Led Zeppelin Returns with Remastered Albums
Led Zeppelin has always had a dramatic and mystical hold on popular culture. They were a seminal part of the development of rock music and have influenced generations of musicians, and continue to do so even thirty years after their breakup. Very few groups have had the ability to produce, perform, and create in the manner they did during their illustrious eleven-year career. Over the summer, Jimmy Page, the guitarist for the band, rereleased their first three albums as deluxe editions, including in the package a remastered edition of each album along with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material. Page himself called this an “extensive reissue program” where he plans on going through the band’s nine-album oeuvre over the next year or so.
This move has excited fans that have been yearning to probe the band with greater depth. Each album will also be released on vinyl and a “super deluxe” edition will also be released that contains a replica of the original vinyl LP and a hardcover book discussing the production of each album.
A huge element of Zeppelin’s mystique has always been due to the fact that they haven’t released much material outside of their studio albums. Adding to this, there have been a few mildly successful bootleg copies of unreleased and studio material and live performances, but they don’t even compare to the popularity of their official studio albums. Up until 1997, the only live material they released was a concert documentary entitled The Song Remains the Same, which was accompanied by a soundtrack of the same name.
Similarly, Zeppelin has been notorious for holding onto the rights to their songs. Despite the popularity of their music, it has not been heavily featured in film or television. One of the most notable exceptions to this, however, includes Jack Black blasting “Immigrant Song” as he speeds away from the Battle of the Bands audition in “School of Rock” (2003) – which was truly exciting due to the fact that a song as popular as that has never been featured in film in that manner.
Page’s intention of remastering each album and adding an extra disc of bonus material is a joyous boon to many Zeppelin fans.
The reissue of their first album Led Zeppelin (1969) isn’t nearly as monumental as one would hope, but it does come with some previously unreleased recordings from early in the band’s history. Recorded on October 10, 1969 at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, this live set is truly a unique look at the band as they toured around Europe before becoming popular in the States.
The second album Led Zeppelin II, released just nine months after their first album and recorded while they were on tour, features a bonus disc that reflects the chaos and inspiration generated during that hectic period. Most of the songs on the bonus disc are rough mixes or backing tracks of some of their classic hits such as “Whole Lotta Love”, “Heartbreaker”, and “Ramble On”. Even more dramatic is “La La”, a previously unknown outro to the album that provides a great look into the creative process of the band and the direction the album could have possibly taken.
Finally, the third album Led Zeppelin III (1970) features bonus material along a similar line as the second album. The bonus disc contains backing tracks to most of the songs on the album, as well as two new songs: “Jenning’s Farm Blues” and “Key to the Highway – Trouble in Mind”. Both songs do not have the same sort of acoustic-folk sound as the rest of the album; the first is a heavier sounding jam that is sort of reminiscent of “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” and the second is a blues that sounds like it could have come from the American South in the 1930’s.
The greatest song off the newly released albums, however, is the alternative mix to “Immigrant Song” – one of their earliest hits and definitely one of their more memorable tracks. The mix has a lot stronger reverb on the guitar that permeates the song. Listening to it and then listening to the original is a lot like looking at two pictures where only one element has changed – they sound very similar yet are wildly different. The alternative mix has a heavier sound that is a lot more experimental and dissimilar to a lot of the other songs on the album, whereas the original straddles a line between hard hitting rock and the folk sound that the album tried to hit on.
This song really hits on the purpose of the reissue. Listening to the rougher sounding mixes of these songs captures something that the studio albums could never be able to. By no means does it encompass the full creative process of each album, but it does help contextualize the music, which ultimately provides a greater appreciation for what is already out there.
My recommendation is to go out and buy all three of these albums immediately. They are incredible listens and provide great insight for anyone hoping to learn more about the band and further appreciate them.
The remastered versions of Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy will be released on October 28th, so be sure to check those out in the coming weeks.
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