Led Zeppelin: ReReleases
One of my favorite albums of all time is the first Led Zepplin record. I can’t say I became a huge fan but I absolutely loved that record. The recording, the songs, the energy, the band and, of course, the vocals of Robert Plant are just incredible. It’s no surprise that the record and the band has transcended time and remains as popular today as they ever were…and not just because old guys like me are reeling in the years. It turns out that Led Zepplin has managed to appeal to generation X and Y. My math metal doesn’t give a hoot about the Beatles but holds a special spot for the Led Zepplin. It’s hard to accept but true.
So it’s a very big deal when the group and their record label decide to reissue the original albums as special boxed sets with extra features galore AND completely remastered. On June 3rd, the first three albums will finally reach their dedicated fans in physical form and as 96 khZ/24-bit PCM downloads from HDtracks (other may have the licenses as well but I’m not sure).
According to Robert Baird over at Stereophile’s site, Jimmy Page played some of the new retransferred, remastered tunes and answered a bunch of questions from the gathered press. Apparently, some of the questions weren’t particularly well received by the legendary guitarist. Journalists need to be sensitive to the artists AND know their stuff before opening their mouths.
So should the audiophile crowd be excited about the Led Zeppelin products? Yes and no. This is what Jimmy Page said, “I don’t think it changes any story, I think it just augments it. It gives more color to it. The final masters which are on the studio albums that you know, quite clearly were going to be the best ones, however these [other] things are fascinating, of intrinsic and historical value.” Kudos to him. He acknowledges that the final masters are the definitive versions and the new releases shed some new light on the old stuff and open the vault for a couple of things that will appeal to their fans.
But the HDtracks 96 kHz/24-bit downloads are headed this way and I suspect that a lot of audiophiles will spend the money to purchase them. I’m not going to be one of them. I will continue to enjoy the CDs. I hope that I’ll have the opportunity to evaluate them and actually see what the remastering has done. But it’s just not worth $25 to get the tracks one more time.
There’s been a great deal of confusion about the provenance of the Led Zeppelin tracks. I’ve not followed it but I suspect that the original multitracks masters and the mixed masters are long gone. They may have used the EQ’d masters. I do know that this was one of the first stereo only releases.
4 thoughts on “Led Zeppelin: ReReleases”
I concur exactly I’ve already purchased vinyl, CD’s and remastered CD’s. I will probably download Led Zep 1 to compare as this to my remastered German pressed CD.
Check this forum on “The Computer Audiophile” some interesting comments from Barry Diament who was involved with the first remastering of Led Zep albums except IV. He mentions the missing original masters.
I agree that the provenance of many reissued pop ‘classics’ is doubtful. Indeed the booklet provided with a remastered version of The Who’s ‘Tommy’ (Polydor 531 043-2) included an admission that the original equalised master tape had been ceremonially burned in 1969 once the Tommy LPs started safely coming off the record press. Fortunately the unedited session tapes were found and a new master created from scratch with – I have to admit – some editorial improvements over the original, including the restoration of that pesky missing bar in the second guitar solo of ‘Pinball Wizard’. I still prefer the original version for raw excitement though.
One of the tricks that I use is to look at the Dynamic Range (DR) Database history for these older recordings to see if any have been released at higher DR levels over time. I’ve found a 1:1: correlation with higher DR ratings and better sounding recordings:
If there haven’t been recordings released over time at higher DR levels, then the original recording studio masters have either been lost, destroyed in the recording process, or not properly archived and thus have deteriorated to the point of not being usable.
Sadly in the case of Led Zeppelin as is the case with almost all pop and rock recordings of this vintage, it’s clear that the original masters were never available without vinyl-related squashed dynamics after the original analog recordings were released: