Destroyer 1969 (Wendy WECD-175)
Musicarnival, Cleveland, OH, USA – July 20, 1969
Disc 1 (60:01) The Train Kept A Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, You Shook Me, How Many More Times
Led Zeppelin played their first concert in Cleveland, Ohio in the summer of 1969 at the Musicarnival, a theater housed in a large tent with a capacity of 2,500. The stage was in the center and thus performances were “In the round”, typical entertainment would be Broadway musicals, music concerts and Burlesque shows. In the annals of history the date Led Zeppelin played the Musicarnival would coincide with the first manned Moon Landing…”One small step…”
As Led Zeppelin collectors know, the third American tour in the summer of 1969 feature some of the most intense performances of the year, the band were making quite the name for themselves and drawing larger audiences. Of the recordings that circulate from this tour, the recording from Cleveland seems to fall through the cracks as it has seen only two previous titles, Destroyer 1969 (Tarantura T1CD–002) and Cleveland 1969 (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ-12) both coming in the mid 90’s. Having most of the other recordings from this tour, the Cleveland show has eluded me and was intrigued when I saw this title announced but did not order immediately as it was on the Wendy label. I have several Wendy titles in my collection, the packaging is always great, covers and artwork well designed yet some of their titles suffer from over mastering, hence my reluctance. After reading positive comments on the Bootledz site, I placed my order.
The recording from Cleveland is a fair to good audience source, certainly the acoustics inside the tent were not designed for music this powerful and there were issues with the PA system as Robert says “Once again, as last time in the State of Ohio, we find that the PA system is completely inaudible; but, nevertheless, we’d like to carry on … I think I’d better get out of the way … If we go up with a flash and a bang…” in his introductory speech. The recording is clear enough where all the instruments and vocals are clear in the mix with the bass being in the forefront sometimes leading to drowning out the drums and the vocals are slightly distant. There is a bit of hiss and distortion present as well but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy this recording. The audience is involved with the concert but is there to listen and seem entranced by the band.
The Train Kept A Rollin’ is the opener and is fast and furious, with the bass being in the forefront one can really get a good listen to John Paul Jones’ bass runs, at times mimicking the riff, then accentuating on it. Plant’s harmonica playing is clear and Page plays a simple yet effective solo. As the band transitions into I Can’t Quit You, just before Plant is to sing, he extends it out creating anticipation, once he sings “I Can’t Quit You” the audience erupt with applause. It’s interesting to listen to the bass and drums mirror each other, both reactions coming at the exact same times without hesitation, allowing Page to freely solo over the top.
Dazed And Confused is well received, you can clearly hear one fan say “Oh wow” very happily, the 14 minute plus version is visceral, like the others from this tour. When listening to this somewhat crude tape, the drama that is achieved during the first notes of the song as Page delivers his first notes via the Wah pedal while Jones plays the ominous ascending bass lines. Page received a nice ovation for his violin bow solo and then the real fun starts, the fast section that follows finds the musical engine locked in and firing on all cylinders aggressively in its employment.
The major improvement on this new Wendy title over the previous titles is during White Summer, the song suffered from several dropouts and approximately three minutes of the right channel missing, Wendy has rectified these issues. When one listens to the song on this new version, you would never know these issue were ever there. You Shook Me is a lesson in sheer heaviness and at times seems on the verge of crushing the recorder under its sheer power, Page is again dominant in his playing and leads the others through the paces, almost out running them at times, then content to just hang back.
On paper How Many More Times looks fairly standard but listening one gets the impression of a wonderfully joyous version. The audience clap along and begin cheering for each member as Plant does the introductions. Lots of guitar and vocal histrionics leading up to The Hunter and then things move into sexy time as Robert leads the band into the Lemon Song, the sexually charged performance elicits cheers from the audience. The “You Make Me Feel So Young” snippet has the audience eating from Robert’s hand as he puts them in the sights of his gun, the recording ends at the songs conclusion. A performance that certainly impresses not only the listener some 49 years later but also the press at the time who had this to say;
CLEVELAND – The Led Zeppelin made a four-point landing at Musicarnival here during the Eagle movement on the moon. The British quartet had a sold-out audience of 2,574 stomping, clapping and dancing in the aisles during their five song stint. Jimmy Page, former anchor man for the Yardbirds, received a standing ovation for his bluesy solo “White Summer.” But the group hit their highest stride in the last part of their 10-minute “Dazed and Confused” when Page, singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham and bass guitarist John Paul Jones sailed in a tight, together jam. Plant shakes and bumps like a burlesque headliner, swings the mike like a lariat, comes across with the funky finesse of a male Janis Joplin. The Atlantic group scored with encore “Communication Breakdown.” A local group, the James Gang, also received a standing ovation. (JANE SCOTT / Billboard)
The packaging uses the Frank Frazetta Conan The Destroyer art used for the old vinyl release from Smilin’ Ears for the front cover, the rear features pictures from the event, newspaper clippings and advertisements. The CD has the Frazetta art on it and typical for most Wendy titles, an OBI is included as well. While the average sound quality will not appeal to some, for those who do not have this concert in their collection, Wendy have produced a very nice title to add to your collection.