Oxford 1973 (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol. 75)
New Theatre, Oxford, England – January 7th, 1973
DISC 1 (53:18): 1. Rock And Roll 2. Over The Hills And Far Away 3. Black Dog 4. Misty Mountain Hop 5. Since I’ve Been Loving You 6. Dancing Days 7. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp 8. The Song Remains The Same 9. The Rain Song
DISC 2 (43:47): 1. Dazed And Confused 2. Stairway To Heaven 3. Whole Lotta Love
“Oxford 1973” is a soundboard tape source with interesting and compelling results. The drums, keyboards and vocals are generally at the forefront. “Rock And Roll” has a bouncy and new-wave beat with Bonham establishing pace from the onset. “Over The Hills And Far Away” features Plant off key with his voice breaking up and with Bonham on fire up front in the mix which serves to highlight his frenzied instrumentation for a change. The track offers quite a different intoxicating ending. Plant’s voice breaks up some more on “Black Dog” but we find him trying to compensate while knowing full well of his vocal range limitations tonight. This is further evident in “Misty Mountain Hop” where Plant’s unusual delivery comes across as narrative in style. The track has a swing-like ending. It’s refreshing to hear “Since I’ve Been Loving You” with the keyboards, vocals and drums up front in the mix even as the track is lead by guitar. “Dancing Days” has swagger right from the start. Plant’s resilient delivery is filled with Bonham’s chops trying to fill the void of Plant’s vocal limitations making this song all the more danceable.
There was a nice measured pacing between tracks for the most part. Plant stated next: “This is a number that used to feature Mr. Bonham on vocals. It’s quite a spot in the night actually. But, I’m afraid that the sweet wine has got the best of his voice so it’s a two man vocal now. It’s about…It’s got nothing to do with that. It’s really about a dog who refused to be bathed, washed and brushed and spends alot of his time doing nothing. Sounds reasonable,…”Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”…You can even be of assistance with the mix”. It’s given a rowdy delivery with the lone guitar now right up front in the mix by default. It was great to hear the fanatical drum beat up front leading the unrelenting charge for “The Song Remains The Same”. It was also very interesting to hear Bonham swinging and catapulting into gear joining Page’s signature and all too familiar lead guitar. The shimmering mellotrone in crystal clear clarity was startling and soothing paired with the guitar on “Stairway To Heaven’. Plant was unable to hold the high registers. He introduced “Whole Lotta Love” by stating: “This last number is for our road managers that didn’t get arrested in Sheffield last night”. Plant couldn’t sing this number in proper key as his voice kept breaking up and the track cuts abruptly at 3:58.
Total disc time was 94:05 which falls quite short by Zeppelin standards. However, I found this performance overall to be very enjoyable and unique in its own right due to the unusual mix. There are reviewers who have come forward to state that this release has the guitar buried and that it is a bit bottom heavy. I think what we have here is more of an even-handed performance especially with the guitar a bit buried. I did not find the recording to be bottom heavy at all. The band sounds more balanced and Plant, ironically, sounds better not pushing the envelope. This release comes with the highest of recommendations given the clarity of the soundboard source and the extraordinary sounding performance of the band.
The disc time is short because this is an incomplete recording. “Whole Lotta Love” would have gone on for another twenty minutes with the medley. The encores, normally any combination of “Heartbreaker,” “The Ocean” and “Communication Breakdown” would have added ten to fifteen minutes to the overall performance.