Ottawa 1970 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-414EX)
Civic Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – April 14, 1970
(66:47) Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer incl. Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Organ Solo, Thank You, Whole Lotta Love. Bonus Track: “Bloomington 1970” Live at the Met Center, Bloomington, MN, USA – April 12, 1970: Bring It On Home
In 1994 a five disc set was released by the Flying Disc company, the bulk of the set was taken from common sources for the 5/31/1973 and 6/3/1973 concerts, the latter being taken from a vinyl source. The other two discs featured a longer source for the 7/29/1973 soundboard and a previously unheard audience recording from Ottawa, Canada on 4/14/1970. While some were pleased with this release, many seasoned collectors lamented the release for having to buy needless material to get the new recording. The set in question was The Trademark Of Quality Masters Volume One: Parliament Hill (Flying Disc FD101-41470).
The Ottawa show would receive a few releases outset the Flying Disc Box, Ottawa Sunshine (House Of Elrond MG6740) features the recording with the Alexis Corner radio show from 3/19/1969 made famous for the rare song Sunshine Woman. Just The Crowd And…(Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-443/444) was a two disc set featuring the Ottawa material on the first disc and the Milwaukee 8/31/1970 recording on the second disc. This new release from the Graf Zeppelin brings us the Ottawa recording in its entirety and like the Empress Valley title, properly sequences Dazed And Confused in its correct position. As a bonus the label added the Bloomington 4/12/1970 Bring It On Home fragment, its only appearance on compact disc so far. This title from Graf Zeppelin is not for sale and is part of a group of titles that are given away as gifts from some suppliers, you buy two titles and get a gift title.
The Ottawa tape is a very good audience recording that is very fragmented, when the tape first appeared many thought the complete recording would eventually surface but in the ensuing 28 years there has not been any more that’s come to light. The sound quality fluctuates throughout the recording, either the taper was moving while recording or was constantly raising and lower the microphone or recording device so the quality goes from near excellent to merely good. Overall the recording is very good with all instruments and vocals being heard in the mix although at times the drums get pushed to the back. There is very little crowd noise so it’s difficult to gauge the audience reaction yet it was certainly a typical concert for 1970 which means a superb, visceral performance. I have the TMQ box set so dug out disc 1 Parliament Hill title for comparison. The Graf Zeppelin sounds better with a fuller sound and better frequency range, the bottom end is fuller and the top end is clearer and less shrill sounding than the Flying Disc, an overall improved listening experience.
The taper was close to the source for Dazed And Confused, the fast jam after the bow solo is very powerful, in his review of the House Of Elrond title, Gerard calls the performance ferocious, one can only agree. There is a second of silence after Dazed and before Heartbreaker that would have been nice if it was removed, it would make the transition between songs not so abrupt. As G.S. points out Bring It On Home is very lively, the band and Robert’s harmonica start and stop is real good as is the Jimmy and John guitar and drum interplay, you hear some detailed percussion coming from John that sounds like he is playing spoons.
White Summer and Black Mountain Side only have a few performances after this one before it would get retired until 1977 making way for a more effective acoustic set. That being said, the piece was an intricate part of the set, giving a chance for Jimmy to not only show off his virtuosity as a player and improviser, but the song was an early piece showing the influence of Indian and World music that would be flavored in much of Zeppelin’s music through the 70’s. Some of the best music is honed to perfection by being played consistently, since making its debut in January 1970, Since I’ve Been Loving You has been growing and becoming more dynamic musically and vocally and is sounding more like the version that would be released later in the year.
My favorite versions of Thank You are from the first half of 1970, the band had such a great live sound, the sound featured that perfect blend of light and shade and Robert sung them so beautifully and heartfelt, a bit more drama in these early versions. The How Many More Times medley is completely missing so it’s right to the encore of Whole Lotta Love, Page’s guitar is in the forefront making for a very heavy version of the song.
The Bloomington 1970 fragment is just that, an 8 minute piece of tape featuring just Bring It On Home. The sound is very distant and suffers from distortion and is thus quite muddy. The upper frequencies are more clear so Robert’s vocals and harmonica are the first things to jump out at you. The guitar is actually difficult to hear and when the whole band is playing it’s difficult to discern the music, only Robert’s vocals give you an idea on where they are at in the song. A very difficult listen that will not get more listens, it’s poor and very difficult to make it through. You can pick out enough to tell that it was a very strong performance, when heard, Bonzo’s drums sound powerful and very on. A very rare recording, it is nice to have a version on CD for a completest sake.
The packaging is typical for Graf Zeppelin, the front cover features a pic of Jimmy from the first part of 1970, the interior is much more effective as they use actual photos of the concert, always an excellent addition. Certainly a nice upgrade over the old Flying Disc title and the inclusion of the Bloomington fragment was a superb addition.