LED ZEPPELIN – How the West Was Won (Remastered & Reissued)
Zeppelin kick things off with "Immigrant Song" and "Heartbreaker" followed by "Black Dog" and "Over the Hills and Far Away", which says it all, really. Listening to these particular renditions feels both magical and overpowering, almost as if it is impossible to absorb all the energy and drive conjured up by Zeppelin that now emanate from our speakers all these years later. One can only wonder what it must have been like to actually witness these gigs in person back in the day. Bonham’s thunderous drumming coupled with John Paul’s enchanting bass playing is to die for while Page and Plant are firing on all cylinders and give it their all. The glorious interplay between the four larger-than-life musicians and the tone of Page’s guitar as well as the colors and nuances of Plant’s formidable voice are both utterly impressive and inimitable.
There is plenty of musical indulgence scattered throughout the three discs, but then this was recorded back in the 70s when nobody minded a 25-minute version of "Dazed and Confused" (or a 21-minute long "Whole Lotta Love" for that matter). That kind of thing might be a turn off for some, but in the overall context of things it totally makes sense; Zeppelin were spontaneous, intuitive, and driven by instinct, not by norms, rules, or musical conventions. "Stairway to Heaven" sounds as gentle and heartfelt as ever and the majesty of "Moby Dick" has rarely been more prevalent than it is here. "Rock and Roll" is hard and diabolical blues rock at its finest and all the light and shade present in "What Is and What Should Never Be" is almost too much to take. The groove and attitude of "Dancing Days" is charming while the stomping "The Ocean" has plenty of kick and muscle to it.
Rarely if ever have a quartet sounded better than Zeppelin did back in 1972 and one can only applaud Page for having unearthed these wonderful recordings and shared them with us. The 2017 remastering by John Davis has brought out many textures especially with respect to the aforementioned "Dazed and Confused". Flaws? Yeah, but very few, I might add. The rendition of "Bring It On Home" is somewhat anticlimactic following the preceding 17 tracks and "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp" seems slightly rushed and flat somehow, but that is about it, really.
If you obtained this excellent release back in 2003, then the question is whether this remastered and nicely packaged reissue of the album warrants a purchase, but regardless of that we are dealing with a stunning collection of immortal tunes that sound as crisp and vibrant as ever. Overseen and produced by Jimmy Page, "How the West Was Won" is totally essential and a must-have as it captures not only the essence of Led Zeppelin, but also its vigor, vitality, and enduring quality.