Led Zeppelin – Celebratory Night For Badgeholding (Graf Zeppelin LZSC 625A/B/C/D/E/F)

Celebratory Night For Badgeholding (Graf Zeppelin LZSC 625A/B/C/D/E/F)

The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – June 25, 1977

Remaster Version
Disc 1 (75:31) Introduction, The Song Remains The Same, The Rover > Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (64:34) MC, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Trampled Under Foot

Disc 3 (74:32) MC, Out On The Tiles > Moby Dick, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

Flat Transfer Version
Disc 4 (75:27) Introduction, The Song Remains The Same, The Rover > Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 5 (64:31) MC, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Trampled Under Foot

Disc 6 (74:33) MC, Out On The Tiles > Moby Dick, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown

The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes series celebrated a milestone earlier this year, Volume 150 was released in August and what better way to mark the occasion than with one of Mike’s favorite artists, Led Zeppelin. As with many of my reviews of this excellent series, given to the fans by the fans, shared freely to all enjoy, I am including a portion of the liners notes for this excellent recording which features comments from the JEMS team and Mike’s good friend Jim R, both of which I commend with an Eye Thank Yew:

“At the 150 show milestone in the Lost and Found series it was always going to be Led Zeppelin.

Not only was LZ Mike “The Mike” Millard’s favorite band, but more so than any other artist, it was Millard’s recordings of Zeppelin that built his legend. This week we return to 1977 and one of the four nights at the Forum Mike and Jim recorded including Vol. 50 in our series, the legendary Listen To This Eddie performance from June 21. June 25 was the fourth show in the run, not as famous as some of the other sets, but an epic show in its own right, as the band began to play longer sets. Whatever you think about the excesses of the 1977 tour, there’s a consensus among collectors that the Inglewood shows were Zep’s best of the year.

The performance takes a few songs to get going but starts to soar with “In My Time Of Dying,” in its last-ever appearance with John Bonham. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” follows in a terrific version. Same for “No Quarter” which is another wonderful reading. Even the resurrected “Communication Breakdown” is highly credible. As is the case with all of Mike’s Led Zeppelin recordings, our source transfer was made by Rob S in the early 2000s from Mike’s cassette masters to DAT. The DAT was then ripped to a .flac file. He prepared both a flat transfer edition (fixing only levels, phase issues, with no EQ or other mastering applied) and a second, “respectfully mastered” edition as he puts it, that fine tunes the sound for what we feel is optimum listening pleasure.

Here’s what Jim R recalled about seeing night four of Led Zeppelin at the Forum in 1977:

I attended the Led Zeppelin concert with Mike Millard on June 25, 1977. A Saturday night with LZ–Party time! The gig was at the very familiar Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, Zeppelin’s US home court if there ever was one. The band had the previous night off, so they were more rested for this one which was one of the best of the six concerts they played at the Forum that year.

June 25 was the fourth night out of six. Mike and I sat third row, dead center on the floor, maybe 15-20 feet from the stage. The perfect seats within our much discussed Sweet Spot. A great spot capable of picking up the stage amps, the stage monitors and the huge PA as well. In hindsight, this turned out to be the next to last time we were to see the Mighty Zep, the last being the June 27 show, closing night of the run. That proved to be the final time they played in the LA area. Ever. This show was a three and a half hour marathon that left us drained afterward. Longer than the standard show, there were many extended solos and extra tidbits thrown in like a mini “You Shook Me” at the end of “In My Time of Dying.” It has been said that June 25 was one of the better performances by Jimmy Page on the tour. The rest of the band was spot on as well.

Summer 1977 was at the tail end of the wheelchair era, but I pushed Mike in for this one. Security was getting wise to Mike’s covert recording, so he passed each completed cassette to me for safe keeping in case he got busted during the show. The corrupt security guards had been instructed to confiscate Mike’s tapes after the show in order to sell them to bootleggers themselves, but we were a step ahead. At the end of the show, I had all the tapes, and would swiftly squirm my way out of the packed humanity near the stage and meet Mike at his car. Mike had a set of cheap blanks on him to give to security if needed. We were always thinking ahead.”

This excellent recording has a myriad of titles dating back to the early days of CD’s to the present, The Battle Of Evermore Part 1&2 (Black Cat Records BC-28), Bursting Night (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ-053), and Thank God It’s Saturday (Scorpio LZ-250677). The heavy hitters have released this tape at least a couple times, Tarantura offered Annual Meeting (Tarantura T19CD-10-12) and Delirium Treatment (Tarantura TCD-YUZUKI-4). Wendy has Saturday Night’s Alright (Wendy WECD-12/13/14) and Sunset Boulevard 1977 (Wendy WECD-228/229/230), Moonchild has Mike The Mike (MIKE THE MIKE-1/2/3) and How The West Was Won II (Moonchild 70465-1/2/3). No Label gives us Los Angeles 1977 4th Night (No Label 2015), L.A. Forum 1977 4th Night (No Label 2020), and L.A. Forum 1977 4th Night: Mike Millard Master Tapes (No Label 2022). Finally Empress Valley gives us Annual Badge Holders Meeting (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-474/475/476), Ultimate Cadenza (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-474/475/476), and Lost Ark Of The Covenant (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-474/475/476), all using the same discs just different packaging.

This new title by Graf Zeppelin is a 6 disc set featuring the Raw Transfer of the Millard tape on discs 4-6 while discs 1-3 feature sound mastering by Graf Zeppelin. With all the multitude of releases for this date, I have only one copy of this show in my collection, Saturday Night’s Alright (Wendy WECD-12/13/14) a title I’ve been quite happy with over the years. When you compare the Graf Zeppelin mastering to the raw mastering you get an idea on why the Graf Zeppelin mastering is so good. They have raised the level just a tad and rounded out the frequency range without adding compression to quiet the tape hiss. While the tape hiss is slightly more prominent the sound is so much fuller, clearer, and dynamic, the raw transfer sounds flat and dull in comparison. When I compare the Graf to the Wendy I prefer the Graf, you can really hear the compression of their version, the tape hiss is much lower but the top end of the cymbals have that metallic swishy sound to them. Again I go back to the frequency range, Graf improves on it without losing that analog tape sound.

If there is one thing the L.A. gigs share it’s the excellent and even performances, certainly glad to be playing for the “Children of the sun”, the band settle down into relaxed yet dynamic performances where the playing comes easy, one doesn’t get the feeling of a band just wanting to get through it, no they are enjoying themselves and the loving adoration of their fans. The Song Remains The Same is an exciting opening song, its transition into Sick Again via The Rover is slick and well played, Pagey’s fingers are pretty fluent this early on, the day off to recover after the first three shows has done them good. The roar of the crowd after the opening salvo is deafening, it’s here we get our first taste of a shouter near Mike who would be vocal for what he wants to hear and his love for the band, a lot of “Hey Robert…” shouts, certainly too far for Mike to hit with a penny. Jimmy plays a really killer solo during Nobody’s Fault But Mine, the song has a certain swagger, his playing would be fully realized during In My Time Of Dying. The playing of this song by the instrumentalists is astounding, Jones and Bonham are locking in and Page nails it, rhythmic yet narrative, the music colors the lyrics perfectly. When the band semi spontaneously go into Little Richard’s Rip It Up the audience is right there happily clapping along, as usual they touch on You Shook Me for good measure. Our shouting friend shouts Good Times…my friends this is indeed good times.

Since I’ve Been Loving You is very laid back, at times Jimmy seems purposely a half step back, perhaps trying to build the tension, it works pretty well, thankfully Bonzo keeps a few key pushes to keep the ball going. Afterwards our friend politely asks for them to get into the whole One album, good times indeed. John Paul Jones has a Badge Holder in the wings, the introduction to No Quarter gets that deep applause and thanks to the excellent Cleveland 77 film we can see the soft blue lights and the dry ice fog flow over the stage, the perfect setting. I really enjoy the Jonesy piano solo, the first part is somewhat moody and I prefer it but he soon drifts more into upbeat style that leads to the boogie jam with Jimmy and Bonzo, which itself is well played. Page really sizzles in the main solo spot, but it’s Bonzo who is stealing the show, he is very involved in the movement of the piece. While not as furious as 6/21 or 6/23, this version is excellent in its own right, just solid playing from all, solid and instrumentally lyrical, a conversation between the three, all three shine without overpowering each other. Lovely version of Ten Years Gone, Jimmy’s first solo is ok but his second one really delivers, a wonderful addition to the 1977 set list for sure.

Our friend shouts his request for Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, another fan screams “You have my Elvis T-shirt”, all fun at the Zeppelin show. Robert introduces the acoustic set to much applause, the opening of The Battle Of Evermore takes a minute to sink in, almost like Jimmy was just noodling around. Mike’s positioning gives this recording a really nice perspective on Robert’s vocals and the effects he uses, while most think that John Paul Jones’ vocals are somewhat lacking in this song, I’m guessing being there this song was a show stopper. Going To California is always a highlight when the band play L.A, Robert references his lady friend, certainly Audrey from Texas. Laid back goodness at its best. Robert gives a history lesson as an intro to an excellent version of Black Country Woman / Bron-Y-aur Stomp all out jam, Jimmy gives a lesson on the acoustic guitar, his slide playing on the ladder is stupendous, certainly the highlight of the acoustic section in my book. Jimmy does a decent job on White Summer / Black Mountain Side, its biggest problem is not his fluency but it typically meanders and doesn’t really go anyplace, it does serve as the opening for Kashmir, gets everybody zoning out than BAM…Kashmir. No lost version, very solid overall but Jimmy does sound slightly out of tune occasionally.

Robert gives a course in musical history once again and how it pertains to love making, this is a perfect intro for a blistering version of Trampled Under Foot. Why does this song generally deliver live? Simply put you get the feeling that they really like playing this song live, Jonsey and Bonzo keep the time, Jimmy adds the flourishes, but get up off your seat and get the booty shaking stuff. “Thank you very much…as the atmosphere builds in this building I think it’s only right that we should now introduce the mainstay of the whole driving force behind sleeping with Led Zeppelin…the man who is constantly asleep…the door mouse, John Heineken Bonham, Over the Top”, the L.A introductions to Bonzo’s drum solo are all hilariously warm, much due to his and Robert’s close personal friendship. One would think that nearly half hour long drum solo’s would be boring, but when one listens to them, a good chunk of the audience was into it, lots of shouts, hollers, and cheers as Bonzo goes through a series of rhythmic patterns with and without effects, Mike’s recording picks it all up in full detail.

Jimmy’s noise solo is long and tedious containing parts of Dixie and the Star Spangled Banner, the bow solo is better and focused as Jimmy plays all what is considered classic, bow slapping music to climb up a mountain side at night sort of stuff. The segue into Achilles Last Stand is quite dramatic sounding, these L.A. versions of Achilles are all smokin’, just firing on all cylinders playing, Bonzo nails it and sounds massive in this version. Noted for its guitar army layered sound, John Paul Jones hammering of his bass certainly is a major part of this songs effectiveness live. Robert teases the crowd with a bit of Communication Breakdown as an intro to Stairway To Heaven that has the audience biting. The beginning of Stairway is nearly ruined by a massive blast near the front of the stage, certainly an M-80 or larger. One could guess that some idiot kept it for just the occasion, other than this blast the concert is relatively firecracker free. The crowd are super quiet for Stairway, almost in awe of the song. The clarity and depth of this recording is perfectly captured when it’s just Jimmy and Robert, stunning. Curiously stunning is also a word to describe this version of Stairway, not a note out of place or overplayed, the audience react in pure joy. Our friend concurs as he shouts “I love you…I love it”, we can only agree.

The encores begin with standard fare, the Whole Lotta Love fragment is ballsy and powerful, the excellent bottom end gives it a nice punch, we then continue with a bit of non standard fare, the only known version of Communication Breakdown from 1977 which Page soars on, his wah solo is spectacular and the song brings a riotous end to a killer yet laid back concert. Some call this the best overall night in Los Angeles, while it’s certainly debatable, this is an incredible concert and deserves the praise it garners, as well as repeated listens.

The packaging is standard for Graf Zeppelin, full color inserts with pictures from 1977, the interior tray has photos from the actual concert which is nice. All six discs have the same picture, the cover shot of this title to be exact, this and a numbered sticker all housed in a fat boy jewel case. A typically excellent release by Graf Zeppelin, offering both versions of the excellent Mike Millard recording in one handy set.

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