ALBUM REVIEWS: Rhino releases near-perfect Zeppelin reissues

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First Posted: 7/8/2014

Like a coven of long lost friends who show up at your door with beer, blues, and barbiturates in tow, Led Zeppelin’s first three albums have returned to remind us of the fun we used to have together in the form of these long-awaited deluxe editions courtesy of Rhino Records.

Of course, for those who played these albums to no end the first time around, the gravitation of your re-listening to these youth-worn rock classics might pull toward deeper cuts like Jimmy Page’s Jansch-ian instrumental “Black Mountain Side” off “Led Zeppelin II’s” hammering closer “Bring It On Home” and “III’s” ode to English folk icon Roy Harper “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper,” though the hits (“Communication Breakdown,” “Heartbreaker”) that provided the soundtrack to the teenage years of so many of us raised on AOR radio remain great all the same.

However, one key issue with these reissues, meanwhile, falls in the context of the bonus material. Not in terms of quality, mind you, as all three albums are accompanied by second discs containing masterfully cleaned up versions of long booted studio outtakes, like instrumental versions of such “II” faves as “Living Loving Maid” and “Thank You,” and a heady medley of the previously unreleased jam “Jennings Farm Blues” and Charlie Segar’s blues standard “Key to the Highway” from “III.”

But with both of those titles clocking in at a little over 40 minutes apiece, they could have included the studio stuff on the first disc to make room for more of what was included as the companion to the first “Zeppelin” LP: a boffo live set from the band’s October 10, 1969 show at The Olympia in Paris, France, highlighted by a mindboggling 15-minute rendition of “Dazed and Confused.” There are plenty of quality soundboards from both periods that could have made handsome additions to these sets, namely the incredible soundboard captures of the group’s April 1969 gig at the Fillmore West and their 1970 show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Or, in the case of “III,” Page’s supplementary acoustic workouts from the band’s time in that cottage dubbed Bron-Yr-Aur on the beautiful English countryside.

Yet regardless of any fanboy foibles, it really is a long overdue treat to see these first three Zep LPs get the individual reissue treatments they so richly deserve. Indeed, it will be quite interesting to see what gets dug out from the vaults for the next wave in this campaign.

Led Zeppelin ‘Led Zeppelin/II/III’ Deluxe Editions Rating: W W W W