Guide to British Music of the 1960s

November 2016

CD Review: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Sessions (2016 Release)


BBC Sessions was initially released as a 2CD set in 1997. The first two discs are the same as this first release. However, the third disc is "new" with different versions of the classic tracks and the inclusion of Jimmy Page's White Summer. This does add to the original album but may be more for "completists". Those who do not own the 1997 set will find this collection of superb record of earlier Led Zeppelin playing "live" for the BBC and including many outstanding tracks.

Most of the tracks are from the band's early years which show how the band is developing. How many versions of Communication Breakdown do you need? When the band is evolving there are clear differences between the versions so they are almost like new songs due to the improvisational nature of Led Zeppelin's performances. A new song played during a live set is called Stairway to Heaven. In those days listeners must have been stunned by what they were hearing, not knowing that it would become one of rock's greatest songs. It is greeted as a new song although it will later be seen as one of the rock's greatest-ever songs. Likewise, Black Dog also has its first airing during BBC recordings with a different intro to what listeners may be familiar with.

The BBC was a major supporter of Led Zeppelin hence the volume of material from the first two LPs. Many of these tracks are taken from Top Gear or BBC concert performances. By March 1969, the date of the first broadcast, the band were already running fast. Jimmy Page and John-Paul Jones were highly experienced session men with age, in particular, full of ideas after his time in the Yardbirds. Dazed and Confused is actually a track that was debuted in Yardbirds days. Plant and Bonham came from the Band of Joy and were experienced performers. The initial session followed the first US tour ad shows their take on classic blues songs. By the time of the second session, June 1969, the band were close to releasing their second LP and this first version of Whole Lotta Love gave a taste of great things to come.

It was only a short time before the June 1969 performance on BBC Rock Hour. However, much had changed even since March as the group were maturing at a rapid rate. Even released songs were continuing to evolve and this helped them to always sound fresh. The songs were well-known but they always sounded different.

Disc three includes tracks were not on the previous release and includes one totally new track Sunshine Woman. Would you buy the 3CD set just to add in these tracks? Possibly although the original release is a fairly complete record of Led Zeppelin's first four LPs in a live context. It would have been appropriate to have the tracks reordered so, for example, the BBC Playhouse Theatre concert, was allocated its own disc and other tracks were presented in chronological order.


Released: 16 September 2016

Essential Tracks

  • Communication Breakdown
  • Whole Lotta Love
  • Travelling Riverside Blues

Track Listing

Disc One

  1. You Shook Me
  2. I Can't Quit You Baby
  3. Communication Breakdown
  4. Dazed & Confused
  5. The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair
  6. What Is and What Never Should Be
  7. Communication Breakdown
  8. Travelling Riverside Blues
  9. Whole Lotta Love
  10. Somethin' Else
  11. Communication Breakdown
  12. I Can't Quit You Baby
  13. You Shook Me
  14. How Many More Times

Disc Two

  1. Immigrant Song
  2. Heartbreaker
  3. Since I've Been Loving You
  4. Black Dog
  5. Dazed & Confused
  6. Stairway to Heaven
  7. Going to California
  8. That's The Way
  9. Whole Lotta Love (Medley)
  10. Thank You

Disc Three

  1. Communication Breakdown
  2. What Is and What Never Should Be
  3. Dazed and Confused
  4. White Summer
  5. What Is and What Never Should Be
  6. Communication Breakdown
  7. I Can't Quit You Baby
  8. You Shook Me
  9. Sunshine Woman

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