Jimmy Page Previews Eight Previously Unheard Led Zeppelin Songs to New York Audience
In many cases when legendary bands unearth previously unreleased tracks, the songs are unspectacular demos or outtakes pulled out of a drawer, slapped together with new packaging and sold at over-inflated prices. The new Led Zeppelin bonus material is a notable exception.
Guitarist Jimmy Page spent three years digging through boxes of quarter-inch reel-to-reel recordings from the late '60s and early '70s to find songs to accompany the “Deluxe Edition” remasters of the band’s original three albums, each of which will be available June 3 in a wide variety of formats. The additional six studio titles from the Led Zeppelin catalog will follow in the coming months.
"When you've got a chance to listen to it all, it's like a portal into that time capsule of when each album was recorded," Page announced during a May 13 press conference at the Crosby Street Hotel in SOHO, New York, which was preceded by a preview of eight of the bonus tracks. "The music is so joyous, it was terrific listening to it all and each individual's performance was so great. it gives you the opportunity to have another listen to every single person in the band and the individual performances and how it really gels."
Page played the audience two bonus tracks from each of the first two Zeppelin albums and four from Led Zeppelin III. The bonus tunes from the Led Zeppelin -- live recordings of "Communication Breakdown" and "You Shook Me" -- are from an October 20, 1968 concert at the Olympia Theatre in Paris that aired on French radio. As exciting as they are, they're not as revealing as the other six songs. Page, who produced the entire remastered catalog included the live tracks because there are no existing outtakes from the Led Zeppelin sessions. The bonus live disc also features a 15-minute rendition of "Dazed and Confused" and early versions of "Heartbreaker" and "Moby Dick," which appeared on the band's second studio album.
The alternate studio takes from Led Zeppelin II, offer far more insight into the inventive, multi-faceted hard rock band. In the studio, Zeppelin constantly experimented with different sounds and techniques, often recording multiple takes of songs and choosing their favorite at the last minute.
"Everything [we did] was supposed to sound different from beginning to end of all the albums," Page said. "So I tried all different styles of guitar, acoustic tones, everything. The final masters, which are all the studio albums that you know quite clearly, were going to be the best ones, [but] these [outtakes] are fascinating and have an intrinsic and historical value."
The two unreleased songs from Led Zeppelin II suggest it might have been harder than Page implied to choose the final tracks for the original record. "Heartbreaker" features a different, lengthier guitar solo that contains familiar elements but extends the reach of the original, and "Whole Lotta Love" is dramatically different than the album version. The whole "wanna whole lotta love" chorus is missing, the guitars dive rather than swoop and the psychedelic mid-section is far lengthier and even more mind-bending. John Bonham's percussion is clankier and less contained and Page and Robert Plant's improvisational excursions are wilder to the point of sounding almost unhinged.