November 16, 2008

The Greatest Rock & Roll of All Time

Only in recent years have I discovered the recorded legend of Led Zeppelin. Of course I've heard the biggest classics here & there over the decades- who doesn't know Stairway To Heaven or Whole Lotta Love? But during my teen years when other white kids my age were air guitaring to classic rock radio and their older brothers records, I was mostly dancing to disco and then shaking my rump to the funk on urban station WVKO, where the sounds of Prince, Michael Jackson, Rick James, and Cameo held my attention throughout the 80's. A short spell of alternative in the late 80's/early 90's (the Cure, Nitzer Ebb, Frontline Assembly, Sisters of Mercy, Love And Rockets), giving way to a more adult contemporary 90's with Etheridge, Chris Isaak, Indigo Girls

Than came the Napster freebies, and I didn't have to focus on what I liked MOST, I could instead try some of EVERYTHING! That included going backwards to what I missed but everyone else loved, like some of the 70's rock & roll greats. I was downloading some of Zep's bigger classics, when I found their entire studio recordings bundled in one file- ripped at the highest bit rate from the newly remastered & released Complete Studio Recordings 10 CD box. Once I cracked it open a couple years later, it was overwhelming. I made two 25 track mp3 CDRs: ballad/softer type stuff, and an overall best of. Two of my favorite CDs for the next few years. This year, I scored my own copy of the real box set for $17 (free ship)- a pricing error during a 70% off sale at BMG Music club, where the site mistakenly included very deep discounts on box sets. I bought a crazy amount of sets!

My 25 song compilation isn't much different from the 24 tracks the band chose [to remaster once again] for this set. I've read that this set is probably digitally mastered from a digital source (possibly the '03 remasters?), no one seems to know for sure. I've compared tracks back to back with the songs from the '03 box set, and I prefer this master. While it is more harsh and louder, their is more separation of instruments, better definition of notes- especially bass notes, and a wider sound scape. These recordings jump out at you. Complaints about the sound that I've read, come from those who owned the original pressings in the 70's, and are still playing them. Sure there are thousands of them around for sale, but finding a clean copy without groove damage from those old console stereos with nickels stacked on the needle are far and few between. Having missed that era, this set sounds AMAZING. I'm not sure if the vinyl version sounds better than the CD- if sourced from digital, how could it? But the packaging and playing experience is FAR sweeter!

Featuring recycled artwork by Shepard Fairey (under the bands direction, don't blame him for being unoriginal here), the over-sized box is black with high gloss red accents, the back is a paper 'flier' over a black back with just the Zep logo in a red circle. I cut the track list flier to fit inside the box (with stickers of course). Inside you'll find a sheet of bubble wrap, a nice full-sized booklet, the 4 black & red jackets, and then the records in poly lined white paper sleeves (packed separately so not to split the jackets) all under a black ribbon 'lift' to get them out easily. The back of each album jacket contains that records track list. The labels match the jackets- each disc contains a member in red on one side, track list for both sides on the other. It's all very sturdy, very nicely done. I bought mine locally to ensure no damage during shipping.

See the making of this and Song Remains The Same LP sets here:

The records play very quietly, no static or surface noise. One of the four discs in my set has a slight lift to one side, barely enough to call it a warp. This is my favorite vinyl so far. I also plan to get the Song Remains The Same 4 LP box companion to this.

Currently being released, is a new more complete CD box set, that does include Song Remains The Same, housed in mini Japan "LP" jackets with original art, even including 5 alternate extra covers. It's unclear yet if these are previous remasters or all newly done. Whatever the source, I hope an LP catalog release is in the near future for both a new generation of vinyl collectors, as well as those of us just returning.


Jonathan said...

Speaking of WVKO, check out Used Kids Records (who advertise there) on High St. I believe they still have some vinyl.

(I'm Dave in Gahanna, "borrowing" my friend's account to post.)

HiRize said...

hey thanks Dave!
Have been to Used Kids now a couple times. Last time there, I thought the old guy in the back corner was gonna hack a lung up as he tried going through some records. That dude needs to stop smoking! Good new vinyl selection, used bins are just ok. the $1 bins are packed too tight with too much yuck to bother flipping through. anything good in there has been cover-crunched. Prefer Singing Dog by a mile.