There's no "jiggery-pokery" on the new Led Zeppelin album reissues, Jimmy Page insists.
That is, no melding of different takes, no clever studio tricks by which he cobbled together complete alternate versions of staple songs from his juggernaut classic-rock band's 1968-82 oeuvre.
Just pure, and in some cases purely different, sister takes.
"They're all the real deal, man," Page, now 70, told a few dozen members of the press at a Soho hotel.
And if eight samples Page played for journalists on Tuesday are any indication, the new material will frickin' rock. Real surprising, huh?
The first three of Zeppelin's nine studio albums go on sale June 3. Deluxe editions of each will contain a companion disc boasting alternate versions and, in the case of Led Zeppelin III, a newly discovered unreleased track: an ad-hoc acoustic blues number.
In addition to remastered CDs, Atlanta/Swan Song also is releasing these dual offerings on vinyl and digital download. A "Super Deluxe Boxed Set" of each will contain all sonic formats plus a hardbound, 70-plus page commemorative photo book of the band circa the album's release, plus a print of the album cover.
Page on Tuesday played eight bonus tracks off the first three albums. Looking lean and healthy in a blue, three-piece suit with scarf, and mentally as sharp as the third-position E-chords he slashed on his psychedelic Tely to open Track 1 of Album 1, Good Time Bad Times -- Page answered reporters’ questions for about half an hour.
The motivation for the reissues?
"We've got so many different formats that it made sense to revisit the original albums," Page said.
The upgrades are cutting-edge and of such high resolution as to serve future formats not even available, Page said. To what specific resolution?
"I'm not giving away all my trade secrets."
The remainder of Zeppelin's original-album catalogue -- namely, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti, Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda -- will be released throughout 2015.
"There's lots of good things to come," Page said teasingly, including another ripping version of Bonzo's Montreaux -- a percussion solo featuring John Bonham, whose death in September 1980 broke up the band.
Here are mini-reviews of the eight tracks Page previewed in New York:
Good Times Bad Times / Communication Breakdown (Led Zeppelin I)
A medley from a live gig in Paris in 1969. Just a snippet of GTBT, before the band and, especially, singer Robert Plant shred the opening album's hit song. We are reminded that no matter what is left of Plant's voice now, he had absolutely no break pedal in those early days. He screamed and shrieked his throat off. That he had anything left of his vocal cords by 1971 is a minor miracle.
You Shook Me (Led Zeppelin I)
From the same Paris gig, a wicked version of this blues-slide belter. As with the two studio versions the band has released (on LZI and the 1990 CD boxed set), the highlights of this track come when Plant's moan and Page's slide slowly descend in unison.
Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin II)
Sounds almost exactly like the studio version, but with a different (although no less grungy) Page solo, and with different guitar overdubs segueing back to the main riff. By far the superior version of this song is on the album.
Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin II)
Pared-down version, perhaps containing just one guitar -- Page's base-track electric hitting that memorable riff. Most notable by its absence: the volume-increasing, note-descending electric slide from Page following every Plant refrain of "Gotta whole lotta love." You find yourself filling them in. The vocal track is completely different, at least before the "shake for me girl" lyric begins near the end. No Bonzo bongo overdub either. With the song laid bare, you better appreciate Page's production sense.
Gallows Pole (Led Zeppelin III)
Ditto on this one. Just Jimmy's base-track acoustic guitar. No JPJ mandolin, no Jimmy overdub banjo or fuzzboxy solo at the end. Page said Tuesday his acoustic guitar track, with its interesting elements, got lost in the album version once all the other instruments buried it. This version puts it in the shop window for the entire song.
Since I've Been Loving You (Led Zeppelin III)
The best alternate track of the eight, by far. Recorded live in studio by the band days before the final album take, this version is BETTER than the original, at least from the second verse on. Way more intense, especially from Page on one of his signature Zeppelin tracks. Jones' staccato and stop-start bursts of organ over the intro and first verse reveal he was still feeling his way through the track at this point, as Page on Tuesday more or less said of them all. On his electric-guitar solo on this version, Page absolutely cooks. Better than any live version I've ever heard. He said Tuesday the band would sometimes deliberately over intensify early versions of songs before toning it down for the final take. Thank goodness this version survives. A must-own for any Zep purist.
Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin III)
From Page's audible count-in of "two … three … FOUR …," you know right off the bat this will be different from the original. But not much. Sounds almost like the final version, with only one or maybe two Page electric-guitar tracks, instead of the cacophony. Plant's vocals get the extra studio treatment on this incarnation -- more echo, maybe even with that harmony machine they used at concerts in the late 1970s. But what you gain in the cool, tight, upgraded vocal assault you lose in Page's squelched guitar work.
Keys to the Highway/Trouble in Mind (Led Zeppelin III)
This is the new track that Page discovered. It's the only take of it, and it features just him on acoustic guitar and Plant on both vocals (employing the same tremolo effect as another bluesy number on LZIII, Hats off to Roy Harper) and electrified blues harp (think When the Levee Breaks). No Jonesy, no Bonzo. Yet I would have preferred this on LZIII to the far less accessible Harper.