st Night (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-311A/B/C/D/E), the first title to feature the entire second source on silver disc. The third recording is the superb soundboard source that first appeared on Long Beach Californication (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-523/524/525), a title that was quickly copied by Eelgrass as Long Beach Californication (Eelgrass EGL20232/33/34), The Beachcombers (Scorpio-53), and The American Return (Godfather Records G.F.478/479/480).
Tarantura has elected not to use the recently surfaced Millard master tape > DAT source that appeared on the intraweb months back save for a small portion of the introduction. They have used a 1st gen copy of the recording and while some may question this choice, it is a logical one as the master tape > DAT is not a significant upgrade in sound when compared to the best circulating 1st generation copies, in fact, many prefer the 1st gen source. For this review I will compare this 45th Anniversary Edition to the original 2008 edition and the Long Beach Arena 1975 1st Night Graf Zeppelin title.
When compared to the original Tarantura Bootleg License the old title is louder and has virtually no tape hiss but compared to the new version, sounds rather flat. This new version has a wider range of frequencies that gives it depth and a natural sound. When compared to the Graf Zeppelin the volume is very close, the Graf has crisper upper frequencies without sacrificing the deep bottom end and just a touch more tape hiss. While both sound excellent, the Graf Zeppelin is the better of the two and is still my preferred version of this concert. The Tarantura title does not overlap between song chatter, Graf does. Case in point is between Kashmir and No Quarter on discs one and two on the Graf title, both discs features Robert’s between song commentary making for longer disc times, Tarantura eliminates this so their disc times are closer to the original running time, also nice not to have to hear the same thing twice. Both Tarantura and Graf handle the splices with source two very well and are smooth and well done.
Standing In The Shadows March 12, 1975 (Tarantura TCD-212 1-3)
Disc 1 (47:01) Announcements, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same Collapse, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2 (60:01) Kashmir, No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (78:42) Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Applause / Happy Birthday Steve Weiss, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Applause, Heartbreaker, Final Goodbye
The second Long Beach concert is the better of the two and definitely one of the best concerts from the entire 1975 tour. There are three known recordings from this concert, the first is a 175 minute very good audience source that was certainly done close to the stage yet the bass distorts the sound making it for a somewhat challenge to listen to. This recording has been released as Standing In The Shadows (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ-037), Trampled Under Jimmy’s Foot (Silver Rarities SIRA-168/169/170), Dedicated To Anyone Who Got Divorced Today (The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin TCOLZ-036/037/038/039/040/041), and Long Beach Continuous Performances (WECD-132/133/134). The second recording is a half hour fragment of excellent quality recorded by Mike Millard, the reason it’s incomplete is that he entrusted another person to sneak his gear into the concert, they were late getting to the concert. This person was in a wheelchair and made use of its bulky nature to get the gear in, after this Mike would get his own wheelchair and a legend was born. This short snippet has seen a few releases, Long Beach Arena Fragment (Holy SH002-A), Dedicated To Anyone Who Got Divorced Today (The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin TCOLZ-036/037/038/039/040/041), and Long Beach Continuous Performances (WECD-132/133/134). The third recording clocks in at 153 minutes and also falls in the very good to near excellent range. It’s only been released on Dedicated To Anyone Who Got Divorced Today (The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin TCOLZ-036/037/038/039/040/041).
For this new release Tarantura has used source three for the Intro all the way to the first 3:25 of Stairway To Heaven when they switch to the Millard source two for the end of the concert. There are several gaps in source three, these are filled with source 1, all splices are seamless and well done. The mastering work done on both source one and three is where this set really shines and is excellent, especially the third source. The work to bring up the volume of source three while still maintaining the frequency range is extremely well done. The increase of volume does bring out a little bit of hiss on source three but just a bit. Enigma has also worked on the bottom end so where the other versions would distort, it’s now much less and sounds like deep bass and not distortion. The frequency range has not been compromised but improved, when listening back to back it’s hard to believe they are the same source. The work on source one is also excellent and while it is a more difficult recording to improve upon, it is a definite improvement with much less of that booming distortion while still maintains that warm analog sound. When I compare the mastering of source one on this new release versus the original Bootleg License this new title is the clear winner. The original title sounds shrill on the upper frequencies as well as the distortion and to my ears was a hard listen, this new version is much improved and much easier on the ears. Both sources one and three now compliment each other very well making for a much easier listening experience and when the Millard source is used for the end, is the most complete and best sounding version of this concert to date. Dedicated To Anyone Who Got Divorced Today is an excellent title that gives us the original sources separate and true to their original sound, this version presents the complete concert in a way that is far more enjoyable and in the best sound possible, unless another source is lurking out there.
The sound on this set is excellent throughout, the mastering is a marked improvement over the original Bootleg License and other sources, an although I prefer the Graf Zeppelin mastering on the 3/11/75 recording, this version is fine on it own merits. The packaging is worthy of the excellent music it houses. Each gatefold has unique photography and each disc has a different picture and color hue, the paper sleeves match these color hues and while a small detail, has not been unnoticed. The photographs are not as common and focus on Jimmy and Robert, Bonzo has two pictures and John Paul Jones is delegated to one shot, no love for Jonsey? The overall presentation of these concerts both visually and sound-wise is hard to beat, a job very well done.