I can’t be accused of making many impulse purchases. It took me this long to finally get a copy of the Led Zeppelin Mothership compilation on vinyl. As I have the two CD sets already from the early 90s, I’ve not purchased any further Led Zep, other than the occasional tatty used LP that had more often than not been played out by the resident stoners in our area.
This set had everything going for it: packaging, heavyweight vinyl and mastering by one of the legends in the field. So, does it deliver?
Ummm…it’s like the old Lay’s Potato Chip commercials: you can’t only eat just one! I swear I’m going to play only one track and end up playing a few sides, if not the whole set. It’s that good, at least to my ears! Having heard only the CD versions from the sets, and the two vinyl LPs I still own (one of them a dollar bin rescue), this sounds great to my ears. I never sniffed the Classic Records glue and paid their exorbitant cost (especially now that they’re out of print…impossible to buy without selling a kidney). And nobody else has seen fit to reissue these on vinyl up until Mothership.
First of all, the packaging. The set arrives in its box with a square of bubble wrap to prevent shifting, and–get this–the records themselves are shipped in their heavy plastic sleeves outside of the jackets, just like any good seller of LPs packages their shipments. Some assembly required! The whole set follows a black/red/white theme that carries through even to the record labels, each Zep member represented by one of the four runes from the fourth album.
The sonics are quite good. The moment the set landed here, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” was shaking the rafters of my listening room. The surfaces of the vinyl are extremely quiet, although I do have a problem here and there. (Side 8 is a bit crackly in two spots, but it looks like there is something on the vinyl itself, nothing a good cleaning can’t fix.) “Whole Lotta Love” is a lot of listeners’ go-to track for the sonic quality of a Led Zep pressing, and to my ears this one does not disappoint. One thing that struck me was how clean and dynamic the cymbal attacks are in the swirling midsection of this track–it’s not bright, but you hear a lot of detail, like a thick wooden drumstick hitting brass cymbal. “Stairway to Heaven” is another go-to track, and it does the song’s dynamics justice being quiet and smooth where needed, and letting loose for the ending.
I had heard that the CD version of this compilation was a bit compressed in comparison to other CD versions, so I was wary of purchasing this set. But the LP seems like it was cut from a better set of master tapes perhaps. Credit for the excellent sonics can also go to mastering legend Stan Ricker, who mastered these eight sides at half speed; it is nice to once again see “SR/2” in the deadwax at the inside of each LP. The vinyl itself is thick, advertised as 180 grams but actually feels and looks a bit thicker; these discs are substantial to hold. Kudos to RTI for the quiet and flat pressings!
I am sure Jimmy Page will once again get the urge to reissue the original albums on vinyl. I would hope that Rhino does these, and that they receive a proper treatment through using proper master tapes (uncompressed, of course) and that Stan Ricker is on hand to master them. The results of this limited set of Led Zeppelin tunes really whets the appetite!