Somehow I ended up with four copies of Led Zeppelin I. Obviously the first copy was bought to listen to. I picked up a second copy because it had the rare purple and tan label, a collectible that sells for over $100, that cost me around $5. I’m not sure why I bought a third copy. They’re all early U.S. pressings and they all sound dead and dull. That’s why I picked up a fourth copy of LZI last week.
A general rule of thumb in buying records is to buy an original pressing. They usually sound the best and also hold their value. That certainly isn’t true for LZI. After researching the topic on the internet, it seemed the best sounding version of the album was one mastered by George Piros and pressed at Monarch Records in Los Angeles in the mid-70s. There are multiple masterings of LZI manufactured at various pressing plants throughout the world. How can you tell you’ve got a Piros-mastered copy pressed at Monarch? Everything you need to know is in the deadwax. A Piros-mastered record will have his initials (GP) scratched in the deadwax. A Monarch pressing will have a machine-stamped symbol MR with a circle around it followed by a hand-scripted triangle followed by a five-digit number (the delta number). I found such a copy last week.
What’s the point of this madness? I’m finally happy with the way this album sounds. The Piros/Monarch copy is a revelation. It’s like someone took a heavy blanket off my speakers so that I can listen to this album in its full glory. The music is dynamic and alive. Hallelujah! Hosanna! Hosanna!