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Here is a band in full control of their talent and musicianship that had four studio albums that time would ultimately call one of the most amazing beginnings of any band ever, comparable only to the thunderous Black Sabbath’s first four albums.

Music Review: Led Zeppelin – ‘The Complete BBC Sessions’

Led Zeppelin
Photo credit: Ron Rafaelli

Everything old is new again – doubly so, I suppose – as this year sees the release (re-release) of Led Zeppelin’s BBC Sessions. Originally released in 1997 as a 24-track release, it featured one CD of studio sessions compiled from four different 1969 BBC sessions and a second CD containing most of the April 1, 1971 concert from the Paris Theatre in London. The first release of new Led Zeppelin material in over seven years, the album was widely welcomed by fans as it was the first live recording since The Song Remains the Same from 1976.

There were those, however, thanks to bootlegs circulating from some of the recordings these two CDs are compiled from, that criticized the decision to edit some songs and omit others – most notably songs from one session from 1969 which included an unreleased song entitled “Sunshine Woman,” a kind of white-whale track for some purists. For those people I say, boy has Jimmy “Call me Ismael” Page got something to soothe even the most savage one-legged captain.

Led Zeppelin - BBC Sessions
Photo credit: Amazon.com

This year marks the release of a more than three-hour-long expanded version, entitled The Complete BBC Sessions. It comes out a few years after Jimmy Page dove through each of Led Zeppelin’s studio recordings with an eye (and ear) towards remastering each release with the goal of making it the definitive modern version. Small wonder, then, that after he made his way through all of the studio albums – each including at least an album’s worth of unreleased treasures – that he wanted to take a fresh look at the BBC Sessions release to see if he could make it as “complete” as he’d originally intended in 1997.

Boy, did he.

Page fully restored the tracks he was unable to get onto that original release as well as – miraculously – unearthing three tracks thought to be lost forever. One of those tracks? That very white whale of a recording “Sunshine Woman,” which stomps forth onto the stage and your speakers with a sonic swagger that poignantly speaks to how impressive the legacy of a band like Zeppelin is that a song as good as this is just the icing on the cake of this release. Can you think of any other band where a long-thought lost “masterpiece” was found and turned out to be slightly less revelatory than the two newly included versions of “Communication Breakdown” which swaggers and snarls in ways that thrill the imagination despite their age?

Here is a band in full control of their talent and musicianship that had four studio albums that time would ultimately call one of the most amazing beginnings of any band ever, comparable only to the thunderous Black Sabbath’s first four albums.

To those of you who might own the earlier BBC Sessions and are wondering just why you need to have yet another version of yet another Zeppelin album, all I can say is that Jimmy Page has given fresh life in the remastering of these songs. Instead of sounding like some tinny connection to the past, these songs roar into your eardrums just as if the band were as young and confident as they were in 1969 and 1971.

If you don’t have the original BBC release, you are in for a treat!

 

The Complete BBC Sessions tracklist:

Disc One

01. “You Shook Me”
02. “I Can’t Quit You Baby”
03. “Communication Breakdown”
04. “Dazed and Confused”
05. “The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair”
06. “What Is and What Should Never Be”
07. “Communication Breakdown”
08. “Travelling Riverside Blues”
09. “Whole Lotta Love”
10. “Somethin’ Else”
11. “Communication Breakdown”
12. “I Can’t Quit You Baby”
13. “You Shook Me”
14. “How Many More Times”

Disc Two

01. “Immigrant Song”
02. “Heartbreaker”
03. “Since I’ve Been Loving You”
04. “Black Dog”
05. “Dazed and Confused”
06. “Stairway to Heaven”
07. “Going to California”
08. “That’s the Way”
09. “Whole Lotta Love” (Medley: “Boogie Chillun”/”Fixin’ to Die”/”That’s Alright Mama”/”A Mess of Blues”)
10. “Thank You”

Disc Three

01. “Communication Breakdown” *
02. “What Is and What Should Never Be” *
03. “Dazed and Confused” *
04. “White Summer”
05. “What Is and What Should Never Be” *
06. “Communication Breakdown” *
07. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” *
08. “You Shook Me” *
09. “Sunshine Woman” *

* Previously Unreleased

The Complete BBC Sessions is available in multiple formats:

•    Deluxe Edition (3CD) – Remastered original album plus a third disc of unreleased audio [Version Reviewed] •    Deluxe Edition Vinyl (5LP) – Remastered original album, plus a fifth LP of unreleased audio, on 180-gram vinyl
•    Digital Download – Remastered album and unreleased audio will both be available
•    Super Deluxe Box Set (3CD/5LP) – This collection includes:
– Remastered album, two CDs, each in a replica sleeve
– Unreleased audio on CD in a separate card sleeve
– Remastered album on 180-gram vinyl
– Unreleased audio on 180-gram vinyl
– High-def audio download card of all content at 96kHz/24-bit
– 48-page book filled with photos of the band, the recording locations, BBC memorabilia, and session information
– High-quality print of the original album cover, the first 30,000 of which will be individually numbered

 


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