Led Zeppelin – Dragon Slayers (Eelgrass EGL-20215/16/17)

Dragon Slayers  (Eelgrass EGL-20215/16/17)

Capital Center, Landover, MD – May 28, 1977

Disc 1: The Song Remains The Same, The Rover Intro/Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2: Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir

Disc 3:  Out On The Tiles / Moby Dick, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

Led Zeppelin played at the Capital Center in Landover over the Memorial Day weekend.  Audience recordings for the four concerts that range from fair to very good exist, and several years ago a soundboard recording surfaced for the second of the four several years ago.  Dragon Slayers documents the third of the four nights with the second soundboard recording to surface from this series of concerts. 

It contains the same edit of soundboard and audience recordings as found on the Empress Valley release The Powhatan Confederacy (in “No Quarter” from 3:35 to 4:16, in “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” at 1:40 that runs through to 4:22 in “White Summer,” and in “Moby Dick” from about 32:16 to 34:23.)  Although this is a somewhat dull sounding soundboard, Eelgrass lower the volume a bit on it so it isn’t as loud, and there is a digital glitch forty-three seconds into “Ten Years Gone.”

The show itself is a mixed bag (which can be said for most on Zeppelin’s eleventh tour).  The opening two numbers, “The Song Remains The Same” and “Sick Again” sound slow, disjointed and painful to listen to.  “Good evening Maryland.  Good evening.  What a very nice gift.  Well thank you. It’s very nice to be back here yet again….I believe here in the United States it is a holiday weekend.  We’ll try to make your holiday just a little higher,” Robert Plant says before “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”  This, one of the two songs played off of the new album Presence, and the following “In My Time Of Dying” are a considerable improvement.

“It seems like another time and another place, doesn’t it?” is Plant’s enigmatic introduction before “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”  “No Quarter” is about twenty-five minutes in this concert.  The first half of the improvisation is dominated by a very melodramatic and sad melody on the grand piano.  It sounds as if Page doesn’t know how to handle it and his guitar solo takes the song in another direction that Jones reluctantly follows. 

They are on more solid ground during the second half of the solo, but Bonham sounds strangely hesitant throughout.  Some claim “The Years Gone” to be among the very best from the tour since Page delivers an excellent solo in the middle.  “I guess the things that songs are made of come from all sort of experiences that hit you along the way…it could be the area you live in” Plant says before “The Battle Of Evermore.”

John Paul Jones sings the Sandy Denny part on the studio recording, but it sound like either Jimmy Page is singing along with Jones or Jones’ vocals are double tracked.  “A little piece of history was just made there.  John Bonham finally sang on stage after nine years.  I think he’s gone off for a beer now to celebrate” Plant says afterwards. 

His claim isn’t exactly true since Bonham sang along to “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” five years before.  In fact Plant was saying similar things about Bonham’s singing back then.  “White Summer” sounds very good but leads into a very sluggish version of “Kashmir” that made some wonder if the tape speed is correct.

“Moby Dick” is more than a half hour long and is very unfocused.  Curiously, the same can be said about the guitar solo following.  This segment of the show usually includes Page playing some anthems and recognizable melodies, but on this night he merely hints at the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Dixie” without committing to either one of them. 

“Achillies Last Stand,” which was the new epic that summer, sounds very tight and effective.  “Stairway To Heaven” begins strong, but Page seems to run out of gas about halfway through the guitar solo and the song limps to its conclusion.  The encores are played out of habit instead of joy.  The result is this is a good concert from a good soundboard recording. 

 It certainly isn’t an essential document from an uneven tour.  Since Dragon Slayers is about half the price of the Empress Valley release, it is a more viable alternative for owning this show.

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