Led Zeppelin – Vienna 1973 New 4 Source Matrix (No Label)

Vienna 1973 New 4 Source Matrix (No Label)

Stadhalle, Vienna, Austria – March 16, 1973

Disc 1 (57:45) Introduction, Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2 (74:57) MC, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker

Led Zeppelin’s second European tour in the spring of 1973 is famous for being one of the most consistent in terms of performance, the live recordings from this tour confirm this statement. 1973 was a zenith for Led Zeppelin, four and a half years of constant recording and touring had transformed the band into a force to be reckoned with. The many tapes that exist from the tour, ranging from average to excellent are cornerstones to most enthusiasts’ collections. The Vienna concert early in the tour has been popular since the days of vinyl when two of the best audience recordings were pressed on vinyl as Wrench In The Works (Screaming Oiseau 7502 A-D), Lead Poisoning (RW 2 A-B), Vienna Volume 2 (Gell), and Whole Lotta Rock (RW 2A-2B).

Through the years the interest in the concert has not diminished, in fact it has only grown thanks to the two existing sources, but also others that have appeared. There are a total of five known audience recordings and a soundboard recording as well, in varying degrees of completeness. This has made it an easy release for Bootleggers, the incomplete soundboard has appeared on compact disc under the titles Zig Zag Zep (Tarantura T3CD-013-1,2), A Soundboard Platter (Scorpio LZ-07005-1/2/3/4), Lead Poisoning (Flying Disc CD 6-822), and most recently on Led Poisoning (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-026A/B/C/D/E/F). Various source mixes have been the most popular, Vienna 1973 (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol. 48 489701/2), Remains Of The Holy (Cashmere CSCD-007/8), Night At The Opera (Electric Magic EMC-015A/B), Happiness Is A Warm Gun (Empress Valley EVSD 448/9), Lead Poisoning (Cobra 008), Wrench In The Works (Cobra 034), Matrix Leded (Tarantura TCD-29), A Night At The Opera (Tarantura TCD-200-1,2), Wrech In The Works (WECD-205/206), A Very Nice Night (Eat A Peach EAT 192/193), Vienna 1973 (No Label), and Led Poisoning (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-026A/B/C/D/E/F).

Perhaps the final word on Vienna 1973 comes from a wonderful fan made project and is the subject of this release from the No Label. The project is a synchronization and matrix of three audience sources and the soundboard done by Nite Owl, the sound wizard whose work on the Zeppelin 4/27/69, 8/31/69, 9/4/70 and Rolling Stones 11/9/69 concerts have been praised for exceptional quality and sound. Like my reviews of these previous releases I like to give a bit of background information of the sources used:

AUD source #1: The master was reportedly a TDK SA 90 cassette, which matches the 45 + 45 minutes which are extant and captured tracks 2-8 & 12 and parts of 1, 9, 11, 13. Winston Remaster used for the first part (which is unmatrixed on that version). Best of the audience recordings overall, recorded close to the stage towards one side. The guitar is somewhat buried here.

AUD source #2: A lower/medium quality cassette recording at a greater distance to the stage, used only to patch missing AUD sections of tracks 1 & 9-11 (and the encore break before 14).

AUD source #3: Captured most of the concert except for the introduction and notably two gaps in DAC. The master reported to have been recorded with Sony mics to Uher Report reel-to-reel. Close to the quality of AUD.1 but with a different sound balance (guitar is prominent, vocals somewhat buried) and recorded towards the other side of the stage. Matrixing with AUD.1 thus allows reproducing the occasional stereo panning effects of the house mix (which are not present on the SBD): guitar break in Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, bow solo in DAC, Theremin in WLL.

SBD source: Apparently a 60 minute cassette which contains most of tracks 11-14. However, several minutes of 11/DAC & 13/WLL are missing, as the tape was not flipped immediately when the side or reel A ran out. There was probably another cassette on which the first hour of the concert was recorded (or copied), including the beginning of DAC, with the engineer likely missing some two minutes of the song between the cassettes, after the first one stopped and until recording resumed on a fresh tape. The reason why only the second cassette is available (for this and also certain other dates) is perhaps that someone in or with the band wanted a listening copy of just the songs with improvisation. The mix that was recorded is not exactly the same as what was played over the PA, as some of the delay/reverb effects (particularly on the vocals), as well as the panning, heard on the audience recordings are not present.

The mix of these sources is perfect and provides the best qualities of each recording into one of near perfect quality. There is a depth and ambiance not found on a singular recording, the gentle mastering of the sources is superb and this concert has never sounded better. If one was to gauge all of the aforementioned releases of this concert, this matrix is the best sounding version of the concert, one that demands being played at loud volumes as that is where it shines. The frequency range is perfect, clear and crisp highs with a great bottom end, if there is one knock is that inherent boominess found in the audience sources. On the first CD the effect of the matrix from the excellent audience sources provides near soundboard quality and unparalleled sound for the recordings. The addition of the audience sources with the soundboard breathes new life into the board tape and also helps even out the balance and sound as well as adds a bit of ambiance, You get the picture, now all that is left to do is just listen and enjoy.

Many of the European concerts found the band playing to crowds that seemed indifferent to the performance, the band would find themselves playing for themselves, creating an internal hysteria marked in sheer brilliance of synergy between the three instrumentalist. In his review of the Matrix Leded title, Gerard says the concert is merely average and does not subscribe to its hype. I am more forgiving, sure Page’s fingers do get caught in strings from time to time, his playing for the most part is fluent and inspired coupled with the synergy between Jones and Bonham lead to incredible results. It also speaks to the quality of the performances the band was giving. At an extremely high level, playing like this would never be truly heard again.

The audience is quiet and the band which certainly lends to the “average” vibe, but the band does not take notice. The opening of Rock And Roll gets the concert going in proper fashion, Since I’ve Been Loving You features a superb solo from Jimmy, building to the blistering versions that would be perfected on the North American assault. The heavy section of The Rain Song is very powerful and devastates the listener. I found Robert’s groupie comments interesting, he expands on it by saying “look what happened to Jerry Lee Lewis”, comments that he could not say in America.

The meat of the concert is on the second disc, Dazed And Confused is perfection, clocking in at close to thirty minutes, having Page’s guitar up in front gives it a very heavy feel, the bass distorts just a bit lending to the mystery. Plant’s ode to San Francisco is nicely fleshed out and the audience appreciates Page’s use of violin bow, the applause rumbles from the bowels of the venue. The fast segment is simply perfection, towards the end the rhythm section rumbles behind Page as he works his Wah pedal like a cheap…you get the picture. Stunning version. Whole Lotta Love is fantastic, the band chug about while Page fiddles with his theremin, then wham into the famous guitar break and the oldies section, the band sets a fast tempo, Page’s leads during the boogie section are an incredible showcase of speed and fluency.

This concert was reviewed by Dave Hopkins for Melody Maker who described the event “The historic city of Vienna, normally bulging at the seams with Strauss waltzes and grand operas played host on Friday night to Led Zeppelin at the enormous Wiener Stadthalle. Robert Plant strode around with chest bared and hair flailing, thrusting his pelvic girdle at the audience, while Jimmy Page, wearing his Les Paul low slung, crashed out well amplified chords. John Bonham hammered the skins for all he was worth, and John Paul Jones provided some superb orchestral effects on the mellotron.” From what I deduce from this recording, a spot on assessment.

The packaging is full color inserts with live shots from, I believe, the actual concert. Pictures on the CDs, numbered sticker, yes it’s all here in a slim line jewel case. Again full marks go to Nite Owl for another amazing matrix and perhaps the definitive word for the Vienna 1973 performance.    

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