The Valkyrie’s Vigil (Tarantura TCD-94, 95, 96, 97)
It’s been pointed out on these pages before that Led Zeppelin fans are fortunate to have so many soundboards and professionally recorded shows and radio broadcasts in excellent quality to enjoy. This is something not shared by other bands like The Rolling Stones or The Who. Tarantura cap a successful year by gathering together four professional recordings into one gorgeous boxset The Valkyrie’s Vigil. Covering a four year period between 1969 to 1971, the only aspect these tapes have in common are the band (obviously) and that they all come from fantastic sounding recordings.
For the four shows gathered in this anthology, Tarantura use the best available sources and have been remastered to sound more loud, clear and enjoyable than anything else on the market. Generally speaking these shows are in close to definitive shape as possible.
The four shows are packaged in cardboard sleeves, single pocket sleeves for the first two shows and gatefold sleeves for the last two. The four fit into a slip cover with a magnetic seal as has been used before on Led Zeppelin Bootleg License (Tarantura TCD-77, 78) and Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck Two Birds From The Yard (Tarantura TCCEDJB – 1, 2). On the front is a reproduction of the painting The Valkyrie’s Vigil by Edward Robert Hughes (1906) and the back cover has a reproduction of A Valkyrie speaks with a raven(1862) by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys.
Plays Gothic Blues (Tarantura TCD-97)
Konsertthuset, Stockholm, Sweden – March 14th, 1969 (afternoon show)
(46:34): I Can’t Quit You, mc, I Gotta Move, Dazed And Confused, How Many More Times. Bonus tracks, Winterland, San Francisco, CA – April 25th, 1969: Train Kept A Rollin’, You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown, mc, As Long As I Have You
The earliest tape in the set is the radio broadcast of the afternoon show from the Tivolis Koncertsal in Copenhagen, Denmark on March 16th, 1969. Confusion has always circulated about this tape with many releases, including this one, attributing it to March 14th early show in the Konserthuset in Stockholm. The twenty minute tape was broadcast on radio on “Rock fran underjorden” (“Rock From Underground”) in 1982 and 1985.
The tape contains complete renditions of “I Can’t Quit You,” “Dazed And Confused” and an improvisation called “I Gotta Move.” It has been featured on numerous releases including Missing Links (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol. 081) and Super Session At Tivolis Koncertsal (Empress Valley EVSD-445), which is a very nice edit of the radio broadcast and an audience tape from the show.
Plays Gothic Blues contains only the twenty minute radio broadcast in excellent sound quality. The radio station apparently didn’t record the first song “Train Kept A Rollin’.” The broadcast then begins with “I Can’t Quit You” which is actually the third song of the night. Page broke a string during the first song and Plant, Jones and Bonham improvise on “I Gotta Move” which is “a thing from Otis Rush” according to Robert. Truth is, there is no Otis Rush song called “I Gotta Move.” This is a simple jam on a common blues theme.
The highlight of the short broadcast is a pristine version of the early 1969 “Dazed And Confused” which by this time already has been expanded past the boundaries of the studio version. The tape ends with Plant’s introduction in “How Many More Times” before the end. The first disc has a nice bonus, excerpts from the twenty-five minute excellent audience recording of the April 25th Winterland show from the Good Old Led Zeppelin (Tarantura TCD-89~92).
In The Act Of Invoking The Spirit (Tarantura TCD-94)
L’Olympia, Paris, France – October 10th, 1969
(77:51): Introduction, Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Heartbreaker, Dazed And Confused, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, You Shook Me, How Many More Times
The existence of the October 1969 Paris radio broadcast has been the object of speculation until it was finally rebroadcast in October 2007 as a celebration of the O2 reunion. It presented most of the show (“Moby Dick” is rumored to have been omitted) and was marred by DJ comments in French spoken over the music in some places. Nevertheless silver pressed releases surfaced about a week after the original broadcast. Many of them such as Paris Olympia 1969 (Wendy wecd- 104), Olympia 1969 (no label), Ain’t No Fool (Black Dog Records BDR-02) and Paris Par Excellence (Empress Valley EVSD-510) presented the unedited broadcast with DJ comments. Other labels like L’Olympia (Godfather G.R.248), Good Times Bad Times(Scorpio LZ-08015) and N’est Aucun Imbecile(Black Dog Records BDR-003) carefully edited out the comments and lost some music.
It was almost by accident that The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin came upon a true pre-FM master tape of the broadcast that did not have the DJ comments and was not missing any music (except for the still AWOL “Moby Dick.”) They released this find on One Night Stand In Paris (TCOLZ 029/030) along with a second disc with the actual broadcast. In The Act Of Invoking The Spirit is the same source as used on disc one of the TCOLZ but is slightly more loud, clear and lively.
It isn’t known if this is all that was taped or if the rest of the show, which some say includes “Moby Dick” was also taped and are still sitting in the vault. It is said they played for an hour and a half leaving a half hour still unaccounted. More likely than not they also played “What Is And What Should Never Be” since that was a regular inclusion in the set. The set list as it appears in the radio broadcast also differs from the list reported in the latest edition of The Concert File, which places “You Shook Me” before “White Summer” followed by “Dazed And Confused.”
The set begins with the devastating opening bars of “Good Times, Bad Times” serving as a prelude to “Communication Breakdown.” Only at these shows was this arrangement used as they were trying to achieve the most overwhelming sound they could muster. This tape includes the earliest reference to “Heartbreaker” introduced by Robert Plant, saying, “We’d like to carry on with something on the new Led Zeppelin II album, which is eventually coming out in England and America. It’s called ‘Heartbreaker.'”
This version sounds close to the studio arrangement and Page uses heavy distortion during the guitar solo. Page’s “White Summer” was still played at this time and is introduced by Plant saying, “right now we’d like to feature…” Page can be heard behind him saying, “wanking dog.” Plant continues, “wanking dog…Jimmy Page on guitar. This is a combination of several things. It goes under the collective title, as Percy Thrower would say, ‘White Summer,’ Jimmy Page.” What follows is a virtuoso epic crammed into ten minutes.
“You Shook Me” must count among the heaviest versions on record with Bonham keeping time with a sledgehammer on his drums. This sound would remain in the set list, in one form or another, for the next couple of years before being abandoned. But the best is the long improvisation during “How Many More Times.” By this time it had already been expanded into a long, distinct medley of oldies, but they really don’t follow any rules in this concert.
The long improvisation starts off very dark and includes references to Holst’s “Mars, The Bringer Of War” and a very slow version of The Yardbirds’ “Over Under Sideways Down.” Some people shout to Plant while he’s in the middle of “The Hunter” and causes him to say, “shut up!” There is a long “Boogie Chillun'” part with a reference to Ainsley Dunbar and “Needle Blues” where Plant sings, “I got my needle in you babe, and you seem to think it’s alright. Why don’t you roll over baby, see what it’s like on the other side. I think that was Brownie McGhee.”
Plant is trying hard to shake up the audience with suggestive lyrics and obscure inside jokes. Maybe Plant is seeking revenge for the tepid reaction they received in the summer. It is said that Zeppelin were not as well received in France as in other countries. Maybe this is the reason why it took Zeppelin more than three years before they returned to the capital?
Never Was Angel In Heaven (Tarantura TCD-95-1,2)
Paris Theater, London, England – April 1st, 1971
Disc 1 (55:04): interval, introduction, Plant mc, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Plant mc, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Plant mc, Black Dog, Plant mc, Dazed And Confused, Plant mc, Stairway To Heaven, Plant mc
Disc 2 (54:06): Plant mc, Going To California, Plant mc, That’s The Way, interval, false start, What Is And What Should Never Be, Plant mc, Whole Lotta Love, Plant mc, Thank You, Communication Breakdown, John Peel mc
Led Zeppelin’s BBC “In Concert” appearance in 1971 has countless releases going back almost forty years. The most recent releases are the competent BBC Archives (Scorpio LZ-040171), a four disc set with two mixes of the broadcast and The Complete British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Sessions (Empress Valley EVSD-410/411/412/413). Empress Valley attempted to present the definitive BBC set on four discs but their remaster of this show was an unmitigated disaster and is perhaps the worst version on CD.
The cleanest, most centered sonically and enjoyable version is BBC In Concert on Forever Standard Series released in 1999 and it is this version Tarantura most resembles. Page’s guitar is based in the right channel and Plant’s vocals are centered in the middle and it’s extremely clear and enjoyable.
This appearance on the BBC was Zeppelin’s last. It occurred right after their “Return To The Clubs” tour in the spring. It was originally scheduled for March 25th but was pushed back a week due to Plant’s voice giving out. In fact, the tape starts off with Plant offering an apology, “First of all, I better say sorry about last week, but we did about eighteen dates in about six days, no well, about twenty days, and my voice just gave up altogether. So we hope it’s all in condition tonight, but if it’s not, cheer cause you’re on the radio.”
What follows is their current stage show with three songs from the unreleased fourth album, “Black Dog,” “Stairway To Heaven” and “Going To California.” The only thing they didn’t play was John Paul Jones’ organ solo before “Thank You.”
With host John Peel, Zeppelin deliver a very “tight but loose” performance for the radio. There are lots of jokes and comments between songs and a running gag about fifty-two million people in the audience. One of the highlights is an eighteen minute version of “Dazed And Confused” which Plant calls “a fusion of material.”
The radio premier of “Stairway To Heaven” is delayed by equipment problems, “This is another thing off the fourth album. It’s called Stairway to Heaven….The gap is caused by John tuning in his bass pedals, if we can explain that. I’ll take this time for just a quick swill of tea, hang on…I can’t really tell you you, fifty two million of you. It sounds like Bridget the midget, doesn’t it? That’s why I said fifty five million, or fifty two million, or whatever cause there’s a lot of, you know, effort required.”
He brings Peel into the shtick, saying, “Anyway, with the help of John and everybody else, we’re gonna get by I think. Right, he’s got his medallion, and his leather suit I believe.” Peel jokes, “I was really knocked out that so many people came to see me tonight.” Plant jokes, saying, “Rory Gallagher said that they shouldn’t wear spacemen’s suit. There’s an effort not even worth speaking about.” The Gallagher joke is one I’ve never understood.
The two song acoustic set was still a risky feature of the set in 1971. Plant’s comments before the first song are rambling about drinking tea, the leads, and the New York gig the previous September. “What Is And What Should Never Be” is started in the wrong key and ends with laughter and Plant joking, “Mailbag on the Melody Maker would have had a treat. I can imagine it. I bet they’re here now. Joe Public, how do?”
The “Whole Lotta Love” medley includes some of the regular tunes such as “Honey Bee,” “Mess O’Blues” and “Boogie Chillun’.” Zeppelin give a nice surprise with a pristine cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” a song they would sometimes cover. They play two standard encores from this year, “Thank You” (minus the organ intro) and a quick “Communication Breakdown.” For many years this was the best recorded Zeppelin concert in circulation and it remains still one of the best. It is one of the most vivid documents from early 1971, a period that is very obscure. This is much more valuable than the official BBC release because it is complete both musically and with Plant’s comments between songs to the radio audience.
In The Old Refectory (Tarantura TCD-96-1,2)
The Old Refectory, Southampton University, Southampton, England – January 22nd, 1973
Disc 1 (77:41): Introduction, Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused
Disc 2 (77:04): Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Thank You, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown
In The Old Refectoryis the latest incarnation of the January 22nd, 1973 Southampton University gig that surfaced on multitrack in 2007. Previous releases of this tape include The Great Lost Live Album (Nasty Music NM-1973-01/02/03), Live At Southampton University Working Tapes (EVSD-493/494), Any Port In A Storm: The Lost Soundboard Show (Godfather GR223/224) and Tarantura’s prior release of this show Swastika (Tarantura TCD67-1,2). Southampton University 1973 (no label) was released in the spring of 2008 and had the tape speed adjusted, slowing the tape down 1.5% compared to all of the other releases making this one two minutes and ten seconds longer than the others and sounding at the correct pitch.
Tape speed normally isn’t an issue below 5% and the older releases all sounded good. But this little adjustment was a dramatic difference compared to the earlier release. In The Old Refectory follows this release in running at the correct pitch and having the channel drops inherent on the tape smoothed over. It also corrected a mistake in the old label version by including the few seconds after “Dazed And Confused.”
A review of this concert appeared in the Wessex News afterwards in an article titled “LZ Live At Clive’s” written by John Clark. He wrote: “For two days, Southampton was blessed with the presence of the world’s top rock band. On the first, it was the turn of the town, with Led Zeppelin blowing the minds of 2500 fans at the Gaumont. But the next day, our heroes came to the Union, and played to us in the Black Hole of Calcutta, or Old Ref. as it is sometimes known. The Gaumont concert had been pretty tight, but not as good as I would have expected from a band that had been on the road for the past two months. But all my doubts were dispelled the next day. I don’t know if it was the atmosphere, or just being right at the front of the audience, but the Old Ref. concert was just fantastic. There’s no other word for it. They enjoyed it, and we enjoyed it, and that’s what matters.
“As usual, they were a bit slow to warm up – in fact ‘Rock n Roll’, their opening number, was very rough, and the next, ‘The Lady’, a track from LZ 5, wasn’t much better either. ‘Black Dog’ followed, and the audience joined in instantly on the ah-ah-aaah chorus, whereas it took the Gaumont audience a couple of goes to get it right. LZ were beginning to cook. ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ came next, giving John Paul Jones a chance to show us his dexterity on the keyboards. Until ‘Loving You’, Jimmy Page had been churning out the riffs to make his numbers boogie, but on this one he gave us his first solo, very fast one second, and slow the next, getting everything out of each note.
“Just to watch him moving his fingers up and down the fretboard made me very envious – he must have some natural gift. ‘Dancing Days’ and ‘The Song Remains The Same’, the two new numbers were the next, the first, a straight rocker very much in the LZ style, and the second, a longish complex number starting and finishing with some low tempo-melodic guitar playing, and connected with a heavy rocking bit and a superb organ solo from John Paul Jones. The next number Robert Plant dedicated to the manager of the Gaumont – ‘Dazed and Confused’. This, a track from their first album, was used as a showpiece for Page’s long guitar solo. For part of this he used a big bow, and the highlight was when he hit the strings and got the note to echo back to him. When he’d been playing for about 10 minutes, the rest of the band joined in and stretched the number out to about 25 minutes.
“Next was a beam of clear, white light, as Plant called it, ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Plant’s vocals, which had been a bit hidden by page’s guitar before, came through beautifully, the song gradually rising to the peak of that superb rocking ending. That got everybody on their feet, and shouting for every LZ number under the sun. But Plant asked everybody to shut up for a moment, while he told them about his visit to the toilet. On the bog wall, he saw this name – Alan Whitehead – and this next number was dedicated to him. It was ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The band went into a number of old rock and roll tunes, then ‘I Can’t Quit You Babe’, and back to ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for a tremendous climax to the show. A few minutes clapping, and they were back to give us ‘Heartbreaker’, and then ‘Thank You’, featuring John Paul Jones with a long organ intro., and back for a third time.
“Plant said how much they’d enjoyed the gig, and then they proceeded to play ‘How Many More Times’, the first time they’d done it for two and a half years. But youd’ never have known it, it was so tight. Straight into ‘Communications Breakdown’, and then it was all over. See you again, they said, and a very nackered goodnight. This was the only gig they recorded on the whole tour – because they reckon the acoustics of the old Ref are good – and after the show Jimmy Page said there would probably be a live album later this year. Let’s hope so – it’d be a great souvenir of a great show.”
“Rock And Roll” sounds a bit sluggish, but the following song “Over The Hills And Far Away” is very good with an animated solo by Page in the middle. Before “Black Dog” Plant says, “And it’s a good evening. I believe we came here before. I don’t know if it was as warm then. We’re going to have a good time tonight. This is about a Labrador who became rather – rather dodgy with lumbago. The only thing he could do was boogie. He was a black dog. Black Dog!” The “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” pairing follows immediately afterwards. Before “Dancing Days” Plant explains, “This is a bastard actually. This is a track from the new album. It’s a track that was written in the height of last year’s summer on July 6th. It’s a song about school days and little boys that never grow up. It’s called ‘Dancing Days’.” This is usually a great live piece but this version sounds tired with Page playing a bland solo at the song’s conclusion.
“Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” which normally follows “Dancing Days,” is dropped: “we don’t know it to be honest,” Plant explains. “Besides we can’t maneuver about.” The band play another new song, “The Song Remains The Same” instead. The right channel of the stereo flickers at eleven seconds into the track and becomes a bit weak at twenty-two seconds, but improves soon afterwards with another flicker at 2:51. at the end of “The Rain Song” Plant says, “That was John Paul Jones, ably assisted by the Haleigh Orchestra which we managed to press into this small 3 X 26 box.” A power surge can be heard on the tape and there is a short delay while the roadies work on wiring onstage. Page plays a bit of the Tarantella while Plant caution “you can get a shock you know, Cerano.” Plant jokes with the audience about the show the previous evening at the Gaumont Theater before the band play a twenty-eight minute version of “Dazed And Confused.”
The recording preserves the dynamics of the piece and the song is very enjoyable in this show. Plant is out of tempo during the “San Francisco” section and Page takes his time finding his violin bow. Bonham plays the cymbals under Plant’s moans in the interim before the violin bow section begins. The sounds are soft, reminiscent of the Liverpool tape, but also very creepy. “Whole Lotta Love” lasts for a half hour and the medley is typical for this tour with no surprises. There is a small cut on the tape at 19:47. They play the longest set of encores of the tour. “Heartbreaker” is first followed by the John Paul Jones mellotron arrangement of “Thank You,” this is an experiment he first introduced in Nagoya the previous October and played it several times since, but this is the best recording we have of this unusual piece.
At the song’s end Page plays some pretty figures on the guitar before Plant introduces the next number. “This is one of our early tunes and God knows if we can remember it.” They play an eight minute version of “How Many More Times” for the first time in two years which segues directly with the final encore of the night “Communication Breakdown.”
The Valkyrie’s Vigil is the final Led Zeppelin release this year from the Tarantura label. Although there are no new tapes, the mastering of these tapes insures they are as close to definitive as possible. The packaging of the discs, both the individual shows and the entire box, is also one of the prettiest sets produced by the label. It is limited to one hundred fifty numbered copies which sold out on pre-order alone. It is a testament to Tarantura since they still produce some of the rarest and most desirable titles in the world today. This one is close to flawless and is worth hunting down.