A disclaimer for the 25 people who, before I rewrote this, had stated that it was helpful. They may not think the same of what they read here now.
I had originally written that “finally there is Zep on cd that sounds as musical as it deserves to sound! for anybody who has been dissatisfied by the digital representation of zep to the point that I have (the last remasterings sound so lousy to me that I can’t enjoy them; so I’ve been listening to Zep on vinyl only) this collection will be a Godsend. For those who couldn’t care less about sonics there is no reason to get this, as ‘nothing is revealed’.”
A ‘hat in hand’ update of this review posted after further listening on 11/30/2007:
Mothership sounded great to me at first but after reading other folks at Steve Hoffman forums all pointing to the 80’s cds as being straight transfers from the analog, i had to check it out.
I realized i may have never heard the 80’s version but because i never liked the 90’s remasters (compared to my analog copies) i just assumed the 80’s were worse – this also was based on prejudice from hating 80’s cd’s from many other catalogs (miles davis is a good example).
so this re-review stands as unrequired further proof that prejudice is bad and assuming makes a you-know-what out of you-know-who.
Yesterday I got an 80’s copy of zep I and sat down with it and “mothership” – and after going back and forth again and again and again – I came to the same conclusion as those others had: the 80’s cds sound better.
there are still digitally induced problems with the new versions though they remain vastly superior to the 90’s masters to my ear.
So after my original proclamations of sonic bliss – I have to eat my hat (blech…).
I think a good mastering/manufacturing job now starting with the analog tapes as source (which mothership did not do) would surpass these 80’s transfers easily due to so much ground being gained in 16 bit quality since then. a quick listen to the doors or creedence or 100 other bands’ or orchestras’ cds that have been remastered beautifully in the last 7 years or so will demonstrate the potential.
For now, in terms of these Led Zeppelin cds, if you can compare mothership to the 80’s diament mastering.
Try this: turn up a diament cut til Plant’s vocal is pretty loud. all will be well, I promise.
Now – swap it for mothership and turn up that same song til Plant is as loud as you just heard him on your 80’s cd. I promise that your ears will hurt from the loudness/piercing quality of one instrument or another.
at low/careful volume the new masters reveal a lot of detail and appear to have great soundstage. this can be seductive, but there is an artificiality to some of the tonal shadings and the imaging if you compare directly to the vinyl or the diament 80’s cds, along with the loudness and clipping problems.
this from a guy who was wowed by the new stuff until he:
1) listened to the classic vinyl again and 2) did the a/b thing with the diament.
ok. now I am done eating my hat (yuck…).
Still, if you have nothing to compare it to or have been living with the 90’s remasters, mothership could rock your boat. I still enjoy it despite it’s shortcomings, but not as much as the diament cds now that i’ve carefully visted them.
apologies to anyone led astray by my initial review.