The great guitarist and rock legend Jimmy Page, has been quite vocal recently with his desire to return to the studio and indeed tour once again. Judging from front man Robert Plant’s continual rejection of such a notion and he himself busy on tour, it looks like the prospect of a full scale Led Zeppelin reunion is clearly ruled out. In the meantime, Jimmy Page has been keeping himself busy by meticulously re-mastering the Led Zeppelin back catalogue and offering bonus material comprising of alternate musical arrangements of each album. Led Zeppelin IV & Houses of The Holy, Deluxe Editions were released 27th October. Each Deluxe Edition of albums, I, II, & III have been hugely enjoyable, with some interesting and alternate mixes. I would recommend checking them out. I wanted to go into more detail with Led Zeppelin IV. It is without a doubt one of my desert island disc choices, in my top five favourite albums, and I have never tired of it after years of continual play.
I was more interested to see what the bonus material and alternate mixes would entail.
The alternative mix of each of the eight tracks made for a pleasant and positive listening experience. What struck me most was its stripped back and raw approach of familiar tracks, offered officially for the first time by Jimmy Page. “Black Dog” was certainly back to basics with guitar overdubs, whilst “Rock and Roll” had a somewhat grungier garage style, not as finely polished as the original.
“The Battle of Evermore” and “Going to California” were the two personal highlights offered as instrumental versions, of incendiary guitar and mandolin playing. It is two compositions where you can really appreciate John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page’s musical arrangements. These are two tracks that I have always felt showed Led Zeppelin’s softer, smooth style, that fits in so perfectly side by side with heavier songs. In contrast to this, John Bonham demonstrates in both “Four Sticks” and “When the Levee Breaks” , his infamous and booming ability as an accomplished drummer which are the backbone to both songs. Again I found these to be raw mixes which are not too dissimilar to the originals, and hey why would they be? On “Misty Mountain Hop”, I honestly did not notice much difference at all, perhaps a heavier drum beat and slight varation on Plant’s singing.
Finally the masterpiece, “Stairway to Heaven” is one of the most famous songs of all time, apparently the most played song ever on radio. Robert Plant’s voice is the clear winner on this alternate sunset mix. The best way to describe it to you, is that it sounds as though Led Zeppelin had set up in a huge Cathedral and the almost echo sound quality of Plant’s voice was captured as it sneaked into a huge space. The great guitar solo as the song reaches it climax has some extra guitar thrown in by Jimmy and Bonham’s beats also sound clearer on this version. I really enjoyed this alternative mix, and being able to appreciate each instruments contribution to the overall composition.
I think it’s fair to say, that I might be a little biased when it comes to Led Zeppelin. I’ve grown up with them and their back catalogue. I still feel as strongly and as passionately as I did when I first discovered them all those years ago. The new Deluxe Edition is thoroughly enjoyable and it has been an interesting experience, being able to hear what these songs could well have sounded like. If you a big Led Zeppelin fan, I would definitely recommend checking out the new offerings. However if you are a novice when it comes to them, Led Zeppelin IV is the place to start, whether its 1971’s or 2014’s version, I don’t think anyone could be disappointed.
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