Led Zeppelin – The Last Of The Last (Tarantura TCD-115)

The Last Of The Last (Tarantura TCD-115)

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – July 29th, 1973

Disc 1 (65:10):  opening, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, (Bring It On Home intro.) Black Dog, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains the Same, Rain Song

Disc 2 (74:28):  Dazed and Confused (incl. San Francisco), Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick 

Disc 3 (46:29):  Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean, organ solo, Thank You

Led Zeppelin’s July 29th, 1973 show in New York not only was the end of a grueling US tour, but the end of almost four solid years of touring and recording for the band.  For the rest of the year they would take their first real break before establishing their own record company, produce their film and work on their magnum opus Physical Graffiti

There have been several releases of this tape in the past.  The first hour, from “Rock And Roll” to “The Rain Song” were included in the TMOQ Past Masters boxset.  Since then, it’s been used to plug gaps in the almost complete soundboard recording released by Empress Valley and Tarantura. 

But The Last Of The Last is the first release to utilize the complete audience tape as its base.  The label uses Zunkill’s original master cassettes for the first time.  The sound quality is still merely fair to good, but a substantial improvement over the high generation copies used for the other titles.

The soundboard recording is used in three places; between 7:50 and 8:08 in “No Quarter,” from 22:14 to 22:34 in “Dazed And Confused,” from 20:48 to 21:25 in “Moby Dick,” and for about the first fifteen seconds of the organ solo in before “Thank You.”

If the July 27th is the tightest of the New York shows, the July 29th is the most emotionally wired of the three.  With the extra encore, it is the longest and Plant himself calls it “a fitness test.”  

It starts off quite deliberate and heavy.  John Paul Jones lays down a nice bass line at the end of “Celebration Day” which finds its way into the movie soundtrack (but not the film).  After “Black Dog” Plant tells the audience that “I got to put you straight on a couple of things.  This year in America we decided to work extra hard, so we did two tours, and this is the last night on the last tour. So what do you think about that?”  He calls “Over The Hills And Far Away” a song about life, “not being to skeptical.”

Houses Of The Holy was a creative peak for the band.  Plant is aware that the material is a deviation from their expected path, and calls “No Quarter” “one of the deviations…another thing about a journey that we all go on.”  Retaining its ominous atmosphere, this is one of the final versions to even attempt to keep the studio version’s atmosphere.

Two more new songs, “The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” follow before “Dazed And Confused,” the first massive marathon of the night.  Plant calls it “Zeppelin’s Embryo…a very old one.”  It is one of the dirtiest versions on tape.  It runs for more than half an hour.  During the violin bow episode, Jimmy Page emits “noon whistles and cybernetic death rattles before descending the purple haze into a jam on ‘Route 66’,” according to Steven Davis in Hammer Of The Gods

The ending of the show is notable for Bonham’s extended workout at the very end of “Whole Lotta Love.”  While he bangs away, he’s joined by belly dancers on stage as Plant tries to end the song several times.  The audience eat it up, clapping along in time to the rhythm.

Before the encores Plant tells the audience that the tour “hasn’t been so bad considering tomorrow night I’ll be lying in the grass in the middle of nowhere. …  There’s been a bit of boredom, but we got by.”  Bonham chants the beginning of “The Ocean,” which is played for the final time live by Led Zeppelin. 

The second encore starts off with a John Paul Jones organ solo as an introduction to “Thank You.”  Unlike the bizarre experiments of 1971, this is much more structured and mellow, recalling Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind” (a tune they actually played in May in Salt Lake City).  “Thank You” is also played live for the final time by the band as a final gesture to New York.

The Last Of The Lastis a brave and overall effective release by Tarantura.  Issuing less than perfect audience tapes, even of Led Zeppelin, isn’t in vogue these days.  Much less is issuing these tapes in such beautiful and elaborate packaging.  This is what makes Tarantura still one of the greatest and most collectible label in the world. 

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