St. Matthew’s Baths, Ipswich, UK – November 16, 1971
Disc 1 (67:18) Intro, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Rock And Roll, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, Tangerine
Disc 2 (76:30) Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Celebration Day, Whole Lotta Love, Weekend, Gallows Pole
Led Zeppelin capped off the incredible year of 1971 with a 15 date tour of the UK, the band was riding a wave of success and musical inspiration following their first tour of Japan where the band pushed themselves and their audiences with incredibly visceral performances. This energy would continue throughout the short UK tour with the band playing in support of the recently released fourth album. The fourth stop on the tour would be in Ipswich, and the band would play in the hall that housed a swimming pool! After a structure was in place over the pool, flooring was put down to accommodate a stage and the audience. There are several pictures of the event and by all accounts it was a very intimate evening, the recordings validate this fact, there are three sources for this concert and all are in the very good range, clear and atmospheric with the instruments being easily discernable in the mix, Robert’s vocals are up in the mix but it’s for the better and his vocals are certainly a high point of this entire tour. With such good recordings there are quite a few titles of this show, Over The Twelve Foot End (No Label), Kinetic Circus (Theramin ARM171171), Two Penny Upright (Antrabata ARM171171/180773/190373), Ipswich 1971 (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ 057), and Feelin’ Groovy (Empress Valley EVSD 035-038) all feature most of the evenings performance. There has only been one title that features the entire performance made up from a collage of the three sources, released in 2000 Feelin’ Groovy Definitive Edition (EVSD 052-054) made its claim to fame by releasing the entire show including the encores, rare versions of Eddie Cochran’s Weekend and an even rarer version of Gallows Pole. At the time EV was considered the premium label for collectors and the release was all the talk of Zepheads yet would receive mixed reviews as the label unnecessarily split the recording onto three cds when it could have easily fit onto two. Amazingly the concert would not see much attention from the various labels for a long time for well over a decade.
This new release from No Label is not a mere copy of that title, although it does use source 1 as a basis and mixes in a bit of source 2 and source 3 to complete the concert. EV’s mastering sounds thin and harsh while this new release is not as loud thus needing less or no noise reduction and a better range of frequencies that make for a warm and more enjoyable sound making for a nice upgrade yet there are a few tape issues that keep this from being a definitive version. Since the sound is so clear one can put the music on and easily escape into the performance. The introduction has Robert telling the crowd that the last time they played there it was with Jimmy James, the band proceeds to slam into the opening salvo of Immigrant Song and Heartbreaker, Page’s playing is fluent yet relaxed and the applause is respectful for such a powerful opening. Plant wonders about which is the 12 foot end and introduces a new song from the fourth album and we are treated to a brilliant Black Dog, the band get into a groove with the song and its interesting to hear the silent audience as Robert does his “ahhh…ahhh” segments.
The performance really heats up with a brilliant version of Since I’ve Been Loving You, Jimmy starts the opening notes then Bonzo kicks into it as if making a statement. There is a small tape warble at the 2:55 mark lasting for 2 seconds that is not found on the EV title. Slow English blues intensity at its best, Page leads are as emotive as Plant’s vocals. Rock And Roll follows yet sounds out of place this early in the set, and like Black Dog is most similar to the version from the fourth album. Stairway To Heaven is wonderful, Jimmy does not stray far in his solo and the piece is warmly received. The band is harassed as they prepare for the acoustic section, Plant talks of San Francisco while an amp feedbacks, the intimacy during the acoustic section is like one of a few friends sitting around a campfire, Going To California has a tape drop out at 2:01 to 2:03 and 2:09 to 2:11 marks that could have been easily patched from another source. There is a source change for the first 30 seconds of Tangerine where the second source is used. Love these early versions of the song, the harmonies are really nice.
Dazed And Confused is a wonderful 27 minute version, Page conjures up some nice out worldly sounds during the bow solo and the following improvisation is excellent with the band playing an embryonic Crunge funk jam. There is a source change from 7:29 to 7:45, as with the previous one the transition is smooth and well handled. There is another source change after Dazed until 12 seconds into What Is And What Should Never Be. Plant talks of New York (“far out”) prior to Celebration Day, as I listen to this version as it barrels over me, I can only wonder how the audience sounds so reserved, an excellent version of the song. Plant sings a bit of The Beatles’ Oh Darling, “Whoa Darling, please believe me” as the band prepare for the onslaught of Whole Lotta Love, a version that finally finds the polite audience waking up. There is a cut at 11:27 right after Hello Mary Lou to 11:37 just as the group goes into Mess O’ Blues. Source 1 ends at 16:28 just before the band get into Sugar Momma Blues, Source 2 is used until 21:10 and the third source is used until the end of the concert. The last “blues” portion of the medley features some extremely tasty playing from Page.
The encores are what makes this tape really great, source 3 is the poorest of the three sources and still very good, a bit more distant but captures the atmosphere well. The audience has done a complete 360 and cheers and claps loudly until the band return, setting the stage for some spectacular playing. Eddie Cochran’s Weekend would show up occasionally as an encore, funny to hear Plant try and quiet the crowd, curious on this night as it was a Tuesday evening. To cap an incredible evening, the band play the second complete known version of Gallows Pole, since the song was not part of the regular set it does sound like they struggle with it a bit, but the chorus is well done. It’s too bad the band did not add the song to its regular set, it would have fit nicely and with a bit more work could have been a crowd pleaser.
The packaging is great, simple inserts adorned with live shots from the actual event, a gig poster and ticket stub are pictured on the inside and we get pictures on the discs and the numbered sticker also. Nice to see this concert getting a much needed upgrade in an affordable release, although a couple tape issues keep it from being as definitive, better attention to detail would have made for an incredible must have release instead of a very good one. For those who do not have this in their collection, here is a good version of this concert to own.