Led Zeppelin’s Re-Masters: To Buy or Not To Buy?

Led Zeppelin I Turquoise Cover
The Turquoise lettering on a first pressing of Led Zep I

The news that Jimmy Page has completed his work remastering Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue bodes well for a 2014 release. Page has confirmed this, saying to Rolling Stone Magazine that the first three Led Zeppelin albums will be released in 2014. Each album will come out as a deluxe edition, including alternate mixes and never officially released concert recordings.

Since the albums were originally released in the 1960s and 1970s, they have been remastered just once, twenty years ago for the Remasters Box Set. However, Page believes the albums will sound better this time around, saying about the current releases “It sounds ridiculous on MP3. You can’t hear what’s there properly”.

The subject came up in the pub recently…

“Why don’t you buy first editions of all the Led Zeppelin records and write about the ensuing high jinks on your blog?” asked my friend Chris with a vague air of implied sarcasm one evening after a couple of cheeky pints of a dangerously dark-coloured winter ale. I gave him a pained look, like the one a premier league manager might give his star striker after he has been sent off for biting an opponent. It may come as surprise to many, but writing a shabby music-related blog does not necessarily raise one’s status amongst one’s friends.

“Well, let’s see…” I pretended to give the matter some thought, “I’m not a millionaire, for a start: that’s certainly one reason…” It was a sharp rebuttal, but sometimes you have to nip these things in the bud. I was still bearing the scars of having lost our last similar bet, where I attempted to buy a set of Bowie albums for less than £100. Having lost, I had been forced to wear a Westlife T-Shirt as a forfeit. Wounds like that do not heal overnight.

However, looking at Chris’ blank look, or at least a blanker one than I am used to seeing, I felt I ought to elaborate, “It’s an expensive hobby, collecting Led Zep records” I advised sagely, “The first UK pressing of Led Zeppelin’s debut album costs about £1,500. I know it would make a fun article to run around London building up a lovely collection of Led Zep, but the cost overall would be two grand: I’d also have to explain to a disappointed-looking wife and kids why I had cancelled our summer holiday to buy a record that I already have on CD, which is likely to be available – newly pressed – later this year, and which I could now also download on Spotify…”

It was a fair point.

“The other slight issue is that I have already picked up a fair bit of their original back catalogue over the last couple of years…”

A "Plum" coloured UK Pressing of Led Zep II
A “Plum” coloured UK Pressing of Led Zep II

I listed my collection, which consists of plum-labelled Led Zeps II and IV, both a bit crackly, but picked up for a fiver each, a really nice US pressing of III (£7), an excellent French pressing of the light plum-labelled Houses of the Holy (£12), and a shiny first pressing of Presence in a gatefold sleeve (£15). Of these, the sleeves to II and IV are rather tatty – but otherwise it’s a decent collection.

“So it’s a bit of a non-starter.” I explained to Chris. “A headline of “Steve runs around London dropping over a grand on three records” isn’t exactly going to have readers on the edge of their seat and even if I could afford it – which I can’t – it might alienate more people than it entertains. It’s also worth saying that there are very few examples of literary greatness where the writer repeated himself. I mean, Dickens didn’t kill off Little Nell twice did he?”

I heard a sort of scoffing sound generating itself from the back of Chris’ throat. “Literary greatness?! Is that what it is?! Are you comparing yourself and your music blog to Dickens here?” Chris appeared amused. “It’s not like Dickens wrote record reviews is it? “Side one is the best of records, side two the worst of records…” I sensed I should back down somewhat.

We left it there, but the seed of an idea implanted itself. Why were UK “plum-label” pressings so costly? Were US or French pressings as good, or better? And what is that spinning wheel in Led Zep III all about?

I feel a vinyl investigation might be in order….

Stay tuned.

Led Zeppelin – Good Times, Bad Times


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12 responses to “Led Zeppelin’s Re-Masters: To Buy or Not To Buy?”

  1. marycigarettes Avatar

    i can’t believe they’re just doing the first three instead of four.
    instead of remaster after remaster, i wish someone would take issue with the pressing plants..the surface noise on so many fresh pressings is terrible. i worry that essential skills and knowledge may be getting lost somewhere through these cd/streaming years.

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    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      My theory would be they have them all ready but suspect it would be too much of a cash drain to release them all at once.
      As for the pressings quality, later Zep albums sound very good – a mixture of good mastering and something else I shall mention shortly in another post.

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  2. mikeladano Avatar

    The Zeppelin excitement builds. I know I will buy each one of the deluxe editions for the unreleased material. What I do hope is that they are affordable. I could not buy the Pink Floyd box sets. I trust that Page will give us all a product that will be worth my money…again.

    Hell, it’ll be good just to see Zeppelin dominating the front of the stores again.

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    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Same here – but at least I could hear the Floyd one on Spotify. I just hope the vinyl will be a good pressing.

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      1. mikeladano Avatar

        No Spotify here 😦

        Good pressing, good packaging without CDs flying around inside (like I heard about the Floyd sets), good sound quality and good extras. These will all be MUSTS.

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  3. 80smetalman Avatar

    Like you ERTAS, it’s too much money for me. I’ll stick with the CDs

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    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Ah, well I do want the first two on vinyl – my only chance to get a listenable copy without taking out a second mortgage.

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  4. Deke Avatar
    Deke

    I remember the huge buzz that Box Set stirred back in 1990….and it was worth the cash back than…I think I payed a cool $100 or close to it …..it was the deal and right before Xmas!!
    These reissues will be interesting to say the least and once again the buzz is building….for me it will be once Physical Grafatti is out ,I’m interested in that one and like others I’m hoping I’m not disappointed!
    Time will time

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    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I just picked up a used copy of PG for £12, so let’s hope the Remasters have extra tracks, as I’m pretty happy with my copy.

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  5. HipsterApproved.net Avatar

    Stop….

    You had me at “including alternate mixes and never officially released concert recordings”.

    ಠ_ಠ

    Like

  6. […] than the likes of “It’s Only Rock n Roll” which actually did get a release. Led Zeppelin’s forthcoming re-releases also promise “new” material unheard for 45 […]

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