Led Zeppelin


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Except for the Rolling Stones, no band was bootlegged more exhaustively in the 1970s than Led Zeppelin. For Zep, a month on the road could result in dozens of bootlegs, and some of the band's fans were so obsessive that they made a point of obtaining as many as they can find. The sound quality of Zep bootlegs has varied considerably, ranging from weak audience recordings made with mono home recorders to high-quality soundboard recordings such as Destroyer. A three-CD set that the illicit Shout to the Top label put out in 1999, Destroyer is taken from an April 27, 1977 show at the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland. Zep's performances are generally inspired and exciting, if a bit long-winded at times, and the band opts for variety by providing everything from ballsy metal/hard rock ("Rock and Roll," "Trampled Underfoot") and amplified power blues ("Since I've Been Loving You," "Nobody's Fault but Mine") to reflective folk-rock ("Going to California," "Battle of Evermore" and the captivating, though overexposed, "Stairway to Heaven"). One of the high points of this bootleg is the eerie, jazz-influenced "No Quarter," which lasts 20 minutes and turns into the type of improvisatory jazz-fusion one would have expected from Return to Forever or the Mahavishnu Orchestra back then. It should be noted that this triple-CD isn't the only version of Destroyer that came out in 1999 -- a bootlegger calling itself El Gato Records released a shorter two-CD version that year (one that omitted an 18-minute performance of "Moby Dick"). Essentially a bootleg of a bootleg, the more obscure El Gato version offers generally good sound but, unlike the Shout to the Top version, sounds a bit scratchy at times. Also, El Gato's version gives the recording date and the city but doesn't tell you that Richfield Coliseum was the venue. Destroyer falls short of essential, although diehard Zep fans will find that it has a lot going for it.

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