Cincinnati Blizzard Of 1977 (Wendy WECD 398/399/400)
Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH, USA – April 19 & 20, 1977
Disc 1 (61:18) Taper’s Comments, The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone
Disc 2 (72:46) Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer – Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Battle Of Evermore
Disc 3 (64:11) White Summer – Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Moby Dick, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Rock And Roll, Trampled Under Foot
The recordings of Led Zeppelin’s two concerts in the southern Ohio city of Cincinnati have long been on my list of shows I would like in my collection but the existing titles that feature portions of these concerts are a mess. The Electric Magic label put out two titles featuring portions of these concerts, Gatecrush Riot (Electric Magic EMC-012A/B) and Cincinnati Riot Disaster (Electric Magic EMC-026A/B), both are a hodgepodge mix of the two nights not being even remotely complete. Cincinnati Kids (H&Y Records HY-001) was a single disc title featuring about an hour of the first night. The Wendy label is looking to right this by releasing both nights in Cincinnati from verified lower generation recordings originally seeded by the Presence / Royal Orleans team.
The source for the first night in Cincinnati is a good to very good audience source clocking in at 95 minutes. It is slightly distant but clear and very enjoyable, yet sadly incomplete, recording missing In My Time Of Dying and ends after Kashmir. All instruments and vocals are cleanly heard in the mix and because of the distance you do get the venue echo as well but all in all a really nice recording of a solid 1977 performance in front of one of the rowdiest audiences on the entire tour. The audience is very loud and continually harass the band with constant movement in “ocean” and a barrage of fireworks. The unruly Cincinnati Rock audiences of the mid to late 70’s would be fueled by youthful passion and when coupled with festival style seating could get quite dangerous, this would culminate in the death of 11 fans at a Who concert in the same venue two years later. This recording makes up the entire first CD and roughly half of the second CD.
The recording begins with an introduction by the taper Howard and his buddies, the ovation that greats the band is massive and you can feel the energy when the band breaks into The Song Remains The Same. Page almost botches the solo in Sick Again but overall the opening combo is very effective. Plant greats the crowd and apologizes for the late start as they were delayed leaving Chicago and asks the crowd in front to settle down. Bonzo is playing extremely well and is really driving Nobody’s Fault But Mine while Page walks the thin line, at times he is close to losing it but never does. There is a tape cut that eliminates In My Time Of Dying, it was certainly played as Robert explains that was an old blues piece before the band play another and get into a great 1977 version of Since I’ve Been Loving You.
No Quarter is excellent and greeted by a loud ovation as the dry ice fog washes over the stage, and told by one of the taper’s buddies who comments on it, obviously very happy the band is playing the song. It’s interesting to hear the reactions of the audience to the piece, they give a loud ovation during JP Jones’ piano piece prior to the boogie section. The boogie section is short and never seams to gel, but once past it Page plays a sharp solo, taking fast slashing jabs like a prize fighter taking breathes between punches, if he is trying to fight Bonham he will lose! Once the main solos are done, the band is barraged by firecrackers, the battle field is ongoing. A very nice version of Ten Years Gone finishes the first disc, tranquil and lets the audience settle down.
The band continue to be harassed by fireworks in the acoustic section and one can tell the audience is a bit unsettled by the mellower music, Plant asks the crowd to stop with the fireworks before Going To California. The quality of the tape goes down a couple of notches for Black Country Woman, sadly the bands brief jam on Johnny Burnette’s Cincinnati Fireball is nearly inaudible. The recording improves slightly for White Summer Black Mountain Side which are both a bit meandering, although the latter receives a nice ovation when Page breaks into it. The transition from Page’s solo spot into Kashmir is very dramatic and a couple minutes into the song the sound quality improves again, thankfully as the version of Kashmir is very powerful yet does suffer from dropouts throughout the song.
The remainder of the second disc is the first part of the second night in Cincinnati April 20, 1977. The 100 minute incomplete recording falls into the good to very good category that is slightly distant with more bottom end than the previous night and thus a bit more distortion. All instruments and vocals can be discernible and this tape actually compliments the previous evenings recording very well. There is also just a tad bit of tape hiss and venue echo but overall a very listenable recording that features an audience that is just as enthusiastic as the previous nights.
It takes a few minutes for this tape to get going so the sound improves during The Song Remains The Same and Sick Again. The band come out firing, Jimmy’s solo is a bit sticky in TSRTS but Bonzo seem to be giving him the kick in the ass he needs, like the previous nights recording, Bonzo is detailed in the mix and really adds the aggressive nature of the music. By the time the band finishes Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Page is warmed up and really playing more fluent. Like the previous evening, the audience is jazzed to be seeing the band and the festival type seating causes Robert to ask everybody to stand still, and comments that the request is futile. They continue on with In My Time Of Dying, a song that was cut from the previous evenings performance, the snippet of You Shook Me at the ends gets a nice ovation from the audience.
Again Robert comments on the constant nature of the shifting “ocean” of people prior to Since I’ve Been Loving You, as the band begin the song, you can feel the deep bass notes and perhaps the most frustrating cut of this set occurs eliminating the rest of the song. The recording picks up again just before the start of the acoustic set and Battle Of Evermore. The sound is just a bit low for the set and some quiet conversation is heard, yet the overall response from the audience is loud and positive. The remainder of the acoustic set is missing and the recording continues with White Summer and Black Mountain Side, you can feel the anticipation just prior to the band beginning Kashmir, the deep bottom end of the recording gives the song a heavy feel.
“A man who once punched me on the nose” gets his solo piece next, although only about six and a half minutes of John’s Over The Top drum solo is present, half coming from the tympani section followed by the ending drum segment that literally sounds like a heard of cattle on a stampede! Robert continues to yell “JOHN BONHAM” several times, each time getting a loud enthusiastic cheer, he is indeed tonight’s first star. Jimmy’s solo is well played, although I’m not a huge fan on the electronic portion, it’s entertaining and the bow solo is excellent, the transition to Achilles Last Stand sounds quite mysterious.
Stairway To Heaven brings the house down, as one would expect. Bonham just continues to impress on this song, his fills are incredible yet not overplayed as he seems to push the band into greatness, this is definitely his night. Plant is barraged by firecrackers as he says goodnight, the audience response is deafening and rabid. The encores are very good, Rock And Roll is energetic and Trampled Under Foot features great playing from Page, Jones, and of course John Bonham, the recording lasts for a minute and half after the song ends, the ovation is massive. While the recordings of both Cincinnati concerts are incomplete, from ones first listen to these concerts it is obvious they are very well played and two of the best from the first leg of the tour.
The packaging is nice and is a take off of a deluxe edition CD set, the inner gatefold sleeve is cardboard with transparent plastic inlays for the CDs. The exterior features a shot of the city with snowfall, there were blizzards in the winter of both 1977 and 1978 that dropped several feet of snow hence the title. The interior has liner notes and several reproductions of newspaper reviews of the concerts and a fold open mini poster with the Wendy offerings is in there as well. The gatefold sleeve slides into a plastic outer sleeve with an additional semi transparent insert with venue, dates, and song titles. I proceed cautiously when purchasing Wendy titles as they can get a bit heavy handed with their mastering at times, thankfully the mastering of these two concerts is excellent and well done. Considering no other label has touched these concerts in a very long time, this can be considered a definitive edition of the two Cincinnati concerts.