Jimmy Page Drops Some Clues About New HD Led Zeppelin Releases

Poor Jimmy Page. After listening to eight tracks from the newly remastered Led Zeppelin studio albums from Atlantic/Swan Song/Rhino, the first three of which, I, II, III, will be released on June 3, the guitar great graciously opened himself to questions. Were the alternate takes, that are the meat of the “companion audio” disc that accompanies each original album, pieced together from a number of alternate takes? “No!” he said, not quite believing what he was being asked. A newspaper critic perceptively asked if recording a number of takes was Page’s way of deciding what he wanted a song to be? A Canadian classic rock jock wanted to know was there “a moment when you went wow!” Some random female NYC radio jock was allowed to welcome Jimmy to New York and say her station’s call letters and numbers several times. Finally, the dapper, clueless young writer from Esquire who sat in the front row and also asked the first question (“Tell me the different sound you got from different guitars” (!!!)), was unfortunately given a second chance: what was Page thinking in 1968 when he met the other three members of the band? Could he explain his state of mind at that juncture?

“Do you want me to do a documentary? Well, I’m not going to do it,” came the quick answer.

Bully for Page. As a profession, music writing has seen better days. Being prepared to do interviews or ask a rock legend questions in a public setting is now a lost art. The idea is this: Page has remastered the nine studio Zep albums, all of which now come with a disc of extra stuff which judging by an extended arrangement of “Whole Lotta Love,” an unfinished take of “Heartbreaker” and a wonderful version of Charles Segar and Big Bill Broonzy classic “Keys to the Highway” are all very much worth having. Because there was a dearth of leftover material, Led Zeppelin I comes with a live recording from the Olympia in Paris that was recorded in passable sound by French radio in October 1969. Everything has been remastered to 192 kHz/24 Bit, but for reasons unexplained, only the 96 kHz/24 bit files will be available from HD Tracks. These fresh remasters will come in a number of forms: single CD, CD with companion audio disc, single 180 gram LP, 180 gram LP with companion audio 180 gram LP, original LP and companion audio digital downloads and the Super Deluxe Boxed Set which is everything above and a gorgeous book of photos, memorabilia and stuff every single Zep head will have to have.

“I don’t think it changes any story, I think it just augments it. It gives more color to it. The final masters which are on the studio albums that you know, quite clearly were going to be the best ones, however these [other] things are fascinating, of intrinsic and historical value.”

Asked if this is the best sound yet, Page calmly replied, “No, off the analogue tapes is going to be the best way but unfortunately I can’t invite you all round to listen to them.”

“The most important thing about Led Zeppelin is that each of us were music equals. There’s no doubt about that. But no what John Bonham had done before he never had the opportunity to play like he did in Led Zeppelin. It’s the same with my guitar playing. I’d done quite a bit with the Yardbirds and studio work and all of that but this was the vehicle to be able to just go through the stratosphere. Exactly the same for Robert and John Paul Jones. We actually played so well as a band and that’s what’s reflected so well in all of this studio material.”

bigrasshopper's picture

The only mystery that I'm aware of needing an answer is the question of whether the vinyl was mastered from the tapes - as clued in by our man of analog, Mr. Fremmer, from a comment posted purportedly by the mastering engineer, who provided a hint that they were not.
I hope Mr. Page will find the time to sit down with a real music journalist and discuss the reasons why this project is important to him. If he can't invite us to listen to the tapes then the next best thing would be to listen to the vinyl cut from the tapes. Here's hoping that digital / vinyl hybrid monster rumor is false.
The problem I have is with the packaging. Of course I want the vinyl. Of course I want the books, no I don't want books, I would really rather have one book, I mean after all it is just three albums. So I have to buy three books and then all those cd that I don't want. Talk about marketing b.s. I thought the Beatles package the right way to go. I feel like I'm walking into a car dealership here.
People who like vinyl like to have physical copies. Is it really harder to pirate a download than a PCM file on a disk ? Why not offer the hires content on a disk?
Can't wait to compare them with the Classic Record reissues. Will they even be close?

thom_osburn's picture

I have heard the Classic pressings played next to the Classic reissues and they weren't even close - the Classic sounded flat and brittle next to the RL and other original Atlantic cuts. It would not be hard to beat the Classic pressings, their inflated reputations and resale prices notwithstanding.

bigrasshopper's picture

I bypassed the originals and went straight for the Classics, I will have to check out one of them. That said, I found the sound without comparisons to be full, rich and satisfyingly smooth in the mids. I haven't been able to hear through my own system, which is far superior to the front end available at Listen Up Albuquerque. I felt it was lacking in upper and lower extension thorough that system. That Mac system may also have pulled things in a bit in the uppers, probably compared with my Boulders, where the mids may not sound as smooth? The Stan Ritcher? box compilation set I found does not tolerate extended listening. Sounds very digital to me. I can say with confidence that the Classics are in another category. I would say the originals would have to be very good to better what I heard so far, but I'll have wait to listen at home before I can really pass judgements.
Thanks for your suggestion. Which are the Robert Ludwig's ?

thom_osburn's picture

LZ 4 (runes) is a George Peckham cut. The early LZ II says RL in the deadwax on one or both sides. I am not sure what others say in the deadwax, but the original UK press of the debut album is more sonically desirable than the US.

I just feel bad for anyone who paid a premium for the Classic LZ pressings when they aren't as nice as stock copies in some cases.

JackA's picture

As I've said time and time again, sound quality never sold music. If my life depended on Amazon people writing reviews about sound quality, my life would quickly end. I see now, maybe started by Neil Young and Apple (Pono), everyone, Sony, Universal Music (Pure Audio), maybe even Warner, is hot to trot with new-wave electronic gadgets and new music formats that will revolutionize music!!

georgehifi's picture

"Can't wait to compare them with the Classic Record reissues. Will they even be close?"

The digital v vinyl won't be close, unless you duplicate/reduce the crosstalk (channel separation) of the digital to the same as figures of the vinyl.
IE: about 30db at 1khz and then around 10db at 20hz and 15khz then one can speculate as to the similarities of digital v vinyl.
I've done it on a cdp with a cross talk reducing network on it's output and playing the older cd's that are ping pong L&R then reducing the channel separation so that there is the above cross talk, makes the old cd's much more bearable and richer in tone.

Cheers George

DH's picture

Especially the hi-res downloads

jmsent's picture

were heavily volume compressed. Even if the music was great, they sounded terrible, and nobody seemed to care. But there's always money to be made in re-releases, so....here we go again.

jgossman's picture

There's only one issue with your statement. Most people can't hear cross talk through the most important for imaging upper mid-range lower than about 20db. Which is why the finest MM and MI cartridges compete very well, thank you, against both hi-res digital and very good MC cartridges with regard to image stability and ambiance, even though they tend to be lower spec in this regard. At the end of the day, these kind of statements about superiority by spec are a reminder that most of the time the most important specs are those which we often don't know how to measure -- yet.

Azteca X's picture

The question remains of whether they'll be compressed to hell or not. Don't get me wrong, it's classic rock that was played loud as hell on stage and in studio and should sound "loud" or "big." And using classic analog or analog-modeled compressors makes perfect sense. But if they're putting a brutal compressor / limiter / "maximizer" on the master bus at the end of it all the character of the sound will change. Go ahead, make it sound rock and roll, but don't make it sound flat.

JackA's picture

Azteca, I don't mind some compression being used, if that's what it took to make the LZ songs sound as they did. Without it, LZ may be confused with the 1910 Fruitgum Company. I do believe analog recordings do benefit from digital enhancements. Besides, no more noisy electronic gear to foul the sound.

Your honor, I'd like to present this piece of recorded music evidence to prove a point. This [Canadian] group named "Lighthouse" had a hit with the sound of horns that were like a ferocious tiger with 4" claws that wanted to rip you to shreds. When they remixed and remastered their key '70's song, "One Fine Morning", the newly rendered (remixed/remastered?) song turned that ferocious tiger sound into a declawed pussycat!! When I questioned their current manager, she said, well the group members liked it.

georgehifi's picture

If you've done it like I have where you can switch the network in and out on the fly, it is not subtle, especially on the old L&R ping pong cd's, even a deaf man will hear it. It richens thing up like the lower mids, and yes the image is not as wide.
As for the crosstalk graph of good MC like the mega buck Lyra Dorian this is a bit better than most but you pay for it, look at the third graph down, best crosstalk is -36db at 1khz and only -12db at 40hz-15khz.


Cheers George

Ola Harstrom's picture

Not really about sound quality but for anyone interested in these re-issues or anything LZ for that matter...


bigrasshopper's picture

Thanks for that. Plant talks about his desire to expose youth to the original sound of vinyl. Neither he, nor Page mentions tapes.

JackA's picture

On a bootleg CD there a version of this song with a false start (and studio talk). Knowing what could be accomplished with tape recorders, I'm surprised there was so much tape hiss noise. Listening to radio, the tape noise is still apparent. I'm surprised Jimmy even overdubbed to a poorly recorded stings track. However, I am glad Jimmy held the tapes, rather than Atlantic Records, who allowed a good portion of their catalog to go up in smoke from a warehouse storage fire. I'm not sure why Ahmet Ertegun ever mentions this, other than he's too embarrassed to.

andrews27's picture

Could it be because Ahmet died after an accident a few years ago?

JackA's picture

Now, on top of that, I'll never know who Ahmet Ertegün was scolding, during Bobby Darin's - Queen Of The Hop! Appears to be a black female, not sure she was doing there!! She/they removed a "bar", Bobby took some of the blame! Thanks for the info, Andrew!