Two new Led Zeppelin deluxe editions will be released this Tuesday, and one wonders if they will be worth the cost of admission. It depends on how much you value Led Zeppelin’s music and whether or not the contents will be worth your time and money.
First and foremost, the albums concerned are 1971’s (untitled 4th album) and 1973’s Houses Of The Holy, with one being the band’s biggest selling album and the other being my all-time favorite Led Zeppelin LP. The albums were remastered by Jimmy Page himself, so if you didn’t pick up previous remastered editions or you simply want to hear what this version sounds like, you will enjoy the clarity of the familiar. Of course, what you want to know is the unfamiliar.
Considering what exists for the (untitled 4th album) in bootleg form, it’s a shame that what exists on the 2CD/2LP deluxe editions is underwhelming, at least to me. It’s primarily alternate mixes, and what you get to hear is an alternate version of the same album in the exact order. Nothing wrong with that, so you’ll hear the Sunset Sound Mix of “Stairway To Heaven”, which was said to have been made when Page was not satisfied with the mixes done in London, or that he simply wanted a different audio perspective of what was created elsewhere. There’s also an Alternate UK Mix of “When The Levee Breaks” and a version of “Black Dog” described as “Basic Track With Guitar Overdubs”. As for the alternate mixes, are they thrilling? To be honest, not really. There may be a portion that is instrumental in nature, or a track that is pushed around differently, but it’s not exactly a different take or an outtake. It’s interesting upon first listen, but more on the curiosity side to wonder what the differences are. It would’ve been nice to have heard a different take of “When The Levee Breaks” at its proper speed, as the studio version was slowed down to give it the sound we are familiar with.
The deluxe of Houses Of The Holy is what I wanted to hear but once again, I left wondering “is this all that they’re giving me?” Hearing “The Rain Song” without the piano track may be nice, but not much. Hearing the backing guitar track of “Over The Hills And Far Away” is nice too, but not much. Hearing John Paul Jones’ keyboards pushed up into the mix for “The Crunge” is decent, but not by much. Hearing a working mix of “The Ocean” is interesting, but again, while hearing different mixes is more than welcome, you can’t tell me that this is what was decided to release. There had to be songs with completely different mixes. How about songs recorded during these sessions but were not released on there? We know that some trackss done for Houses Of The Holy ended up being saved for Physical Graffiti, would it have hurt to put two to three of those songs? No demos for “D’yer Mak’er”?
It seems that you’ll be paying big money for the packaging and design, but how about those who really listen to the music? Led Zeppelin are one of the most bootlegged bands in rock’n’roll and it seems if you really want the raw guts of these albums, you’ll have to find the outtake albums in varying levels of sound quality. In other words, the alternate versions of these albums are decent the first time but whether or not they will have repeated value remains to be seen, especially when we know there are other things that remain unheard.