Led Zeppelin: The Complete BBC Sessions (Atlantic/Swan Song/Warner)
As good as any of the era’s freeform American FM stations, the BBC became, by the late 1960s, a venue for airing great and often leading edge rock music. And like college radio nowadays, they often opened their studios to live performances by bands.
The Complete BBC Sessions documents Led Zeppelin’s visits to the British broadcaster’s London headquarters from 19769-1971 and fills out a previously released collection by adding an additional eight unreleased tracks. The band was caught in peak form; Jimmy Page’s guitar scorched the walls; Robert Plant’s wailing vocals tore off the ceiling tiles; John Bonham’s drumming and John Paul Jones’ bass anchored the music to the floor. Unlike in later years, Led Zeppelin hadn’t succumbed to self-indulgence and remained focused, rooting their music closely to the blues and amping up those roots to Wagnerian dimensions.
It would be great to claim that the BBC Sessions are revelatory, but there’s noting wrong in saying, instead, that they serve as a reminder of the strengths of one of the most influential bands of the ‘70s.