Strange Tales From The Road
(Godfather Records GR 365)
(79:27): Capitol Centre, Landover, MD – May 26th, 1977: Kashmir, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll. Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – June 11th, 1977: No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore
Strange Tales From The Road is a one disc title with two professionally recorded fragments from Zeppelin’s eleventh tour. The first fragment, and a tape making its first appearance ever, is a five song snippet from the end of the May 26th show in Landover, Maryland. A fair to good audience tape circulates as well as a soundboard (or video soundtrack) available on Bringing Down The House on Eelgrass, but Godfather use a tape from the band’s monitor mix instead. The liner notes say:
“A monitor mix is something that the average listener will never hear while being in a live spectacle. The house mix is the output that is sent across the loudspeakers to the audience and is tuned for the venue. A monitor mix, on the other hand, is what the band hears through their onstage monitors and is tuned for them….Bonham’s bass drum is very high in the mix to help the band keep time; Jones’ bass is almost completely absent, and Plant’s vocals have no effect on them at all.”
The sound quality is really clear and enjoyable with the emphasis upon John Bonham’s heavy drumming. It’s a shame the entire concert isn’t available from this source. It cuts in about half way through “Kashmir” preserving the final four and a half minutes. A cut in the tape eliminates “Moby Dick” and the guitar solo but has complete versions of the final songs and encores.
The playing itself is, to be charitable, competent. Granted the Maryland tape begins after they’ve been on stage for two hours for a drugged out performance. Bonham comes in two measures early in “Achilles Last Stand,” and Page hits some painful bum notes in both “Achilles” and in the “Stairway To Heaven” guitar solo right before the “tango” section. Nevertheless it is a fascinating listen and a good compliment to the other sources for the show.
The second part of the disc is the ubiquitous New York soundboard three weeks after the Maryland show. This has been in circulation forever and is used here essentially for filler. It is very good filler however. New York sounds much better than previous releases of the tape and for those who do not have it in any other form is very much welcome. It also picks up the hottest part of the show with one of the best performanes of “No Quarter” and “Ten Years Gone” from the tour. Strange Tales From The Road, which takes its title from the famous LP boxset from the 80’s, is packaged in a trifold gatefold sleeve with many excellent photos from the tour.