Led Zeppelin – The Ultimate Collection
By Chris Welch
Carlton Books – £50.00
Physical is the word – a smack in the teeth for all those detractors who had begun to doubt Led Zeppelin’s innate ability. Here was an ultra-tough riff with a raunchy beat that showed the band were back in business. They seemed a bolder, better band, playing together with a clearly defined sound and a firm sense of direction. Ne messy beats, no mangled vocals, just a mix of solid drums and guitar which combined to throw a custard pie in the face of a cynical world. John Paul Jones provided a sprightly electric clavinet riff in the background to a theme that has its roots in Blind Boy Fuller’s 1939 recording ‘I Want Some Of Your Pie.’
Along with such publications as When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall, Led Zeppelin On Led Zeppelin by Hank Bordowitz and an array of others, you might be wrong to assume that almost everything has already been written on one of the world’s most toptastic and innovative of ‘great bands.’
Yet Chris Welch’s Led Zeppelin – The Ultimate Collection can finally put the inquisitive, guessing game to rest.
In this m-i-g-h-t-y tomb of an assortment that includes not only a 168-page book (that as well as being lavishly bound, is riddled with pull-out posters, tickets and a menagerie of surprising trinkets that’ll put a smile on the face of even the most jaded of cynics), there’s a DVD with archive interviews and never-before-seen film footage, along with thirty rare, removable documents and items of memorabilia.
If that weren’t enough, there are also five ready to mount, photographic art prints. So in all, one can herein rest assured that nigh every nook and Zeppelin induced cranny has finally been signed, sealed and delivered by way of innovative packaging.
Admittedly, the quality of some of the posters might be a little fuzzy, but there again, one does need to take into account when they were originally shot – probably the early seventies. And for what purpose?
Many of these enlarged photographs were no doubt initially taken, for no other reason than to be re-produced in one of the early seventies music papers. Not to be blown-up more than forty years later with a view to perhaps being mountd on people’s walls. That said, the subject matter of predominantly Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in full-quintessential-flight, is, for true fans at least, unquestionably charismatic enough to outweigh any blurring of doubt. A quality, which in and of itself, might be considered as part of the charm anyway.
Moreover, it is at the end of the day, the book’s writing that has to be this collection’s most intrinsically central, inviting aspect.
From the very outset of the book’s Prologue, where Welch writes: ”When Led Zeppelin burst on the scene with their debut album in 1969, the reaction ranged from stunned disbelief to incomprehension. The electrifying excitement of ‘Dazed and Confused,’ the menace of ‘How Many More Times’ and the frantic exuberance of ‘Communication Breakdown’ were just some of the performances that instantly set Led Zeppelin apart. Here was an album that would redefine rock music, shaping it for the next 25 years.,” right through to its final chapter, ‘The Long Farewell,’ upon which the author simply reflects: ”Jimmy Page and Robert P;ant were like nomads wandering in the desert, after the demise of Led Zeppelin. Exhausted and thirsty, they paused at the oasis of each new solo musical endeavour, hoping to find sustenance. Driven apart by the stresses and strains of the old group’s latter days, they could not work together, but despite their best efforts, they could not work apart.,” there’s an inviting simplicity to the writing, which, the more one finds out, the more one wants to delve into.
Replete with great colour and black and white photographs, there are separate chapters on all four members of the band, as well as chapters that chronologically follow and describe each of the band’s nine albums (excluding Remasters and Unledded), all of which go some way in deciphering just some of the magic: ””Bonzo” was the heart and soul of Led Zeppelin. The Bonham sound, purposeful and commanding, was woven into their creative fabric. Many numbers were built around the drums and guitar riffs he and Page worked out together, such as ‘Immigrant Song,’ Black Dog,’ and ‘When The Levee Breaks.’ His sense of swing came from his jazz and blues roots, and it was Bonham’s clever use of cymbals and percussion that brought such drama to ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love.’
An exquisite compilation, Led Zeppelin – The Ultimate Collection has to be an absolute must for any fan of the band or seventies rock in general; as here is where so much of loud’n’brash, yet intelligent rock’n’roll, truly started.