Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Deluxe Editions Playback

As noted in the previous post, I attended a playback of bonus tracks from the upcoming remasters of Led Zeppelin's Presence, In Through The Out Door and Coda. Here's the evenings playback:

  1. Friends (with the Bombay Orchestra)
  2. In the Evening (Rough Mix)
  3. Desire (Wanton Song Rough Mix)
  4. Sugar Mama 
  5. Poor Tom (Instrumental Mix)
  6. 10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod)
  7. Fool in the Rain (Rough Mix)
  8. Bonzo's Montreux (Alternate Version)
  9. Two Ones are Won (Achilles Last Stand Reference Mix)
  10. If It Keeps on Raining (When the Levee Breaks Rough Mix)
The sound system used was top notch. Two of the tracks played, In the Evening (Rough Mix) and Sugar Mama, have been pre-released, so a reasonable estimation of how good the system was compared to my home listening (which tends to be iPod) was possible. My home system failed such a comparison. It's worth noting that the separation of instruments so integral to the impressiveness of, for instance, Friends was also quite obvious in Sugar Mama, so your mileage on some of my comments may vary.

That said, overall, I was super impressed with this collection of bonus tracks. The Bombay Session Friends, familiar enough to bootleg collectors, sounded incredible and Two Ones are Won and If It Keeps on Raining will blow you away, especially the latter.

Here's my thoughts on the selections:

1. Friends (Bombay Orchestra) - from Coda:  What a start to the listening session. Jimmy explained later about visiting Bombay with Robert. They performed this song and they loved the percussionists so much, Jimmy had to have them try Four Sticks, which is also included. The sound is so good, the percussion in the right channel is so clear. 

In the after-talk, Jimmy also explained he wrote this at his Boathouse in Pangbourne, after a "row" with the woman he was with at the time. He went on the deck overlooking the Thames and when he was done, he had it complete. He knew even then he wanted an Indian flavour to it. 

2. In the Evening (Rough Mix) - From In Through the Out Door. This has already been released and you can hear it yourself somewhere out there. It's worth noting it has much less effects on it, and the gizmotron intro is cut way back (and yes, I learnt Jimmy used a gizmotron on the intro last night). But the song excels as a more straight forward rock number, and the band seems to loosen up in the chorus making a fun version of the song. I like this one a lot, and it was great to hear it in full audiophile sound.

3. Desire (The Wanton Song - Rough Mix) -  from Coda: This is a more keyboard version of Wanton Song, with the keys higher/guitar lower in the mix. Things are also much different at the break with some missing guitar overdubs.

4. Sugar Mama (Mix) - Coda: Again, this has been released for over a month now. Hardly new, but I used it as an opportunity to baseline the audio system they were using. It was excellent, and so was Sugar Mama.

5. Poor Tom (Instrumental Mix) - Coda: If your a drummer wanting to learn a shuffle, Bonham is putting on a clinic on Poor Tom, and it shines through on this version sans vocals.

6. 10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod) - Presence: It turns out they did bring the piano/keyboards with them to Munich for the 1975 Presence sessions. This is a keyboard piece all over. It starts like a ballad, and I wondered if the descending chords of the first couple of minutes were a foreshadowing of All My Love: more knowledgable keyboard players than I will have to figure that out, but it was what struck me. The song picked up with the introduction of guitar and drums, and the piano changed to an ascending pattern. Definitely the band were trying something, and it could have been interesting had they followed through.

7. Fool in the Rain (Rough Mix) - In Through the Out Door: The guitar is up in the mix, the piano down, but Bonham's drop dead shuffle is still what shines. With the guitar up this is a bit more rocky and while in no way an improvement over the original, fans of the song (the author raises his had here) will enjoy this mix.

8. Bonzo's Montreux (Mix Construction in Progress) - Coda: In the Q&A after, Jimmy explains he ran one of Bonham's drum channels through a harmonizer, and it made them sound like steel drums. Bonham apparently loved it, "now people will think I can play steel drums," Page quoted Bonham as saying. In this mix, he has lowered the harmonizer affect, and it is a noticeable change. I think I prefer this.

9. Two Ones Are Won - Presence: The session ends with a bit of a bang. Two Ones are Won is a reference mix of Achilles Last Stand. As far as I could tell, some guitar overdubs weren't done yet, but this rocks as only Achilles Last Stand can. It's hard to describe how good this sounded on the sound system they had set up, but if you ever get a chance...

10. If It Keeps On Raining (When The Levee Breaks - Rough Mix) - Coda: Of all the remixes, alternate mixes &tc. we've had the last two years, this is the one you've been waiting for. Quicker and leaner, there's two opposing thoughts I had listening to this: I would have liked this song then so much more if it had been this version, and this version would never be the classic that When the Levee Breaks became. The big drum sound is gone as, by the sounds of it, is the 12-string guitar.

The audio presentation was augmented by a video, based on a reel-to-reel player that showed pictures, concert posters and assorted paraphernalia from the representative eras. It was nice to watch while not so absorbing you forgot about the music. A nice touch really.

Also of note, some mistakes on the track cards handed out to us. Note on the above pictures Pod is listed as being from In Through the Out Door instead of Presence and Fool in the Rain from Coda instead of In Through the Out For.

But that's a quibble, and it was an excellent night. Many thanks to Warner Brothers Canada for giving me the opportunity to sit within' five-feet of Jimmy Page and to hear some amazing music.

The Remastered Editions, including the Deluxe Editions reviewed here of Presence, In Through The Out Door and Coda will be released worldwide on July 31st.

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1 comment:

Lif Strand said...

Thank you for your excellent report!