Coming later this month is the long awaited DVD release of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's No Quarter: Unledded MTV special that first aired on October 12, 1994, and reunited the guitarist and singer from Led Zeppelin. It's a fitting sequel to last year's best selling Zeppelin DVD.
Both projects proved to be challenges to Kevin Shirley, their mixing engineer. In the case of the Led Zeppelin DVD, Shirley had to restore live performances, some of which were 35 years old. In the case of Unledded, while it was only recorded ten years ago, he had surprisingly little original documentation to work with, and ended up remixing the project from scratch.
Viewers who watch Unledded in home theaters equipped with 5.1 surround sound systems will be in for a treat: Shirley used a much more expansive mix than last year's Led Zeppelin DVD. Not surprisingly for a recording with a Jimmy Page co-production credit, on the outro of "What Is And What Should Never Be", Shirley sends Page's power chords swirling around the front and rear speakers. And throughout the DVD, percussion and strings frequently appear out of the rear channels, enveloping the viewer into the sound.
The bonus materials include an MTV interview done on a London street that aired concurrently with the show's debut; a wild version of "Black Dog" that combines Australian didgeridoos along with Page roaring away with some sort of harmonizer on his guitar; and the "Most High" video from 1998's Walking into Clarksdale follow-up CD. There's also a stunning version of "The Rain Song", seen originally only by the comparative few who purchased Unledded on laser disc.
We spoke to Shirley late last month via phone about both projects, and his upcoming charitable endeavor, a marathon bike ride through China for Mencap, a British charity seeking to benefit children with learning disabilities.
Ed: You had mentioned on your Website that the Unledded DVD was much more difficult to mix than would first seem apparent, especially because it's only about ten years old. What made it so difficult to restore and mix?
Kevin: Well, there were a lot of technical problems with it. We got the multitracks for the audio, and then we got an edited picture. And there was no sync-correlation between the edited picture and the multitrack. So originally, when they conformed the original VHS master, they had done that from two-track masters, matched to the video. And I guess at that point, they had sync time code. But we didn't any correlation between the picture and the multitrack.