Led Zeppelin | How the West Was Won | Atlantic

The first Led Zeppelin album added to a music collection is a special memory for everyone. At least, it was for me.

Helping my old man arrange books and records at the Agoura Hills Library some years ago, a pile of shoddy records needed to be tossed in a nearby Dumpster. Nobody wanted to spin Tchaikovsky, stodgy Irish ballads, or excavated and subsequently disregarded Fat Albert records on their phonographs, so tunes were there for the taking: the good, the bad, and Medusa-with-grapefruit-sized-warts ugly.

“Crap, crap, bane on society, crap, crap… ooh. What’s this?” None other than Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy! And in near-mint condition! Somebody better be sitting Shiva, saying ten Hail Marys and fasting, because nobody should ever, ever throw out Zep as if it were sweat-stained gym johns.

How the West Was Won, a three-disc bonanza, features towering classics from two live shows: June 25, 1972 at the LA Forum and two days later at the Long Beach Arena. Zeppelin not only captured the West, guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones and percussionist John Bonham make contemporary music in the States sound ordinary. “Going to California” (surprise) is fittingly on the track list and its crisp acoustics could make Bill Buckner relax in Beantown.

Though leery of antique acts releasing old fodder, West demands attention because Page picked the songs out. West also blows the BBC Sessions out of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans with compelling, soaring, thundering manna from above. A Page solo in a dazzling 25-minute “Dazed and Confused” and Bonham’s rattling rat-a-tat-tat on “Moby Dick” tingle all five senses. Yet “Heartbreaker” defines this blast from the past, combining all the potent ingredients of rock, jazz, blues, classical, folk, country and even funk.

Even for the casual Zeppelin fan, How the West Was Won should be the next trophy in your record collection. But don’t count on finding it in your neighbor’s trash can.

[Eliav Appelbaum will be sorely missed… and definitely doesn’t have a booze problem.]