With Led Zeppelin’s reissues done, time for the ultimate companion-disc playlist

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So, the final installments of Jimmy Page’s remastering of the entire Led Zeppelin catalog have been released as of the end of July 2015. This exercise includes what is supposed to be the definitive vault clearing, as well: With the Deluxe Edition releases of Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda, Page claims there is nothing of any quality left to release to Led Zeppelin’s legions of fans.

As evidenced over the span of the Deluxe Edition series, he’s probably right. So many tracks on these companion discs are labelled as early mixes, working mixes, rough mixes or reference mixes. These differences are minute, and all these sorts of tracks might have been better labelled as: “mixes that weren’t as good as the final mixes.” They’re mostly kind of interesting to hear once or twice, but that’s about it. And there are lots of tracks that are simply instrumental mixes of the final album versions.

Most of the time, they simply provide evidence that Led Zeppelin was the sound of four band members, not just the three that played most of the instruments. “Jennings Farm Blues,” from Led Zeppelin III, is the exception; that sounds like classic Zep even without Robert Plant’s vocals anywhere on it.

The Deluxe Editions of Presence and In Through the Out Door follow the same pattern as those that accompanied almost all the previous albums. (Led Zeppelin I was the exception, as it was accompanied by a live 1969 concert in Paris.) Presence does contain the oddly titled “10 Ribs and All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod).” It’s not related to anything in the Zep catalog, but it’s not much more than a slight instrumental led by John Paul Jones’ piano.

The two companion discs to Coda are a bit more promising, being that this project was the original Led Zeppelin housecleaning project. (Side note: all votes for the real first housecleaning project as being Physical Graffiti, with 7 out of its 15 tracks taken from older sessions, are duly noted.) However, all of the additions could have fit on one disc, anyway. But there are a few goodies at least.

The often bootlegged “Sugar Mama” finally sees the light of day, and a version of “When the Levee Breaks” called “If It Keeps On Raining” presents an interpretation much different from the better-known crushing blues of Led Zeppelin’s usual version. As well, “Baby Come On Home,” “Travelling Riverside Blues” and “Hey Hey What Can I Do” are rescued from becoming simply bonus-track obscurities on old compilations and box sets, and that’s a good thing. But the Bombay Orchestra’s instrumental version of “Four Hands” (a/k/a “Four Sticks”) and the mid-tempo instrumental “St. Tristan’s Sword” aren’t really must-own items, and neither are the other instrumentals and assorted mixes that round out the set.

So, thrifty consumers might be better off picking and choosing from their favorite download purchase sites. The following are some suggestions as to what might be the best bets to round out one’s Led Zeppelin collection of studio work with one last perfect playlist:

ULTIMATE DELUXE EDITION COMPANION-DISC PLAYLIST

“Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind” (from Led Zeppelin III Deluxe Edition)
“Jennings Farm Blues” (from Led Zeppelin III Deluxe Edition)
“Everybody Makes It Through” (from Physical Graffiti Deluxe Edition)
“Sugar Mama” (from Coda Deluxe Edition)
“If It Keeps On Raining” (from Coda Deluxe Edition)
“Travelling Riverside Blues” (from Coda Deluxe Edition)
“Hey Hey What Can I Do” (from Coda Deluxe Edition)
“Baby Come On Home” (from Coda Deluxe Edition)

And finally, for those who consider the chase better than the catch, there might be a few bits left out there to compile. For instance, there are high quality versions of “Fixing to Die/That’s All Right” circulating on the ‘net that sound like they were done at the same time as the “Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind” medley. Then there’s “Sunshine Woman” from a BBC session that apparently no longer has a master tape anywhere. And Jimmy Page’s magnum opus, the Physical Graffiti-era “Swan Song” is still missing in action.

One day, maybe they’ll all make an official appearance; but until further notice, the vaults to the Led Zeppelin legacy are closed up and locked down tight.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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