In terms of their back catalogue, Led Zeppelin has built up an impressive portfolio in the time they were together between 1968 - 1980. Nine studio albums, and an estimated 200 - 300 million record sales worldwide. Unashamedly I admit I am an ardent fan of The 'Zep but what strikes me is that they hadn't released much (please forgive the terrible anecdote, a whole lotta of) live material. The Song Remains The Same (1976) accompanies the movie and that was widely panned for its excessive production and poor sound quality. BBC Sessions (1997) is a vast improvement, however, half of the recordings were during the John Peel's Top Gear sessions and therefore not in front of a studio audience to be classified wholeheartedly as a live album.
Finally launched in 2003, How The West Was Won is Zeppelin's first comprehensive live release and without doubt named after the band's overwhelming success in the United States. In fact nearly three hours across three CDs is extraordinary enough, but even more remarkable is that virtually ALL the recordings are of just 2 dates during their 1972 tour of North America, the only exception being the Mellotron for Stairway recorded in the UK. Originally recorded in California between the Houses Of The Holy and Physical Graffiti it took the hand of Mr. Jimmy Page and a couple of others as well as a helluva few man hours to produce a clean, crisp sharp acoustic that a band of this calibre deserves. For years prior to HTWWW there had been been various bootleg recordings circulating around adding to the band's mystique eventually prompting the launch of this offering.
What Page has done is a fantastically engineered sound that showcases the four members' individual skills. In no way has he attempted to sully or abridge any of the songs, nor introduce effects that would appear alien to the whole occasion. Usually I weak out of live albums as some of the rock offerings I listen to turn out to be a great disappointment, but here, the production efforts are there to hear. Sadly, there are simply far too many selling points here for me to go through, so I'll briefly go through a few of their high points. Immigrant Song is an energetic disciplined rock opus including Jimmy Page's brief solo, Moby Dick highlights John Bonham's tireless 20 minute drum rendition and for several minutes he actually does it bare handed! Then there's the ubiquitous Stairway displayed in all its unashamed grandeur.
By now, you've worked out two things from the above that this album is a stunning masterpiece and audio delight and secondly that I'm really struggling to find any more superlatives. If bands are looking out for a benchmark as to how a live album should be done, then How The West Was Won unquestionably is a contender at the forefront. M. Richardson 11/07/2011.
10 out of ten. This is proof that there is a God
Here is an updated link to the album which is now on Spotify
You can purchase the album here on Amazon
All of Led Zeppelin's activities, including the recent Celebration Day DVD can be found here on their official website