Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- Outstanding sound throughout with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
- Since I've Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, Tangerine and That's the Way are just a few of the tracks that have truly Demo Disc sound
- "On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth."
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This vintage import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
Drop the needle on Since I've Been Loving You and turn it up good and loud. Robert Plant will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!
Cue up Tangerine on side two for a taste of rich, sweet, Tubey Magical Analog Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from bad mastering or phony EQ.
What outstanding sounding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
Most of the copies we've heard suffered from a lack of weight in the bottom end. When some of the deep bass is missing, the tonal balance shifts upward and the sound can become upper midrangy and bright. When you get a copy without the kind of big, meaty bottom end a track like Immigrant Song demands, you'll be left cold -- just as we were from all the weak copies we heard this week.
The three Zep albums with out of this world acoustic guitars are the first album, III and Houses of the Holy. (All three are currently on our Top 100 List along with II and IV. All five can be amazing sounding on the right pressings, but those pressings tend to be tough to come by in clean condition.)
The guitars are every bit as rich, tubey, sweet, delicate and harmonically correct as those found on Tea For the Tillerman, Rubber Soul, Comes a Time or any of the other phenomenally good recordings we rave about on the site.
Of course, without the right pressing, you would never know that. Later copies, Classic Records copies, typical domestic and import copies -- none of them are going to sound like this one. We guarantee it.
What We're Listening For on III
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt -- engineers in this case, Chris Kimsey, Andy Johns and Eddie Kramer -- would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Jimmy Page, Production Genius
When you hear the resolution and transparency found on the best copies of III you will no doubt gain a deeper appreciation of the extraordinary effort that has gone into these recordings, and what a production genius Jimmy Page was at this time.
Ultimately the ability to hear into the music at the highest levels is what gives you, the listener, the ability to understand and enjoy it. One reason these commentaries tend to be overly enthusiastic is that once you've heard a pressing that sounds as good as the best copies of the album can, you can't help but be much more emotionally involved in the music.
When the sound gets better it's the music that really gets better. That's Audio 101, the raison d'etre for the expensive and finicky equipment we all own.
When the sound gets to the top levels, when the sound gets that good, the music practically becomes a drug. Want to take a trip? Drop the needle on a top copy at the start of That's The Way or Since I've Been Loving You. Jimmy Page created a world of sound for you to inhabit -- you likely won't be coming back to earth for a while.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage import pressing will play, and since only the right vintage imports have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
A key test for side one are the strings on Friends. On the best copies they are rosiny and clear, never harsh or smeary. When you hear them sounding right -- assuming the low end is correct -- you know your side one has been mastered and pressed properly.
Since I've Been Loving You
Out on the Tiles
That's The Way
Hats Off To (Roy) Harper
And even the rockers aren't as straightforward as before: the galloping "Immigrant Song" is powered by Robert Plant's banshee wail, "Celebration Day" turns blues-rock inside out with a warped slide guitar riff, and "Out on the Tiles" lumbers along with a tricky, multi-part riff.
Nevertheless, the heart of the album lies on the second side, when the band delve deeply into English folk. "Gallows Pole" updates a traditional tune with a menacing flair, and "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" is an infectious acoustic romp, while "That's the Way" and "Tangerine" are shimmering songs with graceful country flourishes.
The band hasn't left the blues behind, but the twisted bottleneck blues of "Hats off to (Roy) Harper" actually outstrips the epic "Since I've Been Loving You," which is the only time Zeppelin sound a bit set in their ways.
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