Less than a month before one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll reunions in history, it should come as no surprise to see Led Zeppelin releasing Mothership, a two-disc collection of 24 digitally-remastered tracks. Along with this collection comes the re-release of their 1973 concert film, “The Song Remains the Same,” and its accompanying soundtrack, both digitally-remastered with previously unreleased footage and tracks on both. For those fans missing pieces of the band’s catalogue, their band’s complete works have also been released on the iTunes music store this week. Out of all these newly released products hitting the shelves, Mothership lands on top.
At first glance, Mothership looks very reminiscent of Early Days & Latter Days, the band’s “best of” compilation. Ironically, this album has been released almost five years to the day of the Early Days & Latter Days release back in 2002. It differs in a few key aspects however. The most apparent difference is the track listing. Mothership has dropped “Ten Years Gone,” “What is And What Should Never Be” and “The Battle of Evermore,” but picked up four new tracks, including the reggae-influenced “D’yer Mak’er,” the radio staple “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Heartbreaker” and the Tolkien-influenced “Ramble On.” Also, these 24 tracks are available with one purchase, where as Early Days & Latter Days was released on two separate discs.
Given Zeppelin’s daunting catalogue, it would have been impossible to satisfy every Zeppelin fan, but Mothership does an adequate job of representing the band’s legendary career. A striking difference between Mothership and all other previous releases is that the remaining three band members have hand-picked the songs for the release. There is no doubt that Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones did their best to pick the songs that best represent the band. However, many lesser known gems did not make the cut, including fan favorites like “Going to California,” “Fool in the Rain,” and “Tangerine.” It is the exclusion of such tracks as these that fail to represent the full spectrum of Zeppelin’s musical ability. Zeppelin’s softer side is almost completely ignored.
Nevertheless, Led Zeppelin is foremost a rock ‘n’ roll band. That’s what they do best, and Mothership is the best of their best rock ‘n’ roll. The band-picked 24 tracks were chosen from all eight of the band’s studio albums. “Good Times, Bad Times,” “Communication Breakdown,” the concert staple “Dazed and Confused” and the flamenco-inspired “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” are all taken from the band’s first studio album, Led Zeppelin, and are also the first tracks on Mothership. They are followed by three tracks from Led Zeppelin II, “Ramble On,” “Heartbreaker” and their first hit single, “Whole Lotta Love.”
The second half of the first disc is filled with such obvious choices as “Stairway to Heaven” and “Immigrant Song” and other tracks from Led Zeppelin III & IV. The second disc is comprised of various tracks from their remaining studio albums, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti, “Presence,” and In Through the Out Door.
The biggest improvement from all previous releases is the digital-remastering of the tracks; Led Zeppelin has never sounded better. If you think you’ve heard Zeppelin, sit down, strap in, and listen to Mothership. Jimmy Page personally remastered the tracks himself, giving attention to every layer of all tracks. Plant’s wailing in “Dazed and Confused,” Bonham’s drums on “Rock And Roll,” Page’s blues-infused riffs on “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and even the opening bass line from Jones on “Ramble On” all sound fresher, more crisp.
Despite the overkill of some of these songs from extensive radio play, it’s as though you’re hearing them for the first time. The remastering of such classics is reason enough to go out and buy Mothership. The compilation serves as a great introduction to those people, if any, who have never heard Led Zeppelin’s music, and also as a simple reminder that Led Zeppelin remains one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time.
Patrick Gardner is a third-year student majoring in communications studies. He can be reached at PG606594@wcupa.edu.