Led Zeppelin – Hard-As-Knuckles (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-628A/B/C/D/E)

Hard-As-Knuckles (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-628A/B/C/D/E) 

Tucson Community Center, Tucson, AZ, USA – June 28, 1972 

Disc 1 (47:42) Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven 

Disc 2 (47:01) MC, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Dancing Days 

Disc 3 (54:16) MC, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll 

Back in 2003 Gerard Sparaco reviewed Empress Valley’s title featuring a newly released recording of the final date of Led Zeppelin’s 1972 North American Tour, Crashing Revelry (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 249/250/251). In the nearly twenty years there has only been a small number of titles of this recording, EV’s release Burned Out Candle (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 547/248/249), Get Back (Scorpio LZ-08013-1/2/3), LZ Riders In Arizona (Tarantura TCD-121-1/2/3), and Get Back To Where You Once Belonged (Wendy WECD-118-119-120). This new title from Graf Zeppelin should have been expected at some point as they have already released the June 25, 1972 L.A. Forum and June 27, 1972 Long Beach gigs, now they follow suit with the June 28, 1972 recording. 

The recording is a very good audience recording, it is clear and detailed sounding like it was recorded close to the stage. It does have a small amount of tape hiss and some top end distortion that certainly does not overpower the recording, in a way it adds to its power. In fact power is the perfect word to describe this recording, power and the hammer of the gods. The balance is very good, each instrument and vocal is easily discernible in the mix and I enjoy this recording when it’s turned up as it has a punch to it. The entire 1972 North American tour has such an intense yet relaxed vibe it, the music effortlessly flows and the performances are joyful, and played to packed houses. 

The only version of this recording I have in my collection is Get Back (Scorpio LZ-08013-1/2/3), the differences are minimal, Graf is just a touch louder with a bit more bottom end that gives it that little bit more of a punch. The highs are a little cleaner and crisper, gentle mastering not overpowering, all of which make the Graf the preferred listening experience. Gerard points out in his review that this is the final performance of the opening combo of Immigrant Song into Heartbreaker coming exactly two years since its debut famously at the Bath Festival. The duo would make appearances as encores but Immigrant Song would eventually disappear from the set in 1973. The opening is very powerful, this is a nice and consistent recording, so the opening gets it going from the first notes. Black Dog is played with swagger, Bonzo’s drumming is superlative, his drums are in a perfect position in this recording and his playing is easily (and immensely) enjoyed. 

Robert’s commentary is very nice, no pretension just honest interaction with the audience, right down to wishing Terry Hanson birthday wishes, talking about the last time they played Arizona when he collapsed “Everybody went home and left me in Phoenix” brings a smile to ones face. While there is no close by interference, you do occasionally hear some audience shouts, “welcome to Tucson” and the like, there is an intimate vibe to this performance and recording. Jimmy’s playing in Dazed And Confused is ferocious and visceral, the fast section after the bow solo up to where they go back in the main portion is just incredible, Jones and Bonham are right there but it’s clear Jimmy is blazing the way. The concert also has a couple of new tunes, Over The Hills And Far Away and Dancing Days, the latter of them being a really good performance, slick and well played making one wonder how it never made the set long term. 

As usual Whole Lotta Love is a monster of Rock and Roll medley, Boogie Chillun’ is a chunky masterpiece, and the Elvis songs Let’s Have A Party and Stuck On You are certainly inspired by seeing the King just weeks earlier at one of his legendary Madison Square Garden dates. Paying homage to Elvis then current guitar player, the legendary James Burton, they play the Ricky Nelson classic Hello Mary Lou and Jimmy plays a great solo taking inspiration from one of his early musical influences. The Blues combo of Going Down Slow and Shape I’m In give the band, Jimmy in particular, the change to let loose, Robert’s voice is really great during this medley as well. As pointed out by GS, this concert allegedly had more encores including Your Time Is Gonna Come, which have never surfaced. I agree with GS, based upon the round of boo’s from the crowd as the house lights come up, the band were certainly finished and ready to head home. 

Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, New York, USA – June 10, 1972 

Disc 4 (46:58) Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Bring It On Home, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven 

Disc 5 (43:46) Going To California, That’s The Way, Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick 

This recording has been circulating for years as Philadelphia June 13, 1972 although there was much conjecture as that date was never proven. There was discussion on a Led Zeppelin fan forum site where based upon a newspaper review of the show and Plant’s commentary seem to corroborate it as being the Philly show. The review of the shows states “And would you believe that Plant then announced, that he was going to sing a song his mother used to sing to him? Well he did, and while his mother probably would never recognize the song, it was still tasteful and restrained by old Zeppelin standards”, when one listens to this recording, and it’s difficult to make out but Plant says “This is a song my Mom used to sing me” as an intro to That’s The Way. While this supports the review, Plant did use that line to introduce the song at least one other time, Montreal June 7, 1972. 

This discussion motivated deep listens and one person made notice of an audience member playing a trumpet during certain parts, this corroborates several fan recollections about “was asked by a friend at the last minute to be a bouncer at this concert…AMAZING!!!! I was stationed on the left side of the main floor at first about 100 feet from the stage. and I do remember the ass with the cheap plastic horn and Plant being pissed”. On this Graf Zeppelin version this can be clearly heard at 5:33 of the Black Dog track during a lengthy tune up before Since I’ve Been Loving You. Plant also mentions a “man with a trumpet” prior to Stairway To Heaven. Another piece of evidence also goes back to the tape between Going To California, Plant mentions seeing Elvis, they certainly did at the June 10 Madison Square Garden performance (see page 77 of the original Concert File book). There was one who posted that Robert might reference Elvis’ song Surrender prior to Dazed, I can hear the point he is referencing but cannot make out clearly what he sang. Lastly one pointed out a concert review of Buffalo reports of a fan who jumped onstage and was escorted off by security, during What Is And What Should Never Be, Robert can clearly be heard saying “easy…easy” perhaps corroborating this. On this version listen to What Is And What Should Never Be at the 2:41 mark, this is followed by cheers from the crowd. All this seems to make a hard case for Buffalo June 10, 1972. 

Prior to this release, Graf Zeppelin included a 37 minute piece of this recording on their Cardiff 1972 Second Night (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-1212EX) title where it was attributed to Philadelphia. As bonus material for this title, Graf Zeppelin now present the entire recording, clocking in at just over 90 minutes this recording is obviously an audience source that was recorded some distance from the stage. This is a muffled and hissy tape with the beginning having a tape warble issue. It’s positives are the guitar and vocals are clear, after during the tapes clearest moments the drums and vocals are clear in the mix, other times they are very difficult to hear. Certainly a recording that requires a good pair of bootleg ears and while it’s a difficult listen that won’t get many repeated spins, the performance is tremendous. The band is in excellent form and while they certainly had a busy day, seeing Elvis at his “Afternoon In The Garden” and flying to Buffalo for the performance, it seems to have just added to their band’s performance, certainly inspired by seeing The King. 

The performance is excellent, I have not heard a bad show from the summer 1972 tour, even with the poor sound the excellent playing shines through. Black Dog is dynamic while Since I’ve Been Loving you is drama personified, Stairway To Heaven is perfectly played. The release star of the 37 minute bonus material is an incredible version of Bring It On Home making its first appearance in the set since September 1970. Incredible it sounds as fresh and invigorating as the 1970 versions but a little looser. We are treated to a Jimmy/Bonzo jam that is par for the course, Robert throws in a few lines from The Lemon Song and the band jam on Big Joe Williams Baby Please Don’t Go, Jimmy certainly remembers the riff from his days as a session guitarist playing on the song with Van Morrison and Them. The only ding I could give this would be the placement of Bring It On Home, after Black Dog you can clearly hear Robert intro Since then the tape goes into Bring It On Home then Since I’ve Been Loving You. Bring It On Home was most certainly played at the end of the concert as an encore. 

The packaging is nice, the art work continues the format used on Graf’s previous 1972 titles Burn Like A Candle and Definitive Beach Party. The mastering and sound of the Tucson material is excellent and is a great version of the tape, the inclusion of the Buffalo recording puts this title into the must have category from a collection point of view. The numbered sticker, picture discs and art work all brings it on home. 

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  1. Fabulous
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    • Everything
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    Great review. Both shows are holes in my collection so a very welcome review for this set. The 71/72 tours are probably the best they ever played, so it’s always great to find a good recording.

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