Jimmy Page revels in new Led Zeppelin re-masters

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Jimmy Page revels in new Led Zeppelin re-masters
Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin plays a Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar with a violin bow while performing on stage at Oude Rai on 27th May 1972 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page talks to Gavin Esler about the 40th anniversary re-release of 'Physical Graffiti.'
In this picture taken Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, British musician Jimmy Page of rock group Led Zeppelin, laughs during an interview with Associated Press in London. Jimmy Page started the project because he couldn’t believe how bad Led Zeppelin sounded. The legacy of the band he’d devoted much of his life to was being muddied by the way its classic studio albums sounded when reproduced on the ubiquitous MP3 players that are popular today. Instead of accepting that future generations would have to hear a cramped, compressed version of Led Zep’s sonic booms, Page has devoted several years to completely re-mastering the band’s extensive catalog in a labor of love that is, with the release of “Physical Graffiti” on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
GERMANY - MARCH: Led Zeppelin perform live on stage in Germany in March 1973 L-R Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham (1948-1980). (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
UNITED STATES - JULY 13: Photo of Jimmy PAGE and LED ZEPPELIN and Robert PLANT and LIVE AID; L-R: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page performing live onstage at Live Aid, Philadelphia (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: MADISON SQUARE GARDEN Photo of Jimmy PAGE and LED ZEPPELIN and Robert PLANT, L-R: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page performing live onstage, during filming for 'The Song Remains The Same' (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – CIRCA 1980: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zepellin performs at the Philadelphia Spectrum circa 1980 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Raoul/IMAGES/Getty Images)
British rock group Led Zeppelin, performing at Newcastle City Hall, 1st December 1972. Left to right: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12: In this handout from the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama talks with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page during intermission at the Kennedy Center Honors on December 12, 2012 in Washignton, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
Rock band Led Zeppelin, from left, keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones, singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, stand as the Star Spangled Banner is played during the Kennedy Center Honors Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. While Led Zeppelin is being honored as a band, surviving members Jones, Page, and Plant, each received the Kennedy Center Honors. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 09: (L-R) John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant attend the 'Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day' press conference at the Museum of Modern Art on October 9, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
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LONDON (AP) -- Jimmy Page started the project because he couldn't believe how bad Led Zeppelin sounded.

The legacy of the band he'd devoted much of his life to was being muddied by the way its classic studio albums sounded when reproduced on the ubiquitous MP3 players that are popular today.

Instead of accepting that future generations would have to hear a cramped, compressed version of Led Zep's sonic booms, Page has devoted several years to completely re-mastering the band's extensive catalog in a labor of love - "Physical Graffiti," which was released on Tuesday.

"This whole re-mastering process is a result of listening to Led Zeppelin on MP3. It almost sounds as if someone has got into the master tapes and done a really horrendous mix of it," Page said of the MP3 versions in a recent interview. "It just wasn't representative of what we'd done in the first place. So many textures were missing. The whole beauty of Led Zeppelin, the air of it, these instruments coming in here and here and over here, was just totally destroyed."

The re-mastering has taken several years, and the new editions include previously unreleased companion disks of outtakes, live performances and alternate versions of many songs. Page listened to hundreds of hours of tapes looking for gems. The 71-year-old guitar master, who wears his long silvery hair in a ponytail, is confident that the new versions will last and be easily adapted for the next round of technological innovation.

"At this point, we're prepared for whatever may come, as far as high-resolution digital," he said. "And we have the new versions on high quality vinyl, the CDs and digital. The object of the exercise has been achieved."

Page is part of a select group of British guitarists - Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards and a few others - who emerged in the mid-'60s to put a new take on American rock `n' roll. They were for the most part self-taught, Page said, and the technology they relied on was primitive indeed: They would buy singles of American songs designed to be played at 45 rpm and played them instead at 33 rpm, the speed designated for long playing records, not singles.

Page listened to Elvis Presley's singles this way - to decode the guitar work - and Ricky Nelson, whose session guitarist was the revered James Burton.

"The way we all learned was from records," he said. "You'd put on the 45, slow it down to 33, and try to work out these solos, note for note. That's it. Everyone learned that way, as far as I can tell.

"I'd save up my pocket money and get every Ricky Nelson single, because you knew James Burton wasn't go to let you down, ever," Page added.

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