2.01.2008

Led Zeppelin: How the West Was Won

Finally, Zeppelin fans don't have to rely on crappy bootleg recordings or the underwhelming The Song Remains the Same to get a sense of what it was like to see the band in concert. This is a stellar document of two 1972 concerts by one of the most amazing bands in the history of rock music. The recording quality is crystal clear, the performances are inspired, and the energy leaps out of the speakers. This is everything a live album should be.

Unfortunately, it is also -- at times -- self-indulgent, overblown, and downright dull.

The first disc is incredible. The band stretches out and rocks in a way that they never could on a studio album. They don't worry about playing note-for-note renditions of their songs; instead, they fill nearly every song with unexpected twists and turns that breathe new life into the music. Every track on disc one is a gem.

The second disc is where it starts to fall apart. Jimmy Page's interminable guitar wankery on "Dazed and Confused" goes on and on and on, which would be fine if he actually played something worth hearing. But he doesn't. He just noodles. And noodles some more. And then noodles some more. At least John Bonham's never-ending solo on "Moby Dick" is musical, even to those of us who don't play drums. Things get back on track with the third disc, but it never regains the full excitement of disc one.

Music: 4 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
There are moments on How the West Was Won where the band's ego overshadowed their immense talent, but the majority of the music here has an incredible amount of spirit, sex, and soul. It could've been cut down to two discs without alienating anybody but the most devoted fans, but at least there is finally a live album that is worthy of the Led Zeppelin name.

Packaging: n/a (Altered by EPFL)
All that's included on the EPFL's version is the front and back cover. Frankly, the front cover is a perfect example of why people should be required to get an operator's license prior to buying Photoshop.

Listen if you like: rock music.

If it were food, it'd be: salt. You won't die if you don't have it, but no kitchen should be without it.

1 comment:

The Mad Hatter said...

Agreed. First disc is definitely tops, although my wife absolutely loves this entire album, front to back. She's a big Zep head and yet I have the t-shirt. What's up with that? Daddio saw these guys 5 or 6 times himself and felt they sucked live, but were still the greatest band ever. I think when they're spot-on, they're spot-on, and when they're off, they're off; and this album is a pretty good distillation of that concept.