This list consists of a very detailed bootleg discography and is divided into
three separate large parts. The first one is dedicated to vinyl albums. Much larger
part is dedicated to the CD titles, which consists of thousands of different titles.
Third is visual discography, capturing the real DVD format but also VCD and even
VHS. All three sections are simply expanded as full relational discographies and
they may be easily navigated just by the clicking below categories:
Many say that there's no band that can compare to Led Zeppelin in concert. The
energy, the power and the presence of the band live is all part of the legend.
Despite this, there has been no official concert recording of the band released
for years. The closest thing to a live album has been for a long time the soundtrack
of the film "The Song Remains The Same". Then, twenty one years later
"BBC Sessions" was released in 1997. However, since both titles are
a compilation from a number of nights and the material edited (including overdubs),
it can hardly be considered a true representation of the band in concert. Through
the years there have been rumors of an official live collection. These rumors,
like those of a reunion tour, have been squashed by all three living members of
the group, who have voiced his objection to both, although in May 2003, after
many years of waiting, Jimmy Page finally released the Led Zeppelin live collection.
Slated for a simultaneous 2003 release were "DVD", a two-disc set, and
"How The West Was Won", a three-CD set. Long sought-after by Zeppelin
devotees and collectors, this marks the first-ever official release of these rare
and legendary performances, which span the group's entire career. Much-rumored
and eagerly anticipated, the DVD and CD sets each contain entirely different material,
so there is no overlap between the two releases. Behind this, one has still to
turn to the scourge of the record industry - the bootleggers: friend of fans and
foe of Feds.
it all started
In late 1968 a couple of California teenagers stumbled upon several reels of tape
that had been recorded in Bob Dylan's house. How they came to acquire these tapes
has never exactly been explained and is the stuff of legend. Before the 1960's,
record companies usually held onto all tapes from artists' recording sessions.
But artists like Dylan and the Beatles took more control of the process of making
records, recording where they felt like it, in a house in Woodstock, for example
and the record labels lost control of the process.
The tapes these two teenagers stumbled upon contained some previously unreleased
Dylan songs and alternate versions of some songs that had already been released.
Open-reel tape decks were expensive at the time, and beyond the budget of these
kids, so they approached a record manufacturing plant to master and press the
tapes in the lowest quantity allowed, which was 100 pieces.
In the 1960's, cassette tapes were not commonly available, and everyone had a
turn-table, so it was not unusual for people to make records to pass on information
as they do with tapes today. High school bands made records of their annual concerts
and church groups made records of their favorite hymn performance. Pressing 100
records was considerably cheaper than buying a tape deck and at the time there
was nothing illegal about it.
The kids made these 100 Dylan records, thinking of them more as novelties rather
than as albums per se. They gave them away to friends and soon friends of friends
began to inquire about them. People began to offer money for the discs, which
were packaged in a plain white sleeve. A record store approached the kids to ask
if they could have 100 copies at $4 a piece. So the kids made 500 more, started
to sell them for a couple of bucks each, and the modern American bootlegging industry
The record became known as "The Great White Wonder" and over the next
decade it sold so many copies some claimed it should have made it onto the Bill-board
charts. The teenagers went on to form the Trade Mark of Quality (TMQ) record label
and to become the biggest bootleggers in music history. Today we recognize The
Great White Wonder as the first significant bootleg album.
Bootlegging itself began back with the invention of the cylinder phonograph; the
earliest bootlegs were of opera legend Enrico Caruso. But bootlegging didn't begin
as an industry until the late 1960's and it continues to this day as a quasi-underground
record industry. And with the exception of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones,
no other group in history has interested bootleggers as much as Led Zeppelin.
(The very detailed history of all the early vinyl bootleg labels, including a
history of persons responsible for these labels, can be found on The
Pink Floyd Vinyl Bootleg Guide excellent site. You can also visit Wikipedia,
where a history of bootlegs is available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bootleg_recording).
When bootlegging began in the late 1960's, it was not illegal. Those first copies
of The Great White Wonder were sold in legitimate record stores over the counter
and were stuck in the Dylan section in the records racks. In the early 1970's,
every hip record store in town had stacks of bootlegs for sale, and many times
they were cheaper and occasionally better than the regular record company releases.
The law changed in February 1972, when the U.S. Congress passed a bill that outlawed
the exhumation of pet cemeteries for the purpose of road construction. In an effort
to quickly pass a law to deal with the increasing number of bootleg albums, the
recording lobby persuaded Congress to attach an amendment to the pet cemetery
bill making it a felony to manufacture bootleg, pirate, or counterfeit sound recordings
for the purpose of resale. The law has been open to interpretation over the years
and though court cases are still occasionally fought over the specifics of copyright
infringement involving, bootlegging remains illegal.
means a bootleg
It is important to distinguish between the different forms of music piracy. A
"bootleg" is defined as an illegally manufactured disc or tape that
includes previously unreleased live or studio recordings. A "pirate"
is considered a copy of a commercially available recording that has been repackaged
in its own unique packaging. A "counterfeit", finally, is a copy of
a commercially available recording that duplicates all aspects of the original
official copy, including the packaging. These distinctions are important because
the perpetrators of each different level approach the project with a different
intention. Pirates and counterfeits are usually made by professionals with the
sole intent of high profits. Most bootlegs are manufactured by fans. Even the
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the body that actually takes
bootleggers to court) admits that bootlegging is small potatoes compared to the
millions of dollars in losses record companies face from pirates and counterfeits.
Usually the RIAA does not distinguish between the various forms of bootlegging
when they report on raids or actions they have taken, so when you read about 100,000
records being seized they usually aren't talking about copies of The Great White
Wonder. Though the moral question of bootlegging is one best answered individually,
the debate generally comes down to whether the buying of bootleg albums hurts
the sales of legitimate albums (as the record companies argue) or whether anyone
who would spend money on a bootleg is bound to have all the legitimate releases
already (as many bootleg collectors suggest).
Stones Gather No Moss
Shortly after the release of "The Great White Wonder", the Rolling Stones
played a concert at the Oakland Coliseum that was the talk of the West Coast.
The show was taped and released in bootleg form with the title "Liver Than
You'll Ever Be." It was an outstanding recording of a great performance and
it was immediately recognized by fans, and by critics, as far superior to the
official Stones live album. The record was reviewed in many publications and treated
with all the seriousness that a legitimate release would warrant. The record sold
even faster than The Great White Wonder and the legitimate record companies began
to take notice.
Two or three more titles followed in the next few months, a Donovan disc and a
couple more Dylan titles, and rumor began to spread through the grapevine about
a forthcoming disc from an exciting new live band by the name of Led Zeppelin.
The grapevine was something that Zeppelin manager Peter Grant stayed in touch
with he had virtually created all the excitement for his new band by word of mouth
to start with. Grant heard about this Zeppelin bootleg and immediately thought
it would take money out of his pocket. The group's label, Atlantic, also was concerned
since Zeppelin already accounted for a high percentage of company profits. Grant
set off to stop the bootleggers before they got started. Grant reportedly traveled
extensively through England and America, went to every studio that the band had
recorded in and to every radio station that had done a broadcast, and reclaimed
any tapes he could find. Shortly thereafter Atlantic drafted up a stack of cease
and desist orders and made it known that they were ready to deliver them to any
stores that sold bootlegs.
In the October 3, 1970, issue of Melody Maker the headline read "Led Zeppelin
Hammer Bootlegs." The story reported that "two new Led Zeppelin albums
will shortly be in the shops, both unofficial, illegal bootlegs. But Zeppelin's
management immediately blasted back with a denial that any tapes were in private
hands, and added the threat that anyone who tries to bootleg the group will be
promptly sued. One Zeppelin album is alleged to be studio recorded tracks, never
released, and the other is a live album from Germany. Phil Carson, European general
manager of Atlantic records told me, 'We will be taking positive legal action
against anyone who is found pressing, marketing or retailing these albums,' and
Zeppelin manager Peter Grant declared this week,' As far as I know there can be
no tapes of Zeppelin available. After hearing some time ago that there was going
to be an attempt at some tapes of the band, I flew to America. We've managed to
retrieve all the tapes and we know of nothing in existence that can be issued.'"
Perhaps no greater misstatement has been uttered in music business history.
On Blueberry Hill
It was an understandable mistake to make, though. Up to that time no one believed
that you could make a good tape of a band from a seat in the audience. It was
Led Zeppelin "Live on Blueberry Hill" that changed that misconception
forever. The Dylan bootlegs had been recorded from either the famous "basement
tapes", which were studio quality recordings, or from television outtakes.
The Stones' "Liver" album was so good that everyone associated with
the band, perhaps straight from the mixing board. But there were no illusions
about "Blueberry Hill". This was definitely an audience recording, complete
with whistles and cheering, but despite that it sounded great.' Legend has it
that the recording was made using a two-track Nagra portable open reel tape deck
with a Sennheiser shotgun microphone. Some argued that this recording from the
audience actually sounded closer to the experience of the show than the sterile
sound on most legitimate live recordings.
"Blueberry Hill" opened the floodgates. The bootleggers realized that
they could get as much material as they wanted, and more importantly, they realized
that there was a tremendous audience for these recordings. "Blueberry Hill"
is still recognized by many Zeppelin collectors as being one of the very best
Zeppelin bootlegs. It has several unique features, it was the best recording from
the era (recorded September 1970 at the L.A. Forum, one of the band's favorite
venues), it is still the only bootleg with a decent live recording of Bring It
On Home, it is the only bootleg with live versions of Out On The Tiles, Blueberry
Hill and I Saw Her Standing There, and the original tape included a live version
of Page's instrumental "Bron-Yr-Aur", which wasn't released on the original
vinyl bootleg, though it was included on the CD releases. There have been literally
hundreds of Led Zeppelin bootlegs since that first one in late 1970. Even twenty
five years after the group's demise, Zeppelin bootlegs appear on the collector's
market at an astounding rate. The number of Zeppelin bootleg titles is unbelievable.
I have found nearly 4,000 titles. There were at least a dozen ten or so album
One infamous Zeppelin bootleg set contains a full 70 different discs. About 325
shows with ten or more repressing on different labels. The original TMQ bootlegs
from the early 1970's are still some of the most desirable and the most valuable.
There were three original TMQ single albums:"Mudslide", "BBC Broadcast"
and "Stairway To Heaven." The label originally issued five double albums:
"Blueberry Hill", "Going To California", "Bonzo's Birthday
Party", "Three Days After", and "V 1/2". "Mudslide"
was actually a reissue of another bootleg titled "Pb "(reissuing bootlegs
is a very common occurrence and something that you'll see confuses the number
of Zeppelin titles greatly) that had been recorded off the radio in Vancouver,
Canada, and is an exceptional mono recording of a tremendous performance. "BBC
Broadcast" was the first of a multitude of bootlegs taken from the performance
at the BBC's Paris Theatre in 1971.
"Going To California" was issued right after "Blueberry Hill "
and was touted as being recorded in Los Angeles, though it actually was from a
show at the Berkeley on September 14, 1971. Bootleggers frequently mislabel the
date and place of the shows contained on their discs, sometimes out of incompetence,
sometimes to purposely throw off authorities as to who recorded the show, and
occasionally simply to try to sell more copies since shows from the bigger markets
usually have more interest for collectors since the market is larger.
The next title of note went on to become legendary, perhaps because the title
itself was such a classic. It was called "Bonzo's Birthday Party" and
it featured the performance from the L.A. Forum on May 31, 1973. The album contains
outstanding live performances of Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love and The Ocean.
It was followed up with the title "Three Days After", recorded at the
same venue on June 3, 1973. This release also included some leftover material
from the "Blueberry Hill" tape. The next TMQ title was "V 1/2"
which was recorded in Seattle on June 17, 1973. The recording is not outstanding
but the performance makes up for it. These TMQ titles are considered to be the
mainstays of any Zeppelin bootleg collection, though not every release came out
first on TMQ. "Blueberry Hill" was originally issued before the inauguration
of the TMQ label, so the very first pressings were on Blimp Records and were packaged
in two single plain white sleeves with two insert covers printed in two colors.
It was later reissued on TMQ innumerable times and on several different colored
pressings of vinyl. Colored wax in the early days was a good indication of a title
being an early pressing of a bootleg (and therefore having better sound than a
bootleg of a bootleg), though in modern times it is not always the case, some
first editions of bootlegs are on black wax while later pressings are on colored
wax and are mistaken for original pressings.
The next major bootleg label on the scene was the Amazing Kornyphone Record Label
(TAKRL), a business that issued a ton of records though only a few of their titles
were Zeppelin discs (supposedly the people behind the label weren't big Zeppelin
fans). The label released three single Zep albums; "Ballcrusher", a
reissue of an album by the same name from Flat Records and taken from the 1971
BBC concert", Live In England 1976", a reissue of the excellent European
bootleg recorded at Earl's Court on May 24, 1975, and "Cellarful Of Noise",
a poor recording from the performance at Osaka Festival Hall in Japan on September
29, 1971. The label released two double albums of Zeppelin material: "Live
In Seattle", a reissue of the TMQ "V 1/2" and "The 1975 World
Tour", from Montreal, Canada, on February 6, 1975. Kornyphone's releases
were some of the most widely distributed Zeppelin bootlegs and pop up in most
collections, but they are not known for being high quality recordings.
Another early bootleg label was Wizardo Records (WRMB). The only Zeppelin titles
put out by Wizardo were "Plant Waves" (the title was a takeoff on the
Bob Dylan album Planet Waves), and "Caution Explosive". "Plant
Waves" was a compilation of tracks from Detroit and New York shows on the
1975 tour and the sound quality was variable. "Caution Explosive" fared
a little better since the source material included, once again, the infamous Blueberry
Hill material along with some from the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco 1969.
By the mid 1970's a whole host of smaller bootleg labels had sprung up including
Rubber Dubber, Immaculate Conception Records (ICR), Contraband Music (CBM), Dittolino
Discs, Kustom Records, Idle Mind Productions (IMP), K&S Records, Berkeley
Records, Smilin' Ears, and Ze Anonym Plattenspeiler. Their product was a thick,
black record in a white jacket. To simplify matters they are referred to in this
text as White Cover Folks (WCF). Most of these labels offered up Zeppelin titles
that were little more than reissues of the early TMQ stuff, though there were
a few notable new releases.
Idle Mind re-released a Japanese bootleg of the show from Osaka 1972 and called
the album "My Brain Hurts", which should win an award for best title
of a Zeppelin boot. The release included a rare and interesting version of the
band covering Ben E. King's "Stand By Me".
K&S was the first label to release the legendary Knebworth shows on bootleg,
and their version of these shows also included material from the BBC studio sessions
and Montreux 1970. Smilin' Ears distinguished itself by being the first bootleg
label to release a four-record Zeppelin box set, titled "Destroyer".
The set was originally listed as a Seattle recording, though it actually featured
a concert from Cleveland in 1977. The set has become one of the best known and
loved of all Zeppelin titles and has been reissued many times.
In 1979 two new labels debuted with Zeppelin releases that stood above the others
available at the time. Phoenix and Toasted Records put more effort into packaging
their material than other labels had, with full-color deluxe covers that rivaled
the official album jackets. The labels issued a whole slew of double albums, with
four-color covers and featuring artwork by the noted artist Ginger, including
"Absence" (BBC and Earl's Court 1975)", Spare Parts" (BBC
and Copenhagen 1969)", "Knebworth II" (Knebworth August 11, 1979)",
Seattle 73", and "Knebworth 79" (Knebworth August 4, 1979). Most
of the material on these labels had been previously released but the packaging
on these records made them desired collectors items.
In 1985 the RIAA and the Canadian Recording Industry Association, in conjunction
with the FBI, mounted a massive campaign to put an end to the bootlegging problem
in North America. The publicity surrounding raids staged all across the continent
sent bootleggers even further underground. Around this period most major bootlegging
operations moved to Europe or Japan, where bootlegs continued to come out and
get imported into the United States at ever greater cost to the collector.
Song Remains The Same
In 1985 a new bootleg label called Rock Solid/International Records came into
operation and in a very short time issued more Zeppelin work than most other labels
put together, most of it previously unreleased. The single albums included a reissue
of a Japanese album called "White Summer" from a show in Hamburg 1970,
a Honeydrippers show from 1981, and "John Henry Bonham: Session Man",
a boot that included all of Bonham's known recordings for other artists.
The multi-album sets included "Listen To This Eddie", "Duck-Walks
And Lasers", "In Person", "In Concert", "Live On
The Levee", "Custard Pie", "Alpha And Omega", "Winterland".
The label even issued two 10-record sets: "Strange Tales From The Road"
and "Led Zeppelin The Can", which was a 14-inch film can numbered and
stickered with live versions of almost every original song the band ever played
1986 saw the rise and fall of Box Top Records. This label re-released many old
classics, most on colored vinyl, from original plates. These came in a thin cover
with a color snap-shot of the artist on the front and a sticker with the song
listings on the back.
1988 saw the short-lived return of Trade Mark Of Quality (TMOQ or TMQ) and The
Amazing Kornyphone Record Label (TAKRL) labels working together to provide A High
Standard Of Standardness. Records came in energic covers in a variety of colors
with the artists name and the album title on the front and a jacket sized label
logo on the back. These were two separate batches of releases and each had the
song listings for albums in that batch on sheets enclosed in the record jackets.
One of the strange things you'll notice about Zeppelin bootlegs is that the bootleggers
weren't afraid to mix material from dramatically different time periods on the
same record (including a 1969 performance on a disc of mostly 1977 stuff), which
confuses many fans as to the original source material. As if the material from
Rock Solid/International wasn't impressive enough, many of the original bootleggers
got back into action in the late 1980's again and Zeppelin was one of their favorite
groups. TMQ returned and, using the original master plates, repressed Blueberry
Hill, this time with a deluxe color cover. Toasted also returned to the scene,
this time with a number of titles made from unreleased soundboard recordings of
the band, and the quality was phenomenal. Available around this time were rehearsals
for "Physical Graffiti" and "In Through The Out Door", and
the legendary campfire sessions from Bron-Yr-Aur cottage. Also released in this
period were boots of the legendary performance of "Friends" with the
Bombay Symphony Orchestra, Plant and Bonham's recordings with the Band Of Joy,
outtakes from the third record, and dozens of live concert recordings. On the
back of an album called "Last Stand", featuring the band's Berlin 1980
show, Toasted publicly announced they would stop making vinyl bootlegs, though
other manufacturers have continued to press their wares on vinyl.
In the late 1980's, Zeppelin bootlegs, and perhaps bootlegs in general, hit their
zenith with the release of the ultimate bootleg of them all, a package titled
"The Final Option". This set featured 70 different albums of Zeppelin
material and included pressings of almost every Zeppelin bootleg previously made,
all seemingly stamped from the original master plates. This set included material
from Rock Solid, Screaming Oiseau, TAKRL, Toasted, Waggle, and other labels and
represented a major organizational effort on the part of the bootleggers. The
set came in a black acrylic box with black and gold stickers over it. Only 150
copies were pressed and they sold out immediately. "The Final Option"
is now considered one of the rarest collectibles in Zeppelin record lore and commands
extraordinary prices on the collector's market.
New Mark: CD Bootlegs
"The Final Option" could hardly be topped and that together with Toasted's
announcement essentially spelled the end to Zeppelin vinyl bootlegs since the
compact disc soon became the format of choice, both for legitimate record releases
and for bootleggers. The first Zeppelin CD bootleg was a European issue of the
Zurich June 29th, 1980 soundboard show titled "Tour Over Europe 1980"
and though it was incomplete, the sound quality was outstanding. New digital techniques
brought a brand new standard of records. Earlier available tapes are now reissued
and revamped due to the modern technique utilising a new standard of quality.
By early 1991, over 125 Zeppelin CD titles were on the market, though most of
them were reissues of material previously out on vinyl. At least, their minimal
limitation of one's run size for any type 5" silver discs is 1,000 copies
and only a couple of bootleg companies released their efforts in highly limited
editions. These causes made CDs not only more compatible but also much more accessible
to fans. (Vinyl has been nearly limited to a few hundred copies.)
Neutral Zone and Condor were the CD labels and the producers of the CD's only
have a partial connection with the earlier producers of the vinyl labels with
almost similar names. All of these labels were USA based producers. The CD producers
used overseas connections to press their titles and artwork and the vinyl producers
mainly pressed their titles in the USA in the days when they could do it in a
record pressing plant. A well connected USA collector acquired the various tapes
and for some of his labels like Neutral Zone and Condor he used a contact from
Australia who had connections in Korea and who speak their language to press the
titles. The Australian connection was the person behind the mid 1990's Apple House/Black
Cat labels. Since the tapes came from the USA collector and he was the one who
organised the labels and paid for the production of the titles it guess we would
have to say the labels were a USA product even though the discs and artwork were
made in Korea. You then have the situation where the Japs copied the Neutral Zone
and Condor titles in the mid 1990's and also later again someone from the EEC
copied them also in the late 1990's. Only the trained eye can pick the difference
between the original pressings and the Japanese copies but the EEC copies stand
out as they have inferior artwork.
The Neutral Zone label has won accolades from several Zeppelin fanzines for their
three discs series titled "Classics Off The Air". This series features
almost the complete BBC performances, all four shows. As a set this represented
for a long time the best way to get the complete BBC catalog, before the legal
release of "BBC Sessions" and many Japanese releases. Condor, another
bootleg business, produced some good titles. Their pairs of "Zeppelin Express/Zeppelin
Ediface" or "World Tour/Wild Side" brought more complete versions
of material available before on vinyl and now remastered from the original tapes.
Punjonian Productions (Korea-based for US distributor), Quality Compact Productions
(Korea-based for US distributor), Sidewalk Music (Italian) and Widget (Korea-based
for US distributor) were another early outfits that started to produce Led Zeppelin.
These Japanese and/or US labels issued only a few titles that copied material
known from old vinyl recordings. Other newly established bootleg labels that have
produced Zeppelin material include Gold Standard Series (GS), Golden Stars (GS
or LA), Great Dane Records (GDR), Kaleidoscopic Music, Koine Records, Living Legend
Records (LLR), Lobster Records, Manic Depression (MDR), Pyramid/Triangle Records
(PY), Seagull Records, and World Productions Of Compact Music (WPOCM). Many of
these labels, although all were from Europe, operate out of the old continent,
where laws allow the bootlegging of concert tapes from performances a decade old
as long as royalties are paid to the performers. These loopholes in the European
laws have made Europe a hotbed for bootlegging activity and this material inevitably
finds its way around the world.
European CD Bootlegs
Silver Rarities (SIRA), UK label that produced a mass of Led Zeppelin albums,
released in the early 1990's a few dozen of titles, some of which are still actual
in the terms of both sound quality and completeness. Their package was a standard
jewel case with cover that utilized many live photos. A fold-out insert was added
to all of their 3CD sets. Their most memorable record was famous "Listen
To This Eddie", issued for the first time from the first generation Mike
Millard cassette tapes, without any equalization (later rereleased).
What very interesting, Silver Rarities producer was the (in)famous Mr. Langley
aka Mr. Toad who was accused of bootlegging in Scottish trial and sentenced to
20-month jail in 2007. As we know he is a UK resident yet his Silver Rarities
label was produced in Germany. (Mr. Toad used to live in Perth, Australia in the
early 1970's.) He made contact with a German CD producer but it was Mr. Toad who
had the tapes, artwork, finances and distribution so we would have to say Silver
Rarities was a UK label or to make it easier a EEC label.
By the same time a couple of Luxembourg folks under the name of The Swingin' Pig
Records (TSP) issued few titles and with another bootleg label named Oh Boy also
from Luxembourg both produced some good material. Oh Boy's "Texas International
Pop Festival" is still in the Top 10 of the best sounding bootleg releases
ever made after more than ten years after its release. Mentioned above Gold Standard
or Great Dane Records were another European companies that released some good
material. All that labels issued their titles in a standard jewel cases, adding
sometimes a booklet/fold-out insert (Oh Boy).
Flying Disc Music/Ghost were two European bootleg companies spliced together that
produced many releases in the early 1990's. Most of them are playing with wrong
speed and many of them were stolen in the late 1980's from Jimmy Page's home studio.
Wrong speed of most of their releases is probably due to the copying with high
speed dubbing machines. Their titles were always issued in a standard jewel cases
(with the exception only for 5CD deluxe set titled "The Trade Mark Of Quality
Masters Volume 1", issued in a form of cardboard hinged open box that consistsed
of four different performances, included rarely reissued stereo audience source
tape for the legendary May 31, 1973 concert, earlier available only on any of
the old vinyl bootlegs), some with a nice artwork but most titles have no stood
the test of time. The tapes were released often incompletely and sound didn't
have the highest quality.
Alegra, American Concert Series (ACS), Aphrodites Studios, Aulica/Aulica Deluxe,
Big Music, Blizzard, Capricorn Records, Chapter One, Classical Shots On CD, Continental
Sounds, Deep Records, Discomagic (a spin-off from On Stage label), Discurios,
Double Time, Eagle Music, Entertainers, Exile Records, Fancy Pantry, Flamingo,
Grand Pick Records (same company as the Swingin' Pig), Home, Insect Records, Jolly
Roger Records, Kobra Records, Koine Records, Limes, Live & Alive, Live Experience
(The), Live Storm, Luna Records, Men At Work, Minotaur Records, Moonlight Records,
New Plastic Records, OffRoadTracks, Oil Well, On Stage, Pacific, Post Script,
Rabbit Records, Rock Calendar Records, Roundpin Productions, Satelite Records,
Silver Shadow, Smoking Pig (a spin-off from Silver Rarities), Sugarcane Records,
Tie Dye Records, Tintagel and Wild Bird Records were another mostly low budget
bootleg companies that issued some rather not worthwhiling titles bewteen late
1980's and mid 1990's. Often they just copied material from older European or
early Far East labels, adding sometimes bonus tracks taken from worn vinyl. (Continental
Sounds' 3CD set "For Badge Holders Only Part 1-3" copied both parts
of old vinyl sets under the same name, where an excellent sounding stereo audience
tape was used. This tape was lost and the remainding title plus another one, no
labelled "For Badgeholders Only" are the only releases to have this
- the land of bootlegs
In the mid 1990's the federal law of the European Union and the United States
(along with several other countries) forbade forever bootlegging. All European
labels such as Silver Rarities, Great Dane Records, Swingin' Pig Records and a
couple of more ended their activity very quickly. But the bootleggers didn't want
to waste the time and money. They had been looking hard for the marker free of
unprofitable prohibitions and they found it in Japan.
Since the early 1970's Japan has had a very independent music market with its
own rights. Many records issued in Japan were unavailable anywhere else. By the
very end of the 1980's Japanese law allowed publishing tapes above twenty-five
years after its date of recording on their own market without obeying any copyrights.
That was something that bootleggers had been looking for a long time. Because
of these loopholes, and laxity of enforcement of international copyright laws
for sound recordings over there, by the very early 1990's Japan was just flooded
by many unofficial releases, some of which are still remarkable and unforgettable
pieces. There are certain shops, for example, in certain districts there which
are legally permitted to sell 'illegal' recordings. It doesn't apply in all parts
of the country or to all retail outlets there.
With no doubt we can say that there was one person responsible for the flood of
bootlegs in the early 1990's in Japan. Mr. Guru aka Mr. BlackDog is a long standing
collector who has contacts all over the globe going back to the early 1970's.
Well known in the inner circles and very well connected. He has his own home built
professional studio and is a audio/video digital engineer but music is his hobby.
Mr. Guru aka BlackDog's first title that he made was the famous 4CD "Australian
Tour Pt. 1 & 2" on the Australian Black Cat label from the early 1990's.
At that time his moniker name was Mr. Guru as that was his nickname given to him
by his friends. Mr. Guru was impressed with the production of his first title.
He recently purchased a new bootleg title but found that the audio on it only
had 60 minutes when he knew the tape existed as 90 minutes. (In fact this one
and another set titled "Poles & Sticks" on the Black Cat label was
produced by the guy named Gary and Mr. Guru was contacted by him to access the
tapes for his label.) He hated how some producers were bleeding the collectors
with titles that didn't feature the complete tape that was in existence. Mr. Guru
made contacts in Japan. He offered his tapes to a producer if they would allow
him to have complete control on the audio and artwork. He advised Japan to respect
the customer and start producing quality titles that had correct artwork for the
concert audio and correct track listing and also not to EQ the audio. He suggested
that Japan treat boot CD production the same as any professional business and
they will then have a product that can be identified with quality. Mr. Guru suggested
that they should come up with a corporate logo and label name for each artist
so that customers would know which logo/label was for a certain artist and also
customers would know which label to respect if they produced quality titles. He
suggested a new label name of "Immigrant" and sent them a logo for it
to be for Led Zeppelin titles. This was in the early 1990's. The first title sold
out on day one and word got out in Japan of what Immigrant was all about. Within
three months Tarantura was started up. Whereas Tarantura EQ'd all of their audio
they of course had superb artwork for each title. Immigrant label didn't EQ'd
their audio and made sure the audio on their discs was the lowest generation available.
Mr. Guru didn't ask or want money for his tapes from Japan. All he asked for was
a box of Japanese bootleg CDs every few months of artists he liked. Within six
months many labels were starting up that were set aside for just one artist and
the boot industry in Japan exploded in the mid 1990's. This was all credited to
Mr. Guru's foresight to force Japan to treat their customers with respect and
produce quality titles. In the late 1990's the Japanese industry had turned on
its head and they were pumping out trash and volume of titles for the sake of
making money so Mr. Guru cut all ties with Japan.
band and bootlegs
As reported in 1999, the British Phonographic Industry released a survey affirming
something all Led Zeppelin fans already knew - that this band is the most bootlegged
act of all time. The record-industry report suggested there were 384 unauthorized
concert and studio recordings of Led Zeppelin in circulation (no doubt most of
them were produced in Japan), although by Page's own count, that number would
be a conservative estimate. An exclusive interview with Jimmy Page, titled "Page
battles the bootleggers", was found on "Jam!" magazine from March
4, 2000 issue. Page recalled: "I went to Japan, when we did the (1992) four-CD
box set, to promote it", he says. "I came back with 250 (bootlegs) the
first time ... I went over there again doing press for 'Un-Leded', and I came
back with another 250 to 500. They're all different. I wasn't just taking things
off the shelves, I was taking the ones I wanted. That includes VHS copies (of
live footage), as well ... I have actually got thousands of bootlegs, plus things
that have been sent to me by anti-piracy people, as well. I have got thousands
of them with different covers and the rest of it ... six CDs from Japan for $1,200,
that's obscene. They've got no overheads whatsoever. Then it is a total ripoff."
During that interview, in later part Page said he has no problem with devoted
fans exchanging home-made concert recordings, he has little sympathy for professional
bootleggers, who he said have been brazen in their attempts to get at his unreleased
work. But he said he is opposed to people and bootleg companies milking big money
from the fans. "I've had things stolen from my house for people to make money
on and to basically take the piss out of you. Well, I'm afraid I don't have any
sympathy for it, and I am not going to endorse it at all ... There are rehearsals
of Led Zeppelin that were stolen from my house ... It was a musical rape, and
I didn't enjoy it and I don't like it and I am not going to condone it."
Page was also asked by officials from the British Phonographic Industry to visit
Glasgow following a raid at the city's SECC in May 2005. It concerned a seizure
of CDs and DVDs from Mr. Langley aka Mr. Toad, a trader/bootleg producer who had
been selling goods at the centre. Page was called to give evidence as some of
the material seized included previously unreleased performances by his band, such
as concerts at Knebworth and in Japan. What was very interesting, during that
trial defence lawyer Murray Macara suggested that the rocker condoned the practice
of bootlegging because he thought it was all right for fans to swap tapes they
had made of the band's music. But the Led Zeppelin star, dressed in black trousers
and jacket with open neck white shirt, said there was a crucial difference between
making a recording for friends and selling it commercially. "The legitimate
part is where fans trade music, but once you start packaging it up and you do
not know what you are getting, you are breaking the rules legally and morally
... There are some of these recordings where it is just a whirring and you cannot
hear the music ... If you have something like this that appears legitimate then
it is just not right."
A rather different opinion about bootlegs comes from John Paul Jones. During one
of some interviews, he explained his feelings about them: "There are a lot
of people out there paying a lot of cash for sub-standard recordings. Most bootlegs
sound terrible. You hear some of these things and the sound is completely distorted,
or the mix is off and all you hear are the drums ... On the other hand, it's hard
for me to dismiss bootlegging outright. I haven't heard that many, but they usually
remind me of how tight and good the band really was. They also serve the function
of preserving history that would otherwise have been lost completely. For example:
Recently I was looking at a book that catalogued live performances of Led Zeppelin,
and I read about a lengthy mellotron improvisation I performed in Nagoya, Japan,
in 1972, during our encore of Thank You. I hadn't thought about that particular
performance in years, but as soon as I read that, I remembered everything about
it. Playing a mellotron solo was a very strange thing for me to do, and it never
happened again in the band's history. It was great to be reminded of it, and I
may even look for the bootleg of it just to see if it was as bizarre as I remember
it to be. That kind of stuff is of interest - and it's fun, too."
In that point it will be no mistake to say that every note the group ever played
in the studio and onstage has made it into the underground bootleg network - either
from purloined studio tapes or from recordings made with recorders secreted into
old and new
One of the first large bootleg CD companies was the heavier luxury Tarantura label.
Tarantura was a Japanese label dedicated almost exclusively to the production
of Led Zeppelin bootleg CDs. The original Tarantura was one of the most prolific
label producing Led Zeppelin CDs, having been responsible for over one hundred
titles. Whilst Tarantura's could be bought from Japan by mail order, they were
primarily sold from a shop called Iko Iko, located in a suburb of Tokyo. Jimmy
Page was a regular visitor at the shop before it closed and would naturally be
given copies of all the titles available. It is said that he has two sets, one
in his house in London and the other in his house in the country.
Established in 1993, the label stopped the production in late 1997 (and a big
sigh of relief could be heard from all hard-core collectors bank managers!). However
in early 2000 production of a few, very limited releases started up once again
under the name Tarantura 2000 or most simply, T2K. The first releases on the label
were "Front Row", "Tight But Loose" and "Long Tall Sally".
The label prided itself on producing CDs from the best possible source tapes,
though as has since been proved, this has not always been the case. Production
runs tended to be in batches of 300, sometimes 500 per title. As the Japanese
home market got the vast majority of the product, usually only a few copies ever
make it abroad to foreign markets. According to Leo Ishac, he knows of only three
collectors in the world who have a complete set of all the Tarantura's released,
one of whom is the person who was behind the label and produced them, Poor Tom.
His wife was called Mrs. Stout.
Although the source tapes and the subsequent mastering of those tapes has not
always resulted in the best end-product when it comes to CDs, generally speaking,
original Tarantura was able to master their tapes better than other labels at
the time and this has resulted in some of their releases being easily the best
versions on the market. Tarantura CDs tend to be brighter and have a clearer sound
when comparing the same concert with another label's version.
To illustrate this, here are some details from someone who is called Mr.Cool MixMan,
reputedly original Tarantura and Akashic Records' sound engineer. "All mono
recordings are treated and remixed in a stereo environment to give them a false
stereo feel. Most audio engineers and recording studios currently only output
24-bit. Cool MixMan has been mastering at 32-bit for several years due to the
higher quality digital working environment and final audio output that is achieved.
Some say 32-bit is not possible. They are ignorant of the existing digital mastering
capabilities, the process involved and the higher audio quality that is produced.
The audio source is recorded to the computer at the above line-input settings.
Once the audio has been recorded to computer it is then mastered within the 32-bit
resolution environment.16-bit resolution is the 'default' professional/audio compact
disc setting required to meet the International Red Book ISO Standard for compact
discs. Most compact disc players have a 16-bit resolution, and generally can only
playback audio that is 16-bit. Higher-end CD players can output audio at 24-bit."
An understanding of 8-bit ~ 32-bit resolution: The number of bits used in measuring
amplitude for an audio sample is defined as resolution. Choosing 8-bit resolution
will provide 256 unique volumes. Choosing 16-bit resolution will provide 65,536
unique volumes, for a 96 dB signal-to-noise ratio. Thus a much greater dynamic
range can be reproduced at 16-bit resolution than at 8-bit, which only has a 48
dB signal-to-noise ratio. Obviously working in a 32-bit resolution environment
will allow for a substantially much greater dynamic range than at even 16-bit,
thus achieving a more professional audio output. It is best to remain at the 32-bit
resolution level while mastering the audio and when the final mix is satisfactorily
completed the 32-bit audio is converted down to 16-bit for output to the audio
compact disc. Though the audio on the final CD is at 16-bit resolution to comply
with the Red Book ISO Audio CD Standard the original audio has actually been digitally
engineered at 32-bit. 32-bit resolution is the highest possible bitrate capable
in today's digital audio mastering environment.
In the early days Tarantura were not averse to using noise reduction and equalisation;
however in the later years they have usually left any recording untampered, to
shine through very much as per the original tape. Listeners will also find that
Tarantura releases are generally 'louder' than other equivalent releases. This
is down to better equalizing, mastering and setting of recording volumes. They
are, of course, not perfect, and have been known to make an awful job of it from
time to time. Dedicated and fanatical collectors who want a particular release
however would not be swayed by any such arguments, the Tarantura packaging alone
being a collectable item in itself.
Tarantura scores heavily with their packaging. This has varied from boxes to jewel
cases to shuffle packs, extravagant fold-outs in slip-cases and even guitar-shaped
packaging. No doubt a high proportion of the price you pay goes towards the cost
of such elaborate covers. One thing is for sure: no other label can match Tarantura
for production of the very best quality packages.
It is very easy to take the view that the prices are exaggerated in view of the
product. However they should be approached not only for the music, but also for
the packaging. When compared to Antrabata, another luxury label, they are not
that much more expensive and generally better value. Also, most of the original
Tarantura production runs are in fact limited to the stated numbers, although
certain titles have been over pressed to meet demand. "Front Row" for
example finally ended up at 1,000 copies. Some of the second issues had a yellow
or another different colored cover to denote this.
Whilst it is easy to see which Tarantura's are the most valuable and sought after,
it is far more difficult to say which one is the best all round production for
sound and packaging. It is probably a tie between the following three titles:
"The Campaign 1972", "Get Back To L.A." and "A Week For
Badge Holders", all of these sets being works of art and are truly beautiful
artefacts, (hence the staggering prices asked for them). The 6 CD set of "Knebworth
1979" should also be mentioned as another truly outstanding package, in a
large hardback book, complete with the poster and color photographs from one of
Perhaps the nicest single issue is "Bonzo's Birthday Party". This title
has one of the best covers ever, either for an official or an unofficial release,
although it is based on the original Trade Mark Of Qquality vinyl. This goes to
show how inventive and clever many of the people behind the original vinyl bootlegs
were. As a Desert Island Disc the choice would have to be "A Week For Badge
HHolders", largely for the length, and very high standard of the performances,
together with the sound quality, throughout all six concerts (and except that
they not using all of June 22nd, 1977 performance for some reasons).
After four years of activity, the original Tarantura stopped their manufacture
in 1997. In 2000 they started once again, this time under a brand new name Tarantura
2000, continuing their work in the old style but some of the new titles are still
not free of problems that plagued their old issues. This time their products were
strictly limited (100-300 copies per title, or even less) and packaged in beautifully
issued box sets or card sleeves, with the exception for few only, which were released
in standard jewel cases.
At the end of 2019, Tarantura initiated a series of releases bearing the Enigma emblem. Rumour has it that the label has hired a professional recording engineer this time, who has agreed to provide his services to improve the sound quality. And indeed, when you compare the existing versions with the latest titles, the difference is at least noticeable, a huge plus of Enigma series. The first title to bear this emblem, "Bath Of The Blues", and featuring a supposedly unreleased master tape of the legendary Bath performance of June 28, 1970 comes with the pleasant surprise of a much better sounding version of a show that has always left a lot to be desired in terms of the sound quality. Another title, already known from the label's catalogue, "Bootleg License", appeared in three different cover variations, and contained significantly improved versions of both shows from Long Beach on March 11 and 12, 1975. Another release worth mentioning is the set entitled "Stand Up Sit Down Up There Settle Down", featuring great sounding audience recordings of shows that took place in the famous Winterland Ballroom on November 6 and 7, 1969, previously known from more fragmentary and worse sounding versions. If it wasn't enough, to meet the expectations of the market, Tarantura released a great-sounding and newly circulating soundboard tape from Bloomington on January 18, 1975, entitled "Two And A Half Finger Show", which includes extremely rarely played live versions of When The Levee Breaks and The Wanton Song. Finally, after many years of waiting, the massive set prophetically titled "How The East Was Won (The Complete Japan 1971 Chronicles)" saw the light of day in 2022, which masterfully collects all five shows in stunning quality, as most of them are sourced from much better sounding or even unreleased sources. The graphic design and the form in which this set saw the light of day is really impressive - a massive cardboard box with a lid opening, hiding inside six digipaks beautifully decorated in the style of old Japanese woodcuts, a massive booklet, and a small surprise in the form of a hanging scroll replica. It seems that Tarantura after a momentary impasse has gained momentum again, and that in the near future we can expect many more such releases.
In a few cases, very occasionally, Tarantura likes to issue their products in
very limited outfits under different names. Labels such Black Dog Rekords, Boleskine House Records, Flagge, Night Hawk, Sharaku, Tattytura, or TMQ (see
below) sometimes re-released material known from original Tarantura
titles, sometimes adding different mixing of copied material, or simply issuing shows that either have been not issued on Tarantura, or have been released from a different sources, often attributing their releases with high quality packaging.
Some labels just copied Tarantura titles, like Memphis' Productions releases "Front
Row" and "The Complete Geisha Tape". European Whole Lotta Live
company issued a couple of titles, which are straight knock-offs copies of the
original Tarantura sets as does Thin Men. The affordable prices of
these labels were also very attractive to those, who didn't want to pay a small
fortune for a title.
Akashic is another luxury Japanese bootleg label that started releasing their
titles near the mid 1990's. Akashic and old Tarantura labels were from the same
stable and their packaging was a highly printed glossy gatefold issues with sticker
too. "P&C" are involved in the production. The releases have almost
always extremely high standard in the aspect of sound quality (excluding "Going
To Auckland", where the sound was just destroyed heavily by equalization)
but also claimed to be from a completely new show or source tape (although some
of titles may be produced from much lower gen tapes than theirs previous issues).
Together with the Tarantura label, Akashic products are now extremely expensive.
After a few years of absence they released some records near the mid 2000's.
Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin
The next historical Japanese label was The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin (TDOLZ). It
was probably the most prodigious bootleg label ever. Diagrams produced a mass
of titles, many of them are still the most complete versions of concerts. The
packaging varies from standard jewel cases and glossy printed cardboard sleeves
to hinged boxes. Their all titles were limited to 1,000 numbered copies per title
with the exception of all their boxes, which were limited to a few hundred numbered
editions. The most remarkable boxed issue of this label was a beautifully printed
hinged box titled "Power & Glory", including six complete concerts
from the legendary June 1977 six-night-stand (a 20-page booklet and poster were
also added). At the time of its release it was more complete than the ultra-expensive
"A Week For Badgeholders". The tape for June 23rd was now complete and
there were no other limitations. Sadly, it missed part of the original tape of
June 22nd, removing "Ten Years Gone" and replaced it by the same song
from a different audience source for the famous "Eddie" show of June
21st. Beside that, that box remains probably the most ambitious project of this
label. Another of their most memorable works was the issue of an excellent concert
from Madison Square Garden on February 12, 1975, titled "Can't Take Your
Evil Ways". They put out their first issue of this show in 1997 and after
a year, they decided to reissue it under the title "Can't Take Your Evil
Ways Un-Cut Version", making this release the definitive version of this
concert. And although equalizing on these both titles is extremely hard to accept
(higher frequencies are just blowing your ears), it remains the definitive version
of an audience tape from this evening. In November 2003, four years after their
final title, they reissued four titles previously available as "gold CDs"
edition box sets. The reissues were in standard jewel cases and contained the
following titles: "Rock Of Ages", "The Lights Go Down ", "Copenhagen
Warm Ups", and "Hand On To Your Heads ". Some of the titles are
easier to find, some not - it depends on the title's editing limitation.
Antrabata Reference Master was another luxury label that issued some of the finest
releases. Near the mid 1990's this business produced some nicely packaged and
often good sounding titles. Mr. Toad for that matter was once again the man behind
this famous label which is attributed to being a Japanese label. Similar to the
Silver Rarities label, Mr. Toad supplied the tapes, artwork etc. to his Japanese
contact so we would have to say this is another UK label. Antrabata was started
by Mr. Toad as direct competition to the original Tarantura as Mr. Toad and Mr.
Pb of Tarantura had a long standing dislike for each other going back to the mid
1990's. This on-going dispute was a waste of talent and energy for them both and
should not have been. Antrabata's many releases copied material known from the
other labels or released a sort of new sources (like five "Arabesque &
Baroque" sets including all five Earl's Court 1975 audience sources).
All releases were limited to 325 numbered copies except for "leftovers",
where the number of printed original CDs was much larger than its projected limitation.
(Most - if not all - Antrabata titles were created in 1,000 copies per title.
Only 325 copies of each title were issued and remaining 675 copies of each were
expected to be destroyed. Evidently many of "leftovers" were not destroyed.
These "leftovers" are now available in the following forms: as Antrabata
label, as Theramin Music label, and as an unnamed label that published only one
title, "Rock Hour" that in fact belongs to Theramin Music.)
The releases were printed as jewel cases housed inside highly glossy printed slipcases
with the exception of boxes. "79" was a hinged box containing audience
sources for all four 1979 shows (both from Copenhagen and another two from Knebworth).
In opposite to this one, theirs "The Final Statements" (including famous
"Blueberry Hill" show mix of four different audience sources, New York
July 28, 1973 and "Destroyer" soundboard sources) and "Grandiloquence"
(including both audience and soundboard of Seattle July 17, 1973, New York July
27, 1973 and Chicago July 6, 1973 soundboards) were created as the same type of
"book", holding CDs in full color glossy envelopes'. The only
opening box from Antrabata to exist is "Sessions", titled in Japanese
and containing 11 CDs and a small book. Its material is essentially studio
outtakes from different periods. Now all four sets are highly sought by the collectors.
Jelly Roll was another high quality Japanese label that produced some excellent
releases in standard jewel cases, sometimes using gold CDs. Limited to 1,000 copies
of each title this label was another luxury gem and tapes released by these guys
were always released in the highest standards. Covers were printed on heavy cardstocks
with a glossy finish. Their highlight was "Listen To This Eddie Definitive
Complete Edition" of June 21, 1977 LA Forum concert. For a long time this
was the most complete version or so of this amazing performance. It uses a second
audience source making "Ten Years Gone" much more complete and the sound
is extremely superb. In 2002 they returned to the business and issued "Knebworth
Festival 1979" but there were some problems with sound that distorted this
title - similar to Tarantura 2000's "Knebworth" soundboard.
Another label that came out from Japan was Last Stand Disc (LSD). Last Stand Disc
was once again a highly standard label that specialized in utilizing their tapes
to the highest standard. Their packaging varied from standard jewel cases up to
the hinged and beautifully issued box sets. Limitation of their releases was often
to 300 numbered copies, claiming also that all tapes are true 24-bit mastered
versions without any equalization. Besides that, this label released some outstanding
versions. "Complete Live In Japan" box set (or two boxes titled "Live
In Japan 1971" and "Live In Japan 1972") were the best moments
for this company.
Image Quality (IQ) and Immigrant were other Japanese labels that released many
titles in the mid 1990's. Their packaging was standard jewel cases. (IQ shared
for all their releases the same style background of a film black negative.) Both
companies are still very overlooked due to the releasing many complete and good
sounding tapes. Image Quality's "A Gram Is A Gram Is A Gram" is a tremendous
release of second source for L.A. Forum March 24, 1975 show. Also their "Fourthcoming"
and "Great Taste Last Night" sets are the only two to feature the complete
audience tapes for memorable May 24 and 25, 1975 Earl's Court shows. Immigrant's
"Lyceum Preview", although it was copied directly from the old vinyl,
is still better sounding than Empress Valley's release of the same concert. Both
labels have stood the test of time. Image Quality was always limited to 1,000
copies per title nor did Immigrant hadn't official limitation..
Cobla/Cobra Standard Series was a Japanese label that issued their titles in glossy
printed cardboard sleeves that copied the original vinyl artwork. Limitation was
1,000 per title with the exception of all CD-R titles, which were not limited.
Between mid and late 1990's this label almost always reissued material known before
from vinyl and early CD releases. Unfortunately, the heavy equalization distorted
most of their items so a big care must be taken before buying their products.
(Beside that, many titles are still worth having due to the completeness. Furthermore,
their "Lyceum" single CD of October 12, 1969 was taken from an unedited
tape and is a bit better sounding than any of the other releases of this show.)
For unknown reasons, few of the titles these folks issued as CD-Rs were not original
silvers (as mentioned).
Led Note was a label that continued the work of Cobla/Cobra and was made by the
same persons whose were responsible for that label. Their all releases were issued
in a standard jewel cases and sleeves. Some of their products are still worth
having for their containing, such as "Fallin' With Love With The Fallin'
Angel", which consists of one of the most complete release of soundboard
tape for Bradford January 18, 1973 concert. "Wild Beach Party" utilises
the complete compilation of three different sources for the legendary Long Beach
June 27, 1972 show and until this day it remains quite a good title to get as
it comes for this (now) immortalized show.
Definitive Masters/Electric Magic
Celebration and its twin label, Electric Magic were other highly issued Japanese
bootleg labels that released some fine efforts in the late 1990's. Their packaging
was the usual jewel case or gatefold sleeves (some were also housed in slipcases).
Celebration was specialized in issuing soundboard tapes only and its twin brother,
Electric Magic was specialized in utilising audience tapes only. Some of them
have stood the test of time (like 12CD "Landover" box in hinged cover
issued by Electric Magic) but many of their titles were plagued by heavy equalization
as was Cobla/Cobra.
Between early and late 1990's/early 2000's in Japan there were a bunch of low
budget bootleg companies that released sometimes very good releases. Equinox's
7CD hinged box titled "Thunder Down Under" consists of four glossy gatefold
sleeves that presents all four 1972 Australian concerts. Although today most of
these tapes had been successfully reissued more completely, this box still remains
a definitive tour-de-force of Led Zeppelin's Australian 1972 period. Midas Touch
also did a big care with releasing their products. Mastered from the original
tapes they sound really good and for the most cases represent the most complete
versions. Labels such as Amsterdam, Apple Music, ARMS, Atlantic Ocean, Baby Face,
Balboa Productions, Blimp, Confusion Records, Crazy Dream, Digger Production,
Fire Power, Flagge (original Tarantura spin-off label), Forever Standard Series,
Gold Standard, H & Y Records (by many called a 'real' bootleg business 'cause
they released titles only in cardboard sleeves without any high printed artwork,
very similar to old vinyl albums), H-Bomb Music, Holy, Holy Grail, House Of Elrond
(what strange, these folks issued two titles as CD-Rs not original silvers), Lemon
Song (all the releases were highly printed, glossy finished sleeves except for
"Welcome To Disneyland", which was issued in a standard jewel case),
Mad Dogs (a continuation of Mud Dogs label that released "DX I ~ X"
box set, consisted of very incomplete and not best sounding tapes), Magic Pyramid,
Magnificent Disc, Mandala Records, Masterport, Midas Touch (another rather luxury
label that released their efforts in highly printed glossy sleeves and in a standard
jewel cases), Missing Link, MMachine, Moonchild Records (Empress Valley's spin-off
label specializing in reissuing a dozens of titles in extremely cheap form), Mud
Dog Records, Nasty Music, Neptune, Neverland, Nighthawk, Patriot, Pot, Power Archives,
Power Chord, Rabbit Records, Rubber Dubber, Sanctuary (which "Overture"
beautifully long digipack gatefold box is now very rare), Savage Beast Music,
Scorpio (this label's name was originally used back in the 1990's in Europe, since
then its name has been used by numerous labels; the real Scorpio series started
in 2006 and ended up in 2012), Sharaku, Shout To The Top, Symbols (The), Tattytura
(Mr. Langley aka Mr. Toad released the Tattytura label to spite Tarantura and
Mr. Pb released the "Plays Pure Bob" title as a pun against Mr. Toad
because Mr. Toad's first name is Robert aka Bob.), Tecumseh (early incarnation
of Tarantura), Thin Men, Totonka, Wisteria Records and maybe few more also produced
some worthwhile titles in a more or less limitation and with or without highly
cover printing standard. (Flagge's all 1980 shows with the exception of "Sudden
Attack" were made to look like original Tarantura products as they all have
been released by the original Tarantura. Tarantura's paper CD jackets were also
used. Together with Equinox, Flagge is still very worth getting due to the completeness
and high quality source standard of their products.)
Down Under - Australian labels
The most memorable Australian label was luxury Black Cat Records that in the early
1990's issued five different titles. Australia, which just recently became a steady
source of supply, quite likely has runs as small as Japan. The packaging was always
highly printed, glossy heavy cardstock long triple gatefold digipak. Although
none of their releases have stood the test of time, now all are very hard to find.
At last, this label still remains one of the most beautifully issued bootleg labels
that ever produced Led Zeppelin.
The other Australian labels were rather low budget Banana, Blue Kangaroo Records,
Joker Productions and Turtle Records, which released a series of compilation albums
in a standard jewel cases and without any strictly limitation except for Turtle,
where two jewel cases, two long book-size deluxe boxes and one sleeve package
The person behind the 1990's Apple House/Black Cat CD labels was named Gary. In
the late 1970's thru to the early 1980's he got hold of the original vinyl boot
titles coming out of USA and other parts of the world and he copied (pirated)
the albums including the slick artwork in his new factory in Korea. He flooded
the world with his vinyl boot copies and to this day you can still find shrink
wrapped/sealed vinyl boots that folks think are new/mint originals when in fact
they are Korean copies! Gary made a mint from his vinyl copies then went legit
in the late 1980's. He then saw the opportunity to make more money when CDs were
invented and he again copied the original boot CD titles and got back into Korea
to make his CDs in the mid 1990's. He found a legal loophole in Australian copyright
law, he then tested that law in the courts and won and he then quickly started
Apple House/Black Cat Records/Joker labels etc. and mass produced his CD titles
copying as many bootleg CD titles that he could buy and flooded the world market
with his cheap "official" CDs. That loophole only lasted for two years
then was closed but in that time he made a mint again and went back to being legit.
As said above, Gary gave the access to Mr. Guru's tapes for his label and "Australian
Tour Pt. 1 & 2" and "Poles & Sticks" boots were made in
the early 1990's. Mr. Guru didn't deal with Gary anymore as Gary was focused on
money and not the music. Nothing wrong with that but Mr. Guru wasn't into mass
produced titles and money.
Although many reported to be from Japan - it was ephemerad outfit from Europe
that opearted at the first half of 2000s. "Stroke In Stoke" and "Robert's
Last Stand" have no mention of label credit other than the familiar "P&C"
(as on premium Japanese labels such as Empress Valley) and both have the same
artwork theme. CDs are professionally labeled. The rest of titles credit Red Devil
as the manufacturer. "P&C" is not mentioned. They also share the
same artwork theme as the above mentioned two titles.
Valley Supreme Disc
Empress Valley Supreme Disc (EVSD) is a premium bootleg label out of the Far East
that came to life out of the ashes of one of the most sought after and collectable
Led Zeppelin bootleg labels of all time - an original Tarantura. Being known for
its premium packaging as well as its use of the best available (at the time) source
tapes, the original Tarantura label had since its 1993 inception issued a prolific
library of product before operations ceased in late 1997. The founder of Empress
Valley also had his hands in the original Tarantura label. He is often referred
to as P+C on some of the online sites and as Poor Tom in the Tarantura days. Not
long after the closure of Tarantura, Empress Valley quietly came to market in
1998 with the release of an Eric Clapton set titled "Eric Clapton's Rainbow
Concert". It would be another year though before a Led Zeppelin set would
make a debut on this new label. Empress Valley's productions, like those of the
original Tarantura, have become highly collectable presentations prized and admired
for their high quality audio content as well as the use of premium materials in
their packaging. Unlike other labels that exist only to rehash existing concerts,
Empress Valley is one of less than a handful of manufacturers currently releasing
new products. Concerts that have been published by other labels in the past are
usually treated to some form of an upgrade by Empress Valley prior to release.
This upgrade could entail any of a number of things such an all new source tape,
a combining of available tapes to present a more complete release of a show, or
possibly a re-equalization of the existing audio. It's been Empress Valley's ability,
however, of unearthing and releasing completely new source tapes that has really
made them a hot commodity with tape traders and bootleg collectors alike. The
label's examples of upgraded shows would include "Lifetime Guarantee"
which contains one of the best available versions for this concert by far and
is a significant upgrade over the previously issued titles and "Jamming With
Simon Kirke!" which has had the missing sections of the main source tape
neatly filled with an alternate tape. Some other sets debuted source tape, such
as entire Soundboard Revolution series with superb sounding 1975-77 board recording.
While their production techniques are not always appreciated by the critics, many
of their releases are regarded by collectors as the best available.
The only label that released sets that could rival the quality of Empress Valley
has been another Japanese bootleg publisher - Watchtower. While these two labels
had exchanged blows before with their back and forth releases of the Los Angeles,
San Francisco and San Diego 1973 shows, the summer of 2002 saw an all out battle
erupt between these two heavy weight bootleg publishers. Almost identical releases
from Salt Lake City 1973, Earl's Court 1975 and Knebworth 1979 were released over
a short 4-month period sometimes within days of one another. As the battle waged
on, collectors were often held captive on the sidelines waiting for the dust to
settle to see which title would emerge in glory before committing their vast sums
of money to the winner. Hardcore buyers actively collecting both labels were inflicted
a massive hit to their wallet in a very short time. Some were forced to jump into
one camp and abandon the other due to financial strains of buying essentially
two copies of the same show in different sleeves from the competing labels. Watchtower
even went so far as to release a free bonus disc of material in the Salt Lake
City and Knebworth sets in an attempt to woo potential buyers away from Empress
Valley. Individual victories would be claimed on both sides but almost as quickly
as it all had begun, it came to an apparent end. Watchtower is quiet on the Zeppelin
front since the fall of 2002 releasing only a reissue of the Los Angeles June
27th, 1977, "Coherence" set and a Knebworth August 4th, 1979 DVD while
Empress Valley still releasing a many new sets including some new soundboard tapes
that stunned even longtime collectors.
Before getting into the glory, the rarity and the collectibility that is Empress
Valley, time should be taken to address some of the common complaints and concerns
surrounding the label. The Empress Valley catalogue of releases has been somewhat
marred over the years by questionable and perhaps deceptive methods by the folks
behind the label. While deception is not a new concept amongst the bootleggers,
Empress Valley has explored new territory in this area. The pros and cons of the
procedures described below are to this day debated by those in the collector community.
Some of the points that will be covered in the sections below will address their
history of stretching concerts out over more discs than are actually needed, patching
gaps in source tapes with material from completely different concerts, and the
reissuing of titles several times over with each release in unique packaging to
milk the release for every penny possible (this is especially hard on the wallet
of the hard core Empress Valley collector that collects the not only all of the
separate titles but also the package variations) - just to name a few. While these
less than admirable marketing tactics infuriate and annoy casual and hard core
collectors alike, the combination of unusually high quality source tapes and premium
packaging keeps the collectors coming back for more with each new release. Even
their scaled back budget minded sets packaged in jewel cases are top-notch. One
could argue that at least Empress Valley correctly dates their releases!
Empress Valley's habit of releasing multiple versions of a show under the same
name or reissuing existing titles started almost at the label's inception. The
initial Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin releases - "Rainbow Concert" and
"Bonzo's Birthday Party" respectively, were both released in two formats
each. The Eric Clapton set would be offered in a 4CD version and also as an ultra
limited 8CD box set geared toward the hard core collector. Led Zeppelin's "Bonzo's
Birthday Party" would eventually be released three times over as many years.
The initial two releases were put out back to back in 1999 and the last release
would be offered in 2002. The original release was a 9CD ultra rare box set, like
the 8CD Eric Clapton affair, this version was geared towards the hard core collector
market. The second issue came as a repackaged 3CD version titled 'version drei'
that contained only the third set of 3CDs from the original 9CD box set. Finally,
three years later the title would be put out as a 2CD sound board set that carried
the added title "Definitive Version". In the "Bonzo's Birthday
Party" example, the numerous reissues can partially be justified. Not all
collectors are going to want to shell out the big bucks needed to acquire the
rare, excessive and very expensive 9CD box set. Empress Valley reissued the third
set of 3CDs from the big box as a separate set for those collectors that balked
at the cost of the large set. The collectors with deep pockets got the excessive
9 disc set and the more casual collector could afford the revamped 3 disc version.
The 2CD "Definitive Version" was a more complete sound board tape released
long after the original box and 3CD reissue sets were released and was a worthy
reissue of this famous show. Alot of the reissued sets can be looked at from different
perspectives. Several of the individual concerts originally issued as part of
the huge 22CD box set, "Demand Unprecedented In The History Of Rock Music:
The 1975 Earl's Court Tapes", have since been issued in quad disc jewel cases.
One way to look at this is that Empress Valley wanted to milk these sets for every
penny knowing that the hard core collectors and Empress Valley completists will
buy both the box set and the individual releases thus adding more coin to the
coffers. Another take on this would be that Empress Valley simply released the
individual sets to allow the average collector that wouldn't (or couldn't!) spend
the money for the large and costly box set a chance to own copies of some of these
shows without having to shell out the cash for the big box version. The argument
can go both ways. A more recent example of releasing the same show in more than
one format is "Florida Sunshine". This title was the debut of a brand
new and almost complete soundboard tape. Empress Valley chose to simultaneously
release the show as both a limited edition 4CD set and also as a standard 2CD
version. The packaging for both sets was nearly identical but the limited 4CD
set also included the audience tape source in its complete form. The 4CD collector
set sold out in Japan at an astonishing rate and almost instantly skyrocketed
in value while the 2CD version can still be found quite easily for much cheaper
Another of the complaints among the label's critics centers around the use of
filling gaps in source tapes with filler tape from a completely different concert.
Case in point is the debut of the March 1971 tapes from Ireland - "Black
Velvet" - containing the first ever live performances of Stairway To Heaven.
The folks at Empress Valley chose to fill the gaps in the source tapes with tape
from the Ipswitch concert in November 1971 causing an outcry from Led Zeppelin
collectors worldwide. If there is not an alternate source tape available from
the same show to fill in any missing sections, collectors argue that Empress should
leave the source tape intact and present it in its original form. Why you would
feel the need to use tape from another concert (especially from one eight months
later) to fill in the blanks is unknown. Empress Valley would repeat this procedure
in several releases including "Grand Finale" and "Newcastle Brown
If all of this isn't enough, it's not quite over. The common theory among the
collectors about the unscrupulous practice of stretching shows over more discs
than are needed is that Empress Valley does this to "artificially" inflate
the issue prices of their releases thus earning the label additional profit in
return for the minor added production cost. Hypothetically, let's say it costs
Empress Valley $2 to manufacture a single disc when done in quantities of 300.
The difference in the retail price of a 3CD set vs. a 4CD set might be as much
as $35 (or perhaps more - it really varies from release to release). By simply
adding a single (but completely unnecessary) disc to a set, the issue price can
now be bumped from, say, $125 that the original 3CD set should have sold for to
an inflated price of $160 for the artificially extended 4CD set. It only cost
the label $2 in added manufacturing costs to add this extra disc but it returned
$33 in additional profit. Multiply this by 300, which is the average production
run of a premium label release, and one can see why it benefits Empress Valley
to perpetrate these kinds of tactics. Some of the titles that employ this trickery
include "Deep Striker", "Feelin' Groovy Definitive Version",
"Copenhagen Warm-Ups", "Year Of The Dragon" and several of
the sets contained (and later reissued individually) in "Demand Unprecedented
In The History Of Rock Music: The 1975 Earl's Court Tapes" box set.
On the flip side of all of the complaints, Empress Valley has somehow also managed
to release some exemplary titles. "Lifetime Guarantee" presents the
earliest known tape of a Led Zeppelin concert in one of the best audio versions
to ever surface for this concert. A number of tapes never before known to be in
existence have seen the light of day through Empress Valley. Now considered to
be one of the ultimate Led Zeppelin soundboard recording in existence, February
12th, 1975 New York show came out in 2002, packaged in a premium tri fold digipak
case housed in a card stock outer sleeve. Other sets worth mentioning include
the sound board tape from Orlando 1971 and rare soundboard recordings from 1975-1977
era. None of these fantastic source tapes had been in circulation prior to being
released by Empress Valley, although the New York 1975 show had been available
in lesser quality in the past. Perhaps the most lavish, over the top set produced
to date would be the limited edition release of "Demand Unprecedented In
The History Of Rock Music: The 1975 Earl's Court Tapes", a 22CD set that
covered all five performances in London in 1975. This massive boxed set is packaged
in a hard-shell cube box identical in format to the official "Complete Studio
Recordings" from Atlantic. The box houses the 22CDs in six individual deluxe
gatefold paper sleeve sets worthy of being released without the box. Also included
were replica concert tickets from all five shows, a mini replica tour booklet
and a T-shirt with the Earl's Court program artwork. The source tapes used are
some of the highest quality tapes available for this string of shows being eclipsed
only slightly by the Watchtower releases for the May 24th and May 25th shows.
Not all of the jewels are massive or exceptionally packaged sets. The Empress
Valley version of the San Diego 1973 show, "Three Days Before", contains
more of the sound board tape and is by far more complete with less tape cuts than
the Watchtower version making it the favored release by collectors.
When looking at Empress Valley, or any premium label for that matter, a buyer
must take into consideration that a part of the final price that you are asked
to pay reflects the added cost of the premium packaging used on most releases.
Even titles issued in plain jewel cases still contain high quality package materials
and not simply a flimsy paper J-card. Although not as daring in their use of packaging
as Tarantura was in their heyday, Empress Valley has issued some absolutely stunning
presentations over their career. Packaging has included hard-shell hinged boxes,
hardcover books, replica LP sized gatefold sleeves, deluxe paper sleeves, obi
strips, elaborate fold out paper sleeves, digipacks, and the standard jewel case.
Promotional "gimmick" pack-ins include T-shirts, lapel pins, replica
tour programs and concert tickets to name a few. The elaborate packaging is partially
to blame for the staggering asking prices of some of these sets and this should
be taken into consideration when premium label sets are being considered for purchase.
Another selling point used, but not advertised on any of the sets that I am aware
of, is the occasional use of gold CDs in some releases. Noteworthy sets with stunning
packaging are: "Grand Finale" (a large hardback book with hard cardboard
disc sleeves and a 17 page booklet were bound to center), "Demand Unprecedented
In The History Of Rock Music: The 1975 Earl's Court Tapes" (came in a hard-shell
cube box that opens to reveal 6 individual deluxe paper sleeves holding 22CDs.
Bonus pack-in items included a mini replica tour booklet, replica tickets from
each concert, and a T-shirt with Earl's Court graphics), "Burn Like A Candle"
(the original release came in a large replica gatefold LP sleeve and included
a promo T-shirt with the cover art reprinted on the front of the shirt), "Bonzo's
Birthday Party" (the 9CD version came packed in a hard-shell hinged box that
opens up to reveal 3 individual trifold paper sleeves and a motion card insert
affixed to the inside of the box lid) and much more. One thing Empress Valley
can't be accused of is using cheap package materials. As noted previously, even
the Empress Valley titles packaged in plain jewel cases still ooze class. The
J-cards have been lavishly printed on heavy, expensive papers using a variety
of printing methods ranging from textured surfaces, embossed text and graphics,
high gloss finishes or even metallic like foil processes that are rarely found
on any of the other labels still issuing Led Zeppelin sets.
Late in 2002 Empress Valley started to issue the occasional "budget"
title under the "Lifetime Achievement Award" banner. The sets released
under this moniker have so far been reissues with scaled back packaging or have
been compilations of tapes that probably wouldn't have sold well on their own
merit. The "Burn Like A Candle" 2nd version is a good example of a reissue
with scaled back packaging. They discarded the first pressing large LP-sized gatefold
sleeve and promotional T-shirt and placed the set in a more reasonable normal
CD sized gatefold paper sleeve with no gimmick pack-ins. Empress Valley did bulk
this set up from a 3CD release to a 4CD release with a bonus disc containing a
chunk of the sound board tape from the Long Beach June 27th, 1972 show to tempt
buyers into purchasing an additional copy of this show. "Heavy Machinery/The
Dirty Trick" is another "Award" release. This 4CD set comprises
two 1973 concerts utilizing newly discovered fair/good quality audience source
tapes. These two tapes, while being previously unreleased, probably wouldn't have
sold well on their own merit as the quality of the audio wasn't the best. Empress
Valley keenly bundled these shows into one plain quad jewel case set and slashed
the normal 4CD asking price in half.
Unlike The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin or even Watchtower, Empress Valley cannot
be so easily purchased outside of Japan or even online. Each release is usually
limited to 200-300 copies (some sources state that these are generous numbers)
and the vast majority of these go to collectors in Japan. Of the few outlets that
do offer Empress Valley sets to overseas collectors, the prices tend to fluctuate
a bit from one outlet to another on available titles. Be aware that there is not
a set price based on the number of discs contained in a set. One 3CD set might
cost $125US, another 3CD set might set you back $155, while a 4CD "Lifetime
Achievement" release might sell for as low as $75. Some of the more elaborate
packages will command more money in part to cover the added cost of that elaborate
packaging. When shopping around for some of the limited edition sets or titles
now out of print, do so knowing that certain releases are going to be harder to
locate and generally expensive. Be prepared to spend some time searching for that
elusive title and once you do find it, take a deep breath and crack open the piggy
bank. The "Bonzo's Birthday Party" 9CD set mentioned earlier is one
of the more difficult to find items, commanding in excess of $700US in mint condition.
"Deep Striker", a 4CD release that contains one of the best releases
to date of the final Los Angeles concert from 1977 is incredibly difficult to
obtain. Expect asking prices to
approach the $850-1000 range for this set provided you can talk someone into selling.
The 4CD limited edition version of "Florida Sunshine" sold out in Japan
almost immediately and has already seen the low $700US price range on the Japanese
aftermarket only a few weeks after it was released. Demand for some of these sets
simply exceeds the available supply in most cases. A collector may spend months
trying to track down a single set as some titles were released in quantities as
low as 200 total copies for global distribution. Some discs are impossible to
locate while others command astronomical dollar amounts well beyond the means
of the masses. Unfortunately most of the big money sets will never be seen in
their original format by most collectors. Ballpark figures were established around
known worldwide selling prices.
It's worth to note that since the departure of label's co-founders, Empress Valley
started reissuing a lot from their catalog. They stopped issuing lavish packages
mostly, and started releasing simple jewel cased sets. Also, they've been often
criticized for supplying their Soundboard Revolution with already existing audience
sources, making these releases very expensive, even for die hard collectors. Today,
with no less than 1,000 different titles released, Empress Valley is probably
the most prolific label but it seems that the label has its golden era already
Eelgrass is a label that came out from Japan that reissued a lot of Empress Valley
titles (mostly superb sounding soundboard recordings) in a cheap form of a standard
jewel case. It debuted in 2003 and the first four titles were simply straight
audio knock-offs of Empress Valley releases bearing also the same names. In fact
the only information that this is a reissue not an original Empress Valley title
is "e g" printed on the discs of "Orlando Magic" release.
Watch Tower from Japan started producing their releases in early 2000's as a set
up in competition to Empress Valley and was run by the same people as Scorpio.
It's the only true rival to Empress Valley in upgrading releases. In 2003 both
labels each released the same concert in opposition to each other. In some cases,
Watch Tower's version was more enjoyable and great sounding than Empress Valley's,
as on the last two Ear's Court May 1975 nights. "To Be A Rock And Not To
Roll" and "Conquistador" are still definitive versions of these
memorable performances. Also their "Welcome To The 1979 Knebworth Festival"
was a big improvement over Empress Valley after as Watch Tower decided to fill
the gaps in soundboard by an audience sources to making these concerts more complete.
Sadly, some of their releases are marred by heavy digital mastering and some "clicks"
and "pops" can be heard. Overall, this is another luxury label that
brought many interesting discoveries.
By the early 2000's couple more Japanese bootleg companies started to produce
their items with the music of Led Zeppelin. Cannonball Records issued in 2004
two Zeppelin titles: "MSG" and "Hampton 1971" and only their
second title is an improvement. Amusingly named Cashmere label also issued some
very good titles in the mid 2000's and sometimes still adding another new. Live
Remains and Masterport added a few new titles to the Zeppelin bootleg collection
too, rereleasing material known from the older releases but with a high sound
In contrast to these labels, the Magnificent Disc started releasing their products
as CD-Rs and then started producing original CDs at premium prices. In a market
only producing premium priced titles such as Empress Valley or Tarantura 2000,
news of non-premium labels going all the collectors. However, the label has proved
to be a total waste. Their efforts were always been plagued by the metallic background
sound and often these folks just rereleased shows that have been presented before
twice times or more.
Badgeholders was another new Japanese label that released another good sounding
titles, which almost always reissued material known from the earlier releases
but - in the opposite to the Magnificent Disc - some of albums released by this
business are still a big improvement in the collector's market (as Long Beach
March 11 and 12, 1975 shows available on "Taking No Prisoners Tonight"
and "California Sunshine" triple CD packages, where both of audience
sources were spliced together to make these concerts much more complete). Metallic
sound is present only on their first title", V1/2 Extravaganza".
The other low budget Japanese labels involved into production the music of Led
Zeppelin around this period were (or still are) as follows: Black Dog Rekords
and Butamark (both are Tarantura 2000's spin-off labels), Boleskine House Records
(another Tarantura 2000 spin-off label), Boogie Mama, Bumble Bee, Graf Zeppelin
(one of the very few Japanese labels which utilizing audios often with a very
smooth mastering), Reel Masters (as reported, the label's name implies the music
is sourced directly from the masters but it may or may not be true.), Scorpio
(a series started in 2006 and retired in 2012), Sharaku (again Tarantura 2000's
spin-off label), Singer's Original Double Disc (SODD), Trade Mark Of Quality (TMQ
- yet another Tarantura 2000's spin-off label), and Wardour.
Wendy Records is another Japanese label that started putting their releases into
the market in 2003. The releases of this label are in standard jewel cases, some
are also housed in obi. As for the sound the main problem is "metallic"
background noise present on their early releases. As Watch Tower or Empress Valley
Supreme Disc, Wendy utilizes many released before shows and completes them adding
some never before released fragments or filled gaps by using other sources. Most
of their titles are not any improvements because they ripped off material known
from different sources.
An Italian label, founded in ca. mid-2000s, is focusing on multiple artists, and
extensively releasing Led Zeppelin tapes in quite excellent fashion. Sometimes
critized of heavy editing/equalization, in fact some of Godfather titles are huge
upgrades to many older releases and their luxury produced boxes are warmly welcomed
by many collectors, making this label as a potentially true rival to exclusive
Empress Valley and Tarantura products.
Started as just another Italian-based record label, soon it was known widely as
one of premium European labels specilizing in releasing many unreleased or upgraded
sources, including Led Zeppelin. Their first new titles are just reissues of material
known from earlier titles (Paris 1969 FM broadcast, New Orleans 1973, Dallas 1969
etc.); however, from 2010 label had changes its profile and started issuing their
products with either previously unreleased material or much upgraded versions
of tapes, issuing their products in single gatefold gatefold sleeves or large,
beautifully designed boxes. Godfather's version of full run of California 1972
dates, titled eponymeously "Welcome Back: How The West Was Won Tapes Revisited
(Complete Californian Summer 1972 Diaries)", still remains as definitive
collection for all three shows the band did between June 22nd and 27th in the
Bay Area. "Ascension In The Wane: The January 1973 Soundboards" is another
example of their hard-dedicated work, collecting all available board tapes from
group's peak era in a really stunning quality and design. "Studio Magik (Sessions
1968-1980)", as title reflects, contains literally everything that has surfaced
so far from studio vaults, presenting each session in chronological order and
adding some unique material (such as officially released "Lucifer Rising"
soundtrack and outtakes, previsouly available only on limited LP via Jimmy Page's
official site). Their last large set, "Throwing The Wild Seeds (Nassau Coliseum
1975 Complete Tapes)" has two superb sounding soundboard recordings recorded
in February 13th and 14th, 1972 in New York. Originally released by Empress Valley
and plagued by many technical issues (such as unnecessary heavy brickwalling),
this set features fully restored and completed versions, where alternate audience
sources have been spliced to provide most complete versions for each of shows
included. The label retired around 2014, and since then it started releasing some
titles as Eat A Peach and stopped at the end of 2017. However, none of their products
reached the same level and received the same popularity os the original Godfatherecords.
Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin
An interesting and short-lived label from Japan. Established in June of 2008,
The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin is well-designed as an original successor to the
now legendary The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin label and is set to release many uncirculated
sources from the Led Zeppelin live catalogue. From what is reported, the main
intention of this newest effort is to release all the tapes without any heavy
equalization or editing. The label is planning a big series of albums sourced
directly from the masters dedicated to the collectors that are looking for unaltered
and straight copies of low gen tapes. It seems that TCOLZ is interesting to be
a true rival to Empress Valley Supreme Disc and Tarantura. The main intention
of TCOLZ is to start at the point where TDOLZ have stopped releasing their albums
and indeed, TDOLZ's first two releases, "How Many More Years Gone With The
Wind" and "Long Drive To Seattle" seem to proved that theory because
both covered shows that were not released anywhere else on silvers. (In fact,
their second title contains the entire alternate audience source of Seattle March
21st, 1975 show that was previously used by H-Bomb Music on "No Quarter"
set to complete the encores.) The artwork is very simple and relating to the old
vinyl albums, where the band's name and album's title were stamped on the jacket.
Their few latest titles are well welcomed by the collectors and always covered
something yet unreleased, such as their massive six-disc set "We're Playing
Our Balls Out", where the complete, second audience source for Los Angeles
March 27th, 1972 mammouth show was presented altogether with famous Millard tape
or "One Night Stand In Paris", where, for the first time, pre-FM source
of Paris October 10th, 1969 was issued. For the first time in the history, after
two years of activity, because of rather poor sale and lack of good promotion
outside of Japan, the label disappeared, issuing "Final Winterland"
(consisting of all available sources for November 6th and 7th, 1969 appearances)
as their last title in early Spring 2010.
Graf Zeppelin is one of the newer labels, founded in 2009 and specializing in
re-issuing many shows and sources. Label's name is only mentioned on what appears
to be a last minute insert for the first two titles, printed unprofessionally
while "LZSC" is written everywhere else. The other titles finally display
label's name. Some of them are considered to be at the same level as Empress Valley
and Tarantura and the mastering stands the highest quality. Packaged in simple
jewel cases, many titles are strictly limited and numbered, and often they're
much overlooked by those, who cannot afford much more expensive products from
This label took its name from the store selling its products. All titles published
by this manufacturer are completely void of any generic name other than catalog
numbers and simpel artwork. The discography of over 100 titles is largely based
on re-releases of many concerts, and almost all titles are strictly limited and
come with a special sticker. The disadvantage of many of them is that the sound
quality leaves a lot to be desired - many sets are usually copies of freely published
torrents, without any advanced editing or professional mastering. Except for Led
Zeppelin, this label produces almost all of the leading artists from the turn
of the 1960s and 1970s and is very popular in some circles.
brave new standard: DVD Bootlegs
By the mid of 1990s couple of bootleg companies started to releasing their efforts in totally new way, copied many old 8 and 16mm cameras as well as pro shots (which most of them were available only on home-made VHS releases except for Holy Grail and Celebration Definitive Masters) to DVD, making a brand-new standard. Labels such Akashic, Bad Wizard (Scorpio spin-off label), Boogie Mama, Cashmere, already mentioned Celebration Definitive Masters, Cosmic Energy (which started as DVD-R/VCD-R outfit that published their 1969-1980 catalogue of various amateur and pro shots), Dadgad Prod. (another DVD-R label), Digital Line, Empress Valley Supreme Disc, Eye Thank You, Genuine Bastard, Hercules, Holy Grail, Kanji Flying Dragon, New Depression Music, Room 101, Seymour Vision, Silent Sea Productions, Sugar Mama, Tarantura2000, Condor (not a legendary label from early 1990s), Watch Tower, Way Of Wizard, Wendy Records and others done fantastic job in utilizing these important moments of Led Zeppelin history. And although a couple of shots are still not available in DVD format, most of the circulating video material is now available in truly upgrading versions. (Empress Valley's five-disc set titled "Lesson History" contains absolutely everything that has been in circulation as to 2017.)
The main profit of a DVD format is the length also. The maximum length of each CD is 80 minutes. This time we have for the first time a great opportunity to listen to the whole concert without unnecessary disc changes during playing. But not only the length is the main value. Since all the CDs are 44.1kHz, the DVD format offers much more - 48kHz or even 96kHz. It seems, however, that the popularity of this type of medium has significantly decreased, and nowadays, you can only occasionally see titles released in this way. It seems that the accustomed to traditional sound carriers such as vinyl and Compact Disc is still much more popular than DVD.
After all, what more could we want? Probably a lot more uncirculated tapes Empress Valley and Tarantura sometimes put out. Let's hope that one of these two labels will remain the leader in releasing the best quality underground products. But there's one more thing we'd definitely like: a lot of labels should realize that what matters most to any fan is the music, not the packaging. Despite this, the popularity of the physical medium does not seem to decrease, but to grow, as evidenced by the latest Tarantura titles sold out on the spot, and the constantly growing popularity of the black wax, which shines back its triumphs from the usual stereo set of the average affluent fan to the audiophile salons of the richest music enthusiasts. Even the huge popularity of Internet servers offering the possibility of sharing and copying recordings for free does not prevent this trend from changing too much.
Isn't this the calm before the storm, which is supposed to indicate the end of an era? This does not seem to be true as Led Zeppelin seems to be gaining a new fan base and the popularity of physical releases lasts as long as the band is not interested in releasing official live albums (and even if they did, bootlegs seem to be still would remain the object of desire at least for the more ardent collectors and sympathizers).