STORY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
Following the incredibly successful re-issue campaign that got its start in June, as deluxe editions of “Led Zeppelin,” “Led Zeppelin II,” and “Led Zeppelin III” debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, the band has now announced the re-issues of “Led Zeppelin IV” — the third best-selling album in U.S. history — and “Houses of the Holy.”
What’s surprising is not that the re-issues have been announced, but that they are set for an Oct. 28 release, and that it’s just two of them.
It had been reported initially through a variety of sources that the re-issues would come at a more languorous pace of once a year, three albums at a time. The only wrench of course, is Led Zeppelin’s sixth effort, the double album “Physical Graffiti,” which just so happens to be next on the docket. It might make sense to drop that one on its own, as it’s by far the most sonically varied and treasured by hardcore fans. Then again, it might be prudent to pair “Physical” with its follow-up, the woefully underrated “Presence.”
Conjectures aside for a moment, let’s focus on “Led Zeppelin IV” and “Houses of the Holy.” As with the previous deluxe editions, both albums have been newly remastered by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page and are accompanied by a second disc of companion audio comprised entirely of unreleased music related to that album.
“Led Zeppelin IV” is one of the most artistically influential and commercially successful albums in the history of music. Released in November 1971, the album, which is officially untitled, defined the sound of rock music for a generation with ubiquitous anthems such as “Stairway To Heaven,” “Rock And Roll,” “Black Dog,” and “When The Levee Breaks.” The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and has been certified 23 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The deluxe edition includes unreleased versions of every song heard on the original album, including alternate mixes of “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Four Sticks,” mixes of “The Battle Of Evermore” and “Going To California,” heavy with guitar and mandolin, and the fabled alternate version “Stairway To Heaven,” mixed at the Sunset Sound Studio in Los Angeles, which lets fans hear one of the most revered songs of all time as they have never heard it before.
Led Zeppelin topped the charts again in 1973 with “Houses of the Holy,” which features legendary tracks such as “The Song Remains The Same” and “No Quarter” while also showcasing the continuing evolution of the band’s signature sound with the reggae-tinged “D’yer Mak’er” and the funk jam, “The Crunge.” The album has been certified diamond by the RIAA for sales of more than 11 million copies.
The seven unreleased tracks on the companion audio disc include rough and working mixes for “The Ocean” and “Dancing Days” that reveal a deeper look inside the recording sessions of these classic songs. Other standout recordings include the guitar-mix backing track for “Over The Hills And Far Away” and a version of “The Rain Song” without piano.
Like the first round of re-issues, “IV” and “Houses” will come in a variety of formats, from a single CD of just the original album, all the way up to the “Super Deluxe Boxed Set.” The latter includes the re-mastered album on CD in vinyl-replica sleeve, the companion audio on CD in card wallet, featuring new alternate cover art, re-mastered albums of both on 180-gram vinyl in a sleeve replicating the first pressing, a high-def audio download card of all content at 96kHz/24 bit and a hard-bound, 80-page book filled with rare and previously unseen photos and memorabilia. There will also be a high-quality print of the original album cover, the first 30,000 of which will be individually numbered.
Once again, the re-issues will spark another round of calls from critics and fans for Led Zeppelin to reunite again since they last took the stage at London’s O2 Arena in 2007. A bit of advice: Don’t even start. While it’s no secret that Page, John Paul Jones and stand-in-for-his-father Jason Bonham would like nothing more than to take it out on the road for another spin, it’s still singer Robert Plant who refuses.
In the upcoming edition of the UK magazine, Plant said of Page’s desire to tour again with Zeppelin: “I feel for the guy. He knows he’s got the headlines if he wants them. But I don’t know what he’s trying to do. So I feel slightly disappointed and baffled.”
He then revealed a bit of a shocker, saying that he offered to collaborate with Page on new music, which would be the first time since 1998 when the two released the full-length “Walking Into Clarksdale” under just their own names.
“A couple of years ago, I said (to Page), ‘If you’ve got anything acoustic, let me know, I’ll give it a whirl,” Plant said. “It was hands across the water. But he walked away. Just walked away. But we couldn’t do anything proper. The weight of expectation is too great.”
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to email@example.com. Also, check out his blog at our sister publication www.delcotimes.com