Ok, this comp is designed for all the fans out there who do not own the individual LZ albums, bought the Remaster box set and were complaining that not all of the LZ tracks were present. This one provided the answer and summarily provides the Zephead with all the leftovers that were either too long or were no ruddy good to include on the box set. Indeed it houses some holy relics such as Good Times Bad Times, Carouselambra, Tea For One, How Many More Times and The Crunge, which are masterful in their own way, but you have to trawl through endless tedious songs to get to them. When I say tedious there is none worse than the Elvis inspired ditties such as Darlene, and the awful Presence leftovers, Hots On For Nowhere, strategically sandwiched between two gems on the comp.
We also have a ton of tracks from the afterthought "Coda" album, which is not a good sign, and 3 from "In Through the Out Door" (ITTOD), also not welcome. Listening to these is like eating a cream pie without any of the filling; it is all just mush and no flavour. However, kudos to the compiler as they place the bad with the good rather than pile all the bad in one stack for us to endure. I know some ZepHeads will state LZ can not do wrongbut there is no room for fanboyism here, folks. A lot of this compilation smells and it smells very bad indeed like the rotting corpse of prog that was stinking during 1993 when this was released to the adoring public.
On Disc numero uno we start things in a blaze of glory with the brilliant 'Good Times Bad Times', a song that captured my attention back in the early 80s when I thought Kiss were the coolest band in the world. The way Page crashes in with that flurry of notes never fails to impress.
'That's The Way' is a melancholic bluesy thing with Plant mesmirising on vox. 'Baby Come On Home' is the previously unreleased track that had ZepHeads salivating, as its better than all those bootlegs that seemed to be churned out at the time. 'The Lemon Song' from LZ2 is terrific to hear again
'You Shook Me' simply drives nails into the floorboards with ultra blues guitar and descending vocals that careen down the side of the cliff with staggering precision. When Page and Plant were in this frame of mind they were mind blowing. The song is a genuine lighting in a bottle explosion of blues heaven, and by the time it gets to the response and answer section with Page emulating Page's guitar tones, we are in masterpiece territory. The emotion behind this is overwhelming as it seems to magically encapsulate the feeling of spiralling into the abyss, yet the lyrics are oddly upbeat about Plant's sexual escapades. The song feels dark though with mournful guitar and pain wracked vocal delivery.
'Boogie With Stu' is laughable by comparison but thankfully the jangly piano rag time ditty only lasts a merciful 3:53 and is followed by another PG filler 'Bron-Yr-Aur' that is more annoying than inventive. 'Down By The Seaside is a beautiful song with pleasant cadence and tone. 'Out On The Tiles' features all those brilliant Page riffs as only he can deliver them, it works so well and doesn't feel like a reject at all, perhaps should have been on the first box set that was meant to house all the Zepclassics. It is great to hear that Bonham magic on 'Moby Dick' from LZ2, and it is followed by 'Sick Again' from PG that I had forgotten but the riff jarred my memory soon enough. It is really a rollicking blues buster, with loud bar room brawling guitar, sounding as sleazy as Rolling Stones 'Brown Sugar'.
'Hot Dog' is another forgettable thing and I had forgotten it as a strategic move, until a relisten for this review. It is from ITTOD, an album that can never measure up to the brilliance of previous LZ albums, however it chugs along nicely as only a country hillbilly rocker can chug. The honky tonk piano and idiotic humour is as awful as it sounds on paper, and Plant's Elvis impersonation is abysmal, as much as Plant probably thinks it's fun to do this. He did it on 'Candy Store Rock' and that was as bad. Thankfully this never sees the light of day on other compilations or concert performances.
'Carouselambra' may be the best song on ITTOD so no problem sitting under its lengthy running time and Page's indulgent axe work. The weird off kilter sequenced keyboards are blindingly unique to a LZ song so it holds some interest. Plant sings too many lyrics and it too repetitive until finally it breaks away into a new time sig and a synth workout. The song really builds into a guitar and synth trade off and it is a genuine curio but never tiring in its ten minutes of fame. A great side one, flawed but nevertheless a genuine treasure trove of forgotten gems.
Onto Disc numero duo and it begins with 'South Bound Saurez', a rocker from ITTOD that I had again forgotten. Returning to it reminds me of how great this band was in its day. The song just booms with Jones' bass and his piano skills are exemplary. What a blast this is! 'Walter's Walk' trudges along next, with a killer riff and pounding drums the way they should sound, over present and dominant. Well, at least they drown out the poor vocal technique of Plant drooling a bunch of nonsense. Next is 'Darlene', which is ruddy awful apart from the repetitive guitar riff. Now that we have "Coda" out of the way, we can move onto PG's 'Black Country Woman' with its odd intro dialogue and acoustic slide work. It is okay for a while but I prefer the Zep rocked up more rather than sparse and set on repeat. By the time Bonham;s drums boom along and a harmonica joins, I have lost interest.
'How Many More Times' is the first classic on this disk, it is mind blowingly brilliant. The riff hooks into me and tears my head off, such an awesome bassline and unbelievable ferocious guitar execution. I could rate this with other LZ masterpieces easily and yet this underrated gem sits here on this afterthought compilation. That in itself is criminal, but of course this is lifted from the trailblazing classic debut, one of the alltime great debuts in rock history along with debuts from Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, ELP, Rush, Alan Parsons Project and Pink Floyd. The lead break is to die for with Page scorching on hyper string bends and fret melters along that insane tempo. Then it goes silent and the band lapse into their stream of conscious mood with ethereal violin bow serrations and Plant in reflective mode. This is a precursor to the Dazed and Confused performance on "The Song Remains The Same" that would have critics chin wagging for years. It ends with a vocal Planterism answered by Page's axe strikes; masterpiece, Proggers, masterpiece.
'The Rover' is next from PG and is one I had also developed amnesia over, but it jams along with Page riffing eloquent and a bright beat, and sleaze rock melodic line. 'Four Sticks' is the one from Zoso album and of course it is a 5 star classic album so no problem with this, perhaps the most underrated song from the one with 'Stairway To Heaven'. It has a driving rock beat and some well structured passages as it moves from complex time sigs to a steady rock beat effortlessly.
'Hats Off To (Roy) Harper' is the LZ3 throwaway though many will dispute this. The vocals are warbled and there is a lot of slice and dice on acoustic. It is a curio but after a few listens this can grate on the ears. 'I Can't Quit You Baby' is back to brilliance as the Zeps move into the dominant blues landscape, a searing performance by Page who makes his guitar cry hot tears. LZ were masters of this genre and when they are released to improvised blues jamming there were none better.
'Hots On For Nowhere' is from "Presence" and is quite a mediocre attempt at injecting some life into a band that had just about given up at this point in their career. Wheelchair prone Plant gives it what he can with his "la-na-na na-lanana-naaaa yeah, ohoho ohoho"'s but it is lacklustre; what, did he run out of lyrics? 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)' is another one only the diehard Zepfanatic has heard of, from LZ2 but not the best example from that dynamic album. It has a great bass and guitar riff, and sounds like a vamped up Beatles song in some ways. That riff is enough to maintain interest. 'Royal Orleans' from "Presence" has been thrown here for the means of posterity, again with a cool riff but loses its impact, and also for the completist we have yet another from "Coda", 'Bonzo's Montreux', that has a clever title but little else. Okay, it is Bonham banging the living suitcase out of his kit and I guess that has merit, you have to hand it to the man, he knew how to slam those cans, but he does this every concert. Having said that it is one of the lone highlights on "Coda" so nice to hear again.
Next on the menu is 'The Crunge', that is from "Houses of the Holy", the sole one, and even though it is that album's worst song it is a reminder of how great that album is. Plant wants to tell us about his "good thing", and Page jangles his guitar to his heart's content, but this soon wears out its welcome before it is mercifully cut short by the classic ending "where's that confounded bridge", that only makes sense to me now after all these years of studying music. 'Bring It On Home' is yet another blues treasure from LZ2 with haunting harmonica and soul chilling vocals as he sings into the harmonica giving Plant a metallic edge. The feeling of isolation and nocturnal scapes are broken with a blazing riff and heavy duty tempo; absolutely terrific rock blaster.
We end on a blues blitzkrieg with the incredible 'Tea For One', that is one of the three diamonds located on "Presence" making it worthwhile. No prizes for guessing the other two. It is lengthy but so smooth and melancholy with powerful guitar blues passages that it is undisputed as one of the last triumphs of the struggling Zep in their last days. It sounds like Dazed and Confused in tempo but is unique with the guitar licks and Plant's firebrand vocals capturing the sadness he felt at the time after his horrific accident. Listen to those lyrics to hear the soul of the band; "a minute seems like a lifetime, baby when I feel this way, Sittin', lookin' at the clock, time moves so slow, I've been watchin' for the hands to move, Until I just can't look no more, How come twenty four hours, Baby sometimes seems to slip into days?" Bonham would die soon after, the final nail in the coffin for the band, and it all came crashing to a screaming halt. This song is like a penultimate farewell to the fans; as such it retains an incredible power and is chilling to the soul.
Of course it is easy to be cynical, when presented with this stack of songs that were not good enough to make it to the first box set, but there are a lot of great songs, if not excellent, especially the lengthy blues numbers. These tracks are still wonderful to listen to coming from the first 4 LZ albums, their best albums, as well as 7 tracks from PG that are always a treat. The one reject from LZ4 is of course still brilliant. Listening to all these tracks out of context is quite a delight as they are not the ones you hear ad nauseum, and therefore remain fresh rather than become stale with overuse and airplay. I think I would rather hear a repackaging of these rejected tracks than to hear them on the actual studio releases, as it always an intriguing exercise to plough through the canon of Led Zeppelin in any form. And in fact many upcoming bands would kill for just a tenth of their talent, even though at times they sound uninspired here. The compilation is worth owning for completists, I enjoyed it tremendously having forgotten most of these, and of course it is coming from arguably the most influential and indisputable rock gods, the mighty Led Zeppelin.