We should have said “here was your chance” since this pressing sold very quickly. Over the years most Plum and Orange pressings were disposed of on ebay for the benefit of collectors and those audiophiles who might be ill-informed enough to think that early British pressings would have the best sound for Led Zeppelin III. (This is a record we know very well.)
They do not. They can, however, sound quite good in some cases with the proper cleaning. Not Shootout Winning Good: we actually have a section for those killer copies, this one.
Not even Double Plus (A++) good, which sounds like something from the novel 1984 but is in fact a Very Good grade and guaranteed to trounce any and all copies of the album you have ever heard.
No, the best Zeppelin album we have played to date with the early label in this case earned a grade of Single Plus to Double Plus, which we describe as “[a] wonderful sounding side with many impressive qualities, notably better than a Single Plus copy. A big step up from the typical pressing.”
NOTE: We do not even offer Single Plus copies on the site anymore. Although their faults would be less obvious to anyone who went through the shootout process with the album, such faults are too bothersome to us precisely because we did go through that process.
Once you know what is right, it’s very easy to spot what is wrong. This is the foundational principle of our Hot Stampers. Hot Stampers are not simply good sounding records. They are records that have gone through a shootout.
It is also our story with regard to most of the Heavy Vinyl pressings we have played over the last twenty five years, the worst of which can be found here. We see very little evidence that we got any of that wrong.
OUR RECENT HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FOR THE EARLY LABEL A5/B7 UK PRESSING
- You’ll find very good Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this vintage PLUM and ORANGE (A5/B5) Atlantic British pressing
- This vintage UK pressing is very lively and fun — it has its problems but the you can be sure that the folks who bought this record when it was new could not have cared less (or even heard them on the systems of their day)
- 5 stars: “On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.”
What the Best Sides of Led Zeppelin III Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).
The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction quality. Most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. And when the guitars are perfection, the voices and all the other instruments tend to be right as well.
Let’s face it: they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like this anymore. You have to go back to 48 year old records like this one to find that sound.
The three Zep albums with out of this world acoustic guitars are the first album, III and Houses of the Holy. (All three are currently on our Top 100 List along with II and IV. All five can be amazing sounding on the right pressings, but those pressings tend to be tough to come by in clean condition.)
The guitars are every bit as rich, tubey, sweet, delicate and harmonically correct as those found on Tea For the Tillerman, Rubber Soul, Comes a Time or any of the other phenomenally good recordings we rave about on the site.
Of course, without the right pressing, you would never know that. Later copies, Classic Records copies, typical domestic and import copies — none of them are going to sound like this one. We guarantee it.
Standard Operating Procedures
What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and so on down through the list.
When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up.
It may not be rocket science, but it is a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to ensure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.
Jimmy Page, Production Genius
When you hear the resolution and transparency found on the best copies of III you will no doubt gain a deeper appreciation of the extraordinary effort that has gone into these recordings, and what a production genius Jimmy Page was at this time.
Ultimately the ability to hear into the music at the highest levels is what gives you, the listener, the ability to understand and enjoy it. One reason these commentaries tend to be overly enthusiastic is that once you’ve heard a pressing that sounds as good as the best copies of the album can, you can’t help but be much more emotionally involved in the music.
When the sound gets better it’s the music that really gets better. That’s Audio 101, the raison d’etre for the expensive and finicky equipment we all own.
When the sound gets to the top levels, when the sound gets that good, the music practically becomes a drug. Want to take a trip? Drop the needle on a top copy at the start of That’s The Way or Since I’ve Been Loving You. Jimmy Page created a world of sound for you to inhabit — you likely won’t be coming back to earth for a while.
A key test for side one are the strings on Friends. On the best copies they are rosiny and clear, never harsh or smeary. When you hear them sounding right – assuming the low end is correct – you know your side one has been mastered and pressed properly.
Since I’ve Been Loving You
Out on the Tiles
That’s The Way
Hats Off To (Roy) Harper
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.
And even the rockers aren’t as straightforward as before: the galloping “Immigrant Song” is powered by Robert Plant’s banshee wail, “Celebration Day” turns blues-rock inside out with a warped slide guitar riff, and “Out on the Tiles” lumbers along with a tricky, multi-part riff.
Nevertheless, the heart of the album lies on the second side, when the band delve deeply into English folk. “Gallows Pole” updates a traditional tune with a menacing flair, and “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” is an infectious acoustic romp, while “That’s the Way” and “Tangerine” are shimmering songs with graceful country flourishes.
The band hasn’t left the blues behind, but the twisted bottleneck blues of “Hats off to (Roy) Harper” actually outstrips the epic “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which is the only time Zeppelin sound a bit set in their ways.
Keep in mind that we’re the guys who are all about sound, not originality.
We discussed it in our FAQ as a matter of fact:
This listing gets to the point: