LED ZEPPELIN – Boxed Set 2 (1993 Atlantic)
Take a trip back to September, 1993. Led Zeppelin had no greatest hits albums available and just three years previous, the monstrous Led Zeppelin box set was a smash hit. I believe it was the most successful box set ever at the time!
It was, however, just a sampling of Zeppelin’s catalogue. A generous sampling, but a sampling nevertheless. 31 album tracks were missing, as it was just a four disc set. The missing tracks are not throwaways though. How could you say that about “Good Times, Bad Times”, “Living Loving Maid”, “Out On The Tiles”, “The Rover”?
So, predictably, three years later came Box Set 2 with all those tracks plus the recently discovered “Baby Come On Home”. The result is a complementary set; you really can’t have one without the other. Having both sets is how I originally heard the Zeppelin catalogue, and I do have a certain nostalgia for these sets.
Much like the first box, this set was lovingly sequenced and remastered by Jimmy Page himself. As such, the track order takes you on a journey of sorts. Unfortunately it’s just not as epic a journey as the first box. How can there be? With no “Kashmir” or “Stairway” available, it could never be as monumental. Still, it’s a pretty cool trip. Starting you off on disc one with “Good Times, Bad Times” and closing disc 2 with the melancholy “Tea For One”, this tracklist does what it was meant to do. Sandwiched between there are some of the best Zeppelin album cuts of all time.
I don’t think I need to go over highlights. I do? Alright. “Down By the Seaside” is simply gorgeous, one of my personal favourite Zeppelin songs. It’s in my top five for sure. Although it’s a bit silly, I dig the country hoe-down of “Hot Dog”. It’s certainly the heaviest country music I ever heard. With John Bonham on drums, how could it not be? “That’s the Way” is another beauty, acoustic and pretty. It’s “Carouselambra” that throws me the most, a complex swirl of synthesizers and howling Plant vocals.
The sound quality was great for its time, but technology, tastes and standards change. The songs have been remastered since, and will be again. Personally I have no qualms with the sound and I still enjoy this box to this day, even though I own the massive 10-disc Complete Studio Recordings as well. Really, my only issue was the inclusion of just one previously unreleased song. “Baby Come On Home” is a wonderful slice of soul, a young Plant belting about a cheating woman while Pagey plays some elegant notes behind him. Yet, as we saw later with the release of the BBC Sessions, there was more in the vaults. Why couldn’t “The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair” or “Something Else” be included here much like “Traveling Riverside Blues” was included on the first box set? We know Jimmy has dug up more rarities since.
It is what it is. Maybe it was a bit shameful to bait die-hard fans with one new song, but the remastering of the set was also considered a major selling feature. The set, being only a 2 disc set, is physically much smaller than the original, and contains one new essay, by David Fricke. The packaging is quite beautiful, and everything from the cover art to the layout echoes the first box. Clearly, you are meant to have both.