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4.6 out of 5 stars
Mothership
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
There seems to be some confusion over "Mothership" especially with regard to the 'sound'. While it's not exactly the 'Motherlode' in terms of track content - SOUNDWISE - it is streets ahead of what's been offered before and at times just BREATHTAKING in its clarity. (For the rest - see the end of this review).

Here's the lay of the land first:

The albums "Led Zeppelin" though to "Houses Of The Holy" ('69 to '73) were originally released in the UK on Atlantic Records and from "Physical Graffiti" onwards on their own imprint label "Swan Song" ('75 to '79, distributed by Atlantic). The awful live double that is "The Song Remains The Same" from 1976 is wisely not featured at all on "Mothership". The 8-track odds and sods album "Coda" from 1982, which features studio out-takes and live tracks recorded between 1969 and 1978, isn't featured either. As you'll see from the list below - all the other official studio albums are:

Disc 1 (66:18 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 4 are from their debut "Led Zeppelin" (January 1969)
Tracks 5 to 7 are from "Led Zeppelin II" (October 1969)
Tracks 8 and 9 are from "Led Zeppelin III" (October 1970)
Tracks 10 to 13 are from "Led Zeppelin IV" (November 1971)
(Officially their 4th album is untitled, but of course it's often referred to as "Led Zeppelin IV" or "Four Symbols" or "Runes" or "ZoSo" after the four symbols that appear on the original LP at the top of the Atlantic Records label - Zodiac letters for each member of the band).

Disc 2 (69:21 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 4 are from "Houses Of The Holy" (April 1973)
Tracks 5 to 7 are from "Physical Graffiti" (February 1975, a 2LP set)
Tracks 8 and 9 are from "Presence" (March 1976)
Tracks 10 and 11 are from "In Through The Out Door" (August 1979)

As you can see - "Zeppelin II" sees only 3 tracks on Disc 1, while the debut gets 4. This misses out on gems from "II" like "Moby Dick", "Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just A Woman)" and "What Is And What Should Never Be" - odd omissions for an album that is constantly cited in magazine polls by the public as their "favorite rock album ever". Worse however is "III", often referred to by fans as their 'acoustic' album. By only representing it with "Immigrant Song" and "Since I've Been Loving You", you get the 'feeling' that the album is like its two predecessors - 'hard rock' - when it actually contains some of their most beautiful and underrated softer tracks, especially the gorgeous acoustic workout "That's The Way". Four songs from the iconic and brilliant "IV" are only right and proper - and some would argue the entire album should be on here (the lyrics to "Black Dog" title this review).

Downside: as you can see from the playing time, a full 13 minutes on Disc 1 could have been used up - and isn't. Extending the acoustic theme to "IV", the equally wonderful "The Battle Of Evermore" (Sandy Denny on backing vocals) is missing too when there was room. Coupled with "That's The Way", both would have made for huge bonuses and more importantly made the disc more representative of the band. The 'acoustic' element of Zeppelin, which was featured in most of their live sets, is oddly absent here - a mistake I think. Their diversity as a band - away from just hard rock - is one of the reasons for their enduring appeal and why fans love them so. "Hey Hey (What Can I Do Now)" the brilliant non-album B-side to the US 45 of "Immigrant Song" would have been a tasty choice too - but again - a no show.

Upside: having said all of that, Disc 1 has very clever sequencing on it and listening to the song selection straight through is a superb and impressive experience. The space around the opening guitars of "Baby I'm Gonna Leave You" is ethereal and beautiful. The fabulous guitar-work in the left speaker on "Ramble On" from "II" catches your ear too - and Plant's double vocals - great. I could hear the band count One Two Three on the fade in to "Immigrant Song". Genius choice however, goes to the stunning blues workout of "Since I've Been Loving You" from "III". Sounding just fantastic, the squeaking of Bonham's drum pedals can be heard just a few milliseconds before Page launches into that blistering guitar riff (lyrics above). And finally - at long last - the remastering has brought out the full ferocity of Bonham's drumming and Plant's harmonica playing in the simply awesome "When The Levee Breaks" - cleverly placed before "Stairway" and not after it - rounding off Disc 1 very nicely.

The sound quality on Disc 1 in particular is BREATHTAKING. Page transferred the original master tapes carefully to digital in 1991 for "The Complete Studio Recordings" and John Davis of Alchemy Mastering in London has used these for the 2007 Remasters. THEY ARE BETTER. And in some cases unbelievably so.

But it all goes a bit belly up on Disc 2. It's clear the band feel that "Houses" is a bit under appreciated as an album, so no less than 4 tracks are featured, including the clever placing of the reggae "D'yer Maker" with Bonham and Jones both playing a rhythm section storm. But to leave off the melodic winner that is "The Rain Song" is a huge omission. Three from "Graffiti", but again the wonderful "Ten Years Gone" and the rocking "Custard Pie" are not here. For me "Presence" was a tedious listen in 1976 and still is now, despite people trying to reappraise it. I really don't need to hear the 10 minutes of "Achilles Last Stand" ever again when the blues finisher "Tea For One" would have been a braver choice. And last up is "In Through The Out Door" featured by "In The Evening", the album's great opener. But the truly awful "All My Love" finishes Disc 2 when the funkier "For Your Love" would have been better. Also - as with Disc 1 - with only 69 minutes used, there was enough room for a more varied picture.

And why a DVD of what we already own, when a live disc should have been Disc 3 - representing the band in what 'they' feel is their best arena?

The booklet is disappointing too. No album covers pictured! Where the hell is the artwork that was so integral to their releases? There's no fan pleasing rare 7" picture sleeves from around the world either - no sense of their global affection or effect - not even a UK or US discography! But David Fricke's essay is good - it gives a brief history of the band and its output across 12 pages. And at least the wholesale nicking of blues tunes is finally acknowledged in the writer's credits for "Whole Lotta Love" (a Willie Dixon song made famous by Muddy Waters), Anne Bredon for "Baby I'm Gonna Leave You" and Memphis Minnie for "When The Levee Breaks".

Some have said this compilation is 'money for old rope' - I don't see it that way. Without doubt, the 1991 Remasters by Jimmy Page were way better than the crappy 80s issues when issued, but these 2007 upgrades have been long overdue and sounding as good as they do, they're to be welcomed. If ever a band deserved lavish attention spent on their catalogue - it's Zeppelin. The set it flawed for sure, but the sound is great! Personally I'm excited about buying better sonic versions of the albums when they eventually do come out.

Hey Hey Mama indeed...

PS - IMPORTANT ADDITION: I took my own advice with regard to track selection and went to iTunes to download "That's The Way" and "The Rain Song". To my astonishment and disappointment, they're EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE 1991 VERSIONS when I A/B them with what's on my hard-drive. As everyone knows the entire catalogue is advertised as REMASTERED and went on sale the day after Mothership was issued, but it craftily doesn't say 'when' they were remastered. What a MASSIVE DISAPPOINTMENT!

In fairness to iTunes, the entire catalogue download does include all the studio albums, the "Mothership'" 2CD set, the redone live double "The Song Remains The Same" with its bonus tracks, the excellent and overlooked 3CD "How The West Was Won" live set, also with remastered Sound and even an extended version of "Coda" to take in the odd box set track like "Hey Hey (What Can I Do Now)".

The important point with regard to the catalogue is this - it's clear that ONLY the "MOTHERSHIP" SET and "THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME" re-issue HAVE THE 2007 REMASTERED SOUND and NOT ANYTHING ELSE.

So I would say that the purchase of the ENTIRE CATALOGUE is good value for money overall for newcomers, but for fans that already have the CD albums, avoid the iTunes downloads on INDIVIDUAL TRACKS outside the 'Mothership/The Song Remains The Same' sets.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2012
Stick to the 1994 CD's, which sound amazing. Gotta love Jimmy Page but, this isn't even a proper remaster. All they did was boost the volume, adding compression to near distortion. The music sounds lifeless even on excellent stereo speakers and gave me a headache after only a short while of listening with headphones. It's sad because these damn record labels are killing classic music reissues with these loudness wars. Don't buy this. Buy the Early Days/Later Days double disc set that came out in 1999/2000. It is almost exactly the same song selection and is sourced from the 1994 remasters.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2008
... seriously. The box sets are a much better value, remastered and organized by Page himself. If you're a purist, remastered copies of the individual albums are available and any single one does Zeppelin better justice than any compilation they will ever release.
Admittedly this is a powerful collection, although an unadventurous one that doesn't include lesser known but arguably more interesting tunes. I suppose if you don't own a single Zeppelin CD and don't plan on owning more than one, you can't go wrong with this as a solid document of their better known moments. But if you have more than a casual interest and want to know why they are considered pioneers of album oriented rock, over time this will end up being supplanted by their entire catalog. Zeppelin's music does that to a person...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2007
If you are a Zep fan run to your nearest cd supply store and buy this set. I would have to say that the layers of detail and sound are without peer. This is the DE FACTO release of all these songs. I suggest you listen to this on quality audio equiptment. I have spent many hours with this set since it was released and I must say I am amazed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2008
The vinyl version is a meticulously crafted, four record box set, each record in it's own protective sleeve, placed along with the actual record sleeve with a picture of one of the band on each of these sleeves. When you open the set the vinyl are in their protective sleeves, but are not placed in the picture sleeves; they are just laid alternately one on top of the other. A 20 page book is included which primarily consists of band photos.

Sonically, how does this sound? Well let me just say, this is about as fine a vinyl presentation of any music I have ever heard. Wow! If you are in search of the best sounding Zeppelin, you will not be dissapointed with this purchase. I have the Zeppelin catalogue on the 200 gram vinyl presentation that was issued a few years ago and they do not compare to the sound quality of this 180 gram set. The 200 gram vinyl presentation sounds like it was taken from a CD copy and transferred to vinyl. The Mothership presentation is incredibly rich sounding without the brightness of the 200 gram versions. The drums, bass, vocals, and guitars, are presented in their full dynamic range. You can almost feel the band members in your room as the music is played through your speakers. After hearing this, I'm desperate to hear the rest of the catalogue remastered for vinyl the way Mothership has been and released. My 200 gram copies will be in the hands of a used record store fast if that ever happens. Great work and thanks to the band and RTI!
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Music: 5 Stars; Economic Value: 4.5 Stars; New Relevance: 1 Star

Almost 5 years ago to the day, the compilation "Early Days and Latter Days" was released, hence apparently bringing the 'ultimate' 2 CD "best of" Led Zeppelin on the market. Fast forward to Fall 2007: Led Zeppelin has finally released its music digitally, plus "The Song Remains The Same" album and movie gets new life on upgraded releases, and oh yea, there is a one-off reunion concert coming up in early December in London. So how to 'celebrate' the occasion? Well, how about another "best of" release!

"Mothership" (2 CDs, 24 tracks, 140 min.) is a virtual copy of "Earlier Days and Latter Days": 20 of the 23 tracks from that appear on "Mothership", including all the staples, from "Whole Lotta Love" to "Black Dog" to "Kashmir", and on and on. To mix is up just a little bit, "What Is and What Should Never Be", "The Battle of Evermore" and "Ten Years Gone" were dropped from "Early Days and Latter Days", and these 4 songs were added instead: "Ramble On", Heartbreaker", "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "D'Yer Mak'er". Too me those are minor changes on the fringes. It all sounds terrific, of course, due to yet more remastering from Jimmy Page.

The bottom line is this: if you are new to Led Zeppelin, or if you are one of the remaining 13 people on this planet who after all this time do not have either the Led Zeppelin albums proper or the 2002 "Early Days and Later Days" compilation, by all means drop everything, and order this terrific and value-priced set immediately. For the rest of us, I fail to see the new relevance of this compilation, as there is not as much as a sniff of new music on this collection. If you are inclined to buy this set, better shell out the couple of extra dollars for the bonus DVD, which is a sampling/reduced version of the 2003 "Led Zeppelin" DVD. In order, there are 9 songs from the 1970 Royal Albert Hall show, 4 songs from the 1973 Madison Square Garden show that produced "The Song Remains the Same" movie, 3 songs from the 1975 Earl's Court show, and 4 songs from the 1979 Knebworth show.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2007
Yes, Zep's songs have been repackaged a gazillion times. And there are some niggling omissions from this collection (I would love to hear "Going to California" remastered like they've done to the songs here). But holy cow -- they never sounded like this! Need proof? Listen to the thrilling, utterly jaw dropping last minute and a half of "Stairway." Listen to how Jimmy's rhythm guitar cracks like a severed electrical cable dancing around an automatic weapon -- utterly unbelievable. The bass, the dynamics of the snare drum.... They got all the sludge out here. Amazing work, amazing sound, makes Led Zep 100% modern again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
In a November 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, Jimmy Page described his dream of Led Zeppelin being four strong musicians that, when together, formed a fifth element. Almost 40 years later, the mystique and legend that is Led Zeppelin is strong enough that the mere hint of a reunion show brought out the most jaded and reclusive fans to vie, almost 20 million strong, for the few thousand seats available to a one-off London Reunion. The death of John Bonham in 1980 and the subsequent decision of the surviving trio to call it quits closed a book on a band that stopped themselves before they sucked, even if repeated listening to In Through the Out Door gave thought to notions that maybe they were past their peak.

But all that did was add to the legend. "Mothership" (once again) proves that Led Zeppelin had no peer when it came to rocking the seventies. Deliberately cloaking themselves in mystery and excess, the music lived up to its creators' ambitions. Listening to Disc One now, remastered terrifically is like hearing the band fresh. They were experimenting sonically in ways most other 'heavy' bands at the time had not ascended to (listen to the orgasmic interplay between Page and Robert Plant on "Whole Lotta Love") and were gleefully attacking songs outside the expected parameters of Rock and Roll. (To wit: Joan Baez's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and "When The Levee Breaks," a blues song from the 1920's.)

The first disc captures the glory of the first four albums, and ends with "Stairway To Heaven." Say what you will, giving this a fresh listen after all these years is a payback for everytime you nailed the punch button on your FM radio for whatever billionth time that well known acoustic lick came on your car speakers. It's a masterpiece of construction, built layer upon layer of sound before finally roaring into one of rock's all time great solos. The version on "Mothership" is - no quarter - the absolute best version committed to disc.

After that, the second CD seems less intense. The wild sense of discovery is gone, replaced by a band quite pleased with just how powerful they'd become. That isn't to say that the songs are complacent; far from it. "Kashmir" (from Physical Graffiti) is stunning all these years later. That middle eastern riff marching across Bonham's tricky time signature is deceptively simplistic sounding, yet few have ever come close to duplicating its stately force. While personally I have quibbles with selections from Presence and "In Through The Out Door" (why not "Fool In The Rain," a top 40 hit?), since Page was the producer, who am I to judge?

For the die-hard owner of all things LZ, this won't add anything new. But the remastering makes it worth it. As for the rest of us, folks for whom Zep was something we got out of our systems by the time we were out of college and became casual fans, "Mothership" is a motherlode. It makes a terrific 24 song reminder of just how important Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham are to the creation of heard rock as we know it. Only Black Sabbath has wielded an influence of potential equality. And you can bet that once the 2008 tour gets underway, we'll finally be seeing upgrades on the under-looked Led Zeppelin CD library.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2007
Yes, it's true, every year it seems The Doors, John Lennon and Led Zeppelin release some sort of new hits collection, but there is no denying that "Mothership" has some of the best remastering of Zeppelin classics yet released. Like the recent Doors remasters, "Mothership" brings these classic songs that defined hard rock roaring into 21st century with new energy. No doubt some fans will scoff at certain omissions, there's no "The Ocean" or "Dancing Days," but still, this is a highly enjoyable set for the casual listener. Disc 1 features some epic cuts like "Dazed And Confused" with it's spacey, otherworldly sound and "Whole Lotta Love," a ferocious blues number where Robert Plant and Jimmy Page let it rip. "Black Dog" is still a great, sweaty jam and "Immigrant Song" is pure adrenaline. "Stairway To Heaven" isn't just rock n' roll, it's classic music, period. But the reason this set should be given a chance is because not only have these numbers not lost their edge, now they shine brighter with excellent digital remastering. Drums and bass are crisper, clearer, the individual snap of John Bonham's drums is more defined, Plant's voice soars more clearly and Page's guitars are sharper and louder. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is an even more beautiful number here, with adequate volume now restored it breathes like the haunting piece that it is. Disc 2 has an equal balance of energy and mellowness with the almost tropical "D'yer Mak'er" that has more defined drums and guitar here. "No Quarter" crawls with menacing grace. The epic "Kashmir" is here, remastered with a volume more suitable for it's orchestral scope. "Mothership" is no doubt not the last Led Zeppelin collection we will see in our lifetime, but you can't deny it's merits. This is classic rock for the ages, the kind of music that reminds us what rock n' roll was all about before it was turned into a corporate factory of recycled dummies and sounds. If anything, "Mothership" can introduce a younger generation to the real hard rock that will always out-do what's out now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2007
This should go without saying, but a 3-disk set of Led Zeppelin's best is going to have lots of really good songs on it. The first two disks here are in chronological order which is convenient, and sound quality is indeed better than ever on all of these songs.

Based on all of that, this is a good collection in and of itself and the $25 list price (discounted below that on Amazon, of course), is quite reasonable. One could argue about the choice of songs -- I for example, would have preferred 3 or 4 more Physical Graffiti tracks -- but that's how it always seems to go with these compilations.

Here's the rub: most of us already have all of these songs so we have no need for this collection unless we have uber-stereos to hear how much better they sound. To those people who don't already have these songs in their collection, I couldn't recommend in good conscience that this is a good place for you to start. The original albums were expertly arranged, each with a feel of its own. Those of us who grew up listening to these studio albums remember the flow that they had from one song to the next: "Black Dog" became "Rock and Roll" and then chilled into "Battle of Nevermore" and so on. That continuity became an important part of the musical experience. These are not "concept" albums in the league of Ziggy Stardust or Dark Side of the Moon, but they stick together very well. The songs have remained the same, but listening to them in these repackages is like watching lions pace back and forth at the zoo, out of their environment. It seems -- contrived, somehow, and too commercial.

What's funny is that Page and company could have arguably made more money and stayed truer to their roots by doing a super-remaster job like this on all of their original albums. OK, In Through the Out Door might not sell much, but I bet lots of people would gladly buy II, IV (Zoso, dude-with-the-sticks, no-name album, whatever), and Physical Graffiti for the umpteenth time to get a bit better sound out of them.

I can't recommend this package to anybody but the established Led Zeppelin fan who has a superior high-end home stereo system. You guys who do most of your listening on car stereos or (sigh) IPods will hear little or no difference in sound quality. Led Zeppelin neophytes would be much better off experiencing these songs on the true "motherships" of their studio albums.

Even with the limited recommendation, I can't bring myself to give this any less than four stars because, hey, it's Led Zeppelin at their best.
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