August 26

“What is your favorite (song/record/etc.) from (artist)?”

It’s a familiar ice breaker when people get together. But it’s such a hard question to answer!

It depends, right? I mean, depending on the mood, or time of day, or whatever… the answer can change. But sometimes an unwavering answer burbles up to the top.

It may be an obvious choice. Or it may be unorthodox, shunning convention… peers and critics be damned!

So, here is my full throated defense of my favorite Led Zeppelin record.

Presence from 1976.

I love this record! Don’t get me wrong, I love all the LZ records, but if there is one that I constantly find myself craving to listen to, it’s Presence.

First off, it’s a guitar record. Jimmy Page’s playing is fantastic! A cut above his other work. There is some kind of urgency to it… almost like a live in the studio kind of feel. This record shows Page asserting himself as the rightful leader of the world’s biggest band.

Second, it’s a straight-up rock record. There isn’t an acoustic guitar, keyboard or crap Tolkien reference in sight. This is LZ’s heaviest record, with three stripped down rockers fighting back against four howling, dark, anthems.

Third, Robert Plant’s vocals, a bit weak due to a post-accident convalescence and at least (as legend has it) partially confined to a wheelchair, manage to have a commanding… well, presence! He’s the Golden God of rock, he knows it, but he’s come perilously close to the edge. He wants to get on with it already!

Finally, it just sounds like the boys are having fun! Write a few songs, rehearse a bit and then play the shit out of the things… roll tape! It doesn’t feel over produced of over texturized like some of their stuff can be.

For Father’s Day this year, the cat ordered me the Super Deluxe Edition Box Set of this album.

The box includes the remastered album on CD, on 180-gram vinyl (plus companion), high-def audio download card of all content at 96kHz/24 bit, Hard bound, 70 page picture book and a numbered print of the original album cover.

This thing is absolutely gorgeous and it just reinforces my opinion of this record.

June 5

Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy – Deluxe Edition Vinyl:

Still great package with a LZ promo photo in front of The Starship, the infamous flying party barge used by many touring acts in the 70s.

Again, the companion disc tracks the original record nearly song for song, omitting only D’yer Mak’er. The trend of presenting 80%-90% finished tracks with minor differences or minus vocals continues.

The Song Remains The Same was basically the original version including all the guitar overdubs, many of which were deleted from the the final.

Again, hearing the many layers of overdubs and instrumentation without the distraction of vocals and lyrics was very interesting… especially on No Quarter. All the small details, the keyboards, the distant echo electronics, the things I take for granted while listening to this song on the original LP are brought into focus.

So, that’s it… my week of Led Zeppelin out-takes and backing tracks, live recordings and never before heard material. Was it worth it?

Leaving out the original LP remasters… which Jimmy Page promised easily trump the sound of the original albums and previous CD masters… is it worth the extra $72.93 for the packaging and the companion discs?

Yes and no.

The additional photos were a plus. The live recording included with LZ I is a nice novelty that may come out again if another LZ fan requests it. The LZ III Jennings Farm Blues and Keys To The Highway/Trouble In Mind make that particular disc worth the extra expense…

But, if Page was trying to emulate what the Beatles did with Anthology, he fell a bit short. I would have preferred to have less polished studio out-takes, more band banter, maybe some general jamming… guitar tuning… a few clams thrown in for a laugh.

The remasters of the original albums do sound great, especially when compared to the beat up, scuffed and scratchy copies I had in The Collection. The companion discs sound great too, but I don’t think there is enough new, enough interesting, enough red meat, to justify the added expense.

If I had it to do over again, I think I’d go bigger. I think I’d go for the Super Deluxe Edition Box Set(s). Those five would have set me back $566 (instead of the $182.36) but come with the CDs, HD downloads, individually numbered album cover art, replica press kit and a 50+ page booklet. I still kick myself that I didn’t buy the MoFi Beatles box when it came out… will I feel the same about this in another 30 years?

June 4

So, here I am, back to the beginning, Led Zeppelin – IV Deluxe Edition Remastered Vinyl:

This was the first LZ album I ever owned. I’m sure I heard some of these songs before… but I didn’t know the songs. Before I ever owned a LZ album I learned how to play the intro to Stairway to Heaven on the guitar (pre Wayne’s World prohibition…):

So, this album has been with me for a long time. The Deluxe Edition Remastered Vinyl picks up the packaging promo photos and live concert photo again:

The companion disc’s eight songs mimic the tracking of the original album… eight alternate mixes or backing tracks.

I have to say, after the revelations on III, this companion disc was a bit of a let down. Page has slipped into a routine of slow song = backing track and heavy song = alternate mix. I actually listened to this companion disc twice, once actively, trying to pick out changes, and once passively; while actively listening I could hear differences with the originals… different overdubs or intros/outros, etc. But, while listing passively, I couldn’t really tell! Some tracks I missed the Plant vocals, but there was no revelation or epiphany.

Once again, I’m glad I listened to this companion disc, but I doubt it will see much turntable action in the future.

June 3

Led Zeppelin – III Deluxe Edition Remastered Vinyl:

This is the first of these remastered albums that didn’t include any promo photos or live concert photos… which was a bit of a surprise. I does have a working whizzy wheel in the front cover though!

The companion disc for Led Zeppelin – III had received some good online reviews. It follows the layout of the original album very closely, with only Tangerine omitted. The first three tracks, The Immigrant Song (Alternate Mix), Friends (Track – No Vocal) and Celebration Day (Alternate Mix) were what was expected after experiencing the previous companion disc from LZ II… 80% to 90% similar to the originals. Then it got interesting!

The companion version of Since I’ve Been Loving You is listed as a “rough mix of first recording”. This is what I had been expecting from the other companions! This track really sounded like a band working up the presentation of a new song rather than putting a polish on a nearly finished track. This felt like a window on the creative process that I had been promised…

The next track, Bathroom Mix, eventually became Out On The Tiles. Page described it this way “That sounds like a really horny, beefy instrumental. To revisit it like that is like, ‘Oh! Wow!’ It’s powerful stuff.” I agree!

Side 2 begins with “rough” mixes of Gallows Pole and That’s the Way and ends with the best companion stuff so far…

Jennings Farm Blues, which eventually became Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, is a compilation of all the guitar overdubs recorded for the LZ III record. It is a great nearly 6 minute treat for Jimmy Page fans.

The final track is called Key To The Highway / Trouble In Mind, and was used to create Hats Off to (Roy) Harper. In this first ever release version, it’s just Page playing country blues and slide on an acoustic guitar and Plant playing harmonica on a heavily vibrato-ed amp. Plant’s singing the Big Bill Broonzy and Richard M. Jones tunes takes on a spooky and ethereal quality through this mic/amp combo.

These two final tracks are worth the extra cost for the companion record!

June 2

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!

June 1

Led Zeppelin – I Deluxe Edition Remastered Vinyl.

The companion disc for this record is a bit of an odd duck, which makes it a horrible place to start. Most of these deluxe edition companion discs are made up of studio outtakes or alternate versions. For Led Zeppelin – I, Jimmy Page told Mojo:

“There simply wasn’t enough studio material to make that work… The material that was left over from the first album is already out. It’s just fragments really, which you couldn’t really put out. There wasn’t really even enough to pull something together for Record Store Day, so it made sense to look for something else from around that time.”

Instead, the companion disc is a two LP version of a live show from the Paris Olympia in October of 1969. This recording was originally recorded for French radio and was broadcast in November of 1969.

So, how is it and is it worth the $20 I shelled out for it?

Like many live recordings (those without a post-recording studio whitewash, anyway) this recording is rough in spots, with a few brilliant moments elsewhere. The concert opener Good Times Bad Times/Communication Breakdown was a typical opening song… meant to get the crown going while the band is getting it’s sea legs for the rest of the show.

The gems are notable more for their extended jams than their sound quality, a 15 minute version of Dazed and Confused and a 12 minute version of You Shook Me (with some very suggestive groans and grunts from Robert Plant) were show stoppers. An early version of Heartbreaker was a welcome treat.

The deluxe packaging includes some band promo photos and an interesting photo taken from a great balcony seat at the 1969 concert:

Could you imagine having that seat for a LZ show?

I’m glad to have the companion disc, although, due to the recording quality, I doubt it’ll get much play on my turntable.

here’s an interesting aside for you. Ten months before this Paris show, a little known band, billed as Len Zefflin, was set to open for the band Vanilla Fudge at Spokane’s Gonzaga University. This was three weeks before Led Zeppelin I was released and only those “in the know” had any idea who this band was or would be.

This was the 5th U.S. concert by the band and some industrious kid snuck a cassette recorder into the show… this turns out to be the earliest ever recording of Led Zeppelin!

Here’s a YouTube of that 1968 recording:

May 31

One of my goals for this 365 Days of Vinyl was to trade in enough of my old, unwanted, records for store credit towards the newly re-issued Led Zeppelin LPs that started coming out last year. I am now halfway there!


I recently ordered the first five Led Zeppelin re-issues from my local record store Groove Merchants. The cost delivered came in at $180 and I had amassed just over $200 in store credit since January first…

I opted for the Deluxe Edition Remastered versions on 180 gram vinyl. These releases include the original version of the album and a companion record of outtakes, alternate versions and the like.

According to Jimmy Page, the new remasters were created from 192 kHz/24 bit digital transfers of the original analogue tapes. Page stated in an interview on Sirius/XM radio that this remastering can now take advantage of significant advances in technology that have occurred since the last remastering took place in 1991. This technology allows him to create a distinct version of each album for each format available, vinyl, CD, hi-def download or MP3.

To make it over the top on my store credit account I took all of my scratchy but playable (we’ll just call them well loved) copies of Led Zeppelin vinyl… all nine studio albums and The Song Remains The Same soundtrack… as a trade in.

I love Led Zeppelin, but I came late to the party. I didn’t get my first LZ album until 1985… a bargain bin copy of IV on cassette. Since then I managed to collect all of their records. Some were thrift store/yard sale finds, a couple were given to me by a co-worker in the mid 90s, and I did by all the studio albums on CD when they first came out.

I won’t try to give you a critical review of the original albums here, except to say that they sound fantastic! What I thought I’d do is focus on the so called “companion disc” to see if those are worth the extra ~$20 over and above the price of the single record version.

It’s going to be a good week!