Texas Two Steps Definitive Edition (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-328A/B)
Dallas Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX, USA – March 28, 1970
Disc 1 (63:37) Introduction, We’re Gonna Groove, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer Incl. Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Organ Solo, Thank You
Disc 2 (58:50) MC, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick. Bonus Trax: Hofheinz Pavillion, University Of Houston, Houston, TX, USA – March 29, 1970. Tuning / MC, White Summer Incl. Black Mountain Side, How Many More times Incl. For What It’s Worth / Down By The River / Beck’s Bolero / The Hunter / Tobacco Road
Led Zeppelin’s fifth tour of North America took place from March 21 through April 18, 1970 and would be tense due to the political climate in the country. The youth of America was fed up with the government and the Vietnam war and many cities would employ heavy handed Police as security to ensurer these rebellious people would not get out of line. Led Zeppelin wanted only for people to enjoy and listen to the music in a peaceful and free environment, where they could express themselves in a positive manner and was in contrast with the authorities many times leading to confrontation. This confrontation would, in one way or another, follow Led Zeppelin during much of their first three years of touring. Their live set for the tour would see a significant change of songs when compared to their last tour in late 1969, gone was most of the early blues covers and in their place was music from Led Zeppelin II as well as evolving songs that would be released on the forthcoming third album, their sound continuing to evolve organically.
Led Zeppelin would play a staggering 25 concerts in 28 days, the last concert in Las Vegas was cancelled due to Robert Plant suffering from exhaustion. The band had employed an “Evening With” format and would not have an opening act. They would play two dates in the state of Texas in late March, the first being in Dallas at the 9,800 seat Memorial Auditorium. An incomplete audience recording exist from the event and has been in circulation for years, in the collectors market this tape was released on Texas Two Steps (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol.35), a title that also includes a fragment from the following night in Houston. The Dallas recording falls into the good category, it is a somewhat muddy recording with a bit of distortion present also. Its main problem is it is somewhat flat and lacks dynamics yet thankfully it is clear enough where the vocals and instruments can be heard, although Bonzo’s drums do get pushed back into the mix. The audience is quiet and respectful on the whole, but there are occasional comments close to the taper. The recording does an adequate job of picking up the ambiance of the venue and the atmosphere of the event. Compared to the TDOLZ title the differences are minimal, the bottom end is just a tad cleaner on this new Graf title. The Graf also has more clarity and sounds a bit more natural, thankfully they are both equal in the tape hiss category.
The Dallas recording is also incomplete, the taper only brought one tape to the concert and there is a cut towards the end of White Summer and the recording ends during Moby Dick. What is here is a very good performance by Led Zeppelin, certainly a notch below the previous evening concert at the venerable Forum in Los Angeles, California. For being in a near ten thousand seat venue, the recording and performance have an intimate vibe to them. We’re Gonna Groove is an excellent opening track, for me it suffers from not having I Can’t Quit You directly following, instead there is as pregnant pause before the band go right into Dazed And Confused. Page does inadvertently go into the fast part too early as GS notes in his review, but it just makes for a very interesting version. The sound gives Jimmy’s bow solo a dark feel conjuring up sounds from the bowels of darkness, Robert is in fine voice and his vocalizations perfectly accent the instrumental portions of the song.
Heartbreaker features the long echo laden introduction I first heard on the Ottawa 1970 recording, it is an interesting contrast from the bombastic riff that follows. John Paul Jones has a very deep bass sound and groove and combined with the limited dynamics of the tape make for a very heavy sound and based upon the reaction from the audience, was quite pleasing to them as well. Bring It On Home follows on its heels and is an excellent version of the song. Hearing Plant switch from singing to blowing the harmonica back again is amazing, certainly he had the lung capacity of a God during this tour. Jimmy’s showcase of fluency and virtuosity, White Summer, follows, it is a cut fade at the 7:32 mark and there are several small cuts after the song ends. Since I’ve Been Loving You is excellent, the song is developing the intensity and dynamics the very early versions do not have.
Jones’ organ solo is average and the beginning of Thank You sound gentle and gets a nice ovation from the audience. As Gerard also points out, the audience chat a bit during the song and there is a bit more distortion during the song versus the rest of the tape, the song receives a huge ovation as Robert comments “John Paul Jones Hammond Organ…John Paul Jones”. The casual chat continues through What Is And What Should Never Be but does not annoy ones listening experience and is easy to ignore. The tape ends with a 19 minute version of Moby Dick although the complete song is not captured, a testament to the power of John Bonham.
Like the old TDOLZ Texas Two Steps release, this new title follows the same pattern and adds the Houston fragment from the following night to round out the second disc. The sound of the Houston tape also falls into the good to very good range. It does not suffer from the distortion that the Dallas recording does, it has much better upper frequencies and clarity. This fragment has been released on two titles both dating back to the late 1990’s, Texas Two Steps (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol.35) and Ultimate Mudslide (House of Elrond OMS-004). The latter title was crap and suffered from heavy mastering and should be avoided. When compared to the the TDOLZ I find that this new Graf Zeppelin to be a nice upgrade. The sound is louder and fuller, the tape hiss is not increased and is certainly from either a better generation tape or transfer, hence for the rating up to the very good range.
Clocking it at just under 40 minutes, the Houston fragment is still an enjoyable recording. The taper comments to his friend that he bets White Summer will include Black Mountain Side and he is certainly correct and Page gets a nice ovation when he breaks into the classic instrumental from the debut album. Page’s playing on this song is incredible, very fast and times quite aggressive and gentle at others. About ten minutes in he plays a brief passage of what would latter be referred to as Swan Song and ultimately Midnight Moonlight some thirteen years later. How Many More Times features not a Jazzy intro but one centered around Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, a song that was obviously influencing the band, if not musically then certainly in spirit, a song of unrest. The tape has some brief issues perhaps a loose microphone cable, it seems like Page gets into a little bit of Texas Swing during this portion, influenced by the deep musical transitions of the state. Plant references Neil Young’s Down By The River “Be on my side I’ll be on your side” that leads into a bit of Bolero and The Hunter. The obscure Brownie McGhee blues song is reference by Robert as is Bukka White’s Feel So Bad, his knowledge of American Blues serves him well. Perhaps the most enjoyable song of the medley is a rousing version of Tobacco Road which gets the audience clapping along just as the recording frustratingly ends.
The packaging is what we have come to expect from the Graf Zeppelin label, photos taken from the tour adorn both the interior and exterior artwork, pictures on the discs that credit Snowdonia and a numbered sticker are also part of the package. While not a significant upgrade to the TDOLZ, and upgrade nonetheless and it is my preferred version of the concert. Graf Zeppelin continues offering up interesting titles off the beaten path from their counterparts, quality sound and packaging reigns supreme. For those who need a version of this material, this title is certainly recommended.