Little need be said about the juggernaut that is Led Zeppelin. Formed in the late ‘60s – 1968 to be exact – as the next project of Jimmy Page, fresh from his experience in The Yardbirds, Page began a search of possible band-mates. With a world of luck in finding a young bluesy singer in Robert Plant, a relentless and frenetic drummer in John Bonham, and an experimental wunderkind in John Paul Jones, Page began what many will swear to as the ‘greatest Rock band’ in history. And few will dispute that. But, after eight studio albums, one renowned Live album, many successful World tours, and a relatively short 12 years of active existence, the band snuffed the flame of the melted candle in 1980, following the death of John Bonham.
With the long overdue release of this respectful and chronological retrospective, Mothership, Jimmy Page puts into today’s (2007) consciousness, the collection of great songs that is the band’s legacy. Although the band only released 8 studio efforts, this 2CD collection of 24 songs pays close attention to not only the evolution of the band but also to the intensities of 4 young and extremely talented musicians, the likes of which you no longer hear in this era.
Disc One begins with 4 tracks from their first album that includes “Dazed and Confused,” and “Communication Breakdown.” It continues with three representative tracks from Led Zeppelin II, including their first breakout single, “Whole Lotta Love.” Of course, the phenomenal “Heartbreaker” is here as well. Led Zeppelin III gets two songs that include the memorable Viking song, “The Immigrant Song,” with Plant’s eerie war-cry. The untitled fourth album, which yielded what are perhaps the best known tracks of Led Zeppelin (with the notable exception of “Kashmir”) in “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll” – two of the most definitive songs in rockdom – and the overplayed, and in my opinion, overrated “Stairway to Heaven.” That album is further noted with the inclusion of “When the Levee Breaks.”
Disc Two begins with four songs from what I would arguably refer to as the best of Led Zeppelin’s catalogue, House of the Holy. “Over the Hills and Far Away,” the Jamaican influenced “D’yer Maker,” which is as uniquely Led Zeppelin as it is reggae sounding, “No Quarter,” and the excellent “The Song Remains the Same.” Physical Grafitti, the band’s 2LP set, receives three selections that include the defining “Kashmir,” as well as “Trampled Under Foot,” and “Houses of the Holy.” Presence gets two with “Achilles Last Stand” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Finally, with the last album, the presciently titled In Through the Out Door, there is “In the Evening,” and their final single, “All My Love.” I enjoyed “Hot Dog” from that last album and feel that it should have been included in place of “In the Evening,” however, the last album really shows the tiredness of the band. It was a good time to quit, and they did.
This Special Edition also contains a DVD of 20 performance clips, almost two hours extracted from the over five hour The Led Zeppelin DVD, a 2DVD Box. The music is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS, and PCM Stereo choices. Some of the songs performances are in part, while others complete. But you’ll watch the band do many of your favourites, although not all of them (there’s no “Over the Hills and Far Away,” nor “D’yer Mak’er” – sob sob) are here. But what you do get is well worth the money making Mothership a set of necessity, especially with the two CDs of music that the DVD is packaged with.
All of this is placed into a bi-fold, 4-panel digipak that includes a 24-page booklet. The booklet has an eleven-page essay from Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, complete credits of each song, and plenty of photos of the band. And the songs were satisfyingly remastered by John Davis in London and under the supervision of Jimmy Page, who produced this set.
It is easy to understand the importance and greatness of Led Zeppelin, even by listening to a set such as this. To catch the full grasp, one must go through their catalogue to hear the virtuoso guitars of Page, the driving rhythms of Bonham’s drums, the still unique rock-blues vocals of Plant, and the band’s rhythmic bass and multi-instrumentation of John Paul Jones. As you reflect on the songwriting that includes all of the songs found on this ‘best of’, you’ll wonder that we no longer produce music as well as you hear it here.