Led Zep Zaps Kids Redux

The songs remain the same. No, this is not a reference to the


released Led Zeppelin live album of 1976 but a characterization of


newly issued BBC sessions. Long bootlegged and finally legit,

here are two

discs of Led Zep performing live for various radio shows in 1969

and 1971

-- just before it achieved megastardom and subsequent legendary


Wanna hear a live version of "Stairway to Heaven" without the

crowd going

berserk? It's here, because this version was recorded before


Zeppelin IV was released, and the audience had never heard

of it. Wanna know what concerts were like when people still

applauded politely? How 'bout a medley of "Whole Lotta Love"

and some old Elvis tunes? Or three versions of "Communication


If any of this sounds novel to you, then some of the songs are a


different, after all; if not, well, you could end up dazed and


The set was compiled and mastered by Jimmy Page himself, who

has said in

interviews that these performances didn't seem particularly

memorable to

him. In fairness, that's probably because these recordings were

made when

the band was, quite simply, at its peak, duplicating complex album

performances at will. And, as if there were any question, Led Zep

was no

mere studio creation -- these guys were live, alright! Subtract a bit


echo from Page's ever-awesome guitar, add a bit of warmth to

Robert Plant's voice

as it kicks up and down the octaves, and boom, you get a sense of

what Zep

was about, stripped clean of classic-rock glitter and gold.

It's interesting to hear how the band perfected its style long before


knew what to do with it. Like lots of Brit bands of the period, Zep


with the blues, and disc one of this collection is full of those

irresistible blues workouts (properly credited this time), such as


Shook Me" and "I Can't Quit You Baby" -- two versions of each! (As


went by, Zep was allowed to stretch out more on the air, so the


takes are much shorter; in essence, they're the same as, and in

the same

vein as, the studio versions.)

Lemon-squeezing abounds, needless to say,

especially on the mighty "How Many More Times." Having

perfected sexy blues

rave-ups, Zep also combined psychedelia and what was once

known as hard

rock. Hence, three, count 'em, versions of "Communication

Breakdown." You

also get a fine rendition of "Dazed and Confused," an eerie

leftover from

Page's Yardbirds days, plus a true oddity -- a tossed-off version of


Cochran's "Something Else." Perhaps a bit much of a muchness.

But worth the

proverbial price of admission is "Whole Lotta Love," a top-notch


from the Top Gear show -- more than six minutes of timeless


that transcends and, arguably, ends the post-Woodstock era of


and long-hair sloppage from whence it came.

Disc two is more coherent and more satisfying. It's an unedited


from the Beeb's Paris Theatre circa 1971 that's so prime it's


nobody thought to free it from the vaults until now. You get your

"Immigrant Song," your "Heartbreaker," your "Black Dog," your

aforementioned premiere of "Stairway," and a mammoth "Dazed

and Confused."

Not only that -- as the faithful have always known, Zep was as

great an

unplugged band as it was a sound blaster -- "Going to California"

is full

of magic. The set stumbles badly with a lame medley that

combines "Whole

Lotta Love" with some Elvis tuneage -- "A Mess of Blues" and the


arrangement of Arthur Crudup's "That's Alright Mama," among

other things.

One might conclude that Messrs. Page and Plant were scarcely

the blues

purists we'd been led to believe they were. Still, the show bows


grandly with a dynamite version of "Thank You," so everyone can

leave the

house satisfied.

I remember a Village Voice headline from the '70s that


"Led Zep Zaps Kids." True today as then. If you've spent years


bootlegs and Holy Grails, you'll find yourself on an upper rung of


famous stairway to heaven. For nonscholars, hold out for this

package as an

Xmas gift, because it's worth hearing but isn't essential. And it's

impossible not to mention that this collection does the band one


injustice: Zep album covers were exquisite, but the design of this


from the past is unforgivably awful.