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  • All right then: I know many of you are already sharpening your knives to go for my jugular after seeing my rating, demanding blood for the act of heresy of “trashing” the greatest band in the history of the universe. So once again, I’m compelled to post a disclaimer about my rating and my review, just so I can be at peace with MYSELF and to be PERFECTLY clear about things (and yet, I KNOW there are STILL gonna be people who will send me the usual death threats…oh well). I’ll try to do this as short, quick and painless as I can (I’m sure you all have better things to do than to read a lot of pseudo-intellectual babble…)…Like removing a band aid!

    So here goes the disclaimer: I’m NOT a Zeppelin hater! I am NOT trashing the band! I am NOT trashing their music! Zeppelin rules! The band is awesome! The music is awesome! THIS compilation, however, is not. Yeah, I know all about their upcoming December one-off reunion gig, but even THAT fact does NOT justify this release.

    As other reviewers have accurately pointed out (and I’m sure many others will continue to do so…), “Mothership” has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING more and/or new to offer for Zep fans. Actually, it offers less: less songs than “Remasters” and/or “Earlier Days/Latter Days”. So what is the point of this, really? The DVD? Sorry, not worth the price of admission, especially if I CAN get it elsewhere separately. The remastering? Most people can’t even tell the difference…die hards sure can, but the average listener can’t…

    Insult me and threaten me all you want, but ask yourselves this one, simple question: which true Zep fan DOESN’T already have all these songs?

    I rest my case.

    Peace to you all…

    Posted on March 16, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Over the past 7 or 8 years, record companies have adopted a way of thinking that basically boils down to louder = better. Many new albums have been ruined because they are “mastered” too loud. Rush’s “Vapor Trails” is a great example of this.

    For the non technical folks, mastering is the process by which a finished, mixed tape of an artist’s song is then put through a series of refinements to make the sound a little more uniform for all listening situations. It is also at that stage that the “master” is created from which all copies are then produced.

    In the early days of CD and digital sound, the process of converting analog sound to a digital signal was not as good as it is now. Also, coming out of the age of vinyl, where too loud a sound on vinyl could cause the needle to jump, CD’s tended to be mastered about the same volume as vinyl. The CD is capable of volume levels that are louder than vinyl.

    But, rather than use technology to create a better sounding product, the record companies took a perspective that louder = better = more sales. In other words, the louder the product is, the more people will notice it.

    The problem for those of us who enjoy music is that by making CD’s a whole lot louder, we are also losing dynamics and dimension. Music is by nature, supposed to have peaks of loudness. There needs to be contrast. A visual representation of what we should be hearing versus what we are getting out of newer CD’s would be aptly demonstrated IF I BEGAN TYPING IN ALL CAPS. THERE IS NO CONTRAST BETWEEN LOUD AND soft.

    So, with Led Zeppelin’s “Mothership” we are now getting louder music at the expense of dynamics. Jimmy Page remastered the entire Zeppelin catalog in 1991 and did a great job of using the technology available at that time. Technology exists now that could expand and sweeten the work that Jimmy did, BUT NO – THE MATERIAL HAD TO BE MADE MUCH LOUDER in order to be more competitive in today’s market.

    Competitive with what? I don’t know. It’s Led Zeppelin for crying out loud!

    I really wish Jimmy would have taken a more active role in this new remaster job. (Yes, it does say he produced the tracks. He did – years ago. Producing is completely different from mastering – check the 90’s CDs where they additionally credit “remastering” to Jimmy Page and George Marino. Jimmy was not involved in the remastering this time around. It was done by John Davis)

    Listen to “Trampled Underfoot” Listen to the Jimmy Page remaster from the early 90’s and then the “Mothership” remaster. Notice how the swirling guitar at the end of the keyboard solo seems to fade up, up, UP in loudness on the Jimmy Page remaster (it was mixed that way in 1975). On The “Mothership” the fade up is less dramatic. THAT’S BECAUSE YOU LOSE THOSE DYNAMICS WHEN MUSIC IS MASTERED TOO LOUD. Notice how when Bonzo crashes in to his cymbals on “Mothership”, the sound of the cymbals is breaking up. That’s because the sound is so loud, even the CD can’t reproduce it. That’s called clipping, basically. That’s where the peak is cut off because the signal is too loud. Imagine a mountain top just under a cloud. If you raise the mountain, you would lose sight of the peak in the cloud. That’s a visual for what happens to sound.

    To hear how truly incredible a CD can sound, check out “Love” by The Beatles, the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab version of Yes “Fragile”, or the Tom Scholz remasters of “Boston” or “Don’t Look Back”.

    Send Atlantic a message and avoid “Mothership”. Tell them we are tired of having OUR MUSIC PRESENTED TO US LIKE THIS. By the way, the abomination that is Rush “Vapor Trails” just happens to be on…Atlantic.

    D. Duran

    Posted on March 16, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • 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.

    Posted on March 16, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Do not base your decision on whether to buy this album on whether you have the songs on some other album. The sound quality of the songs on Mothership is so much better than any other album of Zeppelin you may own that you should add this album to your collection. I don’t know if it is the new technology available or if the band members spent more time on the remasters, but each song on Mothership sounds much better than what I have on their studio album versions or on their previous remastered collections. I feel bad for the reviewers who are not getting the CD because they have the songs in other forms. Those poor guys are thinking that the same old songs are just being burned to on a new CD. Their loss. I also feel bad for the people who just get the MP3 version of this album. You lose out on the improvement in sound quality if you don’t get the actual CD of Mothership. You only buy Led Zeppelin because they sound great, so you should get the album that makes them sound the greatest.

    Posted on March 15, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Music: 5 Stars; DVD: 5 Stars; Economic Value: 5 Stars; New Relevance: 1 Star

    Almost 5 years ago to the day, the compilation “Early Days and Latter Days” was released, hence apparently bringing the ‘ultimate’ 2 CD “best of” Led Zeppelin on the market. A year after that, the ultimate live DVD compilation “Led Zeppelin” was released, to general acclaim. Fast forward to Fall 2007: Les Zeppelin has finally released its music digitally, plus “The Song Remains The Same” album and movie gets new life on upgraded releases, and oh yea, there is a one-off reunion concert coming up in early December in London. So how to ‘celebrate’ the occasion? Well, how about another “best of” release!

    “Mothership” (2 CDs, 24 tracks, 140 min.) is a virtual copy of “Earlier Days and Latter Days”: 20 of the 23 tracks from that appear on “Mothership”, including all the staples, from “Whole Lotta Love” to “Black Dog” to Kashmir”, and on and on. To mix is up just a little bit, “What Is and What Should Never Be”, “The Battle of Evermore” and “Ten Years Gone” were dropped from “Early Days and Latter Days”, and these 4 songs were added instead: “Ramble On”, Heartbreaker”, “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “D’Yer Mak’er”. Too me those are minor changes on the fringes. It all sounds terrific, of course, due to yet more remastering from Jimmy Page.

    As to the bonus DVD, there is nothing new here. This is a sampling/reduced version of the 2003 “Led Zeppelin” DVD: in order, there are 9 songs from the 1970 Royal Albert Hall show, 4 songs from the 1973 Madison Square Garden show that produced “The Song Remains the Same” movie, 3 songs from the 1975 Earl’s Court show, and 4 songs from the 1979 Knebworth show. As such all performances are (and sound) pretty much terrific.

    The bottom line is this: if you are new to Led Zeppelin, or if you are one of the remaining 13 people on this planet who after all this time do not have either the Led Zeppelin albums proper or the 2002 “Early Days and Later Days” compilation, by all means drop everything, and order this terrific and value-priced set immediately. For the rest of us, I fail to see the new relevance of this compilation, as there is not as much as a sniff of new music or DVD in this collection

    Posted on March 15, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now