Heritage Strain (Tarantura TCD-38-1,2)
Municipal Auditorium, Mobile, AL – May 13th, 1973
Disc 1: Rock & Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter
Disc 2: The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Heritage Strain (TCD-38-1,2) finds the mighty Tarantura label giving us what may be, in all fairness, the strongest, most balanced presentation of this famous May 13, 1973 soundboard recording. All instruments are perfectly blended with each other as the show kicks off with “Rock and Roll.”
Robert’s hoarse to start the show, but that lessens as the performance unfolds. It’s a rather routine rendition of this song, moving seamlessly into “Celebration Day.” Of the many things that grabs me about this recording is the clarity of Bonzo’s ride cymbal during this song. The echo in Robert’s call-and-response to the crowd during the “Ah, Ah” portion of “Black Dog,” it’s all beautifully here.
Bonzo apparently does some tuning of his toms as Robert introduces the song “Over the Hills” after Jimmy prematurely begins the song. The first couple of verses of this song are particularly rough for Robert, with his voice falling out at times, but the band more than makes up for this after the “Acapulco Gold” lyric is dropped in – killer lead and recording of the rhythm section grooving behind Jimmy.
The “Acapulco Gold” reference does deserve some special mention, of course, due to the totally unique packaging of this title. The heavy stock case is adorned on the front with a pack of 20 “Acapulco Gold” marijuana cigarettes. A caution label on the side of the package advises any user of the cigarettes that they “may result in drowsiness” and warns not to operate machinery or driving a vehicle “during or shortly after smoking” one of these butts.
There is no warning, however, to avoid smoking one of these cigarettes when enjoying this show, which sports fantastic versions of “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Indeed, the long-haired chap pictured on the discs smoking such a cigarette seems to be enjoying himself quite a bit. I don’t know, however, where the title “Heritage Strain,” although there may be a connection to the “Acapulco Gold” theme.
For those interested in “Acapulco Gold” prose, there’s a song, or limerick, in the inside of the package, which opens to display a great shot of Jimmy in action. If there can be any knock on the packaging, though, it’s about the live pictures on this title. They seem to all be from 1972, but that means nothing when listening to the great show.
The “I really don’t know” lyrical ending to “Misty Mountain Hop” is extremely heavy, with the short-stop into SIBLY tight, but the re-entry just a tad off. It’s just as well, though, as a rest was in order from the prior song, with the English blues of SIBLY fitting the bill perfectly.
Beautiful expressions by Jimmy in this song, with Robert’s throat now in form as compared to the rougher moments earlier in the show. “Talking about getting off a lot on things,” Robert introduces what becomes a moody intro to “No Quarter” before the song is performed flawlessly, and powerfully.
It always amazes me how Bonzo picked just the right time to drop in the tympani accents during Jonesy’s meandering solo in this song, which have a depth to them in this recording that is painfully absent in so many recordings of Zep. The first disc ends with “The Rain Song,” which explodes at 5:10 in a way like no other band. Great special effects on Robert’s voice, and the overall sound of this song, making the ending of this disc only an invitation to quickly get that second disc playing to continue the show.
Disc two opens with “Dazed and Confused” already underway, but what a great version of this song! 1973 had its moments, for sure, and this was a great one for this song. It’s hard not to come back to the incredible power of this recording, and performance, when listening to this song. What a performance! Clocking in at 28:31 doesn’t hurt, either.
“Stairway to Heaven” and then “Moby Dick” conclude this disc, unfortunately leaving me wanting more. Of course, there was (and is?) more as this concert certainly didn’t end with a drum solo. Tarantura’s done a wonderful job presenting this concert in the most complete form to-date, making it required listening for those who love this stage in Zep’s history.
I like this version of Molbile show…. the sound is very enjoyable and, In my opinion, this recording is one of the best soundboards from the 1973 tour.
Empress Valley and Tarantura have been engaged in low-level competition with several releases being duplicated over the past several months (Baltimore 1970, Blueberry Hill, Montreux, etc). Heritage Strain is Tarantura’s version of the popular Mobile soundboard which follows close on the heels of Empress Valley’s Alabama Getaway. The most recent release of this show (before EV) was a decade ago on Goin’ Mobile on the Midas Touch label. It is an excellent, clean and detailed soundboard recording that is also dry, clinical and flat. It sounded less like a live performance than a private rehearsal.
In comparing Alabama Getaway with Heritage Strain it sounds like both labels wanted to address the criticisms directed towards the recording. Both wanted to liven it up a bit and make it breath more. The Empress Valley worked on the bass and lower frequencies, but maybe too much as the bass is sometimes distorted. The hiss also is very high during the quieter parts and is very distracting during the intro to “Over The Hills And Far Away”. In the Tarantura the bass isn’t quite so loud and the hiss is not so distracting. They did an excellent job in bringing out Jimmy Page’s guitar which sounds very wild and aggressive. On the downside Heritage Strain does sound more compressed than the Empress Valley with a narrower spectrum of frequencies.
WGPSEC does an excellent job in contextulizing and analyzing the performance in his review of the Empress Valley release so I encourage you to read that to get the background. I will affirm what he says about “Since I’ve Been Loving You” which is one of the greatest performances of the band’s favorite song (“something we’ll play as long as we’re in existence, something we get off on a lot” Plant says at the song’s conclusion). This tape is longer than some of the other fragments but is still not complete and there is no audience source to complete the show. It comes in an attractive package similar to their recent releases. In the end it’s all a matter of one’s taste as usual, but I found this recording to be very enjoyable.