February 1998

Led Zeppelin - BBC Sessions
Atlantic CD86031
Released: 1997

by Bruce Basset

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Could this be any more great?

Over two and a half hours of Led Zeppelin in their prime and at their cohesive and artistic best, this CD was recorded on four different occasions, from 1969 to 1971, and chronicles BBC studio recordings and subsequent radio broadcasts.

Do not expect to find a great degree of resemblance to the studio releases, which many of us are intimately familiar with. Each song offers up something new, and in many cases something improved, for our listening pleasure. Even "Communication Breakdown," which appears three times--yes that is THREE times--provides ample variation in each rendition to keep the listener captivated.

Without delving into a song-by-song analysis, because with a total of 24 songs that would take longer than the 18-minute offering of "Dazed and Confused" on disc two, let me touch on the newbies. In the "mostly new" category is "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair," which was quite possibly the genesis for "Moby Dick," sans the drum solo and avec corny lyrics. Great song nonetheless, fashioned around an infectious guitar/bass riff, supported by the characteristic heavy thud of John Bonham's bass kick and containing a neat, deliberate yet bluesy lead break.

In the "new, new" category is, "Something Else," a brief and entertaining, bangin'-on-the-piano-keys, honky-tonk rock ditty written by Sharon Sheely and Bob Cochran.

And finally, in the "transmutation" category we find the "Whole Lotta Love" medley, which embodies a mess of blues covering John Lee Hooker, Bukka White, Arthur Crudup and Doc Pomus tunes. Wrought with energy and emotion this one is a definite stand out.

Admittedly the sound quality is not the greatest, which is to be expected with any essentially live recording made at that time. However, the sound does not detract from the brilliance and intensity of the musical experience, and Luis Rey, who wrote the liner notes, brings forth this sentiment more eloquently when he writes, "A captured moment of spontaneous creativity is worth more than a thousand hours of computerized perfection."