Led Zeppelin – Ottawa Sunshine (House Of Elrond MG6740)

Ottawa Sunshine (House Of Elrond MG6740)

(74:02):  Maida Vale Studio 4, London, England – March 19th, 1969:  I Can’t Quit You, You Shook Me, Sunshine Woman.  Civic Center, Ottawa, ON, Canada – April 14th, 1970:  Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You, organ solo, Thank You, Dazed And Confused, Whole Lotta Love

Ottawa Sunshine drew many praises when it was first released early 1998.  Ice Magazine mentioned it for several consecutive issues, singling out the improved sound quality, rarity of the material and the excellent packaging.  In the ensuing years many other titles have been released with these recordings, but this seminal House Of Elrond release still stands up.

The first tape is from the March 19, 1969 “missing” BBC session from the Maida Vale Studio on the Alexis Korner show on the BBC.  Known as the session with the extreme rarity “Sunshine Woman,” the track first circulated on a very poor recording found on an extremely hard to find single and can also be found as a bonus track on the 3CD set Motor City Daze (Antrabata ARM 120773) and BBC Sessions (LSD-61/62/63/64) on Last Stand Disc.

A better sounding recording surfaced in late nineties from Poland with a rebroadcast from late 1969.  It is in a crisp and clear mono recording which also includes “What Is And What Should Never Be” from the June 16th BBC session.  This tape was initially released as Sunshine Woman (Flagge).  After Ottawa Sunshine, it has appeared on other titles such as Anybody Got A Les Paul?  (Equinox EX 00 020-0) and The Complete British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Sessions (Empress Valley EVSD-410/411/412/413).

The tape starts off with Alexis Korner introducing Led Zeppelin, telling them they just got back from a storming US tour and that Keith Moon of the Who thought up the name.  “I Can’t Quit You” is played with its usual early 1969 intensity.  “You Shook Me” seems to shake the studio.  It’s a shame the song is cut off before the end.   

But the focus is upon “Sunshine Woman.” This is yet another “BBC exclusive” (along with “Traveling Riverside Blues” and “The Girl I Love”). It sounds like an original jam session written on the spot which borrows the same blues images and lyrics as other of their songs such as “I’ve got a mortgage on my body/I’ve got a lien on my soul” and “when she walks/she walks just like a willow tree” lyrics with the other two BBC songs.  (It is an interesting coincidence Plant recycles those lyrics since Rod Stewart was using them in the Jeff Beck Group at the same time).

Elrond  omit “What Is And What Should Never Be” and the rest of Korner’s introductions. 

The rest of the disc contains the audience recording of the April 14th, 1970 Ottawa show.  It is a pristine, crisp mono recording taped in front of the stage.  It first surfaced on Trade Mark Of Quality Masters Vol. 1 Parliment Hill (Flying Disc FD 101-105) (a boxset also containing fragments from the May 31st and June 3rd, 1973 Los Angeles concerts and the June 29th, 1973 New York). 

The sound quality on Elrond is as good as the subsequent release on Just The Crowd And… (Empress Valley EVSD-443/4) and may even be superior since Empress Valley tried to give the tape a more prominent bottom end. 

 There are numerous cuts on the tape between songs and very people close to the taper cough and talk at various points, but on the whole this is a very nicely recorded show.  About an hour is still missing with “We’re Gonna Groove”, “What Is And What Should Never Be”, “Moby Dick”, and “How Many More Times” having yet to surface.

The concert, which is their penultimate in Ontario, is outstanding.  Coming by the end of their spring tour the band are tight and deliver a ferocious performance.  “Heartbreaker” begins with the theremin effects but one of the highlights of the tape is one of the best versions of “Bring It On Home”.  

It sounds like the band has a lot of fun with the drums-harmonica-guitar battle and the audience do too.  It is a shame the tape is a bit muffled at this point but the power comes through just fine.  “White Summer” reached to epic proportions on this tour and this is another with a nascent “Bron-Y-Aur” interlude thrown in the middle. 

“Since I’ve Been Loving You”, the new song added to the set list, sounds very pretty and is followed by a strange organ solo that serves as a prelude to “Thank You”.  It is remarkable how this love song that sounds so lyrical in the studio is transformed into a heavy set piece. 

The violin bow section of  “Dazed And Confused” is very tense with some creepy moments.  The taper is audible sneezing and moving around, trying to find a good position for the recorder.  The tape ends with the encore “Whole Lotta Love.”

Ottawa Sunshine is packaged in a single jewel case with thick inserts with period photographs and a note from Elrond.  Led Zeppelin are called “The Zippers” on the actual disc.  In lieu of the other releases, this is a very good title to have.

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