Collectors-Music-Reviews

Led Zeppelin – Killing Floor (No Label)

Killing Floor (No Label)

Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA – January 26, 1969 

Disc 1 (44:31) The Train Kept A Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Killing Floor, Dazed And Confused, You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown 

Disc 2 (48:03) White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Pat’s Delight, How Many More Times 

I’ve always though that the 1969 Boston recordings are somewhat under represented in the bootleg market, sure there have been releases over the years but compared to the California dates, much less. It’s interesting to look at the excellent Bootledz site, his picks for two of the four known recordings from Boston come from the 1994 Complete Boston Tea Party release from the ARMS label. I thought for sure that the Scorpio label would compile them in a set ala Fresh Garbage and Drive Me Insane. Nonetheless, there is a recent release of the most important of the Boston 1969 recordings from No Label, the fourth and final night of their first stand in Boston and the venerable Boston Tea Party January 26, 1969. 

I find it amazing that the early 1969 Zeppelin recordings are so listenable, the sole recording for this new release is the very good audience recording that began to circulate in the late 80’s. It is not well balanced and the taper and his gear were most certainly positioned in front of Jimmy’s amplifier, the guitar and bass are in the front. Robert is a little lower in the mix, John Bonham’s drums are lowest but with careful listening he can be heard even during some of the loudest portions. Once one’s ears adjust it’s an easy concert to get lost in, it pulls you into its mysterious depths and at its conclusion you find that the universal praise for this recording is well founded. 

This tape has seen earlier releases, the first dating back to the days of vinyl was Killing Floor (Kornyphone 71117 A-B), Robert Godwin gives it a date of 2/1/69 Fillmore East but is uncertain, what he is certain about is his rating it as an excellent performance. From there it made its way to the compact disc format and over the years several titles have come out with this recording, Fillmore East Vol 1&2 (Mud Dogs MD 006 / MD 007), Whiskey And Tea Party (Ocean Recording Corporation WHISKEY 001-002), Killing Floor (Cobra Standard Series 018), Tight But Loose (Tarantura T2CD-2), A Sudden Attack Boston (Shout To The Top STTP-073/074), and Boston Tea Party 1969 (Wendy WECD-268/269). 

I have only the A Sudden Attack Boston (Shout To The Top STTP-073/074) title in my collection, a title I have never really been happy with. The sound is mastered too loud and has a shrill cold sound to it, rather fatiguing to fully enjoy. In comparison this new title by the No Label folks has been mastered for more natural sound so the levels are not so hot and is certain from either a better transfer or better generation of the tape as it has less distortion and much better clarity. Not only does this make for easier listening but also helps in hearing the vocals and drums better, the sound is warm and more closely represents its analog origin. 

The first thing that grabs you is Jimmy’s guitar, of course the recording favors him but it’s his guitar tone that I’m referring too, it has the slight bit of distortion and grit, perhaps my favorite from this era although the 4/27/69 is right up there. The band hammer into The Train Kept A Rollin’ with abandon, they have had three incredible nights prior and are certainly going to give the recently converted something to remember. The tape clears up nicely as soon as the band segue into I Can’t Quit You, one cannot underestimate the power of this song, the guitar is part of the story that Robert is telling, call and response from vocal and guitar with both being violet and morose at times. 

Another thing I love about the early 1969 recordings is the band would change the order of songs, on this night a more uptempo blues number Killing Floor follows, of course this would be recorded in months time and become The Lemon Song. Thankfully this recording is clear so you can hear the incredible playing from John Paul Jones. Listen about two minutes in, Jimmy begins his solo and Jones and Bonham get into a shuffle based groove, his bass lines just stunning as he and Bonham begin pushing Jimmy into pure rock fury. Of course Robert throws in some Lemon Squeezing in which slows the tempo down before the final blistering finale. Listening to this you can almost see the fans in the front row head banging away, it conjures up that emotion. 

Dazed And Confused follows, the taper being so close to the stage the audience response to the previous numbers sounds rather restrained, what comes is the opposite. Jimmy has to tune during the beginning but quickly gets it together thanks to Jonsey throwing him an extra note from his bass. Robert ad libs the second verse, mournful remembrance about when she was in his arms. His somber moans elicit a bit of applause as Jimmy begins his bow solo, all four members on stage doing a call and response that seems to ripple from the bow string. With Jimmy’s guitar being in the forefront you get a birds ear listen of his bow solo, this recording is so clear and vivid it sounds as if you are standing mere feet from him. Robert evokes memories of The Yardbirds as he throws in a line from their classic Shapes Of Things which strangely fits in beautifully. You hear things in this solo you don’t hear in other recordings from this era, it sounds as if you can hear the actual swipes of the bow against the strings…incredible. The fast section is stunning, short but very intense.

Robert does a brief introduction as “This is a thing off the album…we give it credit to Willie Dixon. It’s called You Shook Me” and we settle down into a somewhat laid back version of the song, interesting is Jonsey switched from bass to organ for a solo early on then switches back. The slow pondering nature of the song is very heavy. Also during some of the quieter passages you actually get a feel for the hall acoustics, the Tea Party was small holding only 400 people and you get a feel for its size. A blistering take on Communication Breakdown is the first set finale.

The taper did not capture the band returning to the stage or the introduction to Jimmy’s show piece of the Yardbird’s White Summer, the recording picks up with faint applause and Page beginning the piece. The audience is dead quiet. The recording is vivid and sounds as if you are inches away from Page’s amplifier. Robert speaks of going to New York, his comments would be misleading with many attributing this date to that city before proper identification was made. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You is glorious, Robert’s performance is very powerful as he add libs several lines, I could only wish his vocals were just a tad more clear as it’s really good, his passion is evident even with the vocals low in the mix. With the tape being cut between songs it’s really hard to gauge the audience proper but from Plant’s introduction to Bonzo’s drum solo we can gather the vibes were incredible. “Thank you very much…Right now straight from Birmingham, England…Straight from the heart of the country…the industrial midlands north of Watford…We present John Bonham and his amazing drum kit!”, his solo definitely lives up to its billing clocking in longer than Dazed And Confused!

Robert then gives a long introduction thanking the ladies who have befriended the band, the staff at the Lennox and giving lots of love to the fans in attendance and Boston as a whole, the band had come and conquered Boston in perhaps more stunning fashion than the West Coast and even the NYC dates that they would play just days after this. The version of How Many More Times that follows is amazing and perhaps the greatest ever played, Page gets into this series train of inspiration that has him touching on Bolero that is simply incredible. By all accounts they begin to go into what is usually The Hunter but Plant references Duke Of Earl then into Jimmie Rodgers’ Kisses Sweeter Than Ever during which Jimmy breaks out the bow to add accompaniment. The two then do a bow and moan before Jimmy begins to play a couple Yardbird’s songs including For Your Love that is stunningly breathtaking in pure psychedelia, sadly the remainder of the song is cut, the only part that remains is Robert’s “Thank you very much”. This is a recording that garners much up and it’s all well deserved…PRAISE YE THE LORD in deed.

The No Label uses pictures from the actual Tea Party concert, true homage to this incredible performance. A solo shot of Jimmy playing the Telecaster is on both CD’s, the bonus sticker features the original concert advertisement artwork. The inserts are basic but do the job, the real color is in the music. This is an excellent version of the concert and worth seeking out. 

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