How The West Was Won
Atlantic Records, 2003
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/31/2005
You know what the problem is with being a college-aged classic rock fan these days? Most of the bands you listen to are either touring with only a few original members left, or aren't touring/recording at all. In this case, Led Zeppelin fits both categories. So, releases like How The West Was Won ( HTWWW) are a godsend to people like me who will never be able to see Zeppelin on stage.
The material selected for HTWWW comes from two shows in Los Angeles from 1973. Jimmy Page apparently spliced bits and pieces together, fixing minor errors and the like. To be perfectly honest, unless you are a hardcore Zeppelin fan who has had bootleg copies of these shows for years, those changes are practically unnoticeable.
The album is split into three discs. Disc One is the strongest by far, featuring nine absolute Zeppelin classics. II, III and Untitled are the only albums you hear material from, but those works are so freaking amazing any songs off them are bound to satisfy fans. Now, while I am not one to call a Led Zeppelin album sterile, for the most part I enjoy the live performances more than their studio counterparts. There is a raw, unbridled energy to every track, and the performances are electric. Page's solos ("Over The Hills And Far Away," "Stairway To Heaven") are a wonder to behold, as I've said in other reviews Page is the most fluid player I have ever heard.
Discs Two and Three are where things get a little dicey. Don't get me wrong, there are some stellar moments to be found; however, the trio of songs "Dazed and Confused," "Whole Lotta Love/Medley," and "Moby Dick" cause the album to lose momentum. All three clock in at least around twenty minutes, and are prime examples of Zeppelin's legendary onstage indulgences. Look, John Bonham was one of the greatest drummers of all time, but I cannot stand to listen to a drum solo for more than about five minutes. After that time, everything just gets repetitive to the point of boredom. "Whole Lotta Love" manages to stave off boredom due to the medley, but "Dazed And Confused" left me feeling just that. I'll be the first to admit, this song has never been a favorite of mine, even the original off I, so the fact that it is three times as long did not help its case.
The regular-length numbers off the second and third discs continue in the excellence of the first. "Rock And Roll" gets your toe tapping, as well as picturing some sort of car (damn you, Cadillac!). The bluesy "Bring It On Home" is a great sum-up of Led Zeppelin's sound, and makes for a perfect closer. "What Is And What Should Never Be" allows Robert Plant to do a little ad libbing, something he was quite good at.
From what I gather, HTWWW is by far the best Zeppelin live album out there. At this point I would have to agree; the performances are quite strong, and really showcase why Zeppelin was one of the biggest bands not just during the '70s, but in the following decades to come. As there is with every live album, flat moments are to be found. Don't let those moments chase you away, however, from the top notch music that makes up the rest of How The West Was Won.