Magazine article Guitar Player

Mixing Led Zeppelin II

Magazine article Guitar Player

Mixing Led Zeppelin II

Article excerpt


EDDIE KRAMER'S NAME HAS BEEN MOST often associated with the work of Jimi Hendrix, but his curriculum vitae also includes recording classic tracks for icons such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Traffic, and Small Faces, as well as engineering legendary live albums by Peter Frampton, Kiss, and all the acts at Woodstock. In fact, Kramer probably rolled tape for more premier '60s- and '70s-era artists than any other individual, and so it is no great surprise to find that he had a hand in tracking, editing, and mixing Led Zeppelin II. Kramer would also be on the job for Houses of the Holy, Presence, How the West Was Won, and The Song Remains the Same--but his work on Led Zeppelin II is arguably his most significant contribution to the band's legacy.

Led Zeppelin's first album was reportedly recorded and mixed in 30 hours, but Led Zeppelin II took eight months to complete, as it was recorded piecemeal in studios located in London (Olympic, Morgan), Los Angeles (A&M, Quantum, Sunset, Mirror Sound, Mystic), Memphis (Ardent), New York (A&R, Juggy Sound, Groove, Mayfair), and Vancouver (a "hut"), whenever Jimmy Page and crew could take short breaks from touring. Kramer is credited with recording three of the nine songs--"Heartbreaker," "Ramble On," and "Bring It on Home"--though he also worked on parts of others.

"The electric guitars were probably recorded with Shure SM57s, and the acoustics with Neumann U67s," remembers Kramer.

The biggest change between recording the first and second albums from a guitar perspective was that Page had replaced the '58 Fender Telecaster and modified Supro Coronado amp used on the former, with a '58 Gibson Les Paul Standard and a Marshall stack. He also used either a '65 Fender Electric XII or a '67 Vox Phantom XII (accounts vary) on "Thank You." Page's only effects were Sola Sound Tone Bender MKII and Vox CryBaby pedals--both modified by Roger Mayer--and, possibly, an Echoplex.

Kramer and Page mixed Led Zeppelin II in two days at A&R Studio in New York City, using a Scully 280 1" 8-track machine, and a custom-built mixing console that Kramer recalls having "a dozen or fewer channels, and only two pan pots." In several cases, Kramer had to edit together parts of songs that had been recorded in more than one location before mixing could begin. This included inserting Page's unaccompanied guitar solo into "Whole Lotta Love," and splicing together multiple sections of "Moby Dick"--a song containing imperfect edits that Kramer says he is not proud of.

Considerable sub-mixing had been done previously, so some tracks contained multiple instruments, and, in many cases, basic effects had also been committed to tape at the time of recording. But that didn't keep Kramer and Page from crafting additional effects, and putting those two pan pots to good use, both in terms of dramatically moving instruments and vocals from one side of the stereo field to the other--such as during the middle section of "Whole Lotta Love," and towards the end of "What Is and What Should Never Be"--and also for creating more subtle stereo effects using reverb and delay. …

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