How The West Was Won
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Jimmy Page closes out the initial run of remastered reissues from Led Zeppelin’s catalog he started in 2014 with this package, initially released in 2003. Clocking in at two and a half hours, the three discs totaling 17 songs were compiled from a few June 1972 California shows, hence the “west” in the title. At the time of its appearance, it was the band’s third live set but there has since been another with the reunion Celebration Day covering music from the group’s entire career.
It can, at times, be a heavy lift. The performances sequenced to reflect a single Zepp show are crisp and clean (one of the various editions on this reissue includes a Blu-ray version mixed in surround sound) capturing the quartet at arguably its concert peak. But drawn-out takes of three songs (“Moby Dick” with its Bonham drum solo, “Whole Lotta Love,” and at 25 minutes, an interminable “Dazed and Confused”) that combine for over an hour of playing time, will tax the patience of even those who were there. Regardless, energized, comparatively compact presentations of seldom heard live tunes like “Dancing Days,” along with a terrific three song acoustic portion that includes transcendent versions of “Going to California,” “That’s the Way” and “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” makes this required listening for any rocking fan or newbie. Zepp also turns in a riveting slow blues “Since I Been Loving You” that brings them back to their roots.
This is generally considered the finest of three live releases from the original foursome and with some judicious pruning of your own, or a finger ready to fast forward through some of the extended-beyond-listenable cuts, it shows how powerful, dramatic and explosive Zeppelin could be at their best. Now is also a logical time to view, or revisit, the double DVD issued in tandem with How the West Was Won, to see how superlative the foursome was throughout their existence.
But Page misses a key opportunity by not adding any formerly unissued material to what was first released. This was a major attraction on the previous Zeppelin reissues and is something that should have happened here since it’s likely there were other gigs from this tour recorded. While the remastering adds some clarity, anyone who already owned this and doesn’t care about the deluxe booklet or surround sound, can live with their 15-year-old copy.