September 30, 2010 – 10:55 am

Every bootleg fan will probably own at least one, if not more, Led Zeppelin boot. Here, Bill Glahn, who edited Live! Music Review, gives the low down on some key Led Zep boots.

Throughout its seven-year history, Live! Music Review reviewed hundreds of bootlegs by Led Zeppelin. Zep was one of the first bands to be bootlegged in the rock era, notably two famous vinyl boots called “Pb” (Pure Blues) and “Live on Blueberry Hill” in 1970. The band’s tendency to stray far from their studio output, including many cover tunes and drastically extended and altered arrangements of their official output, made them concert favorites from the start. And bootleg favorites as well.

I’ve made a notation on when the reviews originally appeared. Please keep in mind that many upgrades have become available for many Zep shows in the intervening years. I have not heard many of the more recent upgrades, but for those that I have heard, I have made the appropriate notations.

Click on the graphics for full-size artwork.

State Fair [Digger Productions DP 2676]

This is the famous West Allison, Wisconsin (July 25, 1969) show that has so far only surfaced on the extremely rare Japanese acetate called West Allison State 1969. The acetate may be a rare, highly prized collectable, but it is also noted for its extremely poor sound quality. Although the quality on this CD will not blow your socks off, it is still quite good for an audience tape during such an early period of Led Zeppelin. The performance is typically inspired, as are most from this period. There are slight flaws in the tape source and about six minutes of the show are missing.
Setlist: Train Kept A’ Rollin/ I Can’t Quit You/ Dazed and Confused/ White Summer-Black Mountainside/ How Many More Times-The Hunter/ Lemon Song/ Communication Breakdown [recommended upgrade: Stroll On (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin)]
(Bill Glahn, March 1993 issue #1)


Up in Smoke [Continental Sounds 004]

Continental Sounds may not be the most prolific label in Europe, but they sure come up with some unusual material. Among their few releases so far, have been an unusual collection of Tommy Bolin FM broadcasts and demos (Rarities), the only Elvis Costello recording known to exist of his ‘78 Japan tour (Live Attraction), and now this.

Jimmy Page playing with a bar band in Reno at the request of their female vocalist - the dream of every bar band of the ’70s and ’80s that cut their teeth on Zeppelin.

Taken from a superb soundboard recording, this CD is far more vibrant than you could possibly hope for in an unauthorized release. Sound quality is consistently good with only a few rises in the levels (probably done by the soundman at the show) that hardly seem to matter.

What does matter is Page’s performance. The band is third rate at best. The female vocalist is horrible (she only sings two songs and part of a medley - thank God for small favors) and the male vocalist, a very good southern belter, is prone to calling Page “son.” The rhythm section can’t keep time and the keyboard player is almost invisible.

But, mercy, does page play. On this 70-plus-minute set, Page just lets everything rip. He cuts loose on some old rock ‘n’ roll standards with absolute abandon. It’s obvious he’s just having fun with no formal set list or direction (but, of course, without a great band behind him). Page can be heard playing masterful blues (Spider in Your Web), classic rock ‘n’ roll (Johnny B. Goode), crunching instrumentals (Smokin’ Again), rockabilly (Slow Down), and party-time favorites (Louie Louie medley). It’s great to hear Page playing with this much fun and abandon.
Setlist (Reno, NV May 25, 1991): Spider in Your Web/ Steamroller/ Johnny B. Goode/ Hound Dog-Blue Suede Shoes/ Smokin’ Again/ Slow Down/ Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll (Seger tune)/ Kansas City/ Louie Louie-Wild Thing-Hang On Sloopy
(Bill Glahn, March 1993 issue #1)


Sakura [Ocean Sound Studio]

The cover on this one is really nice. It’s a double CD that comes in a standard double jewel case (Nagoya, Japan Oct. 5, 1972). On the front is the rather common b&w photo of Zep receiving their gold record award for “II.” The bordering artwork is quite nice, if a little amateurish. Gold dragons on a royal blue border surround the picture. The back cover is a b&w photo of the band during an acoustic set taken from the back. It’s what’s on the CDs themselves that get this project into trouble. The sound quality is a simply wretched - zillionth generation audience tape of a halfway decent show. Forget this one. Get Eastern Front from the same tour.
[recommended upgrade: Cherry Blossom (Tarantura)]
(Bill Glahn, March 1993 issue #1)


Eastern Front [Great Dane 9226]

Eastern Front is a tremendous find. Although an audience recording, the quality is unbelievably crisp and well mixed. I have not heard this version of the Tokyo Oct. 2, 1972 tape before. Indeed, it is far superior to the old vinyl releases of this show. The ambience, in fact, is much better than many soundboard recordings. More than a thumbs up, this is imperative for any Zep fan.
[recommended upgrade: Big Hall Budokan (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin)]




For Badgeholders Only Pts 1-3 [Continental Sounds CDS 506/507/508]

Finally! Here is the show that every Zep collector in the world has been waiting to see on CD. This show was recorded on June 23, 1977 at the LA Forum, showcase of some of the most notorious Zeppelin concerts ever. Los Angeles always seemed to bring out the best in the band and this show was no exception. This show is also famous for the fact that Keith Moon joins the band on stage for Moby Dick!

This show was once available as two double LP sets, but has long been out of print. There has been an outcry among Zeppelin fans for years to have this show put on CD. This is the fourth Zeppelin related piece to appear in the Continental Sounds catalog. Previous releases have been “The Vibes Are Real” (Kezar Stadium, SF, CA 1973), “Up In Smoke” (reviewed above), and “Acoustic Tales From Charlotte” (the only piece to appear on CD so far from Zep’s ‘72 US tour). When it seems like every Zeppelin concert that was ever performed in front of a tape recorder is coming out on CD, Continental Sounds has shown excellent taste in releasing only the best and most interesting performances.

There are problems with this three-CD set. Although they have done an excellent job of cleaning up the tapes, it is still apparent that the tapes were taken from the vinyl bootlegs. This is evidenced by the slight surface noise that appears in the acoustic portion of the show. Still, all in all, these CDs sound a whole lot better than their well-worn vinyl counterparts. In a nice touch, Continental Sounds has restored the correct playing order of the show. Previously in the vinyl issues, the performance had been chopped to fit it into 20-25 minute LP sides. The only flaw in the playing order here is that “No Quarter” is still divided into two segments.

Although the cover art doesn’t contain more than basic information, these covers feature nice photographs, proper dates and venue information, and accurate song listings. A super set!
Setlist: (CD1) Sick Again/ Nobody’s Fault But Mine/ Over the Hills & Far Away/ Since I’ve Been Loving You/ No Quarter pt 1 & 2/ Ten Years Gone (CD2) Battle of Evermore/ Going To California/ Black Country Woman/ Bron-Y-Aur Stomp/ White Summer-Black Mountainside/ Kashmir/ Trampled Underfoot/ Out On the Tiles intro-Moby Dick (CD3) Star Spangled Banner/ Guitar improv/ Achilles Last Stand/ Stairway to Heaven/ Whole Lotta Love/ Rock & Roll
[recommended upgrade: Three Hours of Lunacy (Beezlebub)]
(Bill Glahn, April 1993, issue #2)
Click here to download a three-source-mix upgrade of this show.


We’re Gonna Groove [Scorpio 80-05]

Led Zeppelin picked up in 1970 where they left off in 1969. More surprises such as the unrecorded “We’re Gonna Groove” were present in their live set. “Dazed & Confused” was beginning to expand. As the violin bow that Page used in the song’s middle guitar segment got longer, so did the song itself. This trend continued on each successive tour. “Heartbreaker” also became a crowd pleaser. During the ‘70 tour, Page incorporated a number of different intros to this song. This seems to be a trick Page enjoys while playing live. Guess which song is coming!” On later tours Page would use well known guitar riffs from one song as an intro for another one. For example: The “Out on the Tiles” riff would open “Black Dog.”

This CD is taken from an FM or soundboard tape (although the mix is so bad it sounds like an audience recording at times) of a show from Montreux, Switzerland on March 7, 1970. The performance is an excellent one. There aren’t many quality recordings available from this particular tour. Perhaps something new will surface, but until then, this will have to do.
[recommended upgrade: Charisma (Tarantura)]
(Bill Glahn, May 1993, issue #3)


Live in London [Sidewalk Music LZ 89601]

This is one of the earliest Zeppelin appearances in the CD format. It was a good choice of material when bootleggers started venturing into the manufacture of CDs, since this show is from a BBC broadcast. This show was recorded at the BBC Paris Theatre in London on March 25, 1971 in front of a polite British audience. Although Luis Rey’s book “Led Zeppelin Live” describes this performance as “rather low key,” this reviewer feels that it is merely the reaction of the (by invitation only) audience of industry connected folks that is low-key - not the performance of the band.

The performance of “Dazed & Confused” is probably my favorite of all time. Extended, with lots of improvisation, yet not overly long as on subsequent tours, this version smoke from start to finish. For those people who are only familiar with Led Zeppelin’s official output, there are several sections of this show which would be of extreme interest.

This show features an early live version of “Stairway to Heaven” featuring Page’s famed double-neck Gibson guitar, which was manufactured specifically for stage performances of this song. The live version of Stairway differs significantly from the studio version, especially on the bridge from the “soft” portion to the closing hard rock finale. Also featured is a version of “Mess of Blues,” a song which never made it to any official Zeppelin release. Because of Plant’s vocal phrasing, the song is often referred to on bootlegs (as on this one) as “Minnesota Blues.”

This is an outstanding performance of outstanding quality. It should be an essential part of any comprehensive rock music collection.
[recommended update: although much of this is now available officially the best way to hear it unedited in on Stairway to Heaven (Cobra Standard)]
(Bill Glahn, May 1993, issue #3)


Acoustic Tales In Charlotte [Continental Sounds 10-003]

This is not a great sounding CD, but it is what little there is available of the 1972 tour. So far, this is the only 1972 American concert to surface on CD that I am aware of. What you get with this CD is a fine performance from a fairly clean audience recording. The CD starts off with an acoustic set that Zeppelin featured during its ‘72 tour.

The seldom available live renditions of “Tangerine and “That’s the Way” are a real treat with clear vocals and balanced sound. The sound problems start after “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” when the electric portion of the CD kicks in with “What is And What Should Never Be.” Most of this part of the CD is over-modulated and slightly distorted. Like “We’re Gonna Groove,” although not perfect, this CD is the best representation of its perspective tour.
[recommended upgrade: Charlotte 1972 (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin) contains the full show.)
(Bill Glahn, May 1993, issue #3)


The Vibes Are Real [Continental Sounds 10-001/002]

There seems to have been plenty of soundboard recordings to have surfaced on CD from the 1973 tour. However, my favorite CD is not one of those. Instead, it is this double-CD taken from a very well-recorded audience tape of the June 2, 1973 concert at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.

By 1973, Zeppelin’s audience had reached massive proportions, and the band began to play much larger venues. Although at many concerts this seemed to take away from the intimacy that Zeppelin had enjoyed with its audiences in the clubs, that is not the case here. Luis Rey calls it “one of the best ever” in his book “Led Zeppelin Live.” He couldn’t be more on the mark with his evaluation. This concert starts strong and never lets up. By the time the band leaves the stage even they know that they had nailed this one. As they show their appreciation to the crowd, Plant lets them know that “the vibes are real - the best vibes since the Fillmore!”

This CD features intense versions orf “Black Dog,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” and “The Song Remains the Same.” But even great performances of these songs cannot prepare the listener for the finale of “Heartbreaker/Whole Lotta Love,” “Communication Breakdown,” and “The Ocean.” On this final cluster of songs, Page is out in the stratosphere and the band is not far behind. This performance is not of this world. Absolutely “one of the best ever.”
[recommended upgrade: There are no significant upgrades although Who’s Next (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin) does re-master these tapes with some minor improvements and may be easier to find at this point than the Continental Sounds set. There have been several releases of a soundboard version, but these only contain the last hour or so of the concert and sound is way too dry when compared to the audience tape - totally losing the interaction between the band and the crowd - the vibes.]
(Bill Glahn, May 1993, issue #3)

Note: Bill Glahn wrote, edited and published Live! Music Review, a magazine devoted to bootleg recordings when bootlegs were not so common. And they are still not so common today. Live! Music Review is now on Facebook and on Twitter (LMRonTwit). Do drop by to say hello and, as Bill says, all comments welcome.

  1. 7 Responses to “THE Z FILES: PART 1”

  2. Mr. Glahn & Big O,
    Thank you for this GREAT info.! i’ve really gotten into Zepp bootlegs cuz of (like you said) the songs sometimes change & covers are thrown in too! GOD, do i dig the covers!!
    i find lots of Zepp boots make their way to youtube also. again, Thanks!!!

    By AllMightyMouse on Oct 1, 2010

  3. 1971 - Montreux - there is a very good 2cd audience recording available of this show,as well as a 1cd soundboard that is very distorted.

    1972 - San Diego - so far my favorite, and best sounding show from the ‘72 tour.

    1973 - get either Mobile Alabama, New Orleans, Buffalo or Fort Worth, it’s all you’ll need from ‘73 tour!

    By todd on Oct 2, 2010

  4. Sorry…….the 1972 show on 2cd’s is actually San Bernadino….worth hunting this one down as well.

    1975 - go with any of the Earl’s Court recordings, the 24th and 25th being of killer sound quality!

    1977 - For Badgeholders Only from June 23rd is my favorite because the performance is awesome, but Cleveland is a pretty good soundboard if audience recordings scare you away.

    1980 - 13 of the 14 concerts performed are available in soundboard, with only 1 show recorded from the audience, at least as the mainstream circulation tapes are concerned.

    By todd on Oct 2, 2010

  5. Todd, regarding your 73 US tour recommendations… Although excellent soundboard recordings, several are incomplete and none, to my knowledge, contain the encore “The Ocean.” Encores weren’t performed at all ‘73 shows and when they were, it was usually “Communication Breakdown” or “The Ocean.” “Dancing Days” less often. Of the ones you mention, my favorite is the Mobile, Alabama show which came early in the tour (2nd date?). Having copies of all those you mention, my personal preference is still the Kezar show for the performance and the setlist.

    By bill glahn on Oct 2, 2010

  6. Bill Glahn, don’t we live in a wonderful time when we can actually talk about these concerts….and then listen to them! :)

    Dancing Days…what a great tune, and I was so happy to eventually get to hear it performed live!

    I always forget about the Copenhagen Warm-up’s as well.

    By todd on Oct 6, 2010

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