Led Zeppelin II – Deluxe Edition Vinyl:
Once again, the packaging is superb; a tri-fold sleeve with original art plus bonus promo photos and a live concert photo:
The companion disc for Led Zeppelin II gets into what Jimmy Page was intending… “Work in progress, rough mixes, backing tracks and alternate versions”. For this record the rough mixes and backing tracks were dominant. I’ll hit a few of the highlights here…
The companion disc starts in sequence with the original album: Whole Lotta Love. This version is referred to as a “rough mix with vocal”. Honestly, the rough mix on most of these tracks seems to be about 80% or 90% of what ended up on the record. Overdubbed guitar, layered keyboards and backing percussion was mostly intact. But, there are enough differences to make things interesting.
For Whole Lotta Love, the Robert Plant vocal was almost totally different. There were certain parts that you could tell made the final mix and many other parts that were cut. The real difference here was the trippy echo/delay string scratchy headphone headtrip Page solo that is featured so prominently on the original is presented as a halting, stilted experiment here… work in progress for sure!
Thank You was the first backing track presented. It sounded just like the original version, just without Plant. Once I grasped the concept it was really interesting to experience all the beautiful layers in this tune without fixating on Plant’s vocal and lyric.
The standout for me was the backing track for Moby Dick. Imagine being in the studio for this one… the intro right out of the original version, a pause… someone counts off “1,2,3,4!” and BOOM, right into the outro! No Bonzo drum solo! This was an interesting window into the process of recording this music and I loved it!
Ramble On was devoid of most of the lead guitar parts but really showcased the acoustic strumming present throughout the song. It made me want to dust off the old Guild and give it a try.
Finally, the only unreleased (?) outtake, an all instrumental tune called La La.
So, that’s it, my first proper companion disc. Once again, will I ever replay it? Probably not… with the original album stored in the same gatefold I’d most likely turn there. Maybe if I had the digital download version these would be nice to shuffle through.
From a May 2014 article in Mojo, Page summed up his intention this way;
“I had the idea of doing something very close to this a while ago, but no one could understand the concept… They couldn’t take it on board – the management couldn’t anyway. I wanted to show an alternative version of the songs. What was a bit peeving was that then [The Beatles] Anthology came out.”
So, the seed of this project has been germinating in Jimmy’s head since the mid 1990s. I for one am glad it took root and bore fruit during my 365 Days of Vinyl!