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Led Zeppelin – Detroit 1973 (No Label)

Detroit 1973 (No Label)

Led Zeppelin performed for two nights at Detroit’s famed Cobo Hall in the summer of 1973 with the first night being considered one of the best performances on the tour. For this new set, the No Label folks have gathered together both audience sources for the first night and as a bonus, added the soundboard fragment of the second night on an extra disc. Led Zeppelin had an affinity for Detroit since their first tour in 1969 when they played the famed Grande Ballroom and would return to The Motor City on most of their subsequent tours, one notable exception being 1971. The Rock audiences in Detroit were the perfect subjects for Zeppelin’s bombastic Rock sound and flair for live performance.

Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI, USA – July 12, 1973

Recorder 1

Disc 1 (65:03) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2 (45:16) MC, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 3 (65:38) MC, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, The Ocean

The first night in Detroit was recorded by the late Jared Houser who would eventually become the “J” in JEMS, a collective of live music archivists whose purpose was to preserve live recordings made by themselves and other as well. Another well known member, “S”, was Stan Gutoski who was a taper in Seattle who recorded Led Zeppelin’s 1975 concerts in that city and who passed away in January of this year. Jared recorded this concert with a Lloyd’s 8-Track Cartridge Recorder and Lloyd’s mics. The Lloyd deck did have adjustable recording levels but no meters, he recorded Pink Floyd at Cobo with this same gear and the recording was deemed unusable due to the recording levels being so far off, although a six minute snippet of Echoes circulates in very good quality. Thankfully he had the levels right for the Zeppelin show some four months later.

Jared managed to capture a very good recording, Cobo had great acoustics and this recording is clear and detailed with all instruments and vocals clean in the mix, John Bonham’s drums are well captured and gives it a nice punch. Jared was in a spot free from audience chatter directly near him although either him or his cohort are bored during Moby Dick and also sings along with the band during The Ocean. There are several cuts in the recording including a major cut in Moby Dick that misses most of the solo, the cuts are filled with the recently surfaced second source, lastly anyone familiar with this recording knows there is a bit of hiss although it does not interfere with ones enjoyment.

Jared’s recording has circulated for years dating back to the days of vinyl on the famous Detroit Cobo Hall (Led 1-4) double LP. Great concerts easily made the leap to compact disc and the titles Detroit Rock City (Lemon Song LS7218/19/20), Motor City Daze (Antrabata Reference Master ARM 120773), Rock And Roll Ever (Akashic AKA-Millenium-1), Detroit Hard Rock City (Wendy Records WECD-180/181/182), and Detroit Rock City 1973 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-010A/B/C) all feature this recording. Recently Tarantura 2K has released their version of both recorder 1 and 2 as The Band That Beat The Beatles (Tarantura TCD-207, 208) on a four disc mini box set.

For comparison I am using the excellent Graf Zeppelin title Detroit Rock City 1973, in his review of that title GS states a first generation copy was used and indeed sounds very good, clear and crisp with great bottom end. This new title by No Label sounds almost identical, perhaps just a notch below Graf in the upper frequencies with just a bit more tape hiss, I would say the same tape source was used with Graf adding just a bit of mastering where No Label is more of a straight transfer as it sounds very natural, both sound superb. One benefit of the No Label, if one can call it a benefit, they have used the second source to fill the gaps making for a complete concert experience. The transition between sources is excellent and well done, while the two recordings had different timbres, they do compliment each other very well. I was recently reading a comparison of another title on the Bootledz website which leads me to say that while I like to have a title where multiple sources can be used to present a complete “picture”, some like to have the sources separate and be able to assess each recording on its own, a valid point. I have the Graf Zeppelin 9/24/71 recording and have found it difficult to really pick out the stereo source used on discs 4-6. Nonetheless, back to this Detroit 1973 review, I would rate the sound between this title and Graf a tie.

Recorder 2

Disc 4 (65:04) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 5 (45:17) MC, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven

Disc 6 (65:35) MC, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, The Ocean

The second source is very good, it lacks the upper frequency range of Jared’s recording and is a bit better balanced and slightly not as clear. It does pick up more of the actual atmosphere inside of Cobo Hall and it sounds just slightly more distant than source 1. The taper captured most of the concert and is almost complete save for a few small cuts. It also has a bit more tape hiss but nothing that interferes with your enjoyment just more noticeable is all, overall a recording every bit as good a listen as source 1, I have read more than a few people say they prefer this recording and their argument certainly has merit, the quality is that good. This recording was made available to the masses in March 2020 and like the Detroit 1972 recording, didn’t seem to cause much of a stir. There is only one other release of this recording so far, The Band That Beat The Beatles (Tarantura TCD-207, 208).

Discs 4 through 6 use recorder 2 as its foundation and fill the few small gaps with recorder 1, like the first three discs, the transitions from one source to another and back is seamless and very well handled. Since this source comes from the torrent, it is a second generation tape with the transfer by Krw_co. Unfortunately there is little information about how the tape surfaced, who taped it, etc. Since it is a second generation source, there is the hope that the master or first gen is still out there. No worries, this is an excellent recording clocking in at almost 170 minutes, the taper did a great job in recording the concert and they came prepared.

The first night in Detroit is a superb performance, GS says that the band is in control of the material they are playing. He is correct, the band have been playing well since the UK tour in late 1972 and by this point are a well oiled, if not a bit weary, machine. The music flows out of them effortlessly and when playing in certain cities, seemed to elevate the band into something special, Detroit was one of those towns.

The band seem on from the first few notes of Rock And Roll with the first selection of songs being played very well, Over The Hills And Far Away and Since I’ve Been Loving You being particularly strong. Listening to the second source you hear the early part of the concert features the band being harassed by a multitude of firecrackers, something that is not as easily heard on Jared’s tape. It’s interesting to listen to the beginning of No Quarter on both tapes. When Jones begins the song and the dry ice fog envelopes the stage, a huge cheer comes from the audience. These versions of No Quarter from late in the tour are sublime, the playing is confident and the band add a lot of subtle playing to the piece, and Jimmy’s solos are perfection and very close to the famous version found on The Song Remains The Same soundtrack.

As I was first beginning to listen to this set I noticed something I did not really pay attention to before. At the 5:14 mark of Whole Lotta Love as they play the funky Page Bonham jam coming out of the Theremin section they clearly reference the Grateful Dead’s St’ Stephen and is very powerful and natural sounding. Interesting to think that Zeppelin were listening and perhaps influenced by the acid drenched jams on Live Dead, great improvisational minds think alike! This Whole Lotta Love is also noteworthy for having a great version of Don Nix’ I’m Going Down.

Extra Disc

Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI, USA – July 13, 1973

(54:56) MC, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Dancing Days

The soundboard fragment of the second night in Detroit made famous by the inclusion of Dancing Days in the encore spot, the only known performance on the 1973 American tour. The recording is like most of the other 1973 soundboards, it’s well balanced and powerful and sadly fragmented clocking in at less than an hour but shows the band were again in fine form, save for Robert’s vocals sounding a bit rough. Titles, they’ve been a few, Song Of Detroit (Celebration CDM-005LTD), Monsters of Rock (Tarantura T3CD-9,1~3), Fly Over Nuremberg (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ 719801), V 1/2+ (Last Stand Disc LSD-37/38/39), Detroit Hard Rock City (Wendy Records WECD-180/181/182), and Detroit Rock City 1973 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-010A/B/C).

Again I’ll use Detroit Rock City 1973 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-010A/B/C) to compare the soundboard fragment. The sound on this new No Label title is superior to the Graf Zeppelin, it’s a bit louder and with better bottom end sounding much fuller, it has a great punch from the bottom end, something lacking in the older title. This is one of many frustrating fragmented soundboard recordings from 1973, the playing is very good and one could only dream about hearing the rest of the concert in this quality.

The packaging is what we have come to expect from the No Label folks, inserts from the 1973 tour housed in a 6 disc fatboy jewel case. This time they did a great job, the interior trays feature pictures from both concerts as well as ticket stubs for both nights as well, a very nice addition showing that sometimes labels put in the extra effort. Of course you get picture discs and a numbered sticker. The 7/13/73 soundboard comes packaged in a single slim line jewel case as it is an “extra” disc. Overall a very nice set from No Label, the sound is very well done, packaging is great, and the price for 7 CDs is extremely reasonable. I do have the Tarantura The Band That Beat The Beatles set as well and will be reviewing it soon, I have a stack of CDs just waiting to get to.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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One comment

  1. While taking my morning coffee and doing a little internet reading on the excellent Bootledz site on this title I found an error I erroneously missed. The second and fifth discs are the same meaning the second source of Dazed and Stairway does not appear on this title. Not sure how I missed it, a public flogging is needed !

    On the basis of this information I must say this title should be avoided

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