Led Zeppelin

The Complete BBC Sessions

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Back in 1997, Led Zeppelin released BBC Sessions, the band's first attempt to chronicle its heavily bootlegged live recordings for the British Broadcasting Corporation. That double-disc set didn't contain all of Zep's BBC Sessions: a full nine songs from 1969 were left behind, including three songs recorded in March -- a session highlighted by the otherwise unavailable original "Sunshine Woman" -- that were believed to be lost. The 2016 triple-disc set The Complete BBC Sessions adds those songs as a third disc to a remastered version of the original 1997 compilation, an addition that doesn't greatly alter the overall picture of Zeppelin's BBC Sessions but offers a whole lot of additional value. Without those sessions, the compilation remains a stellar showcase of Led Zeppelin in ascendancy but with them the portrait deepens, particularly in how "Communication Breakdown" winds up being a place for the bandmembers to stretch their legs, incorporating covers or even interpolations of their own songs; it's a place where their intensity is married to their thirst for adventure. Elsewhere, there are plenty of extended blues jams -- "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "You Shook Me" from the lost March 1969 session are condensed and sound all the more powerful for it; similarly, the woozy rearrangement of Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues" resonates because it's concise -- but the music that hits hardest remains the live-wire rockabilly ("Somethin' Else") and revved-up blues-boogie, the latter coming to the forefront on the otherwise unavailable "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair" and that unearthed "Sunshine Woman," a throwaway raver that shows just how loose, muscular, and invigorating Zeppelin were at the outset.

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