Put The Boot In: ‘Essential Led’-Led Zeppelin Essen Germany 3-22-73

by | Dec 28, 2013 | 0 comments


     Today in the ‘rock room’ I am grooving to a resplendent soundboard recording of Led Zeppelin in the midst of their powerful Spring 1973 European tour. This is a partial soundboard recording that captures numerous highlights of two of their extended and improvised numbers. Listeners are able to complete this concert using an audience source in addition to the circulating soundboard if they wish. At this point in their careers Zeppelin’s live show had developed into a three plus hour extravaganza of  definitive and diverse rock explorations. ‘Dazed and Confused’ in addition to ‘Whole Lotta Love’ have both turned into expansive jamming vehicles extending in length and girth. By the time the band returned to the US for Summer performances these tracks could reach a half hour in length. The recording I am enjoying is titled ‘Essential Led’, and its genesis I’m sure comes from the boatload of 1973 soundboards that found their way into collectors hands through their unfortunate theft from Jimmy Page’s home in the late 1980’s by a former employee. There are two more complete audience sources of decent quality available of this concert, but this soundboard fragment is a joy to listen to. Its intricacies and clarity offering a special insight into the alchemy of the band. Any performance by Led Zeppelin coming from this Spring 1973 European jaunt are worth searching out in their varying quality. The group was playing and improvising at a furious rate and approaching their creative zenith as performers and writers. According to Zeppelin author Dave Lewis this tour is considered by aficionados to be one of the finest the band ever played.

The tape picks up with a ‘Dazed and Confused’ in progress, the verses have been disposed of and Page is shredding full speed. Plant throws out some funky quotes of James Brown, singing ‘Cold Sweat’. The band is kinetic with Bonham the director, charting the course with a hammer and anvil through the Dazed themes. The band slips into a fully realized and cosmic ‘San Francisco’ interlude, then creep quietly into the Page bow centerpiece. Light and shade, madness and sanity, dualalities of our existence reverberate through Page’s dusty strings. Plant’s distant moans communicate with Page’s cave dwellers, who during the conjuring, hide from the light, bang on the rocks and scurry through moss lined stony entrances in the earth.

     Bonham signals the musical escape with hi hat strikes, to which Page responds with screeching, clawing, and spastic exclamations from his Les Paul. With JPJ, and Bonham welded in a firm bedrock embrace to the undulating groove, Page enters a trance state after eight and a half minutes. Lick after virtuous riff are peeled from his guitar with a unique clairvoyance. A breathtaking display with speed, dexterity and melodic construction all on display At half past nine minutes Page hits on a delicious melody that the band jumps into with both feet, the resulting splash a flamboyant clinic of rhythmic interplay and dynamic soloing. At half past eleven Zep takes the recognizable ‘Hendrix’ breakdown of this era’s ‘Dazed’ and twists it into a unique improvisational passage where Bonham is an inspirational machine, keeping time, while attempting and landing daring fills and accents. Thick and funky Zep of the ‘Crunge’ lay it down dirty here in an notable display.

     The jam churns momentarily before blasting into a Page/Bonham start and stop rock and roll breakdown. The band accelerates back into the speedy ‘Dazed’ theme, reaching several lofty summits, Page touching on and incorporating his entire arsenal, Jones and Bonham making it all possible through their grandiose backing. Just when you think the next change is coming the band takes another aggressive round leaving towering flames and ashes in their wake.

     The syncopated outro jam contains another surprise as Plant seductively groans in time, Bonham plays like a group of twenty tribal drummers, laying down a flawless groove in which Page dances with a multitude of tones. A passage worth inspection as it is brimming with nuance and excitement. The twenty two minutes of ‘Dazed and Confused’ featured on this boot are well worth your time and contain some of Zeppelin’s most exciting and dramatic playing captured on tape. Two days later in Munich the band would build on these ‘Dazed’ themes and perform perhaps the finest version of ‘Dazed and Confused’ of the year as a musical goodbye to Germany.

     The other track featured on this fine recording also picks up already in progress. ‘Whole Lotta Love’ cuts in during the tail end of Plant and Page’s Theremin/Vocal battle which is disorientating right off the bat, but easy to enter into. The band leaves this space cruising at a high altitude and then proceeds to thrash through a blistering rock and roll jam session. This introductory jam morphs into a hybrid of “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love/Turn On Your Lovelight’ that smokes like a fresh sticky joint. Bonham then signals the return to the body of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with his military snare hit, which appears briefly before becoming a high speed stomp through ‘Let That Boy Boogie’ and ‘Baby I Don’t Care’. Greatest rock and roll band in the world? On nights like this no one else has a chance to compete. Plant is shaking his ass and crooning in his best Presley throat, and Page is picking and grinning, this is good stuff.

     The jam comes to a brief respite, only to slam into a rocks and gravel run through ‘Let’s Have A Party’. This is what its all about right here. The band is on. Heavy duty. ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ comes next and Page asserts himself with translucent lines, icy sharp, sliding across the fret board furiously. His solo spot is crafted with the same care, a series of biting licks, becoming double time by the solos midpoint. The song builds, drops and rises again, then slides into a brief but slowly squeezed ‘Lemon Song’. Jones and Bonham again, one mind, perfect. Any description of a rhythm section being ‘locked in’ is an extreme understatement for these guys. Plant invests his normal soul into the entire series of rock gold while also leading the band back and out of a ‘Whole Lotta Love’ reprise. Bonham puts his usual stamp on the conclusion of the song with a bombastic finishing touch.

     While this fragmentary soundboard is only a taste of the treats to be found on the recordings of Led Zeppelin’s 1973 European Tour, it is a filling serving. Two of the bands most expansive songs featured on a line recording from one of their most impressive tours. What more could a Zeppelin fan ask for? If you a fan of the ‘Song Remains The Same’ soundtrack, do yourself a favor and search out this and similar performances for a different look at the group. The power and attitude of this recording cannot be denied, and if experienced for the first time will be a welcome addition to the listeners archive.

Dazed and Confused 3-22-1973



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