St. Mathews Baths Hall, Ipswich, UK – November 16, 1971
Disc 1 (65:43) Introduction, 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 (78:01) MC, Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Celebration Day, Whole Lotta Love, Weekend, Gallows Pole
In the early days of Led Zeppelin, the band was evolving as musicians and songwriters and their live act reflected that same growth. From the early primal 68-69 Zeppelin, to the better defined 1970 material the band was able to focus their energies into the vision. 1971 would find the band comfortable in their own shoes so to speak. Their vision of light and shade, loud and quiet, proto metal to acoustic folk would be perfected in their untitled fourth LP. Their stage shows represented their humble beginnings, their music was the star, simple presentation coupled with a methodic visceral attack of power and virtuosity. Like all fans who extensively listen to Led Zeppelin’s unofficial live catalog, 1971 is know for some of the most adventurous performances the band would perform.
1971 can be broken into three main portions, Return to the Clubs UK tour early in the year, its short so it’s easy to combine the outtakes from the fourth album as well. The second half of the year was spent touring, first in the tense political climate of the United States. While the performances were excellent, they were fraught with an air of rebellion versus the establishment. Next came the first Japanese tour that allowed the band to relax from the American climate, far from the musical press the band would play five of the most adventurous concerts in their career. The latter part of year would be a traditional tour of the United Kingdom, back on their own turf, the well oiled Zeppelin machine would play a series of concerts that would really cement themselves with the fans, and to a certain regards, the press as well.
One of the best shows in the month and a half tour would certainly be their performance in Ipswich on November 16, 1971. Not only is it a superb performance, the synchronicity of all four musicians is incredible, we are blessed with a really great sounding document as well. Bootleggers have exploited the concert to a small degree, early titles were Over The Twelve Foot End (No Label), Kinetic Circus (Theremin 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) and are all incomplete, missing the encores. Feelin’ Groovy Definitive Edition (Empress Valley EVSD 052-054) featured the longest version yet with near complete encore section including the newly surfaced Gallows Pole, the main drawback to the title was it was unnecessarily split over three CD’s where it would have fit onto two discs. It would be close to 15 years until Ipswich 1971 (No Label) would hit the market, the title had a few minor flaws but managed to upgrade the EV title. This new title from the folks at Graf Zeppelin is looking to improve on the No Label version, and is referring to it as Definitive. Like the EV and No Label titles, this new release uses parts of all three known sources for this concert to present the most complete version possible.
First off the sound is very similar to the 2015 No Label release, the differences are minute, if anything the Graf Zeppelin is a bit warmer sounding but has just a bit more tape hiss in the encore section, where the No Label is just a bit cleaner and thinner in that area. While they use the same tapes this is not a cut and paste title so to speak, the patch job on Immigrant Song is not as harsh sounding as the No Label. The tape warble about 3 minutes in Since I’ve Been Loving You is not near as bad and they have used an alternate source to fix the drop outs in Going to California from 1:50 to 2:04. There is a couple second gap at 4:20 in the source tape for Gallows Pole, the No Label filled the gap with the May 3, 1971 Copenhagen version, Graf Zeppelin did not fill the gap. Both releases have very similar content, I like the mastering on both, all the tape edits are very smooth and well handled in both titles, no jarring switching of sources. For me the Graf Zeppelin better addresses the few minor flaws in the No Label version, and to me both versions sound great when you turn them up.
Secondly is the packaging, both titles utilize inserts in a slim line jewel case and both have the three black and white photographs from the concert as well as the gig poster. The Graf Zeppelin artwork is a bit nicer as well, it is a numbered edition with a stamp on the inside jewel case insert. In this day and age, the use of the label “definitive” is subjective, for me the Graf Zeppelin title is the best version I have heard. For the obsessive fan or those who do not have this important concert in the collection, this is worth the investment. For those happy with the No Label version, I hope I have addressed the points that influenced my opinion of the titles currently available.