Just one new vinyl album recommendation for you this week (it’s our deadline) – but it’s a magnificent beast, nonetheless…

Led Zeppelin How The West Was Won new vinyl album

Led Zeppelin
How The West Was Won
Warner Music

It’s generally accepted that conquering the US is something British bands build up to after stature is gained on home turf. But Zeppelin were never ones to follow tradition, so were already touring there just a few months after forming. Their relentless approach to live campaigning in the States sealed the deal when it came to winning over hearts and minds, and by the time they played the two shows captured here, it was their eighth US tour. But for a band so creative in their 11 years together, official vinyl documents of the Zeppelin live experience are strangely thin on the ground. Page never viewed the 1976 concert documentary soundtrack for The Song Remains The Same as a true live album and the 5LP The Complete BBC Sessions, remastered by the guitarist in 2016, captured the group on the rise, rather than at their peak. Bootlegs of the two 1972 June shows captured here at the L.A. Forum and Long Beach Arena circulated for a while before finally being released in 2003, with mixing and mastering by Kevin Shirley. But not on vinyl. So now, 10 years later, for the final reissue from the existing catalogue, Page has revisited it and, like the other Zeppelin catalogue reissues since 2014, he’s helmed the remaster.

The blurring of the myth and the reality of Zeppelin is part of the appeal, but you can hear clearly that How The West Was Won documents a band on the crest of their own creative wave. Coming seven months after the release of IV and eight before Houses Of The Holy, they were eager to show off their next opus, with a number of songs previewed on the tour, with the heavy groove of The Ocean here underlining again what a powerhouse John Bonham was. Especially so with Page’s remaster. Though for vinyl fans there is no luxury of comparison with this 4LP boxset, next to the original 2003 CD recording, there’s noticeably more bottom-end girth for Jones’ and Bonham’s engine room.

Led Zeppelin would go on to scale further heights – the sprawling Physical Graffiti still lay ahead – but those later years of the band may yet see some representation. Page has suggested another multi-track recording will surface in time

There’s also incredible confidence; the extended medley that throws Whole Lotta Love into a mix with Going Down Slow (curiously, now missing Hello Mary Lou) would be arrogant in lesser hands. So too the journey through 9/8 funk and four-to-the-floor fire in two then-unreleased compositions, The Crunge and Walter’s Walk, in a fascinating 25-minute Dazed And Confused. But what’s easier to overlook is how well Zeppelin could deliver their own gentler material, showcased in the three-song acoustic section here; Going To California, especially, is aided by the mandolin of secret weapon John Paul Jones.

Led Zeppelin would go on to scale further heights – the sprawling Physical Graffiti still lay ahead – but those later years of the band may yet see some representation. Page has suggested another multi-track recording will surface in time, that’s “another view compared to How The West Was Won or The Song Remains The Same”. But for now, this is the definitive live record, proving just how mighty the hammer of the gods they wielded was.

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