Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II & Led Zeppelin III—Super Deluxe Boxed Sets

“The best way to listen to Led Zeppelin is off of the analog tapes, but unfortunately, I can’t invite you around to listen to them.” That’s Jimmy Page, answering my question about whether vinyl is still the benchmark for experiencing Led Zeppelin music at a press conference following a listening event he hosted in New York City back in May. But now that Page has personally remastered all nine of Zep’s formidable studio albums in 96-kHz/24-bit, high-resolution digital audio appears to be the ideal format for hearing every detail and nuance put forth from the collective hammer of the gods.


Up first on the re-release docket is the original holy trinity of Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III, and they arrive in a number of mix-and-match configurations. You can choose single CDs or single LPs, Deluxe Edition double CDs or LPs, both with “companion audio”—i.e., the bonus tracks: the unearthed, unreleased, and mostly unbootlegged nuggets Zep fans have been drooling about for decades—but the must-have versions are the three Super Deluxe Boxed Sets, each of which have all of the remastered and additional material on both CD and LP, plus a digital download card to get all the content in 96/24 (except the first album’s bonus live tracks, which are at 48/24 because the source material was originally mixed for radio broadcast). If you can’t spring for (or even find!) the Super Deluxe Boxed Sets but still want to go high-res, HDtracks.com has all three fully ledded, er, loaded releases available for download.


Led Zeppelin roared out of the gate on January 12, 1969, and there was no turning back. Listen for John Bonham’s relentless right-channel cowbell on “Good Times Bad Times” and the impeccable echo on Robert Plant’s vocal on “Dazed and Confused,” then follow how the cymbal-crash-dominated tempo shift in the left channel dominates Page’s furious guitar work before he forcibly moves his solo to the forefront of the mix. The Companion Disc is culled from a French radio broadcast of a gig recorded at The Olympia in Paris on October 10, 1969, and it shows how formidable the band already was onstage, especially during the all-out ebb-and-flow annihilation of the set-closing “How Many More Times.” That said, the murky nature of the broadcast does impact overall sound quality.


Nonstop touring momentum led the boys to record the bulk of Led Zeppelin II (a.k.a. The Brown Bomber) on the road, and when it dropped on October 22, 1969, it hit like a, well, you know. The heart of the Companion Disc is “Whole Lotta Love (Rough Mix With Vocal),” with Plant still finding his way lyrically and experimenting with his vocal- placement choices. And you’ve never heard the signature swirling, orgasmic middle section like this before: Page’s theremin squeals like someone twisting balloon animals into tortuous knots, while Bonham’s hi-hat and cymbal work lead to a powerhouse kit-slap fury most drummers can only dream of unleashing.


The folky, acoustic-driven Led Zeppelin III was ahead of its time upon release on October 5, 1970, and its Companion Disc reveals even more substance. An early, live-off-the-floor take of  “Since I’ve Been Loving You (Rough Mix of First Recording)” showcases, to use Page’s own descriptors, a “hard” intensity, more than the “cooler” final take—and he’s quite right, as it builds to a faster and furiouser conclusion. And, oh yes, you can spot Bonham’s infamous squeaky-creaky drum pedal—the Ludwig Speed King Model #201—all throughout the track. Yet the true gem of the lot is “Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind (Rough Mix),” which finds Page going acoustic in the left channel and Plant singing and playing harmonica through Page’s amp in the right, with the vibrato effect eventually put to similar use on III ’s actual closing track, “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.”


Me, I say hats off to (Jimmy) Page for his high-res handiwork, which tantalizingly hints at what’s in store when the mighty Zep’s remaining six studio albums are unveiled over the next year (or so). Page’s mixes on these first three iconic releases make it abundantly clear: The song most decidedly does not remain the same.

Label: Atlantic/Swan Song
Audio Formats: 44.1-kHz/16-bit PCM Stereo (CD); 96-kHz/24-bit (studio tracks, via download card); 48kHz/24-bit (live tracks, via download card)
Number of Tracks: 17 on 2 CDs (Led Zeppelin), 17 on 2 CDs (Led Zeppelin II), 19 on 2 CDs (Led Zeppelin III)
Length: 1:56:16 (Led Zeppelin), 1:14:28 (Led Zeppelin II), 1:24:48 (Led Zeppelin III)
Producer: Jimmy Page
Engineers: Glyn Johns (Led Zeppelin), Eddie Kramer (Led Zeppelin II), Andrew Johns (Led Zeppelin III), Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin III), Drew Griffiths (companion audio on Led Zeppelin II & Led Zeppelin III)

trynberg's picture

These look like really awesome sets but at $30 each for the high-res download or $120 each for the super deluxe edition...wooh! I hope they release a "box set" at a cheaper-per-album price.