Led Zeppelin – I’m With The Band (Tarantura TCD-35-1,2)

I’m With The Band (Tarantura TCD-35-1,2)

Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – May 19th, 1973

Disc 1:  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:  Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven

I’m With the Band is a celebration of groupies and the rock stars who love them.  The title itself comes from the memoirs of the most famous of them, Pamela Des Barres, who is famous for bedding Jimmy Page among many others.  Tarantura gives the package a trashy feel with several candid amateur photos of the band with various members of this bottom-feeding cast of fame scavengers with a nice stick of butter on top to symbolize The Butterqueen on the cardboard gatefold sleeve.  The overall production design is not very attractive and is perhaps the worst job done by the label.  Zeppelin’s Fort Worth concert is singled out for this treatment because of the story of rich oilmen’s daughters renting a jet to follow the Starship out of town.  

Pop culture aside, I’m With The Band is the same incomplete soundboard recording that first surfaced on Worthwhile Experience (Flying Disc CD 6-815) and From Boleskine To the Alamo (Flying Disc CD 6-818).  This was among the very first of the soundboards to surface from the cache of tapes lifted from Page’s residence in the late eighties.  The Flying Disc edition ran at the wrong speed.  Tympani For the Butter Queen (62021/2) was released on Midas Touch in 1996 and was speed corrected and sounded much better than Flying Disc.  Winston Remasters released the tape as Mr Soundman.  This sounded even better than Midas Touch since the tape, a typical flat 1973 soundboard, was remastered to have a more depth and liveliness to it.  The Tarantura sounds just as good and lively and much better than the Midas Touch release.

The opening trio of “Rock And Roll”, “Celebration Day” and “Black Dog” is delivered at a fast pace with the only snag being the non-participation of the audience during the third song, and Plant duly scolds them.  The first hour of the show is heavy on the Houses Of The Holy tracks surrounding the “Misty Mountain Hop”/”Since I’ve Been Loving You” medley. 

“The Rain Song” sounds especially beautiful in this recording and is still unfortunately cut.   But the real highlight is one of the best versions of “Dazed & Confused”.  Plant dedicates this song to The Butterqueen complete with fanfare from Page and the mastering really brings out the light and shade dynamics making this one of the best versions caught on tape.

It is a shame the entire tape has never surfaced since this is one of the most tight, slick, professional and devastating concerts from the first half of the tour.  Not even an audience source is known to exist to complete the show so “Moby Dick” to the encores is a total mystery.  It makes collectors wonder if the rest will ever surface and if the band were able to maintain the energy from the first hour and a half.  About five years ago fragments from Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and San Diego surfaced but it seems now the well has run dry again.  I’m With The Band is a great version of the show to own which will only be bettered if the rest of the tape appears.  (GS)

“This is quite an occasion – he said to himself,” an apropos Plantation to hear while enjoying Tarantura’s wonderful title I’m With the Band (TCD-35-1,2) before “Misty Mountain Hop” kicks off.  What a great recording, show, and production by Tarantura.

The first thing that grabbed me about this title is the tremendous brown bag-type feel to the cover, which displays a number of shots of the boys enjoying themselves off-stage with ladies (or the same lady?).  The front cover has an image of a stick of butter (undoubtedly in honor of the legendary Butter Queen), a heavily used butter knife, and Bonzo exclaiming something to the person taking a picture of him and a blonde who’s also in a picture on the inside cover grabbing Robert’s crotch!  The question is – who was getting the sloppy seconds….we Zep fans, of course, are treated to an excellent recording and concert, and no sloppy seconds at all.

Led Zeppelin’s performance on May 19, 1973 at the Tarrant County Conventions Center in Fort Worth, Texas, has been preserved beautifully in a well-balanced soundboard recording.  All instruments are clear, and Robert’s in vintage 1973 shape.  For those who love to hear Jonesy’s bass a little more prominently in the mix, or Bonzo’s bass drum for that matter, Tarantura’s “I’m With the Band” is a great way to enjoy this show.  This, of course, will also enable you to hear the many (and uncharacteristic) flubs by JPJ in songs such as “Celebration Day,” but this is a minor quibble given the superb quality of this recording and Tarantura presentation.  This recording is also expansive, allowing the echo in Robert’s voice in “Black Dog” to carry through in the listening experience.  Mr. Soundman is beckoned before an excellent “No Quarter”, which once again features a wonderful dynamic in the recording’s depth and quality.  After the butter queen is referenced, “Dazed and Confused” gets the treatment before “Stairway to Heaven” (which gets NO introduction before Jimmy starts playing it!) ends disc 2.  Unfortunately, once again, we all know that this couldn’t have been the end of the show, but Tarantura’s presentation of this show far outclassed Midas Touch’s title, Tympani For the Butter Queen, which suffers from a flatness and lifelessness totally absent in the Tarantura recording.  This is a keeper.  (CH)

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