Led Zeppelin ‘Deluxe Editions’ revealed as Jimmy Page previews eight tracks — and there’s a whole lot to love
First three of the band’s seminal albums will be re-released, with bonus tracks and never-before-heard songs, on June 3. The News gets a preview with rock god Page.
There’s a whole lot to love about the forthcoming Led Zeppelin “Deluxe Editions” album series.
Eight never-before-heard tracks – plucked from a retrospective series of the band’s entire catalogue – were revealed Tuesday at a press event hosted by guitarist Jimmy Page.
“It’s so joyous, this music,” Page said in the conference room of the Crosby Street Hotel in Soho. “It was terrific to listen to it all again.”
He has been listening for several years now. Holed up in London’s Olympic Studios, Page reviewed every alternate take of Zeppelin’s sacred trove of songs. Enough of them exist for Page to term his mission “an epic task.”
All that work will pay off with the re-release of reworked versions of all nine Zep albums this year — with the first three classics arriving on June 3. Each of the original works will be paired with a second full set filled with radically different takes on the classic versions.
Page described the series as “a portal into the times when these were tracks were recorded.”
He’s particularly proud of one cut that’s never been heard in any form before — a surreal refiguring of the blues standard “Key To The Highway.” It will be included on the “Led Zeppelin III” set.
It’s tricked-out in the style of the last song from the original disc, “Hats Off To Roy Harper.” Both feature a stripped acoustic guitar, piercing harmonica and a highly tremulous vocal from frontman Robert Plant.
“It’s an approach to the blues that’s not how other people had done it,” Page said.
That’s a central part of the whole Zeppelin gestalt. Starting in 1968, the British foursome infused American blues with its own avant-garde chord-structures and Celtic folk influences. Page, Plant, drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones also broadened it with a level of heaviness that lent music new weight.
The eight “new” songs that Page revealed Tuesday featured two from Led Zeppelin’s first album, two from “Led Zeppelin II” and four from the band’s third, and strangest, work.
Since no alternate tracks exist from the band’s debut, the second disc for that set features a full live concert taped in Paris by a French radio station. It’s tinny in sound but brimming with energy. The version of “Communication Breakdown” expands to twice the length of the studio’s take, and includes a blistering new solo. A live version of “You Shook Me” strips the sound down to a deep blues grind.
From Zeppelin’s second work, Page unfurled fresh takes on “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love.” The former boasts a completely different guitar cadenza in the famous break, with a looser, funkier turn on the lead.
The latter differs to a revelatory degree from the “Whole” we all know and love. It’s far longer, with a greatly enhanced “freak out” mid-section. Here, Bonham’s ghostly cymbal work has even greater abstraction, while Plant’s cries of “love” become eerie whispers. Page’s guitar chords have a fresh density in the middle section, and push out from the chorus at an alternate rhythm. It’s a longer, quirkier version – one fans may well cherish as much as the original.
From “Led Zeppelin III,” “Gallows Pole” finds its underpinnings re-imagined. The chords of the main riff resolve in a prettier way and the bass line becomes more prominent. The take also holds its acoustic section longer, giving the whole song a jammier, freer feel.
The album’s blues epic, “Since I Been Loving You,” has a rawer vocal, a more fierce guitar solo and a greater sense of improvisation.
In “Immigrant Song,” the vocal has an eerie new distortion at the end, something that would have been cool to include in the official take.
Hopefully, the complete releases later this year will include as many fresh insights, and fodder for fantasy, as these cuts do. If so, hard core Zeppologists and casual fans will come to think of these “lost” tracks as the band’s Holy Grail.