Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 after ruling the rock music landscape for the previous decade. In 1982, the band issued its final album, appropriately titled Coda, consisting of unreleased tracks recorded throughout the legendary band’s career. And then, nothing.
Starting on June 2, Led Zeppelin will begin reissuing their nine, classic original studio albums — and the “deluxe” versions of the reissued, remastered albums will include “companion discs” with the first “new” unreleased Zep recordings from in 32 years.
“The material on the companion discs presents a portal to the time of the recording of Led Zeppelin,” said Jimmy Page, the Led Zeppelin guitarist, chief songwriter and certified rock guitar god. “It is a selection of work in progress with rough mixes, backing tracks, alternate versions and new material recorded at the time.”
The Led Zeppelin reissue program kicks off with the band’s first three albums, entitled, simply enough, Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III. The first two albums were both initially released in 1969, with Led Zeppelin III following the very next year.
That’s a pace unheard of for today’s bands. And yet, each Led Zeppelin album ranked as a classic, even if critics at the time did not agree.
For example, Rolling Stone blasted the first, eponymous Led Zeppelin album as full of “unworthy material,” calling singer Robert Plant “foppish” and “not nearly so exciting” as Rod Stewart of all people, while condemning Page as “a writer of weak, unimaginative songs.”
Needless to say, Led Zeppelin had the last laugh on the critics.
The album that Rolling Stone found so unworthy, when it is reissued in June, will contain a companion disc with a previously unreleased live performance from Paris on October 10, 1969. The nine-song set features a 15-minute version of “Dazed and Confused.”
The Led Zeppelin II companion disc includes alternate versions of familiar songs such as “Whole Lotta Love,” “Moby Dick” and “What Is And What Should Never Be.” But it will also include a “new” song, “La La.”
The Led Zeppelin III reissue extra disc features “Jennings Farm Blues” and “Bathroom Sound,” which are in-progress versions of “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” and “Out On The Tiles,” respectively.
In 2012, when he first announced the Led Zeppelin reissue project, Page seemed more excited by the prospect of remastering the albums than by the unreleased material.
“Everything is being transferred from analog to a higher-resolution digital format,” the now 70-year-old Led Zeppelin guitarist said. “That’s one of the problems with the Zeppelin stuff. It sounds ridiculous on MP3. You can’t hear what’s there properly.”
If you’re like movie star Jack Black, who introduced the band at their Kennedy Center Honors ceremony and considers Led Zeppelin “the greatest rock and roll band of all time, better than the Beatles, better than the Stones,” well, you’ll want to save your dollar bills for the Led Zeppelin reissues, which will come out both on CD and on old-fashioned vinyl.