Review : Led Zeppelin - How The West Was Won
PopmattersWhat is it about Led Zeppelin that allows the group to endure more than two decades after its untimely break up? Is it the mystical (and mythical) aura that followed the band throughout its career? Is it the failure to reunite and engage in various reunion tours on a regular basis? Is it the majesty of Zeppelin's music? Or is it simply due to Zeppelin being that damn great? All of the above, with heavy emphasis on the last reason.
In the 20-plus years since drummer John Bonham's death, the surviving members of Zeppelin have rejected lucrative offers to reconvene, instead choosing to pursue various other interests. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have enjoyed numerous solo projects, as well as joining each other in 1994 for a celebration of Zep's legacy with the No Quarter concert CD. John Paul Jones, ever the anonymous member, retreated into the sanctity of production. Apart from an appearance at Live Aid in 1985 and a few special occasions, the three have steered away from capitalizing on the Zep trademark without the services of fallen comrade Bonham. As a result, fans have been left without much to look forward to in the form of new Zep-proper material. Until now . . .
The release of the three-CD package How the West Was Won should satiate every fan's appetite for years to come. Recorded on 25 June and 27 June 1972 at the Los Angeles Forum and Long Beach Arena respectively, these 18 tracks capture the true essence of the band in concert. While they were masters in the studio, Zep's forte was the live set, resplendent in musical exaggeration and overindulgence. With the exception of Live at Leeds-era Who, no band could challenge Zeppelin on stage. But where the Who represented ferocity, Zep embodied virtuosity, as performances ebbed and flowed with ethereal grandeur. Not to say the band could not harness the power of sheer brutality in its music, but Zep shows were different from anything else....full text
EwA group celebrated for Wagnerian excess, Led Zeppelin live up to their reputation once again with the simultaneous release of How the West Was Won, a three-CD live set, and ''Led Zeppelin DVD,'' a two-disc overview that essentially spans the band's history on stage, from 1969 to 1979. Taken together, the collections run close to eight hours, raising the inevitable question: Is all this too much of a good thing?
It's a tribute to the quality and tastefulness of these projects, however, that once you start listening and watching, the question becomes irrelevant. They both capture a mighty band at the height of its gargantuan power, and while they don't exactly leave you wanting more, they are immensely satisfying.
''West'' draws on two concerts Zeppelin played in California during the summer of 1972 -- after the release of the group's legendary fourth album and before ''Houses of the Holy'' -- combining performances to simulate a single two-and-a-half-hour show. It's the rare song on these discs that doesn't run over five minutes, and epic treatments of ''Dazed and Confused'' (25:25), drummer John Bonham's signature solo on ''Moby Dick'' (19:20), and a blistering medley (including ''Hello Mary Lou,'' ''Let's Have a Party,'' and John Lee Hooker's ''Boogie Chillun''), bracketed by ''Whole Lotta Love'' (23:08), extend much longer than that....full text
AllmusicFor years, Led Zeppelin fans complained that there was one missing item in the group's catalog: a good live album. It's not that there weren't live albums to be had. The Song Remains the Same, of course, was a soundtrack of a live performance, but it was a choppy, uneven performance, lacking the majesty of the group at its peak. BBC Sessions was an excellent, comprehensive double-disc set of their live radio sessions, necessary for any Zeppelin collection (particularly because it contained three songs, all covers, never recorded anywhere else), but some carped that the music suffered from not being taped in front of a large audience, which is how they built their legacy -- or, in the parlance of this triple-disc collection of previously unreleased live recordings compiled by Jimmy Page, How the West Was Won. The West in this case is the West Coast of California, since this contains selections from two 1972 concerts in Los Angeles: a show at the LA Forum on June 25, and one two days later at Long Beach Arena. This is the first archival release of live recordings of Zeppelin at their peak and while the wait has been nigh on interminable, the end result is certainly worth the wait. Both of these shows have been heavily bootlegged for years and while those same bootleggers may be frustrated by the sequencing that swaps the two shows interchangeably (they always prefer full shows wherever possible), by picking the best of the two nights, Page has assembled a killer live album that captures the full, majestic sweep of Zeppelin at their glorious peak. And, make no mistake, he tries to shove everything into these three discs -- tight, furious blasts of energy; gonzo freak-outs; blues; and rock, a sparkling acoustic set. Like always, the very long numbers -- the 25-minute "Dazed and Confused," the 23-minute "Whole Lotta Love," the 19-minute "Moby Dick" -- are alternately fascinating and indulgent, yet even when they meander, there is a real sense of grandeur, achieving a cinematic scale attempted by few of their peers (certainly no other hard rock or metal band could be this grand; only Queen or David Bowie truly attempted this). But the real power of the band comes through on the shorter songs, where their sound is distilled to its essence. In the studio, Zeppelin was all about subtle colors, textures, and shifts in the arrangement. On-stage, they were similarly epic, but they were looser, wilder, and hit harder; witness how "Black Dog" goes straight for the gut here, while the studio version escalates into a veritable guitar army -- it's the same song, but the song has not remained the same. That's the case throughout How the West Was Won, where songs that have grown overly familiar through years of play seem fresh and new because of these vigorous, muscular performances. For those who never got to see Zeppelin live, this -- or its accompanying two-DVD video set -- is as close as they'll ever get. For those who did see them live, this is a priceless souvenir. For either group, this is absolutely essential, as it is for anybody who really loves hard rock & roll. It doesn't get much better than this....full text
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