The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus to EX++*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus to EX++*
- An incredible copy of Zep II with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish - just shy of our Shootout Winner
- The sound is freakishly good - we created a Top Ten list just to put this album on it
- Years ago we gave up on everything but these killer RL (and SS) pressings, because nothing else can hold a candle to them
- With copies selling for $1000+ on ebay, sometimes $3000+, we're forced to pay big bucks for Zep II these days, but if any album is worth it, it's this one
- Marks and problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records - there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
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*NOTE: On side 1 and side 2, the louder passages of the music obscure most of the surface noise and play Mint Minus Minus or close to it as a result.
On side 1, there is a mark that plays lightly throughout the first 1" of track 1, "Whole Lotta Love." There is also a mark that plays 6 times lightly at the start of track 3, "The Lemon Song."
On side 2, there is a mark that plays lightly throughout the last two tracks, "Moby Dick" and "Bring It on Home," at times obscured by the music.
These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" meaning relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.
Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG
At least 80% of the copies we buy these days -- for many, many hundreds of dollars each I might add -- go right back to the seller. The biggest problem we run into besides obvious scratches that play and worn out grooves is easy to spot: just play the song "Thank You" at the end of side one. Most of the time there is inner groove damage so bad that the track becomes virtually unlistenable.
It's become a common dealbreaker for the records we buy on the internet. We get them in, we play that track, we hear it distort and we pack the record up and send it back to the seller.
[This was true ten years ago, but we have since found better sources for our copies. The sellers we tend to buy from know not to send us groove-damaged, scratched copies. Something closer to 20% get returned now.]
But this copy plays clean all the way to the end on both sides -- assuming you have a highly-tweaked, high-performance front end of course.
The "Two" Game
Head over to Tom's blog to check out his thoughts on the new(ish) Zep 2 JP remaster. Spoiler: we actually think it's pretty good and doing a lot right. If you'd like to hear the remaster, we're going to include one for free with every Hot Stamper Zep 2 purchase. Once you've had a chance to compare them, fire Tom an email and let him know what you're hearing.
What The Best Sides Of Led Zeppelin II 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 1969
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Turn It Up!
This is undoubtedly one of the best, maybe THE best hard rock recording of all time, but you need a good pressing if you're going to unleash anything approaching its full potential. We just conducted a shootout and heard much more bad sound than good. You name it -- imports, reissues, originals -- we've played 'em, and most of them were terrible. (Especially the non-RL originals. That's some of the worst sound we've ever heard. If you see a "J" stamper run for your life.)
The better copies of Zep II have the kind of rock and roll firepower that's guaranteed to bring any system to its knees. I can tell you with no sense of shame whatsoever that I do not have a system powerful enough to play this record at the levels I was listening to it at in one of our shootouts a while back. When the big bass comes in, hell yeah it distorts. It would have distorted worse at any concert the band ever played. Did people walk out, or ask the band to turn down the volume? No way. The volume is the sound.
That's what the album is trying to prove. This recording is a statement by the band that they can fuse so much sonic power into a piece of vinyl that no matter what stereo you own, no matter how big the speakers, no matter how many watts you think you have, it's not enough.
The music will be so good you be unable to restrain yourself from turning it up louder, and louder, and still louder, making the distortion you hear an intoxicating part of the music. Resistance, as well all know, is futile.
The louder you play a top copy the better it sounds. Turn up "Moby Dick" as loud as you can. Now it's starting to sound like the real thing. But drum kits play far louder than any stereo can, so even as loud as you can play it isn't as loud as the real thing. This is in itself a form of distortion, a change from the original sound.
If at the end of a side you don't feel like you've just been run over by a freight train, you missed out on one of the greatest musical experiences known to man: Led Zeppelin at ear-splitting levels. If you missed them in concert, and I did, this is the only way to get some sense of what it might have been like. (Assuming of course that you have the room, the speakers and all the other stuff needed to reproduce this album. Maybe one out of fifty systems I've ever run into fits that bill. But we're all trying, at least I hope we are, and it's good to have goals in life, even ones you can never reach.)
What We're Listening For On Led Zeppelin II
- 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 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.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings 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 other 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 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.
Few clean copies of Zeps Classic First Five Albums can be found in stores these days, and the prices keep going up with no end in sight. The bins full of minty LPs by Pink Floyd, The Stones, Zep, The Beatles, The Who and Classic Rock Artists in general are a thing of the past. The cost of picking up a minty looking copy that sounds like crap or is full of groove damage is considerable to us. Lucky for you, we buy those records so you don't have to.
The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice.
Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.
A Must Own Rock Record
We consider this album a Masterpiece. It's a Demo Disc Quality recording that should be part of any serious Rock Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Whole Lotta Love
This album is unique in one sense: both sides of ZEP II start our with monster rock and roll tracks with unbelievable dynamics, energy and bass. Most bands would be lucky to get one song like this on an album. This album has about five!
The middle section with the cymbals and panning instruments is key to the best copies. When it starts they goose the volume -- not subtly mind you -- and a big room opens up in which everything starts bouncing around, reflecting off the walls of the studio. It's a cool effect, there's no denying it.
This is the loudest, most dynamic cut on side one. If it doesn't knock you out, keep turning up the volume and playing it again until it does.
- What Is and What Should Never Be
Amazing presence. Plant is right there!
- The Lemon Song
The bass parts always sounded muddy on the sub-gen copies I often found. The definition and note-like quality here is superb and it's only on these good originals.
There are real dynamics here -- the middle part is at a much lower level than the guitars that follow. This song, like so many on II, is really designed to assault you, to give you the sense that guitars are being broken over your head. That's the kind of power this track has. It's also relatively smooth and sweet compared to the rest of the album as a whole.
- Thank You
Some side twos seems to be cut a little lower than side one, so if you run into that problem, just add about a DB to the volume. Again, big and dynamic. These are the biggest, most powerful guitars I have ever heard on a record. Most copies sound good. The Hot Stampers show you that those big guitars are a lot bigger than you thought they were.
- Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)
- Ramble On
Some copies are super transparent, and in some ways that really works on this track, where Plant's voice can get a bit lost in the mix. But they don't have the oomph down below, which is why they sound clearer in the midrange. The amazing copies have so much weight and power down there, some clarity in the middle has to suffer. But the power of the music requires prodigous amounts of bass. Without that bass you have just another rock record, not The Monster Rock and Roll Record of All Time. Big difference.
- Moby Dick
- Bring It on Home
When those guitars come in, look out! Another out of control rocker.
Recorded quickly during Led Zeppelin's first American tours, Led Zeppelin II provided the blueprint for all the heavy metal bands that followed it. Since the group could only enter the studio for brief amounts of time, most of the songs that compose II are reworked blues and rock & roll standards that the band was performing on-stage at the time. Not only did the short amount of time result in a lack of original material, it made the sound more direct.
Jimmy Page still provided layers of guitar overdubs, but the overall sound of the album is heavy and hard, brutal and direct. "Whole Lotta Love," "The Lemon Song," and "Bring It on Home" are all based on classic blues songs -- only, the riffs are simpler and louder and each song has an extended section for instrumental solos. Of the remaining six songs, two sport light acoustic touches ("Thank You," "Ramble On"), but the other four are straight-ahead heavy rock that follows the formula of the revamped blues songs.
While Led Zeppelin II doesn't have the eclecticism of the group's debut, it's arguably more influential. After all, nearly every one of the hundreds of Zeppelin imitators used this record, with its lack of dynamics and its pummeling riffs, as a blueprint.