Box Set Vol. 1

Led Zeppelin

Atlantic, 1990

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


At last we come to the ubiquitous boxed set. It used to be this was the last wave goodbye of bands long past their "use by" date. Now it seems like every artist has one, even bands that probably don't warrant it. They dump them on an unsuspecting public in various guises -- some are just bigger and more expensive "best of" collections and some are true treasure troves of alternate takes, live versions, b-sides and other unreleased material.

In the case of Led Zeppelin, they released two box sets, cleverly titled Box Set Vol. 1 and Box Set Vol. 2. I guess that's fitting for a band that only used numbers for their first four albums, and the fourth one didn't even get an official number, just some weird runes. Sorry, I digress…my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In the Rusk household, as we sit around the fire passing on the ancient wisdom of Rock & Roll, we teach the children that a good box set should serve one of two purposes:

1. Compile an essential collection that offers the listener a concise snapshot of highlights of the artist's career or, 2. Offer hard to find material, or material not previously available elsewhere

Vol. 1 does an excellent job of the first point. This compilation is a great collection of indeed, the best of Zep's catalog. It includes their biggest hits like "Stairway To Heaven," "Black Dog," "Whole Lotta Love," and "Kashmir," along with some true gems that don't get quite the exposure they deserve, songs like "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," "Ramble On" and "Over the Hills and Far Away." Mixed in no discernible order across four discs, this set would serve well for someone who wants a fairly comprehensive collection of Zep's best work without buying their entire catalog. Almost without exception, the songs selected (Jimmy Page chose the tracks personally) truly are the best to be found on their nine studio albums.

As for my second point noted above, there isn't a lot here that doesn't appear elsewhere, but it does include the classic rock radio staple "Hey Hey What Can I Do" for the first time on any album, and a very nice live version of the instrumental "White Summer/Black Mountain Side."

On to Vol. 2. This is a sort of collection of leftovers, most of which is decidedly non-essential with some big exceptions. It includes a couple of stellar tracks like "The Rover," "Out On The Tiles," "Bring It On Home" and "Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)." These songs should be on Vol. 1, preferably replacing mediocre fodder like "Candy Store Rock." When set alongside Vol.1, the band's entire studio catalog is represented. In the end it is unnecessary to buy both of these; you'd be better off just buying the entire catalog instead. However, if you want a healthy dose of Led Zeppelin to beef up your collection, Vol.1 fits the bill perfectly.

Rating: A

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© 2005 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic, and is used for informational purposes only.