Live In Sydney 1972 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-227A/B/C/D/E/F)
Showgrounds, Sydney, Australia – February 27, 1972
Disc 1 (60:10) Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Celebration Day, Stairway To Heaven, Going to California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Disc 2 (47:36) MC, Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (47:50) Rock And Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Organ Solo, Thank You
Disc 4 (60:12) Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Celebration Day, Stairway To Heaven, Going to California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Disc 5 (47:32) MC, Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick
Disc 6 (54:15) Rock And Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Organ Solo, Thank You. Bonus Trax: Soundboard Recording: Whole Lotta Love Part 1, Rock And Roll, Whole Lotta Love Part 2
To coincide with the 49th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s concert at the Showgrounds in Sydney, Australia, The Dogs of Doom released volume 5 of the 2021 Liberation Series featuring a new unreleased source for the concert. The audience recording is the third known source and is the most complete of the three, most importantly is the inclusion of the beginning of the concert. We finally get to hear Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, and a portion of Celebration Day. The sound is good to very good being taped some distance to the stage, yet all instruments and vocals are clear in the mix with the guitars and vocals being more prominent, plus a bit of hiss as one would expect. The taper paused the machine between many of the songs and there are also a few instances for tape flips, where possible the gaps are filled with the two previous sources. Despite being more distant, the recording is quite powerful in its own right, capturing the atmosphere of the event perfectly.
This new title by Graf Zeppelin is a deluxe six CD set that is an excellent overview of the two best sources for the Sydney concert, each using the other sources to present a complete listening experience. The first three discs use source 3 as a basis with source 1 and 2 filling gaps, there is only one other release of source 3, On Stage Sydney (Wendy WECD-395/396/397) was released a few months before Graf put theirs out. The Wendy title is a beautiful release, the cover is adorned with photos of the concert, advertisements, and the master tapes themselves. Like Graf Zeppelin, Wendy has used the first two sources to fill the gaps where they could. The main difference between the Wendy and Graf Zeppelin is that Wendy has less hiss and is just a tad brighter, yet thinner, than Graf Zeppelin. Thankfully Wendy did not use overzealous mastering on their title and offer an excellent version of source 3, if you have plenty of versions of the other two sources, the Wendy is an excellent alternative to the Graf Zeppelin title. Both labels have done an excellent job with their splices, they are seamless and easy on the ears, they are easy to detect as source two is closer and has a completely different timbre to it.
Discs four through six use source 2 as a basis with source 1 and 3 being used to fill the gaps. Source 1 has been release a few times back in the early days of the CD era, the 40 minute fragment was released on Australian Tour 1972 Pt 1 (Black Cat Records BC-34-AB) and Thunder Down Under Live In Sydney (Equinox EX-00-005). The recording is a fragment with the sound being merely good, a bit muffled but clear enough to hear the vocals, guitar, and drums. Source 2 is the best recording from this concert, recorded very close to the stage it is clear, detailed and powerful although it is rather thin sounding and has top end distortion. In 2000, Tarantura 2000 released Ayers Rock (Tarantura TCD-2-1,2) featuring the much longer and much better sounding source 2, however they used heavy handed mastering which ruined it. Sharaku released Robbers Return (SHARAKULED 1-1,2) with much better sound in 2004 but the release that really presented the Sydney concert with excellent mastering was Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 461/462). Empress Valley would revisit source 1 and 2 on their deluxe 20 disc box set Thunder Down Under released in 2013. Other titles featuring source 2 are On Stage Sydney (Wendy WECD-171/172), not to be confused with the newer title of the same name, this older release features a mix of source 1 and 2 yet has heavy handed mastering producing metallic background noise. Lastly is Rumble In Sydney (Futher Along FAP-010/011) released in 2004.
I dug out my copy’s of the EV titles Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin and the Thunder Down Under box set to compare. First off I checked the Graf to Balloon and I find they sound very similar, the differences are minor. The EV sounds just a bit louder, brighter and thinner, the Graf Zeppelin has a more natural and fuller sound with better lower frequencies, something the EV lacks and is essential when listening to the Australian shows as most are on the thin side. Both are nice, clear and detailed, the edge going to Graf. I prefer the sound found on the Thunder Down Under “Pop Goes The Showground” to its precursor Balloon Goes Up On Led Zeppelin, EV dialed back the volume just a bit and it is not as shrill. When I compare the Graf to Pop Goes The Showground, the volume is very close but the EV is thin with less hiss, the Graf is its superior thanks to its fuller sound.
The last piece of tape on this set is what is referred to as the soundboard source, or soundtrack to the six minute black and white professional footage filmed by the local ABC TV crew. There are two previous releases of this material, Thunder Down Under Live In Sydney (Equinox EX-00-005) and On Stage Sydney (Wendy WECD-171/172) since I do not own either, I have no comparison. The sound quality is excellent, it’s a well balanced recording but those who are expecting a deep rich soundboard, this is not it. It is raw and captures the energy of the performances, the preferred way to enjoy this fragment is to watch it, for years this was one of my favorite live snippets of film.
The beginning of the concert is a bit muffled during the new source 3 and would improve throughout the powerful opening of Immigrant Song and Heartbreaker. Like the previous Australian shows there is a relaxed joyful playing to the concerts, far away from troublesome areas where the band can just play their music. The massive audience of 26,000 was a mix of those who had tickets and those who jumped the fences, the draw of Led Zeppelin was like a pilgrimage for young Rock fans of the era. While the security was struggling with the crowd, this was something Led Zeppelin was used to by this point and Robert addresses upon first chance. “Good afternoon. Well listen already come across the one problem that we we’re told about. Now there’s been a lot of mistakes about this thing, but we don’t want to make any mistakes and neither do you, right? So don’t come past this barrier otherwise we’re gonna be in the shit and why don’t you sit down, and then maybe people who ain’t as tall as you behind can do things as well. If it rains too much we’re gonna have to stop, and that’s a fact cause we’ll blow up”.
The taper of source 3 was in the stands to the rear of the stadium and the overhang gives the recording a feeling of being in an enclosure, you really get a good idea after the open air sounding Black Dog and the back farther Since I’ve Been Loving You. Celebration Day clocks in at only 3:14 but what is here is really good, the song was not played during the Adelaide and Melbourne concerts but should be in the set for the last three dates. While there is no revelation to hear in the opening hour of the concert, it does reaffirm how well played and enjoyable the Australian tour was, despite the issues in Perth, Led Zeppelin turn in stunning performances to audiences who had never seen a band like this prior. The fans are excited and sometimes noisy, like most of the Australian dates, Robert again sets the tone during the acoustic numbers by asking for quiet and to settle down, he then seems to get totally lost and messes up the verse of Going To California to which he says “so what”, he soon finds his way.
Tangerine is the hit of the acoustic set, both recordings have a different perspective with the same results, I can only agree as I love the late 71-72 versions of Tangerine. There is a picture on the interior cover tray of this song, only Robert and Jimmy at the front of the stage, Jonsey and Peter Grant looking on from behind the amps, curiously there is a guy with what looks like a video camera. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp gives a chance for audience participation and the crowd is ready and the song goes from hoedown to hootenanny real quick. Jimmy plays a nod to The Train Kept a Rollin’ while they prepare for Dazed And Confused, the acoustic set has made them restless and cries of sit down accompany the descending John Paul Jones bass line. Clocking in at 23 minutes long, the bow solo is dynamic, Robert’s vocalizations are interesting and Jimmy conjures up darkness in broad daylight, the fast section that follows is breathtaking.
The Whole Lotta Love and ensuing medley is great, there seems to be creative juices afloat during the jam prior to Boogie Chillun’ and the medley finds them getting into Ricky Nelson’s Hello Mary Lou, the standard Elvis fare with Let’s Have A Party and Lawdy Miss Clawdy and a simply blistering version of Howling Wolf’s Going Down Slow, but the stand out 50 seconds is when Jimmy leads the band into a snippet of The Rover. It’s obvious listening to the Australian shows that the creative juices were flowing and the band was beginning to form new songs, during the concert prior to Sydney in Auckland, they played a bit of The Song Remains The Same. Sydney also has the only known version of Thank You from this tour, John Paul Jones seems to be hammering out a theme during the organ solo that I can’t quite put my finger on, needless to say it’s a very interesting intro. Thank You is an excellent version, the playing is slick yet relaxed and intense at the same time, the band is definitely enjoying themselves and the fans of Sydney were the recipients. “Good night…it’s time for dinner” are Robert’s comments ending the concert, and this review.
The Graf Zeppelin label has established a reputation for releasing not only excellent sounding releases that not only honor the original source tapes but provide a comprehensive overview of the concerts with multiple sources when available, this release is a testament to that ideal. The packaging features photos taken from the actual concert on the exterior and interior inserts. The first three discs have the cover shot of Jimmy, the others have the photo of Robert from the rear cover. An excellent title that provides the best way to enjoy the incredible 1972 Sydney performance.