THE TEN GREATEST BOOTLEGS
By Pat O' Connor
As a record collector, one of the greatest joys in music comes from listening to unreleased demo tapes, garage recordings, and live performance recordings that are not commercially released. Such bootleg recordings can be found (usually with great difficulty) through fan clubs, flea markets, and mom & pop record stores. I've been collecting bootlegs for 21 years now, and this article is devoted to some of the most admired and collected hard-rock/metal bootleg albums/CDs (which also happen to be some of my favorites) amongst rock fans worldwide over the past two decades.
1. LED ZEPPELIN: LISTEN TO THIS, EDDIE
(Recorded live at the Los Angeles Forum on 6/21/77)
The title of this legendary Zep bootleg is not directed at Eddie Van Halen (contrary to popular belief), but rather Eddie Kramer, the recording engineer for some of Zeppelin's best studio albums, who was never able to capture the band's full live power. This three CD-set was recorded during Zeppelin's last tour of Los Angeles, and it truly captures the spirit of the band. On this particular night, Bonham was on fire, playing double and triple fills. Rumor has it, this show was recorded by a fan in the audience, which is surprising, since the sound quality is incredible! Actually, there have been dozens of great sounding audience recordings that came out of the Forum during the '70s...Hendrix, the Stones, and, of course, Zeppelin (although I personally think this was recorded by a professional taper with two hi-fi shotgun mics.) 1977 was undoubtedly a great year for Zeppelin (as opposed to the previous year, when Plant was involved in a serious car accident and also had to cope with the untimely death of his son.) This show, being the first of six consecutive sold-out shows at the Forum, was in support of their seventh studio album, Presence (one of the most underrated albums of all-time!) The band played with renewed vigor as they showcased such new material as "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and "Achilles Last Stand" at breakneck speed. If only the band was inspired to setup a professional mobile recording studio that night, we would've had a high-quality Zeppelin concert album that would indeed surpass their 1973 concert recording The Song Remains The Same. Although, rumor has it (thru Zep's fan clubs), Page is completing mixes to a Seattle '77 show (on this same tour) that apparently was recorded through the mixing board. Hopefully, they'll release it one of these days!
2. JIMI HENDRIX: SKY HIGH
(Recorded at The Scene Club in New York City, 1968)
This concert recording has been released in many different versions, including a legitimate (?), edited vinyl rendition entitled Hendrix - High, Live & Dirty, and then re-released on CD in the early '90s under the title Woke Up This Morning And Found Myself Dead. Nonetheless, this very rare live recording features the now legendary jam session between three diverse rock superstars. During the '60s, this hip New York nightclub catered to many rock stars who would show up late at night and, often in a drunken stupor, jump onstage and jam with whomever happened to be performing. On this particular night, both Jim Morrison and Johnny Winter joined Jimi and Buddy Miles in an over-the-toxic performance, jamming out renditions of "Red House," The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love," plus five originals. This rare event was recorded by the house engineer straight from the soundboard, so the quality is excellent. This night shows Hendrix playing at his best, belting out fiery blues solos atop Johnny Winter's rhythm guitar riffs. Throw in added vocals, harmonica (and profanity) from a heavily intoxicated Jim Morrison, and you have one hell of a collectible performance.
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