Jimmy And The Pagers, Featuring The Golden God
In the fall of 1995, I was a sophomore at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois (side note: IMSA is NOT a college, it's a high school. So if you can't do the math, I was 15 when this took place). At the time, I had not yet been exposed to any of the music which can be categorized as "classic rock"; although I had a love of music from a very early age, this mostly extended to pieces which I would play on the piano and in the junior high and high school bands. In previous years, my brother had been a fan of some of the popular bands of the day (Greenday, The Offspring), and while I was able to tolerate them, I just couldn't share the adoration that my brother and so many other people of like age shared for all of these groups. Hence, for the most part, I kept myself completely out of the loop of rock music, assuming that since most of what I had heard seemed mediocre at best, this would probably extend to all bands in the genre.
Well, one evening in late September, I was lying in bed in preparation for sleep, when my first roommate, a chap by the name of Paul Ruiz, decided that he wanted to play some music on his stereo. He did this regularly, but for the most part he would play pieces which were more or less contemporary, and so none of it really excited me. On this night, though, that would change. The first thing I heard out of his speakers was some quiet acoustic plucking, then some recorders, and then this fairly British voice singing, "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold and she's buying a stairway to heaven." Now, I had heard of this song many, many times, but I had never actually heard it before, nor had I had any desire to do so. As I listened, though, I was completely entranced by the total beauty of the piece; the seemingly seamless transition from acoustic to electric, the gorgeous melody, and the feeling of total confidence and majesty that the piece seemed to emanate with every note.
I must have listened to that song 20 times or so without even touching anything else on the CD, it so captivated me. Eventually, I was paired with a new roommate, by the name of Jon Greiman, who helped get me started down the trail of being a classic rock junky with his 52 tapes of 70's music. Eventually, I became acquainted with the medium of classic rock radio, and I continued to be inundated and fascinated by this mythical group known as Led Zeppelin. In due time, I bought a two disc compilation, while my brother bought Zeppelin albums at his own pace, and after a year or so, we had the complete discography between us (and eventually, I had everything myself).
So why did I just relate this story? Well, I think it is reasonably likely that many people who become fans of the music of the 60's and 70's have stories similar to mine in some form or another; they were listening to the radio, heard Stairway to Heaven, then heard a bunch of other Zep tunes in one of the "Get the Led Out" sessions on some station, and eventually became huge fans of classic rock as a whole as they became exposed to other bands. Indeed, I myself believed for the longest time that Led Zeppelin was the greatest that music had to offer, and that they could do no wrong in any of the styles which they attempted at some point or another. However, as my music collection grew and my exposure to rock music broadened beyond what was presented me on classic rock radio, I eventually grew out of that phase, and while I am still rather fond of this group, if you are hoping for a review that will say nothing but good things about these guys, look elsewhere. They certainly had many fantastic attributes, which will be mentioned, but as hard as they tried to cover up their weaknesses, they ultimately couldn't help but show through.
I will begin by stating that Led Zeppelin is probably better than any other band I've heard in terms of playing, covering and often totally reinventing the blues. Yes, they have rightfully earned their place in history for their pioneering of the genres of hard rock and heavy metal (along with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, obviously), and yes, the group did incorporate a great deal of acoustic folk into their repertoire, but they were always strongest when their foundation was in the blues (and their ability to take the core of the songs they were tackling and adapt them into something totally different was amazing). And ultimately, this came down to Jimmy Page more than anybody else. His greatest strength, and the band's greatest attribute, was that he had an exceptional knack at creating memorable and, of all things, melodic solos. Whereas a Hendrix or a Clapton would often go wanking all over the place, with seemingly little or no connection to the original song (granted, there usually was a connection, but it might not always be immediately apparent), all throughout Led Zep's studio albums Jimmy's guitar is almost always able to carry the melody and to carry it well. There was no such thing as a "tacked on" solo in their discography; they were always an essential part of the piece, whether as the main theme or as a secondary melody or whatever.
Unfortunately, this was the only really consistent strength that the band had ... if you ignore bassist/keyboardist/organist/string arranger/whatever John Paul Jones, that is. Easily one of the five greatest mainstream rock bassists of all time, his sense of rhythm was almost incomparable, and he had an almost Entwhistle-level ability to make his bass lines melodic and powerful at the same time. He was also the most experimental member of the group, and while I definitely wish some of his ideas had stayed in the can, a lot of his ideas were freaking brilliant, so I'm not about to condemn the man or anything.
Unfortunately, and I know this is gonna piss off a lot of people, I'm not the biggest fan of either Robert Plant or John Bonham, even if I basically like them. Yes, Plant's singing on on the band's debut was absolutely fantastic, but unfortunately, incessant drug use on his part caused a serious decline in the quality of his vocals as early as their second album (though he could still deliver live for a little while). Compare his singing on, say, the original "Dazed and Confused," and his singing on the Song Remains the Same version of the same song, and you will know exactly what I mean. Now, when he went out of his way to give his voice character, as on Presence, it's at least interesting, but otherwise it just grates on my ears something fierce way way too much of the time. Compared to Roger Daltrey (after whom he certainly modeled himself for a while) or Ian Gillan (who in his prime wiped the floor with Robert), he's nowhere near the Singing God that many make him out to be (or, at least, that he would have been had he taken better care of himself). I will admit that his "raw" tone is one of the most iconic in the world of classic rock, though.
Meanwhile, John Bonham is, in my mind, the most overrated drummer in the history of rock & roll. Not that he's BAD, mind you (as some commenters below got the feeling I was implying before; if you somehow think that I'm saying he's bad or even within spitting distance of mediocre, then you are a sad stupid silly son-of-a-bitch); I just think that he's placed on a far higher pedestal than he deserves. He can be pretty damn great to listen to at times - songs like "When the Levee Breaks" are made fabulous by his pounding, and virtually all of his work on PG and Presence is fantastic. And hey, the band's incredible sound on the debut owes as much to him as anybody else. HOWEVER, I stand by my opinion that, quite frankly, he can't hold a candle to Keith Moon (who might not be Bonham's stylistic parent but is probably his crazy uncle) or any one of many prog-rock drummers, or other guys I love like Stewart Copeland or Jaki Liebezeit (yes, their styles are different enough from Bonham's that a straight comparison isn't perfect, but I definitely like their styles way more than Bonham's). I won't deny his influence or historical importance, but to hold him up as one of the top five or ten rock drummers of all time seems like an enormous stretch to me. Not to mention the fact that I can hardly stand "Moby Dick." What's the point of it, really? It has that great riff, but the drum solo follows the structure of Cream's "Toad" almost to the letter, and it is far less interesting technically (Baker had more jazz technique at his disposal, for one thing). Bleh. Maybe it was better live (though SRTS doesn't suggest as much, not by a long shot, and neither does How the West was Won). Honestly, I'd much rather listen to Ian Paice or Bill Ward if we're talking about 70's metal drummers. I know that other drummers tend to adore him, but honestly, that just makes me less think less highly of drummers.
As an aside, I'd also like to point out that while I do think Bonzo was a great drummer by any reasonable standard, he was an awful, absolutely AWFUL influence. I think my brother (perhaps not the most authoritative source around, though he might disagree) put it best when he said (not word for word, but the highlights are preserved)- "John Bonham singlehandedly destroyed any sense of dynamics in three generations worth of drummers. Instead of an understanding of dynamics as soft and loud, drummers have come to believe that the two main classes of drum volume are loud and GOD-IS-DEAD."
Look, the band had oodles and oodles of great songs; it's just that, with few exceptions, their albums tended to have a minimum of two songs each that I absolutely loathe, and that's not something I can square with the notion of "the greatest band of all time." Regardless, try to remember that I do generally like the group; it's only in comparison with the amount of love heaped upon them by most people that it might seem I do not. So if you want to kill me for giving them an overall rating of 3/5, just remember that (a) any group that gets a 3/5 or higher from me would be in my own personal "Rock and Pop Music Hall of Fame," and (b) I'm not a metalhead in general, so it shouldn't be a big surprise anyway.
PS: As an addendum, I will say that I think the hulla-balloo over Led Zeppelin's "thievery" is overblown. No question, they were shameless in some of their tendency to "borrow" from others, but they really weren't any different in this behavior from others in the blues tradition from which they arose. My preferred approach is to acknowledge these borrowings openly without holding them against the band, as you will see.
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
this comment has been highly split up for readability's' sake
lets go on your zep page....lets start with the intro great story...i got exposed to zep through a punk named greiman too.... john paul jones has more blues in him than jimmy page....listen to "somethin else" and the keyboard part there....or the bassline to "boogie chillun" aka "the whole lotta love ditty" robert plant was not all that avid a drug user....drugs didn't hurt his voice it was something, but i'm positive it wasn't that and even though his vocal abilities declined....i can't think of anyone from the era who could outsing him...maybe it's lack of exposure on my part, but i just can't
(author's note): You are correct, it is lack of exposure on your part. Roger Daltrey, Ian Gillian, Justin Hayward, Greg Lake, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Dave Gilmour all come to my mind as better than Plant in the 60's and 70's. Again, I say that Plant put on a spectacular performance on I, but after that time both the breadth and depth of his voice were cut by a horrifying amount.
John Bohnam.....moby dick was not that awesome...that's not why people think he's awesome, at least not me....look at the innovations like four sticks, and listen to PG2, i mean the work he does there is simply beautiful. listen to the dazed and confuzed from '69 (the long version) as far as filling their records with "good" songs, define good?
(author's note): Well-written, solid and non-banal songs are what I define as good. They did many solid songs in each of the areas they tried out, but they also did a LOT of simply awful ones.
their records weren't a serious of slam you on your ass songs; their albums were an experience. the idea behind most of that was that they would explode, driving your energy, then hold back with a slow song or two building up to another heavy song. that was the idea...it gave the music power because you couldn't pick a track from the middle of the record, or put the cd on random and get the same powerful experience as you would get by sitting there and listening to the whole thing. that's what makes setlists so important, it's not just thinking up a list of songs, its thinking up how to mix your songs to move a group of people by bringing their musical energy through peaks and valleys....that's all i have to say about "they didnt fill their albums with good songs" oh...and by the way, just so you know, "during presence i felt weak; it was a poor poor vocal performance, i didn't really enjoy myself at all; during hots on for nowhere i was pissed at jimmy; during royal orleans i was pissed at someone else; vocally the saving grace of that album was candy store rock, aside from achilles of course." --Robert Plant the man says he's at his weakest during that album; john mcferrin says he's at his best since zep 1; for some reason i'm inclined to beleive robert plant
(author's note): I didn't say Plant is at his best, I said he's at his most interesting. There's a difference. I agree with Plant here - he really did sound weak on that album.
Marco Ursi (marco_ursi.hotmail.com)
Hey John, my name is Marco. You may have read a couple of my comments on George Starostin's page. Your site is looking good. Keep it up. I've got one comment right now.
Led Zeppelin-the opening paragraph
Being a drummer myself, I must say that I strongly disagree with your a opinion on John Bonham. This man was a drum god. Bonham was a tremedous technician who played with soul, sort of a cross between Keith Moon and Bill Bruford. He played with only one bass drum but created the effect of having two. He was able to play odd time signatures (ie. the Crunge), he used his entire kit to the max and he revolutionized the use of triplet fills in rock drumming. And he played loud. But he didn't mash his drums, he hit them with precision and made them sound fantastic (though Jimmy Page probably had something to do with the sound). Anyway, I do realize that Bonham's drumming may seem somewhat vulgar at times but he definetly could play.
Jon Greiman (homer.imsa.edu)
Now that I've spent the last two hours reading it (at work of course), I'm quite impressed. No wonder you get more visitors. And I've only read the zeppelin one. Granted, that's because I don't have any of the albums, I just had the most zep .mp3's, so I figured I'd know what you were talking about the most with zep. Okay, so let's see, what comments do I have. Ramble On. IMO, one of their best songs. Incidentally, my favorite is the BBC version of Black Dog. Perhaps you need to listen to Ramble On in stereo to get the full effect. I'm stil at work, so I can't listen to it now, but I don't remember the bass line being too high.
Since the other guy commented on the ratings, I might as well too. It didn't seem all that overly complicated to me. You're overadjusting the scale to provide accurate representation of a skewed right sample. And I'm only a math minor at a really stupid school.
hey. look, just enjoy the music and quit trying to analyze everything. your a wanna be, and thats okay, but please dont disrespect the artists gifted enough to make your "discovery" of classic rock possible. but thank you for sharing your extensive knowlegde of how to be and a#$hole with the rest of us, i had a nice laugh. what kind of loser devotes this much time to a stupid critical website. pick up a guitar and pour your heart out, from the tone of your writing, you'll score yourself a ten. and thanks for all the insight about the band, but it was nice the first time i read it in a book. led zeppelin rule-period. and bonzo wouldnt care if you thought he was the worst in the band, and you actually thought a wannabe like you could fill his shoes. later loser.
analyze this this: suck it! sean kastner 20 oviedo fl
menchel kfir (kfirmen.hotmail.com)
I'm a civil engineering student in Brussels. You may simply call me K. Here are my remarks concerning some of your reviews of the Led Zep albums :
The bass line in Ramble On is not to high for otherwise it would not be heard. If you've read the Lord of the Rings, surely you must feel how the song, and especially the first part of it, describes some scenes of the book, and I'm NOT talking about the lyrics, for God's sake, this is music, not poetry, and I'm therefore referring to the melody and the general atmosphere.
As for "Thank You", it's murkiness is what makes it such a beautifull song. If the Zep members had spent more time making it more 'organized' and less murky, it wouldn't have delivered it's message in the way that it does. I find in "Thank You" the same positive, beautiful feelings you can find in a little child's drawing : it's not a work of art but it's plenty of sweet and generous naivety.
Also, "the Battle of Evermore" need not necessarily be seen as the 'peak of Plant's let's be obsessed with Tolkien stage', as you put it, despite the words 'dark lord' and 'ringwraiths'. Robert Plant grew up in an area of Great Britain where many battles such as the one described in "the Battle of Evermore" were fought, and he himself states that as an inspiration for this song. Page and Plant did include some allusions to Tolkien in some Zep songs, but the songs are never exclusively about Tolkien's work, they only share a certain similarity with some scenes of the books, which may have served as an initial inspiration for a song about the author's own personal experiences.
Hi...just stumbled across your web page to Led Zeppelin. I thought well great, i like Led Zeppelin a whole bunch, they are one of my favorite rock/blues bands. Listened to all their studio albums countless times, never got into the bootleg scene of theirs.
Right, obviously first thing to point out is that you are NOT a MUSICIAN, rather, a music fan. TRUE or not? Playing in high school wind band doesn't count, i know tossers in there that wouldn't know a freakin bassline from a bossa nova.
So, while you might be able to state your own opinions on the music, I hardly see you as being in a place to criticize the artists. Numerous errors on your part are the main reason for this post.
To state that Hendrix and Clapton "would just go wanking all over the place, with no connection to the original song" is just ludicrous. What they do is take an idea, build on it, and espand it into a solo.The melody is interpreted, and yet the new interpretation still fits the original harmony(chord structure) of the song. Hendrix did it beautifully, the world has yet to see a guitarist who could play with such feeling and technique (All you Steve Vai and Ywngie Malsteem lovers can go f*** yourselves).
(author's note): For what it's worth, I respect the hell out of both Hendrix and Clapton. What I was saying, though, was that, while those two use solos as expansions of the song, Page used them as part of the foundation of the songs. Which I think is really cool. John Bonham the most overrated drummer in history? Hah hah hah...you're pulling my leg; no wait, you're serious. My god, the timing that he had, his fills fit so perfectly, and the power was a good part of what made Led Zeppelin one of the greatest rock/blues bands of all time. Robert Plant's voice did deteriorate, of course, whose wouldn't after screaming at concerts, drinking and smoking far far too much? Quick aside, actually, Roger Waters did far more singing than David Gilmour for Pink Floyd
(authors note):: 1. I don't see how that would change the fact that Gilmour's voice is better than Waters', and 2. Waters only had more singing parts starting with WYWH
Last point I think, as I'm quickly losing interest in this diatribe. Ragtime is one of the birthplaces of the blues as we know it. Yes, I know there were many influences, and ragtime was one of them...don't be so quick to discount it as a blues form....has many many similarities as far as form goes...well, thanks for reading...Peace from Ian McDonald
Perry Justus (pjustus.arn.net)
One more thing... I can't believe you think John Bonham is the most overrated drummer, with no style. I'd say Tommy Lee is, but that's another thing...
Listen to the swinging drums on "Wanton Song," or the way he _caresses_ his drums on "The Rain Song." Yes, he played loud -- VERY loud, he attacked the kit with his wrists -- but the man knew how to play. Keith Moon kicks ass, granted, but did he play ghost notes on the snare in the same way? No way! John Bonham is my favorite "rock era" drummer, maybe my favorite drummer period, and NOT because I'm told he is. I listen to all styles of music, too -- jazz, funk (which JB was _heavily_ influenced by), blues, folk, rock... So don't think that I haven't heard the masters...
The album version of Moby Dick has NOTHING on some of the live versions, where audiences regularly gave him a 10 minute standing ovation... The album version is quiet with occasional bursts, but live - he played an opening section of bass-snare-tom combinations, followed by triplets, followed by the infamous hand-drumming section, followed by snare-bass beats, then the final buildup... And keep in mind he played the live version regularly for 15-45 (!) minutes, with only a few versions being boring. I listened to a large 23 minute version once, and it went by in a flurry of nuclear strikes to the poor drum heads.
Your reviews are as well thought as anything else I've seen. The responses to the Led Zeppelin intro looked damn stupid. Don't take any crap from those metal morons about how great John Bonham was. I've seen them all except the Beatles and the Who blew away Zeppelin at the old Met Center Minneapolis back in 1974-75.
"John Sarnie, Jr." (jsarnie10.msn.com)
I AM A DRUMMER,WHO THOUGHT BONHAM WAS ABOVE AVERAGE UP UNTIL A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO.ALL THE VIDEOS AND BOOTLEG LIVE FOOTAGE HAS MADE HIM GREAT.THE GUYS ARMS DONOT MOVE.ALL THAT POUNDING WAS FOREARM AND WRISTS,THATS WHY COVER BANDS NEVER GET THE SONGS RIGHT,
Jason Parker (adftmp2.cypress.com)
I can agree with your opinions on Led Zeppelin for the most part.
They were basically a sloppy band live- no matter that they made some good albums, and came across well on their albums/CDs.
With the 5-10 guitars (okay I exaggerate) overdubbed on most of their studio album tracks, it's no wonder LZ come across so thin during live performances.
Other than Robert Plant, I think Page, Jones, and Bonham were competent musicians of varying ability.
With so many tighter bands to listen to from the same era, I've never understood why "the mighty Led Zeppelin" were and *still are* so revered as Quasi-Gods of Rock.
I think their fans have a hero-worship thing going on, a blind faith that can't be shattered despite the band's shortcomings. Meandering through 30-40 minute versions of Dazed and Confused during LZ's '73 and '75 tours, shouldn't impress anybody...
ELISSA SARNIE (jsarnie10.msn.com) (8/21/01)
THEY ARE LEGENDS BECAUSE THEIR BEST ALBUM ,UNLIKE 95% OF THE ROCK BANDS ,WAS THEIR 6TH ALBUM,NOT THEIR FIRST OR SECOND.
HERES JIMMYS MAIN PROBLEM OF THE LED ZEP ERA.THE SONGS HE WROTE AFTER ZOSO,ARE GUITAR ANTHEMS THAT DUE TO SPIRALING HERION USE,HE HAD A DIFFICULT TIME PLAYING LIVE,
THERE WERE 3 LED ZEPPELINS.ALBUMS1-4 ALBUMS 5-7 AND IN THRU THE OUT DOOR,THEY REALIZED TIMES WERE CHANGING ANND WERE PREPARED TO CHANGE A THIRD TIME TO SURVIVE.DO YOU REALIZE HOWE SUCCESSFUL THEY WERE .PAGE OWNS CLOSE TP 32 MILLION DOLLARS OF REAL EASTATE IN EURPOE.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
While I respect your opinion and know that mine is completely biased. I disagree with some if not all of your assertions. I think that what makes Led Zep different from the other bands of its era and beyond is that they played music. They made there kind of music. They where not forced by their managers to play popular tunes or to try to "sell" albums.
(author's note): Ummm .... While I don't disagree with the statement about Zep, I'm kinda befuddled at the assertion that Led Zep was the ONLY band of its era to worry more about the actual music than on selling albums, or even that Zep was the most non-commercial band of the epoch.
In my opinion this separates them from most if not all other musicians that were in the mainstream. The group of friends I grew up with in the early 80's was evenly divided. Half were Zep-heads the other half VH'ers. When I think of these 2 groups I see the extreme of my early argument VH fell apart trying to "sell" music. Zeppelin fell apart making music. I believe what also sets them apart is JPJ and there ability to play so many different styles and to play what moved them not what moves album sales. As far as saying that Robert Plant's voice had deteriorated after Zep 1. I cant make an argument for that other than you when you sing the blues you gotta lose. What I mean is that when you sing the blues your voice is more character than carry. As for comparing SRTS to earlier recordings. Most live music from that era sounds similar if its not Lipsinging. The shear effort and power of that album carries it for me. I just feel the effort and energy in that Album. If you get a chance listen to Achilles Last Stand and then listen to Babe Im Gonna Leave You back to back. these are my 2 favorites right now after listening to Zep for the last 20 years. My favorites change every 6 months or so. I grew up listening to Jimmy Page as you say effortlessly blending and John Bonham waking the neighbors while my man Robert Plant put words to it all. And of course the much forgotten mastermind John Paul Jones tying it all together with a bassline that made it Rock.
As I stated earlier I am a bit biased and I rate all other bands against Zeppelin
sarah bermudez (rollinstone19.earthlink.net) (1/20/02)
i can tell why you dont appreciate the song remains the same, live performances and robert plant for fuck's sake!! You dont know how to listen or to get a feel for songs. you like No Quarter but you think it sounds like a giant ship or something. yes its majestic and strong but at times it also explores the weaknesses and scary parts of life ie the rape thing and the whole part around the fluttering bats. and its talking about being free!!, asking no quarter, getting none and trudging on. speaking of lyrics "Does anybody remember laughter?" is not obnoxious. after that he croons "she does..she does.." robert has very poetically conveyed the feeling "she" gives him when he is down and it seems like no one remebers laughter. by the way Robert's voice rules and i am pretty sure it wasn't drugs that made his voice go downhill. yes it did go downhill somewhat but EVERY singers voice does and robert's really didn't all that much. it changed but he still gets his feelings, pain love across very well. and thats the point isn't it? to somehow connect and communicate an emotion. you aren't open enough to let this happen. especially in reference to Bonzo and his drum solos. the fact that you dont appreciate any drum solos speaks for itself. you haven't gotten it and to say bonzo's overrated is a travesty!!! he was the best. yeah moonie was really awesome too, but have you ever really listened or watched bonzo closley? he has the FUCKING technical skills you idiot! he could make one bass drum sound like 100 and his improv with jimmy john paul and robert is mindblowing. he doesn't just play a backbeat-he is a genius. atleast you appreciate JIMMY!!! but i'm sure you dont really get him either. it gets me that you didnt get into music until sophomore yr in college. you obviously dont have a predisposition to music, you obviously werent driven to it and while you can enjoy the best of the best you dont understand it. i have been driven to music, obsessed for my whole life and im only 17. I and everyone else knows ZEPPELIN kicks ass! the shere depth and breadth of their material isnt a ploy to get ppl to buy albums or copy the fads. they were progressing which is a sign of genius. they were never satisfied and went on to challenge themselves and make the best music right until their last album. if bonzo hadn't died...there is no god. (other than my boys. including robert and bonzo!!!!!!!) so take that and take some acid then try to handle bonzs shit and roberts voice.
Overall, I agree.
But my award for most overrated drummer goes to Peter Criss from Kiss. The guy is listed in every "awesome drummer" award, sometimes hgiher than Bonham, Bruford or Moon (but Peart usually tops him), and Criss completely is basic and pretentious (so is Kiss, so I guess the two relate very well).
Hi John, I'll get right to it. There's more to music than meets your ears. First of all regarding the groups "sloppiness". I think its very exaggerated. I have about 100 bootlegs or so spanning the entire lenght of zeps career (and many others including clapton, soundgarden, hendrix, coltrane, buddy guy , bb king etc...). I can tell you first off that their REAL attraction lies in their live performances. They were very different night from night and THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME is NOT one of their better shows. It was just an average night and was shelved for 3 years. The only reason it was released was because they needed to put out some material during a lull in the bands output (the lull was the result of Plant getting into a serious car accident). So my first point is not to judge all or most of their live shows by that one live album.
(author's note): For what it's worth, I don't. I recognize that SRTS is basically an average Zep show, nothing special. I also have a bootleg from the I tour that, while of horrid sound quality, is VERY fun to listen to.
Now back to the "sloppiness". You know guys like Gary Moore and Joe Satriani and Steve Via can play!! They are known for their impeccable technique and musical knowledge. Yet these guys are always praising "sloppy" guitarists like Page and Buddy Guy and Albert King (very ver sloppy!) and albert collins. All of them "sloppy' blues players. If you read lots and lots of guitar articles like I do (I'm a guitar teacher at a local music store) then you get to understand how these girted musicians think. See, those little mistakes you sometimes hear are the results of daring and passionate improvisation. Its those little mistakes that give those inimitable guitarists their distint sound that we all love.
In order to appreciate good improvisations, which is the heart and soul of led zeppelin, you must understand the approach of a seasoned musician. Its a musicians APPROACH to their music that gives it part of its uniqueness. Jimmy Page's approach, and the rest of the band for that matter, is all about emotion and intensity. Not technique. Now his technique was actually exceptional especially for the era. Just listen if you can find it, to anything from their Japan tour of 71 or their european tour 73' and be wiser!
Regarding Plant, his voice did diminish in range. But is range the only angle you can use to judge/enjoy a singer. A singer is a musician. Saying Robert Plant couldn't sing well after the first alblum because his range diminished is like saying one guy is a better guitarist than another because his neck has more frets! Think about it...Actually Plant learned through out the years how to sing much better. His high pitched screaming on the first album was ear catching for sure but his articulation was still developing. He also learned restraint. Give In my time of dying a listen.
About John Bonham well, I have made stubborn decisions based upon little understanding before too. But the more you listen and the more you learn the more you change your mind. Bonham was actually very dynamic and thats the main reason I like him. I dont dig drums and always FF through Moby Dick even live. But no drummer can follow and add to a MOOD like bonham. He was influenced by a lot of R&B and Jazz drummers. Quite often John Paul Jones said of Bonzo that it was all those little fills and subtleties that made him great. He was great at creating an extended "rising tension" which the other members of the group could play off of. When Jimmy is soloing on DAZED and he goes from the warm tone of the neck pick up to the trebly sound of the bridge pick up Bonham will follow the change in texture.
I think you'd broaden your sense of musical appreciation if you looked futher into music than just technique, which is on the outside. Try some John coltrane and compare it to Jimi Hendrix. I'm talking APPROACH. They have the same approach! Yet their music is of course quite different. But just being aware of the different approaches (read VALUES) that genius musicians use will open your mind to new ways of judging and or enjoying music.
(author's note): I still don't understand all these accusations I receive frequently of just being a technique-slut when listening to music. I have complete and utter awe and admiration towards the title track of Steve Hackett's Spectral Mornings, and that's not exactly the definition of a technician's dream. Or on a more esoteric level, Pete Townshend and Keith Richards are nothing technically compared to Page, but from an aggression and emotive perspective ... eeek. There is nothing that's about to convince me that Page's playing is more emotion-driven than that of those two.
I definetely agree with one of the people who responded to this site that Zeppelin is basically "hero-worshiped". People are enchanted with things that seem mysterious, and alongside their music and popularity, Plant and Page had that occult thing going...that definitely added to the Zeppelin mystique. They believed in black magic and I am not completely sure, but didn't Page buy the house of some Satanist? It is not only the music we should look into, it is also things that were going on with the band that made some people "obsessed". People of my era (I am 20) seem to think that they were Gods because most classic rock stations croon out their music more than anyone else's. But if they really were fans of the music, they would realize that there is so much more to it than Led Zeppelin.
"Horvath, Jason" (JHorvath.CCBN.com) (7/23/02)
Sorry, but I have no respect for anyone that thinks John Bonham is overrated.
Matthew E. Peters (mattp.ig.utexas.edu) (8/20/02)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your Led Zep story and all the comments that people wrote to you about it. I'm not going to pick apart anything that you said. I'll just tell you what I think. I think that without the exact four member of Led Zeppelin just the way they were, we wouldn't have our world the way we know it. (Obviously.)
I find it interesting to imagine what Led Zeppelin would have been if Jimmy and John Paul had gotten their first choice vocalist, Steve Marriot who'd just joined Humble Pie. John Bonham is an interesting and unique drummer. If all musicians used similar technique the world of music would be pretty damn boring. Imagine what Neil Young's guitar would lack if he were "more accomplished." Or what Dylan's music would lack if he "had a real singing voice." John Paul is a pretty damned fine bassist and his organ playing ain't too shabby either. And finally, that Jimmy can jam, and when he's jamming kinda sloppy (like in concert on most of the bootlegs I've heard) I like it even more. Somehow it seems more human and real.
Here I will make reference to something you wrote. The way Jimmy's guitar holds a tune throughout each song is a good observation. Clapton meanders, but I don't think of Hendrix as meandering. His approach is just more visceral.
Anyway, thanks for making all these thoughts of yours and others public. It all helps make the world a better place. And awareness is always a good thing.
I agree with you that led zeppelin is a truly fine cover band , however I would not confine it to the blues . they are the only major band to not only rip off old blues artists , but also thier contemporaries ie: dazed and confused by jake holmes , since ive been loving you - "never '' by moby grape , black mountain side - black water side by bert jansch , whole lotta love , '' you need love '' a willie dixon song , however if you can get a hold of the small faces version , its downright plagiarism. And of course stairway to heaven , the intro '' borrowed '' from taurus by spirit , the chord progression from the chocolate watchbands '' and shes lonely" and the title itself from neil sedakas 1960 hit '' stairway to heaven '' . There are about 30 " borrowed " songs in total - not to mention lp covers - check out the cover of the Sailor lp by Steve Miller or Compartments by Jose Feliciano . Led Zeppelin is truly the greatest cover band in history.
Patrick Daniel Squatriti (jehudas_2.hotmail.com) (10/21/03)
I just wanted to reply to your general statement about Led Zeppelin. They are probably my favourite band apart from the Beatles (who I can't really compare to any other band, they're on a different planet)...basically for me Zep is what The Who is to you. My record collection is fairly adequate, I am not a prog-head even though this year I have only been buying Yes, KC, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Van Der Graag Generator, ELP and weird-ass Italian proggers Area. I'm just saying this so that you know that I'm not one of those 17 year old "BONZO IS GOD (after the guy from NIRVANA!)" idiots. I just think that you were slightly harsh with them. Now, I realize that probably I am biased because they were my first major passion as far as '70's rock goes...but however I really think that Bonzo is a great drummer. Probably that's just because he was the first drummer I ever noticed. His work on LZI( (Good times bad times and How many more times) is really brilliant. I think he is the best pure Rock drummer I know. Well, maybe Ian Paice is better, but then, the old affection kicks in and I just go for Bonham. As far as Keith Moon is concerned, I like him a lot, but I think he doesn't offer that much variety in his sound, and he rolls too often. Having said this, I obviously know where you're coming from when you say that talking about Bonzo's technique while listening to RED (jeez, those fills in One more red nightmare are just...)is laughable, but really, Bruford shouldn't even be compared to Bonzo, it's a completely different style and genre (btw, Bruford is my favourite drummer). I realize that I'm just rambling on, and not really making a point. It's probably that I'm frustrated, because I really freaking love Bonzo, and he'll always be in my top 3..but I realize that you're probably right and that he is actually overrated. Oh, man, just let me live in denial.
Fuck you, Bonzo is God.
But still, you have a point, and it pisses me off.
As far as Jonesy goes, I don't think he is even remotely comparable to Entwhistle from the Who. Listen to "The Real Me", and well, you'll realize that Jones is efficient, but not that good at all. He's really groovy on keys though. (a small off-topic question here: do you prefer Squire or KC era Wetton?)
Page is my favourite guitarist, and will take no shit about him.
Fortunately you give him none.
Plant is one of my favourite vocalists, but I realize that it is an acquired taste, like Jon Anderson or even that dude, Geddy Lee(Plant ripoff), and it is true, his voice really got worse with the years. His best performance is on the BBC version of Since I've been loving you, in my opinion.
Listen, just...I don't even know what i'm trying to say here. I think I disagree with you on something but I just can't remember. Your site is really very good, 'specially the prog reviews. We have very very similar tastes, mostly.
But hey, what the hell do I know? I listen to Queen and Roxy Music.
(author's note): PAY ATTENTION, PEOPLE. THIS is how to write a good dissenting opinion without making a total ass of yourself. Also, there's nothing wrong with listening to Roxy Music, heh.
man i think instead of analyzing every little thing you should just listen to the music and enjoy it for what it is. isnt the point of listening to music to have fun? i suppose to you it isnt. i have read most of your reviews and have came to the conclusion that i dont like you. you are far too judgemental and quite a big jackass. i must admire your intelligence however as you seem to be well read and quite articulate. i also like how you are not afraid to express your opinions however bold they may be. but i dislike you nevertheless. i admit that while having what i belive to be not more than a intermedite understanding of music myself i think you are way too whiny about some things such as roberts vocals. i think he rules and beats the hell out of peter gaybriel (haha) who is a big pussy in my opinion. of course this is my opinion and im olny a 15 year old guitar player and skateboarder kid so what do i know. i could go on put my attention deficit disorder has caught me and i am bored of writing this. oh and dont give me shit about punctuation and spelling cos im lazy and dont give a fuck.
Bah! 3 stars of Led Zeppelin, Blasphemy, I say! Nah, just kiddin', I'm not here to add to your hate-mail, but just a few things on my mind I'd like to dump on your comments page if it's worth that.
First of all, your Bonham philosophy. I agree for the most part, although I like him a bit more than you seem to. What I think the average listener is overwhelmed by with Bonham is not necessarily a godly skill, but instead his insane dedication to his craft -- doing things like playing "Moby Dick" with his hands for 15 minutes seems to sell to people, although that's not a good way to judge. Quality is more important than the quantity, but it seems to me like the average consumer is overwhelmed by "Bonham, the wild man" instead of Bonham, the drummer.
I love Robert Plant, though, and maybe just because he's a pure frontman, not so much for his singing abilities. He's likeable for that and he exuberates a certain persona that is rock n' roll in a word. Whatever. He had some absolutely amazing performances late in his career, in my opinion. "Trampled Underfoot" is one of my favorites.
Page is in the top five of my guitarists, but that's from the limited perspective of someone with a minor music collection. As for JPJ, I have to agree with ya on that one. He makes a lot of Zeppelin songs great to me, even irritating filler like "The Wanton Song". I love that bizarre sounding organ, worth the price of admission to me sometimes.
So, only a 3, huh? Eh, well, I've got an adolescent attachment to these guys, speaking of which, your comment about the "17-year-old Zeppelin idiot fans" was as gratuitous as it comes. That makes me practically lobotomized, as I'm a FIFTEEN-year-old Zeppelin fan. I still laughed, though. And then mailed you in my insecurity.
Brian Dickson (9/20/04)
Back in 1986 when I was 16 and just getting into rock/pop music I tried getting into Led Zep. I borrowed some records from my brothers. I thought they were okay, not outstanding. At that time I wasn't aware of the cult of Led zep, they were just a 70s band with a good reputation. As the years went by and I read about all the Gods Of Rock hype surrounding them and people raving in music mags about how they were the best band ever. So I listened to them more carefully. For years. But I just heard a decent blues/ folk rock band. I never saw what was meant to be so extaordinary about them. I never thought they were bad, excepting Plant's annoying whining sometimes, and the abysmal The Crunge, but other bands that I later got into I thought were better listening. In the field of "hard rock" to me Black Sabbath have better riffs and a more distinctive sound, Rush are more musically interesting, Queen are more melodic and have a better singer, Deep Purple have a better guitarist and a better rock & roll feel ( Speed King!) Thin Lizzy and Motorhead have better guitar solos and Iron Maiden are good all rounders. And that's just for older bands. Many bands today are making some good hard rock. It seems that the word "improvement" is lacking in many people's vocabulary. Yes, I think that some bands have -wait for it- improved on the sound of Led Zep. All those bands above might have been inconsistent in their careers, but all have, IMO, made some timeless stuff. To me Led Zep just have no stand out features in the year 2004. Even if you enjoy the sound of the electric guitar, Led Zep never seemed very heavy to me. Pages guitar sound always seemed tame to me. Whether it was through his choice or due to the primtiveness of the equipment I don't know. But I think that Hendrix, Cream and occasionally even The Beatles managed a better "heavy" guitar sound the early Zep records. And on their first 5 albums the guitar often sounds twangy, which I don't like.
Led Zep have some things about them which work. They were influential. They split before they'd sunk too low. Some bands just drag on too long and they wane. ( Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple) And a band member died in tragic circumstances. Which might seem callous but there's no denying that an early death can add to the mystique. Think of Marilyn Monroe, james Dean, Jimi hendrix, Jim Morrison. All cult figures. And also... John Bonham.
Maybe for some the power of suggestion is at work too. Years ago I saw a documentary where a group of children were shown a video showing the making of supposedly the most powerful perfume in the world. It showed a small vial being studied by serious faced scientists in white lab coats, and it being carefully shipped by air to London amid tight security. The small vial was then brought in with great seriousness into the studio. The presenter then announced that she would be opening the vial, and that the children would be able to smell the perfume within a matter of seconds, so fast were the scent molecules able to travel. The presenter then took the cap of the vial and asked the children if they could smell the pefume. Within a few seconds most raised their arms to indicate that they could smell it. Then the presenter said that the vial contained nothing more than distllled water, which has no scent at all. The powerful scent didn't exist. It was the power of suggestion. Now considering the mighty, mighty reputation of Led Zeppelin I think that some might also be subject to to the power of suggestion here. They hear wonderful things that aren't neccessarily there. The scent of the perfume was an illusion. Led Zeppelins greatness is also sometimes an illusion. Whole Lotta Love is the song considered by many to be the epitome of metal. Plodding and monotonous with a dull guitar sound you'd have to pay me to listen to it today. It caused a stir in '69. Big deal. Let's all move on now and stop being stuck in the past. My brother actually said to me one day when he decided that maybe he had outgrown Led zep, "if you think about it, not terribly good are they?" The key phrase there being "if you think about it" Which suggests that many don't actually think about it! I prefer to do my own thinking , not let others do my thinking for me.
Led Zeppelin started NOTHING. The Zeppelin "sound" had been done a year earlier on The Beatles Helter Skelter.All Zep had was a better guitar player. Hendrix did headbanging rock with Spanish Castle Magic and Purple Haze. And the Jeff Beck group was obviously a big influence on Zep. Many people seem to think that Zep singlehandley invented every single form of hard rock! They satisfied the publics desire for power blues since the demise of many 60s blues rock acts. They filled the vacuum and embarked on a lucrative (and ego expanding)career until they ran out of ideas. And that didn't take too long really. Led Zeppelin were NOT geniuses. And over half their stuff is lifted from old blues and folk, and the main guitar line to Stairway is taken from Taurus by Spirit. If originality was a sin then Zep really would be climbing the Stairway To Heaven.
Oh and Page practiced the occult! Whoa, how cool is that?! What a tosspot. Their fans like to lap that kind of nonsense up though.
I love music. In fact music is probably my main pastime or hobby. I own hundreds of CDs and am constantly expanding my musical tastes. I believe in staying open-minded. I would like nothing better than to hear what's meant to be so exceptional about Led zeppelin. But 18 years later I still can't! Led Zep remain to me a triumph of mystique over substance.
It seems that with Led Zeppelin two different mindsets are at work. The first mindset regards that if a piece of music has been influential, then it's almost written in stone that it must - MUST- be better than anything that followed. That's what the majority (unfortunately) will belong to. The second mindset doesn't give a toss whether the music was influential and judges the music on it's own merits. I belong wholeheartedly in the latter mindset. Yes, I have "improvement" in my vocabulary!
And personally I think all this breathless psuedo-religious raving about The Gods Of Rock is damn silly. Why do you all prostrate yourselves before a pop group? Page and Plant are laughing all the way to the bank.
I recognise Page as a talented, even great.musician. A gifted producer too. John Bonham is often lauded as the best drummer of all time but he seems to have one style only- pound the drums hard. (genius or ham fisted moron?) But on a hard rock number maybe that's just what you want! And the early Zep recordings clearly have a "chemistry" there. There's no denying their influence. I'll even give Zep credit when I've subconciously whistled Over the Hills And Far Away! But I've often been surprised at how more obscure bands have managed to give their own sound to riff rock. I don't believe that just because an album has "Led Zeppelin" printed on it that it's automatically the best." After Haydn I bet many at the time though that music just couldn't be topped. But then along came Mozart, Beethoven. Schubert, Chopin, Schumann. Music evolves all the time!
Michael Bleicher (mbleicher1.yahoo.com) (9/20/04)
Great intro essay. I agree completely. Zeppelin's problem lies in the fact that they really were fairly limited in what they could do quite well. Well they did it, but why should I hear a rehash of I or II when I can hear the original. Second, they were never good enough songwriters to fill an album with good diverse and original material. Their best albums all have at least a couple of filler tracks, and most of them have a couple of truly bad songs (I'm looking at "Misty Mountain Hop" here). Regardless of the blues rip-offs (almost every British blues band of the sixties ripped off the masters, the problem with Zeppelin was that rather than incorporating it very subtly, a la the Rolling Stones, who would lick a riff here or there, Zeppelin would piece whole stolen fragments of blues standards into their 'original), the group simply could never fill an entire album with strong material. Even I, their best album, has some throwaway songs on it. IV, the closest they came to a classic "original" album, has a couple lousy songs on it. In addition, although I'm sure I'll get plenty of hate mail from irate 17 year old Zep fans, at least two of the group were inadequate in some way. You've already addressed Bonham's (RIP) weaknesses well, so I won't go into that here, but I've also always had a problem with Robert Plant. Say what you will about his amazing range, control, etc., but he couldn't alter the tone and expressiveness of his voice too much. As a result, an entire album becomes monotonous towards the end, as all but the best ones feature similar-sounding performances. In addition, as time goes on, we hear more and more of Plant's yelps, "oh-oh"s, "mama"s, and other asides get exteremely annoying. Although Roger Daltrey, for example, had a more limited range, I feel that he could usually get into a song and sing it with more power and emotion than Plant could, although this could also be a result of Townshend's generally superior songwriting. Jimmy Page and J.P. Jones are great; I have no problems with either of them, musically. (One thing in favor of Bonham vs. Moon though--you basically couldn't have Keith drum on a song without it becoming really heavy or having to mix it quite softly into the background. While this worked great for things like "Baba O'Riley", it transforms otherwise gentle songs like "I'm One" into heavy rockers during the middle eight.) A good band with a couple of serious defects. What one cannot overlook, though, is the musical chemistry the four had. When they got going, especially on the early albums, they could knock your socks off. A three overall.
Mark Perrone (markperrone.zoominternet.net) (10/11/04)
I'm a drummer and have played since age 8 , I am now 32 . I have a lot of experience and must disagree on every level with your opinion of John Bonham. You can have whatever opinion you want of the music but there musical ability is far superior to most bands of the era and even to this day.
Its my opinion but it's an educated one. Drummers of great renown the world over all sight Bonham as an innovative and amazing drummer.
Like the site and the fact that you are willing to listen to others opinion.
Tim Commerford (timcommerford.hotmail.com) (12/09/04)
I really enjoy your site, I will check for new reviews in the future.
I agree with you that Led Zeppelin's debut album was their best, and that blues were their comparative advantage.
Thomas Smith (sarnivisca.hotmail.com) (02/12/05)
I've just been listening to the awesome Kashmir by these Gods Of Rock Led Zeppelin, It goes
Duh duh duh....duh duh duh...duh duh duh... (higher) duh duh duh....duh duh duh..
And Whole Lotta Love;
Dah DUM dah DUM dum...dum....dum...dum...dum.... Dah DUM dah DUM dum dum....dum...dum...dum
And one of my faves, Commuincation Breakdown;
duh duh duh duh duh DAH duh dah...duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DAH duh dah
Anyone who doesn't bow down before such musical GENIUS has got serious issues!
Nathan Schulz (theironchefpresident.gmail.com) (02/23/05)
-To Thomas Smith
What are you trying to insinuate? That because some Zep riffs are
simple they are a bad group. In times like these, I like to turn to
the unquestioned genius of Beethoven. I take his 5th symphony as
dah dah dah DUH!!!!!! dah dah dah DUH!!!!!!
So, in conclusion, Thomas Smith is a dumbass.
Nice page John!
I'm Nathan Schulz and I approve this message.
Thomas Smith (sarnivisca.hotmail.com) (03/06/05)
Yes I did suspect that some might pick up on Beethoven's 5th Symphony. The difference though is that the 5th doesn't consist of of the few notes repeated to the point of wanting to push the eject button. It has lots of other things going on later to keep your attention. If the 5ths intro was looped for 6 minutes, then you couild put in a on a Led Zep album and it would fit right in. Whole Lotta Love, the song that basically defined Led Zeps sound, is really nothing special when you think about it. And I don't think the 5th Symphonies intro is anything special either, just attention grabbing. Beethoven is actually my favourite figure of music, but the 5ths intro bores me stiff. Yes, Led Zep could sometimes be more complex, but.....so could dozens of other bands.
Chris Gioia (Chris.Gioia.gmail.com)
I agree with most of the things you said, but one thing bothers me, I havent read the whole site but JPJ doesnt do much, well not as much as the other guys. I think Zeppelin could use a bit more from him on some of their songs because Bonham and the other guys kinda over power him. Dont get me wrong, I know he's good (How else could he have gotten into the band?) but I mean you could get a lot more out of him in some songs.
Also I have to say the guitarist from AC/DC Is extremely underrated. I think his name is Malcolm Young (I dont know, I'm kinda knew to them)
And I never though Led Zep were bad. Just boring.
Gate Attendant (gateattendant.crystalcovehoa.org) (09/05/05)
Hey John! Great website. I have visited A LOT of different music reviews sites, but yours is simply the best. I have read all of your reviews, and I completely agree with everything you think about all the classic rock albums (the ONLY exception is being that Wind & Wuthering is my favourite Genesis album. Probably because I'm a keyboard player). But anyways, I totally agree with you that Led Zeppelin is very overrated, even though I own all of their studio albums. Especially John Bohnam. You said it the best - his dynamics are either loud or VERY loud. I was actually in a Led Zeppelin tribute band called "Four Sticks" for a couple of years, taking care of the keyboard parts (I never noticed how much keyboards actually were in Led Zeppelin, before I joined the band), and our drummer, who's day job was a cop, was the reason I started using earplugs. The reason I quit the band was because I got so sick of the tunes, I physically could not hear any more Zep. They are a good band, but in small doses. If I were a member of a Pink Floyd tribute band, I don't think I would ever get sick of playing that. But Led Zep gets annoying after a while.
Edward Gallagher (edzep54.sbcglobal.net) (10/19/05)
I enjoyed the 'Zep discovery' anecdote... I'm not really objective about Zeppelin since I've been a fan since I slit the vinyl on 'Zep I' back in the spring of '69...(a day etched in my memory on many levels) I never saw them live but have seen Percy and Page separately and together about 10 times since '83... anyway... to say I revere them is an understatement... in the same breath, I can say that I felt the fire was fading after '72... despite digging the hell out of what came after - I've collected them on vinyl, cassette, and CD... bought bootlegs, downloaded clips from session outtakes and live snippets off of Electric Magic, hell, I've even got a Les Paul... Jimmy is my favorite guitarist of all time - and that's not because I think he's the most talented, or precise, or fastest... aside from a chameleon-like adaptability to many styles, he had a vision that propelled that group of disparate talents in some bold directions... I have my favorite and my not so favorite Zep tunes, but I can't say a single one bores me... as I said, I'm not an objective admirer of this band... I'm an amateur guitar/hobbyist that can play 'the first 30 seconds' of a lot of Zep tunes and my brothers refer to me as 'Ed Zeppelin' half out of regard for my love for the band, half for my raggedy attempts to play their stuff on the guitar... had I experienced the Zeppelin catalogue 30 years on I wouldn't have had the benefit of having them provide the soundtrack for my adolescent-into-adulthood years and probably wouldn't be as doggedly faithful to their legacy - BUT - I'm exceedingly thankful that I did and that I am...
unsure if someone mentioned it, but Plant's stated 'misery' during the recording of Presence was in no small way attributable to the fact that he was in a wheelchair from a serious car wreck he and his family experienced while vacationing in the Mediterranean in '75.... At the time of it's release, I remember a dear friend of mine referring to the album as 'Absence'... although I was very disappointed at its totally raw, non-Celtic, non-Tolkein-y, non-acoustic-tinged slant on the Zep sound, I've since developed a fondness for it - although alcohol may have had a role in heightening my appreciation for it... '-) One thing I've always said about the lads, and I don't believe I copped this notion from anyone else - either consciously or 'un': - 'Their music evokes memories of songs they never wrote' - at least for this fan... that Jimmy is still cobbling together stuff from the vaults is fine by me... long may he rock!
lastly, I always attributed the perceived decline of Plant's voice to Jimmy's iron-fisted production - i.e. a rounded Zeppelin sound - as opposed to 'a hot-shot vocalist with a backup band' or 'a power trio with a hot vocalist' ) IMHO, I feel that Plant sometimes shows up for recording sessions a little under-prepped - most recently, I thought his voice was lackluster on 'Walking into Clarksdale' yet extremely well-honed on the accompanying tour... plus, putting the vocal cords thru the workout he does in concert makes the fact that he can even talk, much less carry a tune, all the more impressive... of the times I've personally seen him since '83, he's never been less than commanding and impassioned...
Hey, I am 14 and I haven't had as much time to see all the greats, but I have been listenin to classic rock since i could listen to music, but this is what i think. I agree with you about robert plant, he was a good singer to listen too, but he is no good to watch. They all amaze me, don't get me wrong, mostly Jimmy Page, because I know how hard it is to move your fingers that fast, when I try to play his leads, it just doesn't fit. John Paul Jones was not extraordinary at one thing, but everything. I will have to disagree with you about John Bonham. You say he ruined it for them, look how many rock artists couldn't even make it to his age. Most of them died in 1970. He is so fast and amazing at the way he ties into the song, I think he tops Keith Moon, i wasn't near as impressed with him as I am with John Bonham. I think he's the best drummer and Jimmy Page is the best guitarist. I guess it depends what your opinion.
Well so both you and George gave these guys a three. That's ridiculous. These guys invented heavy metal and hard rock. So I give them a four.
After all Jimmy Page is one of the great guitarists out there. John Paul Jones a terrific bassist. Although I think Plant and Bonham deserve some more credit too. I personally don't see what makes Bonham so bad. Also Plant's voice (along with Page's guitar work) was kinda like the band's trademark.
And you say bands that get 3/5 from you are in your hall of fame. Well for me it's 4/5 and here's my hall of fame.
The Moody Blues
The Rolling Stones
b persram (rpersram.sympatico.ca) (11/25/06)
What I think of Zeppelin is, hmmmmmmm, OH........ WOW!
Out Of sight, Incredible, confounding, in a whimsical, but
propounding, subtle way.
When I awake, knowing that I will eventually fall asleep, thereby creating Z's, I am thrilled, astounded, and bewildered, by my own creativity and at the same time, at my own delusions...... Ok I digress.
The questioned that was posed was, "What do you think of Led Zeppelin?"
"Well I would have to say that they make me, .....................................
a little .......
Chris Schahfer (chrischahfer.yahoo.com) (09/29/07)
Man, I totally agree with the three for Led Zeppelin. You and Starostin have the right idea about those guys: a good band for sure, but comparing them to the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Who (as many do) is a total waste.
BMurf (hunkmcchops.gmail.com) (01/19/08)
my name's Brian, i'm from ireland. i stumbled across your page while checkin out various led zep stuff online. tis quite interesting, no doubt. i agree with you in some places, in others not. and that's cool, because obviously people think different things about different things and without those differences life would be boring. two things struck me however, and they may seem interesting to you, since i'm full time bass player, and a massive Who fan.
firstly; you say that you're not that into the whole bonham thing, and that he ain't all he's cracked up to be. fair enough, that's your opinion. but bonham's death is a sad loss to the drumming world. many of his rhythms are jaw dropping in their complexity (and i know complexity comes nowehere near meaning goodness). but what's truly remarkable is how he marries his complex rhythms to the groove of most of the songs, combining with john paul jones in an electrifying way. as a bass player, i would rather play with bonham than moon. i know the work of both inside out (was raised on the who) and the reason moon worked is because John Entwistle was a serious genius. able to play on and around the beat, incorporating melodies into heavy grooves, entwistle's bass playing is what makes moon's drumming make sense, if you know what i mean. i agree that Live at Leeds is outstanding, but it also illustrates my point. moon is almost always on the verge of crashing certain songs, but J. Ent sorts it out. JPJ is also a great player, but not up there fully with JE. what would have been truly interesting would have been JE playing with Bonham. The latter's rock solid yet complex drumming is akin to JE's bass playing. the two together could have been amazing.
secondly: don't be petty and point out other people's grammar and punctuation. pedantry is ugly. especially when there are a fair few mistakes in your own text. but hey, i ain't gonna point 'em out!!
(author's note): Lousy level-headed commentators and their 100% correct rebuke of my pettiness with pointing out grammar and punctuation mistakes in comments I don't like. One of these days I'm going to bother to remove those things from my site completely.
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (05/13/09)
Led Zeppelin made the best music in pop/rock - sometimes - I think. These days the question who is the best does not seem so relevant anymore to me, probably because I am growing older. As this site is supposed to be about musical paradigms I still have to explain why. Initially I intended to dwell on the five elements of music: melody, rhythm, harmony, instrumentation and form. But that does not seem to clarify things very much, so let me try a different angle.
First rate classical music is always superior to even the best pop/rock. That makes me a snob, I suppose. Comparing say Mozart with The Beatles on those five elements shows my point.
I prefer Uriah Heep to Yes. That should make me a supersnob, someone who looks down on snobs. I will explain that on the Yespage. Here it suffices to say that I don't hate Yes, I just think they are often pretty weak on form. I disgress.
Still I listen to pop/rock, especially Led Zeppelin, very often. The reason is that rock expresses something that is lacking in classical music. It is peculiar that aggression, a very important part of human nature, is almost neglected in the latter. Led Zeppelin at its best is full of it.
Of course there are many other bands equally or more aggressive than Led Zeppelin. But then I get back to those five elements. Led Zeppelin has created (stolen) excellent riffs and non-trivial rhythms. Vocal melodies are sometimes weaker, mainly because the focus is on riffs, but often catchy enough. Arrangements and form always are well-thought, even though the latter does not deviate from the traditional verse-chorus scheme very often and very much.
The combination of aggression, good composing from a technical point of view and virtuosity justifies the statement I made in the first line indeed - sometimes. Of course Page and Plant were also the biggest plagiarists in the history of rock, even if now and then the accusation is far-fetched (Stairway to Heaven).
dave hall (davehall1988.hotmail.com) (06/13/12)
My name is davo, I'm 24 and play the drums, I like all styles and all music types, your opinion is exactly that and it's great that u can express it but I think you got it wrong about bonzo, do your homework man, royal Albert hall 1970, look at some of that shit! Let's be honest, you don't actually know what your talking about, he had amazing fineness and the best right foot, the best groove and feel. The guy had very fast hands to, all the other great rock drummers like paice, ward, Mitch Mitchell, and even other musicians like tony iommy all praise him as the man, there opinions count, I think your review was just an excuse to show everyone that u finnished 1 term of journalism at uni, what was even the point of your review, let Rock and roll be what it is, you will make an idiot of your self writing that shit. Go fuck yourself hahahahahahaha - davo
(a day later)
John your the biggest fuck wit ever, I can't believe google directed me to this review, u actually don't have any idea what your on about and it obvious, you should be a full time gay porn star so the other guys will enjoy fucking the shit comming out of your mouth hahahahahahahaha that was funny
(a little later)
You are gay Can u even play?
(author's note): Nope, I don't play drums, and if playing drums meant I'd be dense enough to prefer John Bonham to Keith Moon, Bill Bruford, Stewart Copeland, Phil Collins, Ian Paice, Bill Ward, Charlie Watts, Jaki Leibezeit, and some others, then I'm rather glad I didn't go in that direction way back when.
Cameren Lee (cameren_lee.yahoo.com) (01/13/13)
Bonham IS likely the best drummer for hip-hop sampling, I'll give him that. But I see why you consider him overrated.
I CANNOT listen to Zeppelin II and the first two tracks of Zoso due to their overplay, which is legendary in its own right. But on my personal scale, they're a **** artist.
Jon Nuttall (stocktonpc.icloud.com) (01/13/13)
I haved loved listening to the Zeps for 40 years. While I also love Hendrix, Deep Purple, Steely Dan, Pavlovs Dog and many other geniuses, only the Zeps make me keep changing my mind about which song of theirs I want to listen to next. There is decade after decade of depth, variety, combo, skill and magic in their music and performances. It's way cool watching a fan's face choosing their favourite Led Zeppelin song - usually serious joy because it overloads your brain with happy stuff all at once. They are right up there in being the best thing about the 70's. Led Zeppelin is epic, still!!!
Gerard Romero (jromjet.icloud.com) (04/13/13)
(author's note) The subject line for the initial post was "Life of misery," which delights me to no end. Also, I'm admittedly a bit of a jackass in some of these responses, but I enjoyed the exchange.
Reading all of your reviews makes me wonder why someone that clearly doesn't really care for the music listens so intently and then wastes so much time writing about it. You remind me of the pundits on Fox News that rip anyone to shreds that isn't conservative. So why not STFU and see if you can do better and run for an office or in your case write and play music.
BTW. Jimmy Page was a genius and all this BS about him ripping off others makes me laugh. If Zep hadn't rearranged some of those obscure songs NO ONE would ever have heard of them. They should be thanking him for making their incomplete melodies or lyrics into something incredible and well known. But your reviews sounds to me like just more jealous crap from those who can't but wish they could!
(author's note): My initial smart-ass response:
""Reading all of your reviews"
You read all 884 of my reviews? That's a lot of dedication! Thanks for reading!"
""Reading all of your reviews"
You read all 884 of my reviews? That's a lot of dedication! Thanks for reading!"
(Gerard's response; the subject line now became "How to start a blog 101")
No I didn't have to read all 884 of your ridiculous reviews more like jealous rantings. But you did give me a great idea one day when I'm really, really bored, by starting a blog declaring that John Lennon couldn't write music. Ridiculous right? That's what I think of you claiming John Bonham was a weak drummer. Just attention getting posturing. Your hero must be that moron, John Mendelsohn of Rolling Stone who trashed Zeppelin's first album claiming they wouldn't make it because Jimmy Page couldn't produce.... Almost as bad as saying Lennon couldn't write music..
(author's note): My response:
I did not say Bonzo is a weak drummer, and if you think I did then I can only conclude that you can't read.
I did not say Bonzo is a weak drummer, and if you think I did then I can only conclude that you can't read.
No you said he was the weak part of Led Zeppelin when most people would say he was their strength. I think YOU put Keith Moon on a pedestal because I've heard many say he was sloppy and all over the place whereas Bonham was steady and knew how to keep a great beat which was why Zep's rhythm section was the best. Even John Entwistle had to admit Kenney Jones was easier to work with than Moon after the 82 tour. BTW I saw them at Shea Stadium. They were great, but I was really disappointed in Pete Townshend's solos.. he couldn't hold a candle to Jimmy Page.
(A little later came another response)
One more thing actually two. You claim Led Zeppelin is the finest blues cover band of all time.. Who exactly did they specifically cover?? A few snippets here and there DOES not rise to the level of a cover band.. A cover band is a band that plays mostly or exclusively cover songs.. Secondly you make a lot of assertions about Bonham and your source is your brother's opinion?!.. wow now that's really saying something.. no offense but who the fuck is your brother as far as rock and roll drummers go?! I said earlier that John Entwistle said Moon was sloppy, and unlike you I have the quotes to back it up. Here's what JE said during the 82 tour." ENTWISTLE: Well, Keith didn’t particularly keep time too well. If he was feeling down the songs would be slow, if he was feeling up the songs would be too fast, and if he felt normal the songs would be normal. I would get very frustrated because he couldn’t actually play hi-hat at all, just a mess of cymbals."
I'm waiting to hear what songs and or artists Zeppelin covered exclusively.
(author's note): For what it's worth, I ended up changing the sentence that described Led Zeppelin as "the finest blues and blues cover band" of all time to " Led Zeppelin is probably better than any other band I've heard in terms of playing, covering and often totally reinventing the blues," because a sentence whose intention is clearly meant to praise Led Zeppelin's abilities in doing interesting blues covers is worthy of having each individual word closely parsed as if it's the second amendment. Anyway, my response:
I thought it was pretty clear that what I meant was that Led Zeppelin
was better at covering old blues songs than any other band I've ever
heard (and they definitely were). I guess "band that sometimes did
blues covers" would be more precise than "blues cover band," though.
I thought it was pretty clear that what I meant was that Led Zeppelin was better at covering old blues songs than any other band I've ever heard (and they definitely were). I guess "band that sometimes did blues covers" would be more precise than "blues cover band," though.
Okay what old blues songs did they cover lyric for lyric note for note? Artist and song title please.. Fact is they didn't exclusively cover anybody what Page did was use a melody or a riff of his influences and completely changed it taking it to a whole new level which was what made them different than anybody else at the time or since..
(author's note): My response:
I think we're using the term "cover" in completely different ways. A
cover *can* be a performance of a song note-for-note, but generally
isn't and shouldn't be. "You Shook Me" is a blues cover, and so is
"When the Levee Breaks." They completely transform the nature of the
songs, but the core of the song came from elsewhere, even if it's only
the core and the majority of the aspects that make the performances
great came courtesy of the imaginations of the band members.
The definition of a cover that you're proposing (a lyric for lyric AND
note for note replication) is too limiting to be useful; by your
definition, the version of "All Along the Watchtower" Jimi Hendrix did
isn't a cover.
I think we're using the term "cover" in completely different ways. A cover *can* be a performance of a song note-for-note, but generally isn't and shouldn't be. "You Shook Me" is a blues cover, and so is "When the Levee Breaks." They completely transform the nature of the songs, but the core of the song came from elsewhere, even if it's only the core and the majority of the aspects that make the performances great came courtesy of the imaginations of the band members.
The definition of a cover that you're proposing (a lyric for lyric AND note for note replication) is too limiting to be useful; by your definition, the version of "All Along the Watchtower" Jimi Hendrix did isn't a cover.
That's right by definition a cover band which you said Zeppelin was covers other artists songs lyric for lyric. Don't know what you think but Zeppelin and Hendrix completely blew those original versions away. The instrumentals alone leave the originals hardly recognizable.. And this crap about the Taurus song by Spirit hardly sounds like Stairway to me more like a few riffs of the Rain song.. Without Zeppelin would anyone ever heard of this song? A big fat NO!!!
Notice you don't have an answer for John Entwistle calling Moon sloppy and difficult to play with.. Funny thing you NEVER heard JPJ say anything close to that about Bonham.. In fact he was blown away by how well they were in sync from the very start reason being Bonham was great and better than Moon..
(author's note): My response:
"That's right by definition a cover band which you said Zeppelin was
covers other artists songs lyric for lyric."
I've been maintaining this site for almost 14 years, and you have to
be the first person to parse the phrase "blues cover band" in that
sentence as "band that covers blues songs note for note" rather than
"band that covers and adapts blues songs." But ok, whatever, it's a
silly point to harp on.
"Don't know what you think but Zeppelin and Hendrix completely blew
those original versions away. The instrumentals alone leave the
originals hardly recognizable.."
Well of course the Zeppelin versions are better than originals ... but
they're still covers/adaptations (again, you're the first person I've
ever encountered who's tried to limit the definition of a cover to a
performance that mirrors the original exactly). Regarding the Hendrix
version, I love the Hendrix version, but if somebody tells me that
they think that the Hendrix version blows away the Dylan version
(which I worship), I tend to view that person as an unsophisticated
hick. But that's just me.
"And this crap about the Taurus song by Spirit hardly sounds like
Stairway to me more like a few riffs of the Rain song.. Without
Zeppelin would anyone ever heard of this song? A big fat NO!!!"
You're right, everybody in the whole world who has heard the
resemblance between "Taurus" and "Stairway" is totally making it up.
"Stairway" is a better song, of course. People probably would have
heard of Spirit without Zeppelin, though. They have much better songs
"Notice you don't have an answer for John Entwistle calling Moon
sloppy and difficult to play with.."
Entwistle never exactly said he was sloppy, though he did repeatedly
say it was easier to play with Jones than with Moon. Well ... yeah. I
bet Bill Bruford and, I dunno, Billy Cobham were a pain in the ass to
play with too. It was that very difficulty and tension that was most
of the secret to making the chemistry of The Who work. Townshend was
a pain to play with as well, and it was the fact that Entwistle could
bridge the gap between Townshend and Moon that made their live work so
"Funny thing you NEVER heard JPJ say anything close to that about
Bonham.. In fact he was blown away by how well they were in sync from
the very start reason being Bonham was great and better than Moon.."
Bonham was a more appropriate drummer for Led Zeppelin than Moon would
have been, and Bonham was definitely a better fit for JPJ than Moon
would have been. Just as Zeppelin wouldn't have been better with Moon
in there, though, The Who most definitely would not have been a better
band with Bonham. Entwistle would have been wasted with Bonham,
honestly. It's not really a coincidence that, in the late 90s and
early 00s, when The Who had its final live renaissance, they opted for
what was essentially a Moon clone as their tour drummer (Zak Starkey).
PS: You mentioned seeing The Who in '82. Their '82 shows are not a
good metric for judging the band; they were aging and bloated and just
not very good. The Clash were way better on that tour.
"That's right by definition a cover band which you said Zeppelin was covers other artists songs lyric for lyric."
I've been maintaining this site for almost 14 years, and you have to be the first person to parse the phrase "blues cover band" in that sentence as "band that covers blues songs note for note" rather than "band that covers and adapts blues songs." But ok, whatever, it's a silly point to harp on.
"Don't know what you think but Zeppelin and Hendrix completely blew those original versions away. The instrumentals alone leave the originals hardly recognizable.."
Well of course the Zeppelin versions are better than originals ... but they're still covers/adaptations (again, you're the first person I've ever encountered who's tried to limit the definition of a cover to a performance that mirrors the original exactly). Regarding the Hendrix version, I love the Hendrix version, but if somebody tells me that they think that the Hendrix version blows away the Dylan version (which I worship), I tend to view that person as an unsophisticated hick. But that's just me.
"And this crap about the Taurus song by Spirit hardly sounds like Stairway to me more like a few riffs of the Rain song.. Without Zeppelin would anyone ever heard of this song? A big fat NO!!!"
You're right, everybody in the whole world who has heard the resemblance between "Taurus" and "Stairway" is totally making it up.
"Stairway" is a better song, of course. People probably would have heard of Spirit without Zeppelin, though. They have much better songs than "Taurus."
"Notice you don't have an answer for John Entwistle calling Moon sloppy and difficult to play with.."
Entwistle never exactly said he was sloppy, though he did repeatedly say it was easier to play with Jones than with Moon. Well ... yeah. I bet Bill Bruford and, I dunno, Billy Cobham were a pain in the ass to play with too. It was that very difficulty and tension that was most of the secret to making the chemistry of The Who work. Townshend was a pain to play with as well, and it was the fact that Entwistle could bridge the gap between Townshend and Moon that made their live work so amazing.
"Funny thing you NEVER heard JPJ say anything close to that about Bonham.. In fact he was blown away by how well they were in sync from the very start reason being Bonham was great and better than Moon.."
Bonham was a more appropriate drummer for Led Zeppelin than Moon would have been, and Bonham was definitely a better fit for JPJ than Moon would have been. Just as Zeppelin wouldn't have been better with Moon in there, though, The Who most definitely would not have been a better band with Bonham. Entwistle would have been wasted with Bonham, honestly. It's not really a coincidence that, in the late 90s and early 00s, when The Who had its final live renaissance, they opted for what was essentially a Moon clone as their tour drummer (Zak Starkey).
PS: You mentioned seeing The Who in '82. Their '82 shows are not a good metric for judging the band; they were aging and bloated and just not very good. The Clash were way better on that tour.
I strongly disagree with your last opinion on the Who in 82 because they were fantastic and the Clash who happened to warm them up paled in comparison. The Who were energetic and tight and I remember marveling at Daltrey's non-stop performance. An age and bloated band was the Who at the Super Bowl a few years ago. I was cringing at how they embarrassed themselves and to think they still tour is quite depressing. You couldn't pay me to see them now.
You are missing the point about Bonham not holding a candle to Keith Moon. In the quote from JE he's saying Moon's timing was frequently off. You never heard JPJ or any musicians say Bonham had bad timing. IMO Moon's best in Quadrophenia can't compare with Bonham's precision and raw power in songs like Kashmir, Achilles Last Stand and Fool in the Rain.
To me calling LZ a cover band is an insult to the bands creativity. A cover band to me was Zebra doing LZ or these Beatle cover bands. Each one of the big four (LZ, the Beatles, Stones, the Who) did covers in their early days and I would never call any of them anything resembling a cover band.
Ethan Hauck (ethan.hauck.gmail.com) (10/13/13)
I always enjoyed most of Zeppelin's songs.....because I just do. However, when analyzing Bonham I will leave that to the experts in the field for their evaluation on his abilities:
(author's note): Ethan's comment from this point forward was a very extensive copying from the John Bonham wikipedia article. I will not be including that but go read that article if you want.
rollerball9000 (rollerball9000.aol.com) (01/13/15)
Hey John, I really enjoy your album reviews. I was noticeing you mention that you own the Zeppelin DVD set released in 2003. I know that
you don't often review DVDs, but in this particular case the DVD is so strong and filled with such great live shows, especially from the
early tour to the best live version of Achilles' and others at Knebworth that I think.on your scale that this should knock up the LZ
band rating easily to the 4 stars you were thinking about with the BBC sessions and How the West Was Won. The DVD is really the last
word on why Zep was so great live, blowing away TSRTS and BBC and everything else, and should be a must see for all Zep and rock fans.
I'm not sure how you feel about the DVD, but the I think the consensus is right this time; this is the best live Zep you can get. They
worked meticulously with 25-30 year old tapes to get the best sound and audio possible, and this should really be exhibit A for Zep as a
live act. The only thing it's missing is No Quarter, for which I I think the live version on TSRTS is actually.the best thing they ever
did. Song Remains the Same studio is close. Really enjoy your Yes reviews as well, you actually really seem to care about what and how
you write. I added my fusion website if want to check out some of my guitar instrumentals and vocal music. I'd be interested in your
feelings on the Zep DVD, maybe you could add a quick review of it as well, thanks.
Best song: Dazed And Confused
Wow. I may have my share of reservations on the band decades after their existence, but had I been in my early teens when this came out way back in 1969, I might have been sucked into lifelong fandom too. Plant never, ever sounded better than he did on this album, the production (especially regarding the guitar sound) is amazingly clear and powerful, the rhythm section is loud and bombastic without becoming overpowering ... in short, this is the album where Led Zeppelin actually sounds as great as they supposedly do through the majority of their career.
All of these positives are so overwhelming, in fact, that they can cause one to almost forget that the actual amount of songwriting is pretty low. Out of the nine tracks here, only three of them can be considered "true" Led Zeppelin originals, and it's little coincidence that none of them are among the biggest standouts of the album. "Good Times Bad Times," instrumental breaks aside, is a fun, but relatively throwaway pop song that just happens to have a better guitar tone and better singing than it would have from most bands. Of course, that's not to say that the song as a whole is a throwaway; the first "Hi, I'm Jimmy Page, I'm here to blow your minds away" psychedelia-meets-heavy-blues guitar solo of the song, and to a lesser extent the rest of the soloing under Plant's closing rambling does more than enough to justify its existence. "Communication Breakdown" also isn't exactly what I'd call songwriting genius, but I certainly don't mind this one either, if only because (a) it provides a chance for awesome super-speedy Page playing and (b) nobody in the band seems to be taking it very seriously, so the fun factor is way up there. The third one, though, is noticably weaker than the album's other tracks. "Your Time is Gonna Come" is a pleasant enough shuffle, but the melody isn't very impressive, and man does it seem like Plant's trying a bit too hard and like Bonham needs to stop beating his drums so hard if this is going to have any chance to work. That said, it's nice to have a softer touch to the album after the power of what comes immediately before it, so it's not like I ever skip it or anything.
The other six songs are all, um, "borrowed" from other sources, but I actually don't mind that, if only because these songs give the band the chance to amply show off its other strengths; arrangements, mood and solid production. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is an adaptation of a folk song by one Anne Bredon, and while the melody might not be Zep's, they proudly make it their own in every other way. In much of the group's later work, the singing approach Plant takes in this one would be overdone something fierce, but in this case, the way sadness and despair seeps out of Plant's being with every note, while underneath him Page alternates "soft" driving acoustic passages (meaning there's only one Page playing) with "hard" driving acoustic passages (meaning there's five Pages playing, with Bonham bashing along), is really something to behold. As fond as I am of several of the acoustic numbers on, say, III, I have to say that the band never really topped this, its first try at such a number.
Up next, the cover of "You Shook Me" (by Willie Dixon) is an utterly fantastic blues number, with a power and a raunchiness that was absolutely unheard of in 1968. Page is soloing all over the place, Plant is wailing up a storm (even better, they showed that they had an intuitive sense of how to play off each other and to do the whole point-counterpoint thing in their interactions), Bonzo is pounding the daylights out of his drum kit (and it actually sounds appropriate for him to be doing so), and JPJ is contributing some mighty fine organ playing. The only thing else to say about it is that once upon a time, in my wee immature days, I would skip this track when listening to the album; no more. It's probably the best song on the whole thing.
Oh wait, no it's not. Help me, but I love this original Zep version of "Dazed and Confused." I mean, Plant's voice only got worse from here, and the Song Remains the Same version is pushed towards intolerabilty because of his obnoxious singing (though the BBC versions are really nice). But here, it's just a powerful scream, and one of the main assets. And then comes the midsection, that first has Page scraping his violin bow across his guitar strings. Now, on live versions, this can sometimes be a bit bothersome (though not always), but here, it just sounds weird and cool and creepy and moody. And then he explodes into that demon speed solo. Wow. It's yet another example of a Page solo not being a cosmetic addition, but actually an element that takes the song to a whole other level. And on top of it all, it's an extremely trailblazing track too; name me a track, any track, that rocked this hard and was this heavy before this song (ESPECIALLY in the part that comes right at the end of the middle soloing section before going back into the main bass/guitar line). You can't, can you? I didn't think so.
Past the next three tracks ("Your Time is Gonna Come" and "Communication Breakdown," with a nice instrumental cover of a traditional folk tune called "Black Mountain Side" in between), we come to the last two tracks of the album, bringing us back into the realm of hardcore blues. "I Can't Quit You Baby" is the second Willie Dixon cover of the album, and while I enjoy it enough, it definitely falls short of the glory of "You Shook Me." I mean, it has more great singing, and Page sounds fine enough, but it's much more of a "pure" blues cover than was "You Shook Me," and as such it lacks somewhat in structure and wanks around in the kind of way that could cause many a blues hater to want to skip this. "How Many More Times," on the other hand, may steal from not one but two old blues songs (the first half is a Howlin' Wolf song of the same name, the second half is "The Hunter" by Albert King), but there are so many great production effects and so much great playing that I can forgive it. The first half rocks like mad (and has a neat little bolero section from Bonham, who exercises restraint in this song surprisingly well), but what I love most comes in the second half, after another great bowed-guitar passage (with chaotic "Eastern" drumming in the background to great effect) with Plant rambling on about now having eleven children. I swear, aside from the aforementioned stretch in "Dazed and Confused," I can't think of anywhere in Zeppelin's catalogue where they entered a groove quite this tight and hard-rocking as in their cover of "The Hunter" on this track (before going back into the "main" part of the song). Man, no wonder this track was their closer in their early days of touring (I have a bootleg where this track goes for 20 minutes, and it's completely awesome).
In short, this album is amazing, and as far as I'm concerned it's the best Led Zeppelin album ever. Furthermore, I'd also say that if you don't own it (or like it, for that matter), you don't really understand the group. The weaknesses are minimal, and the strengths are emphasized to an almost absurdly fantastic degree; what more do you need?
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
in your talk of zep 1, you forget to mention "how many more times" this song drove the group's early career as a closer. people would come to shows and listen to a lot of songs they weren't familiar with in the middle just to hear them open with communication breakdown and jimmys wah pedal and close with how many more times....the problem with your critique of zep 1 is that you give it all to jimmy. you mention JPJ once, and that's for organ playing on babe i'm gonna leave you. the bassline is what holds the communication breakdown solo together. the bassline makes "how many more times" the bassline makes dazed and confused. and talk about them "not writing the songs" hello? jimmy page owned dazed and confused...i don't know if you remember or not, but he was a bass player in the yardbirds...so that baby is his...if you remember, led zeppelin's original name was "the new yardbirds" so anything jimmy played with the yardbirds kinda belongs to them too...black mountainside "not bad enough to reduce the grade from a 10" come on....this is so beautiful on the guitar....it's in D modal tuning (the same as kashmir) and it has some stellar guitar work..."best zep album ever" and "if you don't like it you don't understand the group" are 2 rediculous, unfounded statements...i mean they're your opinion and you're totally entitled to it, but if you want to convince anyone else you need more evidence than you've provided.
(author's note):I did mention HMMT, Dave - it's
actually a favorite of mine, so I wouldn't leave it out.
Second, Dave, Page came into the Yardbirds relatively late in their
career. And whether he had the rights to it or not, D&C was pieced
together before Jimmy entered the group. Now, again, I'm not debating that
he is responsible for the great guitarwork or the solid production, I'm
not. But only give him credit for what he deserves, ok?
Third - is it a thing of if I say I is the best Zep album it's
'rediculous' but if I were to say IV or PG was the best it
would be completely accurate, bravo to me for being such an astute
listener? Whatever. On I and II, Zep are setting the rules
for heavy blues-based rock - on PG, they're following rules set by
others. Guess which one I prefer.
Second, Dave, Page came into the Yardbirds relatively late in their career. And whether he had the rights to it or not, D&C was pieced together before Jimmy entered the group. Now, again, I'm not debating that he is responsible for the great guitarwork or the solid production, I'm not. But only give him credit for what he deserves, ok?
Third - is it a thing of if I say I is the best Zep album it's 'rediculous' but if I were to say IV or PG was the best it would be completely accurate, bravo to me for being such an astute listener? Whatever. On I and II, Zep are setting the rules for heavy blues-based rock - on PG, they're following rules set by others. Guess which one I prefer.
Casey Brennan (bevan.voicenet.com)
Great Zeppelin review. I wouldn't agree it's the best album from the band, but it's up there. The band is at their best on blistering blues cuts like "How Many More Times" and "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave you", but already shows its' acoustic side way before 'III', with "Black Mountain Side". Zeppelin is simply at their best here when it comes to the overall atmosphere of the songs, Plants singing, and powerful blues. No one had ever heard anything this heavy before the early months of 1969(the Beatles "Helter Skelter" was possibly the heaviest tune ever before this album). The atmopshere, and especially the powerful drum sound were never heard before; the drum sound of hard rock prior to this record were tinny compared to this. Even as good as Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was on drums, the sound is rather tinny compared to this, as the focus on late 60's hard rock was concentrated more on how hard-hitting or heavy the guitar was. So, overall this has to be the most revolutionary Zeppelin album, although i like 'Led Zeppelin II' a bit more, as there are even more amazing riffs and guitar solos. Anyone who loves the band though, will most likely love this here album as this is what the bands sound is based on. I'd give it a high 9 out of 10.
Joel Larsson (joel.larsson.privat.utfors.se)
Well THIS is an excellent one! These guys were real bluesrockers! This is heavy, psychedelic blues, and everything here rocks (except of 'Black mountain side' of course!). The only weakness on this one is that I get more and more bothered on this one each time I listen to it. But a given 10, anyway.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
It never ceases to amaze me how thoroughly underrated this album is. The only thing that i could even remotely categorize as a weak spot is Your Time Is Gonna Come, and that mostly because of that idiodically repetetive chorus. I don't agree that You Shook Me is the best track on here, it would have to be Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You. Nor is this their best effort; Houses Of The Holy was better. This is a close second, though.
"Sittinger, Brian D" (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/17/01)
There is someone else out there who agrees with me! Perhaps I just really enjoy their psychedelic blues sound (making up a good portion of this album; it is mindblowing! "You Shook Me All Night Long", and "How Many More Times" in particular). In truth, owning all the Led Zeppelin albums, except Coda (which does not seem to be a big loss), The Song Remains the Same (a partial loss), and the BBC Sessions (need to find the money!), I must say this is the most consistent record throughout its career. None of the songs are bad here. The stylistic shifts form song to song aren't bad either.
A few brief notes: The 'heavy metal' classic "Communication Breakdown" sets a basic blueprint for much of what will follow: simple, yet catchy and effective riffs, solos with purpose, and energy. "Babe I'm Going to Leave You" has to be one of their most effective welding of the acoustic and electric guitars, a very compelling piece.
Plant's vocals work well throughout this album too, including his hialrious yells with Page imitating him on guitar on 'You Shook Me All Night Long". I think I also undestand what you are saying about Robert Plant's voice: it got screechier with time! (Is this a reason why my father never bought a Led Zeppelin album after Led Zeppelin III?) Enough said: 10 out of 10 (undoubtedly!!).
My rating: 10/10
Zep I is definitely one of my favorites. This was actually the first Zeppelin album I owned, so for about a year, this was the only source to Zeppelin I really had, besides the radio. And I got hooked on it. Definitely one of the best debuts ever, maybe THE best debut. Plant's voice is definitely at its best, and even early on, the others experimented w/ their sounds very well. John Paul Jones using the organ, Jimmy Page's experimental use of guitar tunings on Black Mountain Side, and John Bonham's drumming was amazing, and like it always was, it was consistent.
Here, the band was just jamming Unlike subsequent albums, where their songs were structured and adequately arranged in my opinion. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, Dazed and Confused, How Many More Times are the best songs on the album, and always give me a chill up and down my spine whenever I hear them, even 4 or 5 years later (I'm only 17). For a band w/ no recording contract, no money, and only 30 hours in the studio, in that length of time, they pumped out a damn good album, and a classic that still makes kids pick up guitars to this day... well.. probably not as much as they did back then.
An Awesome debut. The band goes to blues and all 3 blues songs (You Shook Me, I Can't Quit You Baby, How Many More Times) rule.
As for their originals, Good Times, Bad Times is allright. Comminication Breakdown is very fast and cool. Your Time Is Gonna Come and Black Mountain Side are nice mellow numbers.
However the best songs are Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You. The band has never done a better ballad. And finally Dazed and Confused. Everything you want to love about the Zeps is right in this song.
All in all a perfect debut for the band 10(14)
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (05/13/09)
This debut album is one of my all time favorites, mainly because of the classic tracks 2, 3, 4, 7 and 9. I don't really understand why people (relatively) look down on Good Times, Bad Times and Your Time is gonna Come. Those first two notes of GTBT are a strong statement: swallow or choke as the Dutch say.The two verses and the instrumental part have different themes. Only the fade-out is too quick. YTigC, besides the beautiful intro that even pleases many fans of JB Bach, has one of LZ's better melodies in the verses.
The relative letdowns are I Can't Quit you Baby - essentially a slightly weaker version of You Shook Me - and especially Black Mountain Side. Page and also Howe should leave stuff like that to composers of classical music, especially Spanish ones. BMS shows that even 2 minutes can be boring if the same theme is repeated over and over again. The musical content is good for 30 seconds at best.
Of course Led Zep I is a rip off from that Jeff Beck album a year before. Point is that Page and co do everything better, in every single respect.
Dazed and Confused also is a shameless standard case of musical theft like a few other songs on this album. I don't really care and leave the issue to the lawyers. What counts for me is that LZ performs the songs with more expression that the originals. Sorry Jake Holmes, even though Page/Plant owe you a lot of money.
Best song: Whole Lotta Love
I HATE THE PRODUCTION ON THIS ALBUM. Whereas a large chunk of my love for the debut was based in how awesome it sounded, the way it was so much heavier than anything else to that point but still didn't excessively overwhelm the listener with that fact, a large chunk of my relative dislike (relative, mind you; I am still giving it a rating of "very good") of this album comes from the fact that I can barely listen to this without getting a headache. Apparently, this was recorded while the guys were on tour, and the result is that the mix is very raw and very heavy on the low end. Everything on the album, even the relatively "light" acoustic-based numbers, is saturated by screeching guitar sounds, basslines too high in the mix, drums trying to wake the dead, and wailing cock-rock vocals that (imo) sound ever so slightly worse and more obnoxious than they did on the debut. For a metalhead, this may sound like heaven; for me, there's just a little too much grit here for my tastes.
As an aside, though, while the bass sound may hurt my ears on the whole, the great irony is that the actual basslines on this album are not only my favorites on the whole in the Zep catalogue, they also put this album into my imaginary "top 3 bass guitar albums I've ever heard" list (along with Quadrophenia and Fragile). There's really an incredible mix of power and grace to be found throughout here, and if it's true what I've been told that budding bassists tend to swear by this album, then more power to them.
So anyway, on this album, Led Zeppelin stretches out its songwriting chops far more than on the first one, with more "complete" originals here than before, and this yields mostly positive results. That is, with one major exception; the headsmashingly awful (and I don't think I'll ever change my mind on this) ballad "Thank You." Now, granted, one major clunker on the second album isn't something to be completely ashamed of; on their second album, for instance, the Rolling Stones were still writing boring pieces of slop like "Congratulations" and "Good Times, Bad Times" (absolutely no relation to Zeppelin's). But still, man, this is bad on every level, from the unengaging strumming melody Page comes up with (compare this with what he had to work with on "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You") to the incredibly primitive lyrics ("happiness, no more be sad, happiness, I'm glad") to the fact that the very notion of a sweet ballad written by Robbie to his wife in 1969 while he was on the road and Zeppelin was the biggest band in the world is utterly laughable. As far as I'm concerned, this is the father of every half-assed semi-acoustic ballad that future metal bands would write to try and fool their audiences into thinking they have a "tender" side, and it's hard for me to not hate the song because of that.
The other original material is mostly fine, though, and that even includes the ballads. "What is and What Should Never be" is an extremely lovely number (with a terrific bassline serving as the best feature) that features a lovely Plant delivery and a GORGEOUS quiet Page solo. Of course, it also includes a bunch of "rocking" passages with Robbie screaming his head off that kinda spoil the impression a little, but only a little a bit. "Ramble On" is in much the same vein (and in fact its main feature is also a cute bassline mixed very high), with Plant's obsession with Tolkien coming out more explicitly, but it's still a nice little number, even if Plant starts getting on my nerves near the end.
The most famous and important parts of the album, though, are the three heaviest originals. First, there's the infamous "Whole Lotta Love" (some of the lyrics are stolen from yet another Willie Dixon number; poor Willie), which has one of the most killer riffs Page would ever come up with, and booming drumming and powerful bass to go along with it. Oh, and that midsection of guitar squeals and erratic drums and Plant moans and wails that simulates a male orgasm. Sheesh. Whatever, the guitar solo that comes right after it is terrific, and the closeout section is fine, though I do kinda wish Robbie would shut up after a while (this desire re: Robbie is a common theme with me, so get used to it). It's a well-deserved classic, whatever may be.
The other two heavy originals come at the beginning of side 2, in the form of "Heartbreaker" and "Living Loving Maid." "Heartbreaker" may seem kinda dumb at first, but that simple riff, pounded out by Page and Jones in unison, will just eat into your soul whether you want it to or not, and even Plant sounds fine here (it's basically a harder blues-rock piece, and Plant treats it accordingly). The chaotic wanky guitar solo isn't amazing (I mean, I like sloppiness in small doses, but this is kinda ridiculous), but the band jamming coming out of the midsection is great, so I don't mind too much. And then, thanks to a bad end edit that practically requires classic rock radio to always play these songs back to back (I have never ever heard the one played without the other), we immediately break into "Living Loving Maid," a nice piece of up-tempo funk rock. It's dumb, yes, but dumb in a "Communication Breakdown" sort of way, so I like it.
The remaining three tracks fall into the "reworked blues" category, and my feelings are divergent on them. I'm fairly ambivalent in how I regard the closing "Bring it On Home," but the second half does at least half a nice enough riff (as the band morphs from the weird blues cover in the first half of the song into all out 60's metal mode), so I don't exactly dislike it. It just seems ... I dunno, kinda unnecessary after everything else. At the least, though, the transition between the two halves is pretty damned sexy. Anyway, I love "The Lemon Song," which is sort of a hodgepodge of elements from a bunch of the blues numbers they were performing on stage (Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" is especially prominent), and while I get tired of hearing Robbie's incessant "Squeeze my lemon" pleas on The BBC Sessions, it tends to work fine here. And boy do I ever love the basswork in this track.
"Moby Dick," however, is a drum solo, and something I could live completely without. The riff is taken from an old blues standard ("The Girl I Love She Got Long Wavy Black Hair," later found on BBC), and the structure of the piece is not only taken from Ginger Baker's solo "Toad," it's nowhere near as interesting either (but I think I said that already in the introduction). I know that lots of drummers adore solos like this, but that's just further proof that metal drummers and I are living in totally different universes. The quality of a drummer, as far as I'm concerned, is manifested in the kind of rhythm provided when the rest of the band is playing; it has nothing to do with the amount of noise one can make while playing by oneself.
So what of it all? The truth is, I like most of the songs on here individually, and there's a small number that I love. But when I take into account the couple of songs I hate, the fact that all the rockers have that same head-splitting guitar sound and loud drumming, that even the ballads are somewhat spoiled by that sound, and that Robbie sounds way worse to my ears here than he did on I, there's no question that this has to get a noticably lower rating. Taken as individual songs, I might be able to call this a B instead of an A; as is, as a whole album, there's no way I can give this a higher score.
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
zep 2.... thank you is good........ what is and what should never be is good how can you not like ramble on?...it's got a beautiful blues based acousticy first half and a soaring lead second half...you contradict yourself in that the same raw bluesy power from jimmy page that drives zep 1 is a downfall in zep 2? i could bitch on for a while, but i won't
(author's note): No, I do not contradict myself. (a) The heaviness in
I was always very clear and well produced and (b) the band was
very careful about placing acoustic numbers in just the right places to
provide a balance. Whereas on II I often feel as if I am
suffocating on the nonstop onslaught of muddy heaviness (or heavy
muddiness). That is why II gets a lower rating.
Also ... I didn't say I don't like Ramble On. I said it's a wonderful
ballad/rocker that is similar to What is ... and that has the bass mixed
too high. Read before you comment, Dave.
Also ... I didn't say I don't like Ramble On. I said it's a wonderful ballad/rocker that is similar to What is ... and that has the bass mixed too high. Read before you comment, Dave.Jon Greiman (homer.imsa.edu)
Moby Dick. It should be pointed out that although the riff for it and The Girl I ... are very similair, they are different. They're in different keys, have similiar melodic structures, and similiar rythems. Had they been different bands writing the songs, they might have gotten away with it. It's kinda like comparing No Doubt's No Doubt to Supertramp's Breakfast at America.
Casey Brennan (bevan.voicenet.com)
The constant heaviness and heavy bass sound you speak of, is what I find so greatly appealing on this album. It wouldn't be so good if heavy after heavy tune, the songs started to numb the brain or get tiresome. This doesn't happen on here though. With either an amazing riff, guitar solo, superb dynamics, or all three carrying each song on here this album from start to finish is awesome. I don't find the sound hardly murky or muffled at all(except for maybe 'Moby Dick'); even if it is murky it works well on any given song. After being pointed out earlier that the album was basically a rush-job in the studio as it was recorded between tours, I've begun to notice that in certain tracks like "Heartbreakers" and a few others. However, the rushed sound enhances the record by giving it a more exciting, hard-hitting, and compact quality. This leaves hardly a weak moment at all on here. The drum solo on "Moby Dick" might be an exception to me, as although fairly nice(and better than a lot of other drum solos), I don't really care for drum solos either. Besides that though, the riff in the track is superb. Anyway, I really do love the compactness of the record, with no unnecessary moments.
Along with what I just said, what really makes this my favorite Zeppelin album is how creatively executed tracks like "Whole Lotta Love"(the riff, fantastic middle section, and ending vocal section are very memorable) and "The Lemon Song"(a classic blues cut with some famous lines and great bass playing) are. The hard-to-soft dynamics are also superb, and even better than on most other Zep albums - "What is..." and "Ramble On" fall in this category. Everything is just so well-executed on here that it's amazing. As hard-hitting and heavy as this album is, I think that there are enough moments that let the listener relax... "Thank You", the verses of "Ramble On", and a few other parts of other tracks do balance out the album pretty well. Although not as revolutionary as the first album, the band repeats everything to just as good effect on here; it's an electrifying record that is top-notch in all areas(even the singing which may be a slightly worse than the first album, still is pretty great in most of the tracks - think "Whole Lotta Love"!). After listening to this, It may be a good idea to put on some Beatles (always a good idea) or Moodies, but for me another Zeppelin album would also do.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
I think you were perhaps a bit hard on this one. I have to agree with you viv-a-vis the production, likewise regarding Plant's voice (and idiotic lyrics), but there is a plus side: this album smokes straight through track 6 without a weak moment to be found. I disagree completely with your assessment of Thank You, it's marvelous if you can get past the lyrics. I do think that Ramble On is pretty lame, and I can't imagine why such a glorious riff was wasted on a drum solo. BTW, I have to disagree with you regarding Bonham. He's certainly better than any drummer I've ever worked with! BIOH ends the album in grand style, the stupid intro notwithstanding. I would have given this a 13. And WIAWSNB was the best track on the album.
Mukundan Sudarsan (s_mukundan.yahoo.com) (7/17/01)
I don't agree in anyway with your opinion about the "murky and crappy" (Thank You). The beginning melody of this song is one of the best way you can package melody with hard rock. I think that the drums were mixed at a higher level but it doesn't in anyway make do of the melody that the song is built with. And if someone thinks the lyrics of this song are weak then most of the Power Ballad Anthems of the crappy hair bands of the 80s can go in the toilet. I pretty much agree with the rest of your review about the album.
Sittinger, Brian D (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/21/01)
Solid album. The psychedeila that so well marked the first album starts its dissipation here, although it's still on display especially in "Whole Lotta Love." [Also note the backwards echoes at the end of the aforementioned song. I read in some magazine where the engineer on this album doubted that this effect can be done. Well, Jimmy page showed him otherwise, having done it on a Yardbirds song.] As for the rest, "Thank You" isn't really that bad, and "Moby Dick" still drags on endlessly. Mostly memorable riff rock throughout, especially the "Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid" section (for some miserable reason these songs are divided up in the cassette tape version - maddening!). I agree that this album ends on a slightly weaker note. Nevertheless, a strong 8 out of 10.
Nathan Schulz (isrpgmaker.hotmail.com) (1/26/04)
I think Led Zeppelin II deserves more of your credit. Every single one of the songs (If you count Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid as one song) have fabolous contrast within themselves (What is and What Should Never Be) or have spectacular movement changes (Bring It on Home). Although the album is quite heavy and needs a better balance of acoustic to electric sounds, there is such wonderful cohesion between movements/phrases within the songs and the transitions between the songs that most of this album could almost be an opera or symphony. This album is greater than the sum of its parts and deserves an easy 9.
Matt Dean (mattdean.f2s.com) (05/12/06)
'This is the father of every half-assed semi-acoustic ballad that future metal bands would write to try and fool their audiences into thinking they have a "tender" side'
That is absolutely GREAT! A couple of years ago i was watching a repeat of an MTV music awards from 2002 or 2001. and Fred Durst, who was still hanging onto that last shred of respect he somehow had (in the music world) came on and performed a song acoustically, and GUESS what song it was! Yep, Thank You!!! Oh dear. Anyway, on the album- i think i'll always prefer III and IV. I think II is more a fun album to play along to, but not to listen to particularly. Whole Lotta Love, What Is... and Ramble On are brilliant, but i agree that the production just isn't very pleasant at all. See Ya!
Not quite as good as the first album but worthwhile none the less
The bad song here is Thank You, How can they go from Babe to this in terms of ballads?
Also Moby Dick those who hate that song pretty much hate Bonham and I'm not one of them.
Other 7 songs are great. Whole Lotta Love is one of the bands signature tunes. What Is and What Should Never Be and Heartbreaker are great too.
The Lemon Song and Bring It On Home are two more great bluesy tunes and finally Ramble On and Living Loving Maid are good rockers. I agree with you on Jones on this album as well. 9(13)
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (05/13/09)
Led Zep's peak and perhaps the very best rock album ever. The restrained aggression of the opener Whole lotta Love is unique as far as I know. It's frustrating as there is no real outburst nor catharsis. Thank You has been critiziced heavily, something I don't get. Plants vocal lines are beautiful and catchy, he sings with a lot of expression, Page's play is modest, Jones accompaniment on organ is very subtle and Bonham does not drum more than strictly necessary. Moby Dick is one of the very few drum solo's I think good. No, I am not a drummer myself, I used to play the viola. Bonham tries to do more than just a show-off, he actually drums melodic lines now and then which manage to stick in my head. Very special. The weakest song imo is Livin' lovin' maid. It's a ditty somewhat, but still good enough.
Once my father, absolutely no fan of popmusic, listened to this album. He was surprised how different all songs were.
I recently watched a dvd by Jeff Beck recorded in 2007, and he had Eric Clapton as a special guest. Eric performed some old blues number called "You Need Love" and I suddenly realised that this is where most of "Whole Lotta Love" comes from. During other parts of the show, there were some shots of the audience, and guess what, Plant and Page were there too! I just couldn't help laughing at the idea: Page watching Clapton and Beck on stage play this tune, hilarious!
Best song: Since I've Been Loving You
Perhaps feeling they had started to pigeonhole themselves with the incessant brain-bashing heaviness of II, the band took a roadtrip to Wales and made an album that largely emphasized the folk and acoustic aspects that had been present on their debut. The result was a fan favorite, and even I honestly felt for a long time that this was their best effort (no doubt I was influenced by Mark Prindle's ravings about it). Now, though, I'm definitely not among those who would think so, even if I've heard an interview where Plant says he feels this album is their finest moment.
The album is roughly split into a "hard" first half and a "soft" second half, with one acoustic song stuck into the first half for good measure. The first thing to note is that the "hard" numbers are nowhere near as suffocating as the kinds of hard numbers that made up II; you can definitely tell that the band really went out of its way to make this more "average listener"-friendly than II was, which probably wore down a lot of potential fans over its 40-odd minutes. Unfortunately, though, the hard numbers on here, on the whole, aren't as good as the best numbers on II. On the plus side, the album opens with the monstrously tight, fast and aggressive "Immigrant Song," which sounds more like a solid proto-punk-thrash number than a metallic rocker, and is all the better for it. Plant's voice is higher than it's ever been here, but it sounds good here, and the song only lasts about two minutes and change, so it's great. Also, the band does what is arguably its best blues number yet on this side, the terrific "Since I've Been Loving You." The melody is obviously stolen (though that's really the only place on the album where that can be clearly said; the band wrote most of its own material here), and Robbie tends to sound like an idiot when he goes on too long stammering instead of singing, but when he's actually singing, the track is pure gold. And man, that's one awesome guitar passage in the middle.
On the minus side, I have never been a fan of either "Celebration Day" or "Out on the Tiles." "Celebration Day" isn't exactly bad, but it's got such a, I dunno, "confused" feel to it that I just can't quite grasp what it is I'm really supposed to be getting out of it. It's just so messy that whatever driving power it was going for as a dumb driving rock song gets completely washed out, and it's not catchy enough to work as a pop-rocker or complicated enough to work as anything resembling prog. As for "Out on the Tiles," it's just too much like generic boogie-rock on one hand, and waaaaaaaaaaaaay too lightweight on the other, for it to particularly impress me.
This leaves the acoustic numbers, which I tend to like for the most part. The lone acoustic representative of side one, "Friends," is one that I've found I tend to like more than many others do; yes, Plant's screeching is pretty over-the-top intolerable in places, but there's just something about the menace that comes from the mix of the acoustic guitars and the Easterny strings that I can't help but really enjoy. Of course, it's awfully similar to "As You Said" by Cream in terms of general approach, but at least the melody is clearly original.
Side two opens with three real winners in the acoustic ballad (or, in the case of the first, acoustic ballad into acoustic rocker) department, the only drawbacks to them being (a) they're way too similar moodwise and (b) Plant doesn't sound any different singing them than he did singing about Gollum and whatnot on II, meaning that the pretty melodies of these songs aren't exploited to their full potential. "Gallows Pole" is a reworking of a traditional Welsh folk that tells the tale of trying to keep a loved one from getting hung, and it works almost start to finish; it's only in the end, when the band is 'rocking out' a bit and Plant is trying too hard to improvise new screeched lyrics, that the song starts to run out of gas. "Tangerine," completely written by Page, is even better, though, featuring a wonderful melody with a terrific little rising snippet here and there and a WONDERFUL gentle steel guitar solo. And finally, we have "That's the Way," which has some "sensitive," kinda immature lyrics that Plant still can't quite sing in a convincing manner (see: "Thank You"), but they're better than on that disaster (as is Plant's peformance), and that is one heck of a beautiful melody they came up with. Just get somebody else to sing it and you'd have a classic; as is, it's still close.
The last two songs don't really cut the mustard for me, though. "Bron-yr Stomp" is supposed to be traditional folk, but this song tells me that Led Zeppelin had about as much business doing straight-up traditional folk as The Byrds had attempting to do hard rock (see: Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde, arrgh). Holy cow I think it's obnoxious. And finally, "Hats Off (to Roy Harper)" is a goofy attempt at a blues cover a la the first half of "Bring it on Home," but where that at least started rocking in the second half, this is such a mess that all I'm really left with is a sense of, "huh?" It works as a novelty, but not much more, I'd say.
Still, for all of my relative complaining, I don't want to give this less than an A. The album flows extremely well, the balance between hard and soft is admirable (even if the songs in each category aren't necessarily), and some of the songs are great. And doggone it, it's a thousand times easier for me to listen to this one straight through than it is for me to listen to II straight through, even if that one has some better songs on it. Still, though, I wouldn't run out and get this first.
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
celebration day is awesome......i mean come on...they had to have some
powerful rock element to zep 3, and this had some power....it's
beautiful if you think about it....and though it was the only
representative of zep 3 on the soundtrack, it does not appear in
movie, and instead there's a bitchin' version of since i've been lovin you
(author's note): Dave is right here; the movie version of SIBLY
is terrific, and I really wish it were there rather than Celebration
(author's note): Dave is right here; the movie version of SIBLY is terrific, and I really wish it were there rather than Celebration Day.
Bron-yr-stomp is just good...pagey doin' his acoustic work... and friends gets a little dry
Jamie Anthony (jaony.lineone.net)
Led Zeppelin 3 is what I would call "their best work". There really is nothing on this album which doesn't please - expecially "friends" - an acoustic riff which is one of the few to actually beat the "Question" riff. Then when the eastern mellotron comes in... wow. SIBLO is probably the best on the album, though. all the others simply rule - I mean immigrant song - what a way to start a folky album! how decieving, eh? brilliant driving riff and beat, though. and i LOVE "Bron-yr-Aur stomp" classic foot-stamping folky-stuff. overall 15 = music don't get much better than this. unless you're listening to Beethoven, that is.
Oh, and John, you say you're studying mathematics at uni? maybe that's why it's only you who can understand the rating system (joke - I understand it fine now).
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
I think you rated this album pretty accurately, although I disagree to an extent as to where it's strengths and weaknesses lie. Of course, SIBLY is a true classic, easily the best track present; Zep was definitely at their best with the blues. Immigrant Song smokes, and I think Celebration Day is a better tune than you give it credit for. As for the acoustic stuff... I'm a classical/folk/blues fingerstyle guitarist, and all I can say is that Page does NOT know how to handle an acoustic guitar. Gallows Pole is pretty good for all that, and That's The Way is a nice song as well. Most of the rest is pretty forgetable.
Sittinger, Brian D (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/21/01)
This one is a strange one for me - I don't know why. Most of the second half I just don't recall too well, although most of it was quite pleasant although it (again) fades at the end. However, "Immigrant Song" , "Since I've Been Loving You", and "Gallows Pole" are among my favorites among this album (your comment on Led Zeppelin being a great blues band id definitely supported in the second song mentioned above; for some reason I never looked at Led Zeppelin from this perspective, no matter how clear it seems to me now, oh well...). Celebration Day is just okay, not much more. Low 8 out of 10. (I feel guilty giving it any lower...)
An interesting album to say the least. The second side is some great acoustic music (apart from Hays off to Roy Harper). That's the Way rules as do Gallow's Pole and Tangerine. As for the first side it's kinda mixed. Immigrant Song is great. I also like Friends and Out On The Tiles. However Celebration Day is iffy and as much as I hate to say it, I don't care too much about Since I've Been Loving You. Kinda too long for my book. Otherwise a fairly good one. 8(12)
Grant Parks (grantwparks.gmail.com) (01/13/07)
Since I've Been Lovin' You has the *best* Page blues solo of any song, period.
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (05/13/09)
Led Zep III is a setback. I strongly dislike Hats off. That distorted voice worked nicely on Bringing on Home, but once should have been enough. Out on the Tiles is not for me either; I can only stand the introductionary riff - see BBC-sessions. The third song that is a failure is That's the Way. I have lost count how many times the verse is repeated. From a musical point of view the song has just enough ideas for perhaps 1½ minutes. So I have to stand another four minutes of complete dragging. Maybe it's value lies in the lyrics, I would not know, I hardly ever spend attention to the lyrics. I'd say print them on paper and read them, that saves time. The song grows weaker and weaker on me everytime I listen to it because of its predictability.
The seven other songs are good till excellent though; see my introduction.
Best song: When The Levee Breaks
In the year of our Lord one thousand, nine hundred and seventy-one, it was seemingly the time for big rock bands to make what I'd call "self-consciously great" albums (like The Who with Who's Next or The Rolling Stones with Sticky Fingers). It feels to me like Zeppelin really wanted to make a big statement with this album, and it's hard to argue that they didn't; this is, after all, the centerpiece of their legend, the one that everybody owns or at least has been able to tape just from listening to classic rock radio (if you listen to any one generic classic rock station 24 hours a day, I'd lay 3 to 1 odds that you will hear this entire album, barring perhaps "Four Sticks," in no more than three days). The production on here is almost ludicrously meticulous (if a bit sterile in places), and it displays in a broad flourish all of the various sides of the band (as opposed to going overboard in one direction or another as on the last two albums). They're aggressive rock'n'rollers ("Rock and Roll"), they're regular acoustic balladeers ("Going to California"), they're mystical Tolkien addicts ("Battle of Evermore"), they're bluesy cock-rockers ("Black Dog"), they're anthemic voices of a stoned generation ("Stairway to Heaven"), and when the mood suits them they're the awesomest re-interpreters of traditional blues numbers in the world ("When the Levee Breaks").
Unfortunately, they're also prone to bouts of being among the world's biggest morons. Even when I was in my earliest developmental stages of becoming familiar with rock music, listening to "Stairway" repeatedly and thinking that "Carry on My Wayward Son" and "American Pie" were among the best songs ever written (uggggggggggggggggghhhhh), I hated the living guts out of "Misty Mountain Hop," and that feeling has only cemented over time. EVERYTHING about that song irritates me: the way the electric piano combines with the guitar and bass to create a tone that I hate as much as anything in the world of rock music, the way Plant sings one of the stupidest "melodies" ever to make its way onto mainstream classic rock radio, the way it neither rocks nor pops in any way that I can find remotely acceptable ... This is, without a doubt, my least favorite Led Zeppelin song, one I hate more than the worst material on Physical Graffiti or Presence, or the worst tracks on Coda, or even "Thank You" or live versions of "Moby Dick." If I never hear this song again, it will be far too soon.
Nothing else on the album even remotely makes me wretch as much as that track, but there are still other places that make me more than a bit confused about the commonly held notion that this is one of the greatest albums of all time. "Four Sticks" really isn't interesting at all to me; it has that ugly discordant riff and guitar sound, and Bonham drumming with four sticks instead of two, and ... basically nothing else of note. I mean, it has some ugly wailing and some "artsy" synth noises here and there, but I'll be damned if I'm going to consider those significant positives. Anyway, I'm also not an enormous fan of this version of "Black Dog," though that shouldn't be taken to say that I dislike the track; I actually love the live takes of it on BBC and How the West Was Won. The main problem I have here is that the perfect production, to my ears, takes away the fire that the track otherwise has. In my opinion, this is a song that needs to be raw, to be aggressive, to be unpolished, as opposed to here where so much of the edge is taken off of Plant's vocals and the playing of the other three. Here, it's a decent enough track, but it doesn't really rouse a bone or organ in my body.
The other five tracks, though, are between great and phenomenal, and are enough to bring the rating up to an extremely high level given how much of the album I don't really like. "Rock and Roll" is a great representative of its title, a piece where Bonham's insanely loud drumming is a totally necessary asset and where Plant gets in a great echoey vocal. As far as heavy retro-rock goes, this is about as good as it gets, and Page's hyperactive guitar work throughout is really awesome.
The next two tracks feature the band trying to go for a heavy "mystic" vibe, and overall they're both winners. I admit that I like "Battle of Evermore" a bit less now that I've become a Tolkien addict; I know that this is supposed to be about one of the big battles in Return of the King (everything I've read from people on the subject says it's about the battle on the Pelennor Fields, but I can't shake the feeling that it might actually be about the battle at the Black Gate), but even after having read The Lord of the Rings four times, I'm still not totally sure what the heck Robbie's wailing about (who the heck are the angels of Avalon??). In other words, not only are the lyrics awfully amateurish sounding, it keeps feeling to me that Plant didn't actually remember RoTK very well while he was writing them. That said, I still think it's an awesome track, and it succeeds where other bands fail miserably in such attempts. The weaving of Robert's voice with Sandy Denny's is utter heaven to my ears, and Jimmy throws in some of the most beautiful mandolin (that's what it is, right?) playing I've ever heard on a rock album.
And then there's "Stairway to Heaven," and though there's probably no need for me to comment on it I will anyway. It's a pretty random choice, I think, to be the most revered song in the Zeppelin catalogue, let alone one of the most worshipped songs of all time. As lots of people have pointed out, the opening acoustic guitar melody is basically stolen from "Taurus" by the band Spirit (and don't try to tell me it isn't; Spirit opened for Led Zeppelin for much of 1970, and Page is known to have specifically made note of how neat he thought that particular Spirit instrumental was), but even disregarding that, the lyrics are more than a bit portentiously nonsensical (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of saying that when I'm a big Yes fan), and as far as metal anthems go, I'd much rather listen to "Child in Time." But the song is worth it if only for the absolutely amazing, seamless transition from acoustic ballad to all-out anthemic rocker, not to mention the amazing guitar solo in the climax. And dagnabbit, it got me into rock music!
The album then takes a turn for the worse (to say the least) with "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Four Sticks," but as a reward for the pain comes a lovely acoustic ballad in "Going to California." It would be better if it didn't have yet more Tolkien worship in it, but it's pretty nonetheless; it beats "That's the Way," at least, and that wasn't a bad song itself. But this is only the quiet before the storm. If you've wondered why I could give such a high grade to an album that contains what is hands down my least favorite song by the band, the reason is largely because it also contains (on the same side, no less) what is hands down by favorite song by the band. "When the Levee Breaks" is, as far as I'm concerned, Led Zeppelin's finest moment by far, and I don't care if it's a cover; the band's strengths were in arranging and creating an apocalyptic mood, not in songwriting, and this also proves to me that, even at this time, nobody in the whole world could beat Led Zeppelin at covering the blues. I'm not even really sure how to describe it; I have never heard a song where every element of the band worked so seamlessly together as in this one. Bonzo's drumming is powerful and drives the song along without being distracting, Jones' bass does its job remarkably, Page rips out some of the most vicious and aggressive slide guitar parts I have ever come across, and Plant's voice (which screams itself almost ragged and hoarse in places, but all for the better) and harmonica just bring it all together. Every part is outstanding, and each only serves to highlight and enhance all the other parts. It's, well, it's as if a pre-programmed blues computer ran a program to come up with the optimal kick-ass arrangement and recorded it on disc. As far as I'm concerned, for seven glorious minutes, Led Zeppelin really sounds like one of the greatest bands in the world, and one that I can love as much as seemingly everybody else does.
In the end, this is not a consistent record, to say the least. Not only does the quality of the songs vary ENORMOUSLY, the songs just don't flow together at all (especially in contrast to III). Indeed this is much less of an album than it is a collection of 8 songs which may or may not have anything to do with each other. Largely because of this, and largely because of the excessively perfect production, the whole thing can sound and feel overly commerical and fake at times. Despite all of these flaws, however, this is still a terrific album, and I would advise all who do not have it yet (though I can't see why such a person would be reading this page) to get it and get it soon. Or, of course, get out some tapes while a radio station "gets the Led out" ...
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
zep 4 misty mountain hop again serves as a transition song between stairway and four sticks....and overall though not a very skillful song, has a good sound black dog on this album...i think i'll have to agree with you...something about the way the lyrics sound just isn't right....like it's being played back on a tape recorder or something to that effect...anyways, moving along... i think your final assessment of being too "fake" may come from listening to it on cd more than on vinyl...this album is better on vinyl, though still a bit refined...i don't think when the levee breaks is as "awesome" as you think it is....as far as the best zep song ever...i can tell you right now...no.... and though the songs seem disconnected, there really is a flow there...it's that whole musical experience...starts out medium with black dog, goes to heavy with rock and roll, acoustic, acoustic building to electric, electric/synth, foursticks, which is amazing, back to acoustic, and then finish with heavy bluesy slide....it's an experience....
(author's note): On the experience part ... I wouldn't call it a flow, per se. It is interesting how both side-ending tracks are somewhat apocalyptic in nature, but regardless of whether it was their intention to make this into a quasi-conceptual album, I contend that this just didn't happen. There are plenty of albums for which the 'experience' idea applies, but this is hardly one of them.
Jon Greiman (homer.imsa.edu)
Ok, I was wrong, I do actually own one zep album: Zoso. I have listened to it in order. For the longest time, I thought it was a greatest hits album of their, and couldn't figure out why they had Four Sticks on there instead of songs like Whole Lotta Love, or Communication Breakdown. Of course, I also thought Dark Side of the Moon was a compilation too. Guess that tells you how much I listened to the radio and made tapes. I will agree with you on the lack of flowing in it since as soon as I found someone with the CD, I put it on random. And the Stairway solo that appears on the BBC session was the compilations of all the solo's he thought about putting on the original recording.
Ditto on "When the Levee Breaks" !!!
Joel Larsson (joel.larsson.privat.utfors.se)
This is so overrated. But, okay... 'Black dog', 'Rock and roll', 'Stairway...' and 'When the levee breaks' are very good. An 8 for me, while it isn't very bad either. This is a very average album, if anyone asks for my opinion.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
I agree for the most part. I do like this version of Black Dog, however; I'm a sucker for harmonized instrumentation. Misty Mountain and Four Sticks suck abysmally.
I'd probably give it a 9 (13) Instead of the 9 (12) you gave it. I dont hate "Misty Mountain Hop" as brain dead as it is. But I don't like it either. "Four Sticks is kind of pointless but not horrible. The rest of the songs are great. Stairway to Heaven is probably the best song of all time.
Sittinger, Brian D (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/21/01)
Yep, I have heard every song from this album on the radio. Of course, this was after I bought the tape version of this album. (BTW, with the exception of Zep III (on CD), my entire Zep collection of studio records (excluding Coda, which I'm still not sure I want to buy,) consists of all tapes. One of these days I'll "upgrade" to CD's after I run out of ideas for bands to listen to next...)
Time has mellowed my perception toward this album. I originally bought this album (5 years ago), since I was curious about "Stairway to Heaven." This sounds strange, but I rarely heard it on the radio (Have things changed...!). I thought this was the greatest record for quite some time. Actually, I deceived myself.
However, it is still a great album. The singing in "The Battle of Evermore" grates on my nerves (I was more tolerant back then). "Four Sticks" is completely forgettable. "Misty Mountain Hop" is so-so, depending on my mood at the time. As for the rest, awesome, regardless of how much it is overplayed to death. "Black Dog" offers a great riff along with all those "acapella(?)" breaks. (I still don't have BBC Sessions; maybe I'll cheap, but I will get it one of these days!) "Rock and Roll" is thoroughly enjoyable for all of its energy. But, "When the Levee Breaks" is my personal favorite, good atmosphere (via drums, guitar, and harmonica) and devastating slide solos (play it at high volume for maximal effect!). For this album, a solid 8 out of 10 for now. (Maybe a low 9 on a good day...)
hey, just wanted to pointlessly point out that the riff on "Misty Mountain Hop" is played on a distorted electric piano.
Nathan Schulz (isrpgmaker.hotmail.com) (1/26/04)
I agree with you with regards to the album, other than your opinion on "Rock and Roll." "Rock and Roll" is filled with predictable ostenatos in bass and guitar parts and a technically unimpressive and simplistic vocal section.
Langas de los Langas (putolangas.hotmail.com) (12/31/05)
Why does everybody hate "Misty Mountain Hop"? I found it funny, original and moving, an interesting transitional song which changes completely the mood of the record (for good, after the seriousness of Stairway to Heaven).
Oh, by the way, I can't, simply CAN'T agree with your choice for the best song; as much as you love When The Levee Breaks (it's true the band sounds really together), it simply can't be compared to Stairway. In fact, no other Zep song (or any song from any other group) can. Stairway To Heaven is a classical rock masterpiece. It is THE song. I know, it's been played sooooo many times that maybe it has lost its impact, but that doesn't minimize its greatness at all. It's like your choosing Enter Sandman as best song in the album Metallica (c'mon, man! Nothing Else Matters is also there, remember?).
This album is what Led Zeppelin is all about!
Now the first album was blues, the second one metal, the third one folk and this one is a combination of all three.
All 8 songs rule on here. (even Misty Mountain Hop so there) We've got the blues (Black Dog, When The Levee Breaks) Metal (Rock and Roll, Misty Moutain Hop, Four Sticks) and folk (The Battle Of Evermore and Going To California)
and of course the Stairway To Heaven. 10(15)
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (05/13/09)
Led Zeppelin being one of the most famous bands cannot be disliked with impunity. So many people, not wanting to look like cultural barbarians, pick either IV or Houses of the Holy as their favourite LZ album. The reason for IV is clear: it contains LZ's most famous song plus three completely harmless ones. Led Zeppelin becomes pretty inoffensive to ears used to middle of the road stuff.
Misty Mountain Hop is plainly stupid. The main riff consists of five descending notes repeated over and over again. The vocal melody is so simple, as far as it's there, that AC/DC would be ashamed. The predictable form does not help either. An interval of 25 years - I gave it a new chance a couple of weeks ago - did not change my opinion one iota.
Going to California is essentially a remake of That's the Way and has the same defect. Fortunately it is two minutes shorter, which is still at least two minutes too long.
Four Sticks is not that bad, but not good either. It somehow manages to go my ear in and out without delay.
Stairway to Heaven is not the best LZ song ever. It's main defect is again repetitiveness. In the first part, with no less than 8 musically identical verses, I struggle to keep my attention upright. Fortunately the band does not play it as slowly as they would a year later, so I can sit through it. Still it remains a serious weakness. The other two parts are (very) good and so are the other four songs, though When the Levee Breaks balances on the verge of being a drag. There is just enough development to keep it on the safe side.
Ross Dryer (dryerross.yahoo.com) (01/13/13)
I am so sick of everybody saying this album is overrated. Well, maybe it is; but doesn't everyone enjoy the heck out of it anyway? For some reason, this one feels to me like a "concept", or at least a "related", album. I don't have any real reasoning for this, but I guess it's the awesome production, the album cover, the "The Hermit" painting, the four symbols, the fact that the first side ends with a "heavenly" piece and the second ends with an "apocalyptic" one, the general mystical feel all throughout, etc.
I agree with you that "Four Sticks" is almost completely forgettable, but I like the riff, even though it's repeated four billion times, and the drumming is really cool, and the synth passage is at least interesting, and it's fun to hear Robert go through a complete sex change at the end. Kinda wish there was a melody, though. I don't even remember what that song is about!
About "Misty Mountain Hop". This one used to be my least favorite Zeppelin song, but I've found it to be so bad as to be hilarious. That riff wins me over just by being played on electric piano ALONG WITH electric guitar, even if it's one of the simplest riffs I've heard in my life. And that stupid Eastern mantra thingy where everything falls apart and the shrapnel stabs my ears ("Wal- kin'-in-the-park-jus'-the-o-ther-day-ba-by...) combines so horridly with the ear-piercing counterpart ("...and WHADAYA...WHADAYA THINK I SA-AAAAAWWWWW!"). The worst part, of course, is when Robbie goes like, "...and BABY BABY BABY do ya LI-I-I-I-IKE it..." and his voice breaks to pieces on "like". Gosh, this is one awful song. But the groove, for me, is really cool, and the guitar solo's decent.
"Black Dog" is an excellent song. I actually think the production is awesome here; but the problem is probably that I have yet to hear the live version. Have you heard Weird Al's "Trapped in the Drive-Thru"? Not only is the video awesome, but a sample of "Black Dog" is in it, and it's so perfect. Fun stuff, even if I can't tell what Robbie's yelling about at all.
"Rock and Roll", the most generically titled song in history, completely does its title justice. And the drumming is awesome. Isn't it?
Then there's "The Battle of Evermore". Gosh, I LOOOOOOVE this song. I adore the little mandolin groove, and yeah, Robert's and Sandy's voice sound great together. Although I must say, I always thought it was just Robbie singing twice, once normal and once after rehab... I can't get enough of it, and no stupid pretentious lyrics are gonna ruin it for me like they ruined it for Starostin.
And "Stairway". And "When the Levee Breaks". I'm not going to say any more on these, because you've said all about Levee and Starostin's said all about Stairway that I want to say. All-time great songs, these are, and that'll never change.
Finally, there's "Going to California". This song is gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. Isn't it a country song? Isn't it? Nah, it's way more beautiful and moving than the entire genre put together. My favorite part is probably the bit where Robbie (who does a really great job on the song, by the way) goes all echoey and "miserable", you know, the part that ends with "...I might be sin-king..."
And since when are "Carry On Wayward Son" and "American Pie" NOT among the greatest songs ever? Oh, wait, "Son" steals its main "dark" riff from Journey's "I'm Gonna Leave You", and "American Pie" is mainly a lyrics-over-melody type of song. Those lyrics are incredible, though. Good songs.
Best song: No Quarter
It's tough to say what exactly happened, but for album number five, Led Zeppelin decided to make an album completely unlike anything they'd made before. I don't think it's necessarily that the band was looking to become more diverse as a whole; were that the case, they would likely have made further "experimental" albums subsequent to this, whereas they immediately went back to "basics" on their next album. It's possible that the band had looked around and seen that prog-rock was the big fad of the day and wanted to try its hand at it, but whatever happened, the band pushed itself in directions for this album that it would never pursue again.
For the first three tracks, this seems like one of the best things that the band ever did. The opening track, "The Song Remains the Same," sounds very much like the band trying to do a Yes song (don't laugh; what do you think the band was listening to in 1972, the hey-day of British prog rock?), and I think they do a pretty good job of it. I can actually see somebody disliking it for much the same reasons that somebody would dislike a mid-70's Yes rocker ("Roundabout" or "Siberian Khatru," for instance); it doesn't have any real, "tangible" emotional kick to it, and it's relatively lacking in "conventional" structure (though I wouldn't say it has none; there is a melody buried in all of the ruckus, and the acceleration near the end just seems like the perfect capstone to the song). Personally, though, I think it just sounds amazingly cool, and that's enough; the layers upon layers of speedy ringing electric guitars give a sound unlike anything else in the Zeppelin catalogue, and Plant's sped-up vocal delivery is at least novel enough not to irritate it me as much as it might some others. And man, I might just be a sucker for little cool moments like this in general, but I'll be hornswaggled if that "da-da-da da-da-da DA da-da-da da-da da-daa..." part in the middle doesn't grab me every time.
Up next is the utterly gorgeous ballad "Rain Song," featuring what has to be considered one of the best (if not the best) uses of mellotron among all hard rock and heavy metal bands of that era. There isn't really any melody, just a lot of acoustic strumming overlayed with electric guitar and various keyboards, but as a mood piece, it's utterly incredible. Heck, even Bonzo exercises delicate restraint and care (except for the "climactic" part, where he starts hitting hard as usual), and the end result is a track that really has no parallels (that I'm aware of) in classic rock. The following "Over the Hills and Far Away," on the other hand, has some resemblance to "Ramble On" in its feel and acoustic/electric mix, but it's far superior, with a playful acoustic opening and a terrific minimalistic solo within.
So after three tracks, it seems like Led Zeppelin branching out is one of the better decisions in the history of rock music; the band really sounds like it can do just about anything at this point ... and then they completely blow it over the next three tracks. "The Crunge" has some humor value, but as an earnest funk number, it's an utter travesty. To say Plant is obnoxious on this track is to say nothing, and the band is incredibly stiff in backing him up. Give me the Stones and "Hot Stuff" any day over this tripe. Then, flipping over to side two, we get "Dancing Days," which I've always hated and always will hate. I originally made a sloppy remark that the song is in a hideous minor key, but I was appropriately corrected; what hasn't changed, though, is that both the rhythm track and Plant's vocals on the song hurt me like a cluster headache (a pain that can best be compared to a giant icicle stabbed through my eye-socket). And then there's "D'yer Maker," which is one of the lamest attempts at reggae I've ever heard, and inexplicably the song from the album that seems to get the most airplay (it's things like this that explain why I completely swore off listening to classic rock radio). Gee, guys, thanks for offsetting one of the best three-song stretches in your catalogue with one of the worst three-song stretches in your catalogue; these are the sorts of things that result in you only getting a 3/5 rating from me (because this matters so much to them).
Fortunately, the band is at least nice enough to follow this string of futility with one of the best songs they'd ever do, the Viking epic "No Quarter." I actually once disliked it, mostly because of the vocals (for some reason, I always ended up picturing Kermit the Frog singing when I listened to it), but I was a moron. The song is a fantastic, dark, mythical sounding piece, with everything you could want out of such a number. The ominous, muffled vocals and the growling, menacing guitar riff are amazing, but it's really the keyboards that make the song (Jones again). Somehow, everything just comes together, and I just can't help but think of a giant viking ship coming out of the mist in all its silent power and glory. There's wind, there's water, and more than anything there's cold. It would actually get even better live, strangely enough, but this version is just jaw-dropping.
And finally, there's "The Ocean," which lots of people love but I only sorta like in this incarnation (the middle a capella section is the best part, as far as I'm concerned). In summary, then, there are four great tracks, one okay song, and three I'd just as soon never hear again. Truth be told, I probably shouldn't give this more than an 8 or 9 (come on, I could live without ever hearing half the tracks on here again), but then again, the best songs tend to be really awesome (and longer than the bad ones), so I guess an A is fine for it. I can understand loving it (I adored it at one point before I realized I hated "D'yer Maker" and "Dancing Days"), but that's not really a sentiment I can completely share.
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
Houses of the holy.... the crunge is awesome...i like dancin' days and what they do with the minors...and there isn't that much overdubbing in the song remains the same, it's just that on one of the tracks he uses a 12string, but other than rainsong, the crunge, dancing days, and no quarter i can't say a lot for the album...i'm not a big ocean fan or a fan of TSRTS...the guitar is kinda lame on the studio...of course live it's awesome :)
Jon Greiman (homer.imsa.edu)
As for Dancing Days being in "some horrendous minor key", may I remind you that an overwhelming majority of classic rock is written in minor keys. Hotel California, Smoke on the Water, Stairway to Heaven, Dream On, Layla are a few songs that come to mind. Remind me later and I'll come up with a bigger list once I'm back at home.
(author's note): This is a good point - minor keys are one of the most effective mood creaters in rock music. However, I still contend that their particular choice here, and the way it is arranged, make it virtually unlistenable. Just my opinion, of course. (a couple of days later):
Okay, so I was sitting here at home thinking about how to prove you wrong
on your musical analysis of Dancing Days without actually having a copy
of the song in any form. And it dawned on me, I have a guitar book with
the first 5 albums on it. So I happened to make a tally of what each
song was. Granted, I didn't spend more than a couple minutes on each
one, so I'm probably off by a little, but here's the totals.
Blues - 18
Minor - 8
Modal - 8
Major - 8
So I guess I was wrong in my estimate of how little was major, but
Dancing Days is in fact in major. Granted, there are occasional
accidentals to emphasize the tritone, which is what's confusing you, but
for the most part it's in major. And none of the other major ones stay
completely in the key signature in them, other wise it would be too
Just my $.02
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
This, to me, is one of the two or three greatest rock albums of all time. The four tracks that you spoke highly of are indeed the best on the album (No Quarter perhaps being Zep's best ever), but you neglected The Ocean, a great riff-rocker and a magnificent album-closer, and I think that Dancing Days is a great rock song as well. D'yer Maker and The Crunge are a bit weaker, but I find them both quite enjoyable in a silly sort of way. I really can't find anything to complain about here.
This is the best Zep album ever, with Zep 1 right behind it. Its not bluesy at all. And 5 songs were huge hits ("Song Remains the Same", "D'Yer Maker", "Dancing Days", "Over the Hills and Far Away", " The Ocean") and they all rule! Why does everyone hate "Dancing Days" all of a sudden? The lead guitar works perfectly. "D'yer Maker" may be stupid but it is so damn catchy. "Song Remains the Same" is one of the best songs in the Zep catalog. Yeah it sounds like a Yes ripoff. But the guitar rules. "The Crunge" is a stupid but catchy as hell take on funk. I don't really like "The Rain Song" but "No Quarter" is awsome! 10 (14)
Sittinger, Brian D (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/21/01)
This album shows Led Zeppelin at their most diverse. This diversity may make one seem the quality on the album is erratic, when that is not the case. Good point about "The Song Remains the Same" having a prog format; there is truth to this! A good album opener, with great playing, and Plant's voice being "modified". Then, we have "Rain Song": very pleasant, though a bit long. It's still quite enjoyable. Then, "Over the Hills and Far Away": a mix of acoustic and hard rock; well done. Finally, we have "The Crunge". It's quite wierd, funky, and horns!? I feel indifferent toward this song at this point. Then, the second side. "Dancing Days" is ok, though repetitious (understatement of the year...). I find "D'yer Maker" quite a hilarious take on reggae. I enjoy every moment of it. Then comes "No Quarter", the biggest plesant surprise on this album. Absolutely spooky (congrats to John Paul Jones for this), along with great guitar tones throughout (almost ambient). Finally, for those who dig good riffs, "The Ocean" more than does the job. It even has an acapella section, and a "jam" at the end. This album earns a solid 9 out of 10.
HA HA! I can totally see your Kermit the Frog thing on "No Quarter". Still a greatly eerie song though. And this would be my favorite Led Zeppelin album, for reasons I don't feel like having the energy to go in detail about. I do agree with you in that "Dy'er Maker" sucks (why do so many love this song?) But the rest is as good as Led Zeppelin got (with some of In Through the Out Door equalling it, although not as consistent.) "The Song Remains the Same" is probably my favorite most days, but other days is "Dancing Days." I must applaud Joe Grieman for beating me to the punch of beating you to a pulp (sorry, getting a little corny) about it not being in a minor key. It's definately major, but it looked like he was ruling out modal, and that's the first thing I thought of when of the thought of analyzing it. I forget which mode it is, but I think it starts with the letter "e" (sorry, getting a little trivial.) But anyway, since you mentioned Plant's singing of the title line over the chords, I was thinking maybe it hurts your ears because it sounds a little detuned. And that's one of my favorite things about it. Oh, well, one man's ceiling is another man's floor.
On "Dancing Days," if it had been written in a major key, it probably would sound like the Osmonds or some pop bullshit like that, and yes, some of the most effective songs in rock have been written in minor keys. Radiohead is probably my favorite band, and almost all of their songs are in minor keys.. just my 2 cents on that song.
Plant's vocals are somewhat inferior... When he hits those high notes on the song remains the same, I'm like "and this is the same guy who sang on Dazed and Confused 4 or 5 years earlier?" It's annoying, and pseudo-Axl Rose at his worst (GNR's the spaghetti incident). The intro is very energetic though, so I don't entirely hate it.
the rain song is beautiful, though some idiot at Rolling Stone said that Jones' use of the piano, melltron, organ and synthesizers were horrendous, but to me it makes the song very emotional and of course Page's guitar work never fails to amaze me. And Plant's vocals do not suck.
Over the hills and far away is a great song.. I always enjoyed the intro riff .. Again, Plant w/ the screeching, not as bad as TSRTS, but he still needed some work.
The Crunge is terrible, at least I think it is. This is easily the worst song on the album.. ever READ the lyrics? Just Plant rambling about some girl "not mentioning any names" and how "she walks and she talks." Zeppelin never had the strongest lyrics ever, but this takes the cake on the worst Zeppelin lyrics, and probably the worst Zeppelin song (and just for the record, I like Misty Mountain Hop for some reason). And Jones' synth.. well... it really was annoying.
Dancing Days.. I love the song, and STP's acoustic cover of it.. but I think I went over that
D'yer Maker... a futile attempt at reggae, true. But not as bad as the crunge.. in fact I enjoy it every so often. It's very catchy if you ask me
I'll agree, the highest point on HotH is No Quarter. I love how ominous Plant's vocals are, as well as Page's guitar. But Jones makes the most impact with his synths and piano movements in the middle.. never listen to No Quarter at 2 AM... the vibe of it, especially the middle section, will keep u up all nite it's that eerie.... at least for me it did (but I'm an insomniac anyways.)
And The Ocean is good, but unfortuantely w/ inadequate vocals, except that a cappela part is pretty damn good. And Bonham's drumming kicks ass. He was able to keep up w/ the tempo changes, and definitely the best drumming on this album, not to say that his drumming sucked.. cuz it didn't. But his drumming stands out on this track particularly, unlike most songs where either Page or Jones stood out the most. Overall a low 9 out of 10, because it was such a stylistic departure, and proves that Led Zeppelin could expand their musical horizons.. I still like Physical Graffiti better for some reason (maybe for more personal reasons).
This album to me resembles III. Now of course there is some bad stuff, The Crunge (Which to me sounds like an outtake from Herbie Hancock's album Future Shock.) and D'yer Maker are weak and Dancing Days is ok. I don't know why they took the title track and saved it for Physical Grafitti later on. The Ocean is pretty good and the Beastie Boys stole that riff for She's Crafty.
However the first three songs are the main reason to get this album and my favorite is Over The Hills and Far Away. No Quarter is a great one too something that the band hadn't really done before. 8(12)
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (05/13/09)
Houses of the Holy is the only Led Zep album I despise without reservation. My ears are used to atonal music - Roslavets, Ustvolskaya, the Violin Concerto of Alban Berg. Still Dancing Days never fails to hurt my ears. It literally causes pain. The three best songs are performed better on the album The Song Remains the Same. I especially dislike Plants distorted voice on No Quarter again. Over the Hills, except for the nice acoustic intro, is highly stereotypal in every respect. The Crunge is a failed attempt to a genre that should be left to Funkadelic. The stereotypical stomper The Ocean (except for the acceleration at the end) would have been a weakling on I, II or III - here it shines. The only song I think special is Dyer Maker. Sure, the elements - Page's riff and solo, Plant's melody, Bonham's echoy drumming and even Jones' bass line - are stupid. Still these form a unity, complement each other and never get in each others way. So I prefer to regard and enjoy it as a very clever parody on reggae.
I got this album 32 years ago and at no time have I ever rated the opening title better than something to be endured. To me its boring and confused. Usually I would start the album by dropping the needle on the "Rain Song", which has always been a guilty pleasure mood piece.
"Over the Hills" is listenable, but nothing special. "Crunge" is amusing and somewhat interesting. Same with "Dancing Days" and "Dyer Maker".
Generally, I find the music interesting. But Plant is unbearably pompous or just an over talkative stoner who can't resist sharing his fascinating insights with the listeners. Check out Plant's banter between songs on any Zip bootleg. Usually, I listen to it just to laugh at him.
The last 2 songs are both great. There is an emotional resonance on "No Quarter" that is nowhere else save the "Rain Song". And "Ocean" is just so much fun and takes the song to unexpected places while being completely enjoyable. Rocking ear candy.
Best song: No Quarter
The soundtrack to a really horrible movie which is half concert footage and half fantasy crap, many fans like to pretend this never existed. This is understandable, of course; by 1973 or so, Plant's voice had turned into this horribly whiny, thin shadow of its former self (I'm telling you, too much drugs will ruin your vocal chords). Plus, there's a LOT more "wanking" by the band then on their studio releases; Page's goal is no longer to make the solos interesting, but rather to just show off as much of his skill whether the listener is ready or not.
The thing is, though, it's really not that bad. Hey, it's not bad at all! I expected to hate it when I bought it, but I really don't at all. Yes, Plant is obnoxious beyond words in places, but other than that, there's not much to complain about. You see, although the performances will do all they can to test the listener's attention span, ("Dazed and Confused" is 26:53, 4 others are more than ten minutes long), they really are quite tight and solid. Besides, I listen to Yes: I can sit through the half hour Yesshows version of "Ritual" no problem, so ten minutes is nothing to me. Plus, it just goes to show what an incredible guitar player Mr. Page really is. Except for that lengthy part in the middle of "Dazed and Confused" where he tortures his guitar with the fiddlestick, every second of his playing is jaw-droppingly good. And, I will admit, even the fiddle-stick part looks really cool in the movie.
And they mostly do a good job with the song selection. Now, I couldn't stand the original "Moby Dick," and as such this 12:47 version annoys the heck out of me, but other than that I'm pleased. The opening "Rock and Roll" pulsates energy, and Page's solo, while a little sloppy, still does sound terrific. "Celebration Day" is slightly better than the original, and while "The Song Remains the Same" is weaker here than its studio counterpart, "Rain Song" is just as lovely. John Paul Jones was really quite a talented man, being able to recreate the romantic feeling of the original so well in a live setting.
After the aforementioned "Dazed and Confused" takes up all of side two, we move onto "No Quarter," which RULES. Somehow, they managed to make the track trippier than before (Jones) and harder than the original (Page). And Jimmy's solo, from 6:00 to 9:00 (especially 8:15 to 8:45), is simply outstanding. Even Plant puts on a good performance! Great job guys! Next, we get "Stairway to Heaven," and although Plant's vocal asides get really annoying really quickly, there's no faulting the guitar and bass playing here. And Page's solo rules, far surpassing the original on the studio.
After the snooze fest of "Moby Dick" (the riff still rules, and the solo still blows), we close out matters with a terrific "Whole Lotta Love" medley. The thing about Led Zep is that in their live performances, they were always known as a terrific improvisational band, and this is a good demonstration. Now, if you just wish they'd stick to the original piece, you'll be disappointed, but I think blues medleys are neat, so there. Besides, everyone needs some "golden-oldies" in their diet once in a while, and you may as well get them in the middle of other songs rather than going out and wasting money on a CD that contains them. Or something.
In case you haven't been able to tell, I like this album much more than not. Now, it's not PERFECT by any means, and nothing could ever get me to consider it one of the greatest live albums ever. It also serves to emphasize in my mind what a fantastic live band The Who were, since while this is good, Live at Leeds and Isle of Wight are both about 100 times better. But regardless, it's good. If you like lots and lots of guitar solos, that is.
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
the soundtrack first of all the movie kicks ass....the fantasy scencs give us a sense of almost what's going on in the band member's minds when they play...i think it's beautiful..."most fans like to pretend this never existed" OK my friend, you are on the wrong drugs...because the ones you're on make you stupid, and the ones you want to be on are the ones that make you sit back and take in zeppelin, and be fascinated with the imagery of the fantasy scenes. when you talk about plant's lyrics, define "obnoxious"....
(author's note): "DOES ANYBODY REMEMBER LAUGHTER???"
the bow solo rocks....and the "whole lotta love ditty" is more than showing off...it's one of the few places where the band is truly in a cohesive groove again (again meaning since zep 1)....the rock and roll solo is far from sloppy...he plays that differently every time...i found a few bootlegs from some other shows on the same tour...the major structure is the same...but none of the notes really stay the same...he kinda makes it up as he goes...it gives a "sloppy" appearence, but it really takes a lot of skill to pull it off, and do it differently every time...and in your whole lotta love critique, "the whole lotta love ditty" is not improve...they threw that together in 69...you should know that from BBC disk 2
(author's note): First, Dave, the movie and its accompanying
soundtrack, regardless of your own opinion, are NOT for the most part fan
favorites. For a good, entertaining rockumentary, turn to The
Kids Are Alright. The childish, banal pseudo-mystical crap is simply
abominable, and while you may disagree, I know for a fact that most fans
don't particularly care for it.
As far as the actual album, I also know for a fact that the band itself
has distanced itself from TSRTS, mainly because they felt that
their actual recorded performances were weak. Meanwhile, novices are put
off by the lengthy wankfests (which they are, Dave - not that wankfests
are necessarily bad), while advanced fans prefer 'better' material. As far
as I go, I'm content to put this on once in a while, soak in some amazing
soloing techniques, and have my mind blown away by the amazing No
And third, yes, the Whole Lotta Love ditty can be found in a fuller
version on BBC, but you know as well as I do that the one here is a
good deal different. Different timing of when the songs come in, as well
as the fact that they throw in a couple of lines from The Crunge.
As far as the actual album, I also know for a fact that the band itself has distanced itself from TSRTS, mainly because they felt that their actual recorded performances were weak. Meanwhile, novices are put off by the lengthy wankfests (which they are, Dave - not that wankfests are necessarily bad), while advanced fans prefer 'better' material. As far as I go, I'm content to put this on once in a while, soak in some amazing soloing techniques, and have my mind blown away by the amazing No Quarter.
And third, yes, the Whole Lotta Love ditty can be found in a fuller version on BBC, but you know as well as I do that the one here is a good deal different. Different timing of when the songs come in, as well as the fact that they throw in a couple of lines from The Crunge.
Jon Greiman (homer.imsa.edu)
And yes, the violin is annoying. He's a guitarist, not a violinist. I guess that's it for now as I haven't had much exposure to anything after PG, or even including it really. Go ahead and put some of this on the website if you want, but you'll have to do a shit-pot full of breaking it up, and that sounds like too much effort for me.
(author's note): Pah, never underestimate how bored I can be.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
This is better than most people give it credit for, but between Page's production values and incessant overdubing of guitar tracks I really don't think it possible for Zep live to equal Zep in the studio. But this version of No Quarter is worth the price of the album by itself. Don't waste your money on the movie.
Matti Alakulju (matti.alakulju.peterstar.ru) (12/21/01)
In my opinion, the guitar solo of No Quarter here is the peak of Led's career. But isn't there something familiar in the opening guitar theme? Go grab Live at the Fillmore East by Jimi Hendrix and listen to Machine Gun. Somewhere midway through you can hear it. And it was recorded at New Year -70!
Decent, if not spectacular live album overall. "No Quarter" is easily the highlight of this album, giving a viable alternative to an already great studio version. Some of the Vikingness is gone, but Jimmy Page makes up for it, and Robert Plant is in good voice (1. Complared to much of the rest of this album, 2. No Kermit the Frog here!). And the 26-minute song is entertaining, though something I don't want to reexperience too often... 8 out of 10.
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (06/13/09)
The very first live recording of Led Zeppelin is often heavily criticized. I don't think that's always justified. Sure, forget the trio Stairway to Heaven, Moby Dick and Whole lotta Love. They don't work for various reasons. Also Dazed and Confused is way too long. Long live the computer, I have removed the middle part, where the bowing begins until just before the recapitulation. Page's soloing after his bowing is not bad in itself, but notice how Jones has to play the same theme for 8 minutes, the poor guy. That riff in itself is great, but to be found back in the short 6+ minutes versions as well. So for me somewhat less than 15 minutes remain. The last verse is a bit messy and also lacks the melancholy and dispair of the first ones. The coda is immaculate though and even contains a short and great Bonham solo. The average listener will not notice due to exhaustion of course. Finally I want to point at the slow minimalistic introduction. Do less, express more is the motto, which always works. This is Led Zeppelin at its very best.
No Quarter is also a peak in the entire catalogue. It is often said that Plants voice became worse with the years and its true. Both in No Quarter and in Dazed and Confused he compensates with more expression and that is fine with me. I mean, even here Plants skills are not as limited as those of Bob Dylan, who essentially is not a singer, musician or composer, but a poet. Dylan recites, Plant sings except for all the annoying babies and suck its. Back to No Quarter; it contains perhaps the best solo's done by both Jones and Page, so it might be very well my favourite song of the band.
Rock'n'roll and Celebration Day get completely different arrangements. Rain Song drags a bit but is still good. Not many people appreciate The Song Remains the Same (the song). I do. I like it how Page and Jones invent variations on a not so remarkable riff. It is also one of the occasions were Led Zep deviates from the tradional verse-chorus form. They still, unlike Yes, maintain a strong feel of unity. I could do without the push push though.
So, despite general consensus, I prefer TSRtS to HtWWW. timharrington12.gmail.com (10/13/13)
To me its just another hard rock live album. I am more interested in the movie. I'm glad that it exists as a document of live Zep that is pretty decent quality.
The thing that amazes me about their performance is how small the stage is and that it is pure Zep without extra musicians or distracting special effects. Their performance style is akin to a band playing at a nightclub. Whenever its on TV I will watch a song or two.
Cameren Lee (cameren_lee.yahoo.com) (01/13/14)
On the subject of Plant's annoying vocal asides, the first time I saw the performance here of 'Stairway to Heaven" I had the idea for a comedy sketch in which Robert Plant dabbles in lounge singing and makes asides and goes on tangents based on legendary Zeppelin stories whenever he performs one of the band's songs. Any potential?
On the film itself, 'fan favorite' is a stretch. If it is one, it's because it was the only concert film available for decades. The gig itself isn't their best - I actually think it doesn't really 'click' until SIBLY, and even then it's not the band's peak, not by a long shot.
However, I do find the opening mob scene very entertaining, and the fantasy sequences are to this viewer chock full of unintentional comedy. That terrible mask in JPJ's "No Quarter" bit had me laughing for five minutes. Plant's portion would go very well with a MST3K-style riffing based in Middle-earth, Highlander, and The Princess Bride. And last but not least, Jimmy Page becomes both Gandalf and the Star Child from 2001 in a natural setting that wouldn't have been out of place in Werner Herzog's (1979) Nosferatu remake!
That being said, I'm really sorry if I sound like I'm saying you should like it. How The West Was Won blows it out of the water. (My grandfather was actually at the LA Forum show used for that release!)
Clifford Jay (CliffinAZ.aol.com) (08/13/14)
I'd actually categorize The Song Remains the Same not as an average performance, but as a performance captured when Led Zeppelin was in decline on many levels in terms of their live shows. Even in How the West was Won, Plant's voice was showing considerable decline from '71 (although nowhere near as bad as it was a year later).
I'd say that if you want to see an absolutely legendary Led Zeppelin live performance in terms of drive, intensity, and every member of the band being at the absolute peak of their abilities (DEFINITELY including Plant), check out Royal Albert Hall from 1970. It's on the DVD box set and also can be found easily on Youtube on it's entirety (and with nice video quality considering the year). True, the material was limited at that point to the first two albums, but the performance is just amazing. To me it's head-and- shoulders above How the West was Won, and puts TSRTS to absolute shame. For this performance alone, I'd love to see you do a review of the DVD box set (although there's other nice stuff on there as well, including an acoustic set from '75 and some very early live performances).
Best song: The Rover (ok, Kashmir as well)
And here is yet another Led Zeppelin album that I definitely like but find gruesomely overrated. There are many good songs on here, and the playing is terrific (in fact, this is probably the only album, besides the debut and Presence, where I would rate Bonzo's drumming as "great"), but there's just absolutely no way this should've been a double album. Indeed, the best material on here is quite wonderful, but ... well, you know you have a problem when the two longest tracks on an album, which combine to be about 20 minutes in length, are almost entirely boring (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). Yes, I'm speaking about the boys' cover of "In My Time of Dying" and their original "In the Light." The former actually starts pretty well, with a neat slide guitar-based melody and some neato vocal counterpoint by Plant. Unfortunately, after about 4 minutes, it turns into this loud, heavy, and totally mind-numbing jam that goes on for another 7 minutes. UGGGH! Meanwhile, the 8:44 "In the Light" is something I find dull beyond the ability of words to express. I hate it hate it hate it. It tries to be creepy, I guess, but all it manages to do is make me feel totally sick. It's weak, it's repetitive, it's boring, and it's repetitive. These two tracks were enough to knock this album down from a solid C to a weakish A.
Now, there is even more blatantly sub-par (and sometimes outright fillerish) material than those two tracks on here, but that's not the only thing which is amiss here. You see, the feeling I get listening to this album is that it is quite obvious that they were no longer able to set the musical trends, but rather had to follow those laid out by others. They had mostly moved away from the blues into the land of generic 70's heavy-metal and hard rock, with a touch of Aerosmithy funkiness. Not that I dislike early Aerosmith or anything, but ... that's not Led Zeppelin. Although there are some acoustic numbers on here (mostly outtakes, though; how else could they fill up a double album?) it's mostly just one ok heavy rocker after another. But it's not even just that. It's that most of the album sounds stale, for lack of a better term. The debut honestly sounds as fresh and timeless today as it ever did, but this album ... I just feel no inspiration or true creative energy in much of the album (well, except on "Kashmir"). But again, this is probably just me.
Parts of the album rule, though. Side two, for instance; there are only three tracks, but they're all great. The swinging "Houses of the Holy," a pop song disguised as a rocker by the heavy chords, is wonderfully catchy, and a fine addition to the album. The disco-like keyboard-driven "Trampled Underfoot "is absolutely hilarious, but I don't mean that in a bad way. I can't imagine it took very long to write it (especially since it bears more than a slight resemblance to "Superstition"), but I don't really care. There's something else about the song, too; everytime I hear the song, the rhythm makes me want to start singing "Gallows Pole" along to the melody. And don't tell me that I'm nuts; on the live DVD's they released in 2003, there's a performance of "Trampled," and sure enough, during the extended jamming over the main theme, Plant starts singing the lyrics to "Gallows Pole" without changing the meter. Back on topic, the majestic "Kashmir" is glorious, and that ascending violin line is one of the most perfectly written hypnotic chord sequences I've ever heard. And, strangely enough, I don't consider it the least bit overlong; the lyrics are neat, Plant actually sounds good for a change (a rarity on this album, to be sure) and every second actually seems to have a purpose.
There's other good stuff too, such as the fine first two tracks. "Custard Pie" is one of those crunchy generic hard rockers I was talking about, but the riff is still a good one, and you won't get it out of your head for a while after listening to it. Meanwhile, "The Rover" is probably my favorite song on the whole album. Somehow, the thinness of Plant's voice manages to really work with the roughness of the tune, and the interplays between the vocals, guitar and drums are very good. Oh, and I'm a big fan of Jimmy's acoustic solo "Bron-yr Aur." Its placement after "In the Light" is especially wise; it gives me something to look forward to during that piece of dreck.
Disc two has some more good stuff, though it's spread out a bit. My favorite of this half (aside from "Bron Yr-Aur") is actually one of the least known: even if the vocal melody reminds me painfully of the vocal melody of "Monkey Man," off Let it Bleed, I can't help liking "Night Flight." There's just something so charming and warm about the song, mostly from the effective organ underpinning it but also from the way it manages to be surprisingly understated and all the more effective for it. A couple of fan favorites (then again, aren't most Zeppelin tracks fan favorites?) aren't tracks I really love, but they're still pretty decent. "Down by the Seaside" has a decently whimsical (by Zep standards) main section, with a moderately surprising bit of darkness in the middle, and while I don't find either of those parts brilliant by the band's standards (the dark section seems out of place, too), the song is still basically a keeper. "Ten Years Gone" has a quiet and forboding introduction, but the bulk of the song seems stuck in an uncomfortable middle area between being a soft ballad and a light rocker, without really succeeding in either area. Then again, I've had it argued to me that this uncomfortable ambiguity is essentially what the song's about, and while I don't always buy arguments like that, here it seems somewhat reasonable. I'll never love the song, but I can basically like it.
That's about it, though. The band would have done well for itself to release this album as a single LP (it's ironic to me that, when the band finally records an entire LP's worth of material I enjoy, they have to ruin the effect for me by making it a double album), release some of the other stuff on an EP, maybe leave "In My Time ..." for something like Coda, and ditch the rest. Actually ... take disc one, cut out "In My Time" (or at least edit it or SHORTEN IT), throw in "Bron-yr Aur," "Night Flight," maybe "Wanton Song" (another decent heavy guitar jam) or "Ten Years Gone" and voila! A C! As is, though, there's too much friggin material that seems to be there solely for the sake of making this a double album (like, say, the closing "Sick Again," an utterly underwhelming "heavy" rocker). Maybe you enjoy it, but I simply cannot get myself to listen to this whole album in one sitting (unless I'm at work), and I'm somebody who's listened to Yes' Yessongs and ELP's Welcome Back immediately back to back.
Dave Sahota (shivan99.imsa.edu)
PHYSICAL GRAFFITTI again..see my statement about you being on the stupid drugs with regard to you giving it a 7 IN my time of dying is a wonderful song...great transition work..... i'll continue this e-mail later, as pollyx is about to be rebooted
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
Once again I agree with your rating but not with your specific criticisms. I think Ten Years is mind-blowing, a close contestant with No Quarter for Zep's finest. And I never get bored with In My Time. If this had been cut down to one disk, it might have been Zep's best moment. I would have included Custard Pie, The Rover, In My Time, Trampled Underfoot, Kashmir, Bron-Yr-Aur (Page actually can play acoustic well at times; why can't he do this more often?), and Ten Years. There's way too much filler here, and Plant's voice is hideous.
Sittinger, Brian D (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/21/01)
I agree with your review mostly. I must be among the few out there who can sit through the entire improv. section of "In My Time of Dying". However, much of this album is repetitious (the 'cock' rock, esp. the beginning and end of the record). "Houses of the Holy' through "Kashmir" is impressive! Only if this album were cut down to a single album... . 8 out of 10.
My opinions on Zeppelin albums change over time, too. Most of them get worse for me, but this is one that has gotten better. I used to think this album was pretty insonsitent, but now I like almost every song, and I'm not bothered as much as I used to be by the songs I hate, "Boogie With Stu" and "Black Country Woman", although they do still suck ass. As far as arguments, I like "In the Light" because of the lyrics (was John Paul Jones actually a Christian?) and whatever instrument was trying to sound like a vacuum cleaner did a pretty authentic duplication.
I dunno.. for some reason Graffiti has always been my personal favorite Zep album. In some parts I agree with you, but others I don't. I can classify the second CD as having some filler, but the first one is amazing. I don't think that In My Time Of Dying was repetitive at all.. true they do the same things over and over again, but of course I usually put my CD player to "11" and I notice that Bonham's drumming gets heavier and heavier during the 11 minutes, giving it a pulse... It doesn't bore me though.
And, kill me for saying this, but I love "In The Light." OK Jones' keyboards in the intro are somewhat annoying, but I always enjoyed the rest of the song, and although Zeppelin didn't have the best lyrics in the world, I think In The Light probably has some of the best lyrics Zeppelin ever had... That's my 2 cents on that song.
I also find this album to be underrated, compared to ZOSO & II. But I guess we got different feelings on listening to this album. I won't say that you wrote a bad review on the album, because you did back your information up pretty well I must say, but I disagree with it overall.
"John Sarnie, Jr." (jsarnie10.msn.com) (7/23/08)
RULES BECAUSE IT IS THE 6TH ALBUM ,,,,,VERY FEW BAND S THESE DAYS GET PAST THE FIRST ALBUM
Mark Luscombe (dmaf.dmaf.karoo.co.uk) (07/13/09)
Actually my favorite Zeppelin album, cos aged 13 I bought it myself. Up till then Zeppelin was what your mate's older bothers listened to. I always have felt that being a Zep head has been like being part of a special club. Yes we knew they were huge but you didn't have the same easy exposure to them as you didi with glamrock and even Bowie. You had to join the club. So my first listen to my first own bought Zeppelin album remains a major lifetime experience.
I think you can cut either of the two acoustic tracks (BCW or BWS). Night flight and the wanton song maybe could have been an either or choice. But apart from that it is magnificent.
"Mark Nieuweboer" (ismaninb.gmail.com) (05/13/11)
Indeed, back to roots on the first disc and lots of failed experiments on the second one. I think McFerrin misjudges In my Time of Dying. Sure it's not perfect and sure the lengthy second part is to blame. I think McFerrin hasn't identified the problem. See, it's not a jam. Page plays three different riffs, which all are good enough, and invents a few variations as well. The most simple one, two groups of three notes, the first ascending and the second descending, were clearly meant to give Plant room for some angelic vocals. Unfortunately he blows his chance completely, being more obnoxious than ever. But what if he had provided some real singing instead? We would have got a good solo, a vocal melody, another good solo, that same melody again and yet another good solo. OK, the repeated Oh my Jesus would still have sucked (Ronnie James Dio very soon would show how to do that, on stage at the end of Catch the Rainbow), but all in all it would have been a great song.
In the Light is extremely dull. Just compare Jon Lord's introductions on the live versions of Lazy and You fool no One and suddenly Jones is not such a great keyboardist anymore. Fortunately we have No Quarter live to correct this impression.
I like Houses of the Holy, but I like Trampled Underfoot even better. It's my favourite. Both are very catchy and the unusual arrangements are fine. If only all disco were like that. Also remember that disco only would become popular a few years later. For me Kashmir is the overrated song. The first break drags like I don't know what. I mean the part where Plant gets obnoxious once again with his I been flying. Bleh. Cut it please. Granted though, it's about the first song to combine hardrock with eastern sounding rhythms and tonescales, something to inspire Ritchie Blackmore for another ten years or so. Custard Pie is OK, but nothing more; The Rover has extremely stupid monotonous bass playing by Jones during the verses. I'd almost think he's inferior on that instrument as well. Fortunately we have the Lemon Song to correct that wrong idea. Bron-y-Aur is an inferior remake of Black Mountain Side and I didn't like that one too much already.
Down by the Seaside is based on a nice idea - the light-dark contrast, while the dark part has some nice slide playing by Page - but is not convincing in either part. I like Ten Years Gone indeed too while it's certainly no favourite, for similar reasons as McFerrin's. Side four bugs me off. Led Zeppelin imitating the Rolling Stones, a band I'm not particularly fond of (yeah, they had good songs, but my are Satisfaction and Jumping Jack Flash overrated with their generic riffs. Gimme You really got me or Don't let me be misunderstood, please). Let me put it this way. Several years later the Stones would show how to do it with the single Respectable. Nightflight is decent, but certainly not more.
It's a favourite passtime of fans to do suggestions how this could have been a perfect single LP. I don't think it's possible. For me the big problem is that there are only two perfect songs on the album, Houses of the Holy and Trample Underfoot. All the others have defects at least one way or another. So the right solution was to send them back to the studio and do a lot of repair work.
I generally agree with you on this. Its pretty run of the mill with lots of interchangeable filler. "Kashmir" and "In My Time of Dying" are special. The rest is okay. I think if this was a single album it would be pretty good but nothing special.
Best song: Achilles' Last Stand
Eghngn. This is an extremely difficult album to rate. On the one hand, there are some absolutely fantastic, long and epic rockers on here. Also, Plant figured out how to make his vocals really interesting despite the alarming lack of power he now had. Plus, Page is attacking his guitar with all his might; it's not exactly blues wanking, just aggressive, moody guitar parts. Sounds cool, right?
Unfortunately, there are some huge downsides. While four of the seven songs are just terrific, the other three are pretty lame and miserable. The group was continuing its march towards becoming just another generic hard rock/heavy metal band, and the results tend to be hugely disappointing. Indeed, the single "Candy Store Rock," while fast and 'rocking', really could have been written by just about anybody. And "Royal Orleans" and "Hots on for Nowhere" are just awful. It's hard to blame the guys too much, though. Jimmy was a total smackhead by this time, and Plant had recently had a bad car accident which forced him to sing most of this album from a wheelchair. They never really had much in songwriting ability to begin with, and this extra stress really didn't help much.
However, the other four songs are terrific; they still had some of the old magic left. "Achilles' Last Stand," as far as I'm concerned, totally rules for all of its 10 minutes. The riffs kick tons of booty, there are lots of guitar overdubs and some nice solos, Bonham mixes his power with control and precision that I hadn't really felt from him before, and Robbie manages to draw the listener into the piece in a way we haven't heard since, I dunno, "Stairway to Heaven." Next, the electric guitar jam "For Your Life" is irresistably catchy. I really don't know what its secret is; it's very much like the harder pieces one would find on PG, and yet it works better than a lot of them. The guitar-drum interplays (I really really love Bonham's drumming on this track) in the middle are fantastic, and even if the lyrics refuse to stick in your head, Plant still sounds interesting.
After the lame "Royal Orleans," which is supposed to remind the listener of Mardi Gras, I guess, the classic "Nobody's Fault but Mine" opens side two and helps remind the listener that Led Zeppelin was still cool after all. There's great singing by Plant, an AWESOME bass riff, some great solos, and nice drumwork. Yes, it's somewhat repetitious, but it's a catchy, memorable kind of repetitious, not the second half of "In my Time ..." kind of repetitious. Then, after about ten minutes of garbage ("Candy Store Rock" and "Hots on for Nowhere"), we get one final blues number from the finest blues band ever, the lovely "Tea for One." But it's even more than just blues. It has somewhat of a jazzy feel, creating a sense and a mood totally unprecedented on a Led Zeppelin piece. And Plant sounds so honestly sad and depressed, and Jimmy's guitar lines help paint the picture perfectly. A phenomenal conclusion to an erratic album.
So there you are. About 75% great, and about 25% garbage. Of course, if you want, feel free to just skip the bad parts; the album's still about half an hour long, and it's worth every second of your time. And it's the last time we would ever have any semblance of the true Jimmy Page throughout an entire album; I've seen many a commentator refer to this album as "Jimmy Page's last stand," and in many ways, they are right. Enjoy it.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
Your review of this album was dead-on.
Sittinger, Brian D (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/21/01)
You nailed the review on this album dead on!!! This is the hardest Led Zeppelin album for me to sit through from start to finish! Lots of filler, especially "Hots on for Nowhere"! "Achilles' Last Stand", "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and "Tea for One" are the only real reasons to buy this album. 7 out of 10 (maybe that's being a bit too cheritable, maybe not).
This is an extrmely confusing album to rate. "Achilles Last Stand" is good that it makes me think "Oh, Yeah! Presence is a great album! I'll put that one on!" And then by the time I get closer to the end, I'm thinking...."hmmm.....I really miss "Achilles Last Stand." And then again, the other songs are not bad. In fact, some are very good Led Zeppelin songs, like "Nobody's Fault But Mine." But the goodness of them seems overshadowed by the greatness of one of the best Zep songs ever written. Maybe it's just that it doesn't belong on this album. It's kind of like putting a Yes or Genesis song on a Rolling Stones album.
More entertaining than Physical Graffiti. I don't love it, but it is certainly their most intense album to my ears. Thank God its only one disc because there there is a certain sameness to some of the songs where it at times the guitar sounds like a constant reworking of "Black Dog".
"Achilles" is prototypical epic Zeppelin by the numbers. Not a bad thing. "Nobody's Fault" is pretty great all around.
Best song: I'm Gonna Crawl
After the mild disappointment that was Presence, all hell seemed to break loose for the band. A couple of months into their tour, Plant's six-year old son, Karac, died of a stomach infection. Needless to say, this had quite an impact on Robert and the band, and the remainder of the tour was immediately cancelled. Because of this, it was widely speculated that the band would soon break up. After a little more than a year of being apart, though, the band regrouped in late summer, 1978, to work on a new album.
The thing is, though neither Page nor Plant were really in the mood to contribute much in the way of songs. And so, the primary creative force on the album was John Paul Jones. Now, he kept up with current trends very well, and in particular, he was enamored with the New Wave movement. Hence, this album is VASTLY different from anything the band had ever done before. There are lots of pianos and synths, and the songs mostly fall under the category of synth pop or power pop.
So how is it? Well ... it's interesting. The drumwork kinda sucks, Plant is mostly kept low in the mix, so you can't understand a word he's saying, and Jimmy gets very, very few chances to shine. But other than the fact that everything that had ever made the band good is minimized or obliterated, it's a good album. The opening "In the Evening" is quite reminiscient of "In the Light," which you will recall that I absolutely loathed, but I actually kinda like this song. As a hard-rocker, it sucks, but it works perfectly as a creepy, mellow piece. I'm probably crazy, but I think Page's quiet solo in the middle is simply gorgeous, and although the synths might disturb the listener somewhat, if you can get past that, you can enjoy the song plenty. The next piece, a fast, piano number called "South Bound Suarez," is alright; there's no melody to speak of, but it doesn't really suck or anything. Similarly, the following track, "Fool in the Rain," seems really weird as a Led Zeppelin song, but it's fun, gentle, and generally enjoyable (I've never quite gotten George Starostin's rabid hatred of it).
Next, we get the only Page-Plant penned piece of the album, and it's ... odd. It's a country-western number called "Hot Dog." I don't know enough about country music to judge how good of a track it is for the genre, but it seems harmless enough. But it just sounds so weird that it seems that it would have better belonged on Houses of the Holy. It's better than "Dancing Days," that's for sure. Anyways, heading over to side two, we hit the 'epic' "Carouselambra." It took me a few listens to get into it, but I'm depressingly fond of this piece. It sounds like really good video game music! Plus, Page's solo in the middle, although painfully simple, fits the song well, and even the disco/techno ending seems to work. Now go ahead and mock my tastes.
Next, as a contrast to the 'pretentious' piece, we get a nice synth-pop ditty by Plant ("All My Love"), presumably dedicated to his deceased son. It doesn't sound like traditional Led Zeppelin at all, and I'm sure that the old fans of "You Shook Me" were gagging when they heard it, but it's very pretty, and Plant lets his emotions seep through and gives the song that much more oomph.
Now, up to this point, there really hasn't been much at all to remind the listener that this is Led Zeppelin that they're listening to. Fortunately, the guys manage to somewhat remedy that in the closing "I'm Gonna Crawl." Yes, there's a synth background, and it's not really blues, but other than those minor details, it could've fit on any of their "classic" albums easily. Despite all of the wear and tear on his larynx, Plant manages to pull out one more vintage workout, and for the first time in a while, you can sense the power that he at least once had. More than that, though, Page gets his final great solo, and his only one on the album. Indeed, some fans have claimed that it is his best solo of all time, and while that might be a bit of a stretch, it's not that far away from the truth. Powerful, powerful stuff. Of course, Bonham is still invisible, but that only makes Plant and Page stand out that much more.
A very unusual swan song, certainly, but it could have been much worse. About a year after In Through the Out Door was released, John Bonham choked on his own vomit after an all-night drinking binge, and the band subsequently broke up. Hence, the world was spared Led Zeppelin's counterpart to Emotional Rescue, It's Hard (or, for that matter, Face Dances), etc., all followups to successful albums with "modern music" experiments, which themselves were complete and total bombs. Oh well.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
I would have rated this higher. Sure it was different than the old albums, but in a good way. I though All Of My Love was kind of a loser, but I enjoyed most of the rest of it. I'm gonna crawl is definitely the best track present.
Sittinger, Brian D (brian.d.sittinger.lmco.com) (7/21/01)
This is NOT Zep!! Or is it? Same lineup, different style. I had disdain for this album at first, but it's actually quite enjoyable! Just about everything on this album does not offend. "All My Love" still seems a bit out of place (maybe not on a solo album), but still nice, though not one of my favorites. "In the Evening" has to be taken as a slow creepy piece. Great beginning (Page is actually playing ambiently in the introduction before Plant starts singing), and yes, great solo from Page in the middle. "Fool in the Rain" rules too, as it reminds me of "D'yer Maker" in its stylistic shift (especially with the "Carribean mid-section" versus the latter's reggae influence).
Great "synth pop" (this is saying something, as I avoid most songs in this genre with a passion!). A low 9 out of 10.
A few points of my respect you have gained in the act of liking "Carouselambra." I do not know many that can get into this piece. I also thought it sounded like video game music (alas, they don't make video game music like that anymore.) Wouldn't it be so much more enjoyable if the vocals were turned up a little?
I acutally think "Carouselambra" sounds more like "Abacab" era Genesis than Yes.
This was the first Zep album I ever bought. It came out when I was in high school and I was pretty excited to have a Zep album that belonged to my peer group.
At the time "All of My Love" was being hailed as the new "Stairway to Heaven". The teenyboppers were all singing along to it at the high school dances. This certainly wasn't your big brothers Zep.
Personally, I loved "Southbound Suarez", "Fool in the Rain" and "Hot Dog". "Carousambala" was too disco (remember in 79 lits of dinosaur rock bands went disco: Kiss "Dynasty", Roxy Music "Manifesto", Aerosmith "Walking in the Sand").
Like my contemporaries I was sucked into the sentimentality of "All of My Love". And "I'm Gonna Crawl" was Simply a "All My Love part II"
Looking back I still love "Southbound Suarez" and "I'm Gonna Crawl". If nothing else the album certainly wasnt a collection of retreads. I prefer it over the 2 previous albums.
Best song: Bonzo's Montreaux
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewww. Why did Jimmy have to go and do this? One might think that an album of some Zep outtakes would be fine, and maybe it would be, but not THESE outtakes. There are two tracks on here which deserve to be at all admired, one that can be tolerated, and the rest is completely horrible. The thing is, quite a few of the tracks were from the early, "glory" years of the band, but they still manage to totally blow.
The best track on here, oddly enough, is a drum solo, but it's really great! "Bonzo's Montreaux," it's called, and the reason that it works is that he's creating a melody on synthesized percussion. It's cool! He hits them hard, per usual, but he's precise enough so that the music he's bringing to the world is crisp and not at all sloppy. I'll take this over "Moby Dick" any day of the week! The other highlight (though it's really average) is the bluesy cover of Ben King's "We're Gonna Groove." It's fast, it has some good Plant vocals (mainly because it was recorded in 1970, not, say, '77) and it's generally amusing. Finally, the other listenable track is the folksy "Poor Tom," which would have fit in decently with the acoustic numbers on III (though it's as blatant a rip-off of the Stones song, "Prodigal Son," from Beggar's Banquet, as could possibly be). Alas, though, it's just the expected outtake quality; it's not even as good as "Bron-Yr Stomp," and I never really liked that one! And it's the third best track on the album, unfortunately.
Indeed, the rest of the album is garbage. I guess they were trying to show that they were as cool as the other punk bands of the day, and while I don't mind thrash-metal-type songs in the hands of groups that have some clue of what to do with them (ie Metallica), I'm not a big fan of generic punk-rock/thrash hybrids. "Walter's Walk," "Ozone Baby," "Darlene" and "Wearing and Tearing" are all fast, rip-roaring, completely moronic and totally generic "rockers;" Think "Candy Store Rock," but worse. Oh, and they throw in a totally despicable live rendition of "I Can't Quit You Baby." Quite frankly, I have no idea why they chose this particular performance. The BBC versions are tons better, and I even have a bootleg on MP3 with a better performance than this!
All that I can say at this point is that if these songs were done by anybody but Led Zep, the music community as a whole would condemn them as garbage, and fans would revile or ignore them completely. But instead, since it has the name Led Zeppelin on the front, there are people who love these songs! I'm sorry, but that's just BS right there. I got this relatively cheap, so I'm not too bitter, but you shouldn't even think of spending fifteen bucks for this. If you find it used and priced at 3 bucks, though, give it your all for "Bonzo's Montreaux."
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
This was nobody's idea of a classic, but I think it's better than most people think. Nothing really mind-blowing on here, but most of it is pretty decent, and Wearing And Tearing has a great riff.
Nathan Schulz (isrpgmaker.hotmail.com) (4/07/04)
Page had to make Coda to fufill contractual obligations, that's why page had to "go out and do this"
Clifford Jay (CliffinAZ.aol.com) (03/13/13)
Just wanted to correct a minor point in this good review:
You mentioned Prodigal Son by the Rolling Stones, but it actually wasn't written by the Stones. It was originally written by Robert Wilkins under the name 'That's No Way to Get Along,' and then he went and changed the lyrics when he got ordained as a minister in the '30s to make them more religious, which is when he also changed the name to Prodigal Son. So the song's been around a long time before the Stones (with both versions of it having been covered by other musicians...). But yeah, Poor Tom definitely sounds like the same progression.
Best song: You Shook Me
Excellent. 24 previously unreleased recordings from the group's early years, this is an absolute essential for anybody with even a passing interest in their glory days. Robbie sounds fantastic, Page's guitar tone is alive and full of energy, and even Bonzo is wonderful (Jones is terrific too, but that goes without saying). The first disc is a hodge-podge of live-in-the-studio sessions, whereas the second is a complete concert (in other words, if you hated TSRTS this should fill your good live Zep craving).
The first disc seems to be one highlight after another. The most prominent is two totally kick-ass versions of "You Shook Me," one five minutes, one ten minutes, and the energy level on each is phenomenal. We also get two wonderful (albeit similar) versions of "I Can't Quit You Baby," THREE versions of "Communication Breakdown" (yay!), a cover of the totally classic "Travellin' Riverside Blues" (Robert Johnson strikes again), the original home of the "Moby Dick" riff ("The Girl I Love She Got Long Wavy Black Hair") ... ah man, it's all good. "Dazed and Confused," a better "Whole Lotta Love," "What is and What Should Never Be" with a neat echo effect on the vocals ... I love it all. And it closes with a terrific twelve minute rendition of "How Many More Times!" I love the BBC!!
Disc 2 is inevitably weaker, since it is a complete concert rather than just a highlight package from the band's recording times, but I still listen to it more than the first disc simply because it's still a very sold live concert. Not only that, but its historical value is very high; in this show, the band unveils material from IV for public display, and I'm sure it was the first exposure for many there (I once erroneously stated that this was the very first show to feature this material, but as stated in a note below, this was due to bad sources). So what does that mean? A pre-album performance of "Stairway to Heaven!" And it's great! Since the audience isn't yet familiar with the piece, Plant can't muddy it up with his stupid asides, and the music gets to shine through. We also get a MUCH better version of "Black Dog" (with an "Out on the Tiles" intro), whose main attribute is that the rawness in the sound which I so craved in the original is here. Finally, we get a nice, solid version of "Going to California," and it's wonderful to try and imagine being in the audience, realizing that they were hearing some of the all-time classics for some of the first times ever.
And the mainstays are just as good! The opening "Immigrant Song," with an extended bluesy ending, kicks things off in a terrific way, and "Heartbreaker" sounds phenomenal in this context. "Dazed and Confused" is almost the perfect length for it, about 18 minutes, and every second is fantastic; absolutely none of it drags. The fiddle-stick torture part is quiet enough to be eerie, like in the original, Plant sounds great, and the solos are sparkling as ever. Oh, and the "Whole Lotta Love" medley just rules. It's more or less like the SRTS version, execpt with a tighter performance and more songs within the song. Plus, the bass sound is rawer and more blistering than in any other recorded version of the piece. Lovely stuff. Now, it's not all perfect; "Since I've Been Loving You" is kinda sloppy, and "Thank You" is just as lame as ever. But other than those two weaknesses, I have absolutely no complaints.
THIS is the perfect closure to Led Zep's legacy, not Coda. The spirit of I reigns supreme, the band is full of vim and vigor, the performances are tight ... love it. And buy it, whatever the cost.
Jon Greiman (homer.imsa.edu)
Speaking of the BBC sessions, the Whole Lotta Love Medley was all computer edited. No two of the songs in the medley were actually played in a row. Bits and pieces of the solo were cut and pasted from different recordings. But Page did do one hell of a job of making it smooth.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
This is pretty good, but I still think that Zep was Better in the studio than in concert.
Perry Justus (pjustus.arn.net)
I read your comments on the review page about BBC Sessions and there are lots of glaring misinformation...
The show wasn't recorded on January 4, 1971 - it was recorded on April 1st, 1971. The first time they played 'Stairway' was 03/05/71, which is tremendously better. I couldn't believe that the guy bashed Thank You... maybe he hasn't heard very many live versions of it.
(author's note): M'bad. The Stairway thing is a result of bad sources, and the date messup is the result of me forgetting that in Europe, time is listed date/month/year, not month/date/year.
The version of Since I've Been Loving You is subdued, yes, but that's because the band had to play for a studio audience. Plant had recently taken a cold, so he couldn't wail as well as usual for the period.
My brother got me this for my birthday (pretty much, because I was too cheap to get it for myself, and TSRTS broadsided my wallet!), and what a present. Robert Plant's voice was quite good throughout, Jimmy Page's awesome guitar tones were back; what else can one ask? If anything 'bad', there's tons of songs here, some repeated; it easily lasted me at least half the trip from San Jose back to Santa Barbara (for grad school). 9(13) sounds quite reasonable.
Familjen Burman (familjen.burman.swipnet.se) (9/20/04)
Listen to the last version of You Shook Me on Disc 1. It is by far the absolutely badest, hairiest, most awesome piece of musical performance I have ever heard. My new car has 450 watts of amplification and the other day coming home from work I used every f-ing one of them on this track, driving up to my house windows down. My wife shook her head in despair, my neighbour gave me the thumbs up and my dog ran away, but who cares?
Never grow up...
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (05/13/09)
For Zepheads and many other the BBC-Sessions are essential. Still it shows that the band had some failures on stage, especially from 1971 on.
Nobody except extreme fans need Plant having his lemon squeezed five or six times. It ruins Communication Breakdown. The original has the energy of protopunk/garage rock with the individual skills those two genres usually lack. Plants interlude spoils it completely.
The long version of I Can't Quit You Baby should not have been placed just before You Shook Me, as they are about the same and the latter is superior. I prefer the short version (track I), as its more condensed. It's superior to the original recording (on I) and so are Whole lotta Love (the restrained aggression is maintained), What is and What Should never Be and Dazed and Confused on side 1. They are even more expressive, while the performances are still close to perfect. The live version of You Shook Me (track 12) is even more offensive than the original (great!) and still manages to shock people almost 40 years after. That cannot be said of the Sex Pistols for instance. How Many More Times has the same restrained aggression that characterizes Whole lotta Love - well done on stage. I prefer it to the slightly bombastic original, which is already great.
I also have mixed feelings about side II. That's the Way and Going to California are placed after each other, so now we get 10 minutes of complete boredom. Pages aggressive solo on Thank You is quite misplaced, even though good in itself. It took me a long time to get used to it, but still am not enthusiastic. I am grateful that Plant makes a small mistake in Stairway to Heaven (for some change), does not try to communicate with the audience and that the band does not play it too slowly and routinely. I think it's the best version. In Whole lotta Love the band pulls all stops and to my surprise it works. Immigrant Song, Black Dog (nice, only a few bars from Out on the Tiles) and Heartbreaker display even more expression (=aggression) than the originals. Since I've been loving you is quite messy though. Dazed and Confused is a transition between the original of 1969 and the extended song of just a year later. I already can't stand the five minutes of bowing.
So Led Zeppelin already in 1971 just was not that good on stage. The claim in the booklet that they could play ten completely different versions of the same song with about the same length is obviously false. Deep Purple could, not Led Zep.
Best song: Most anything on disc 1
So anyway, one big complaint by many Zep fans through the years has been the lack of a top-notch live album of the band in its prime, fueled by the electricity of a giant crowd (TSRTS had the big crowd but an average performance, while BBC had brilliant performances but small crowds). Page decided to fill that void while compiling live footage for a 2-DVD set released at the same time, and pooled together the best performances from two California concerts in 1972. And honestly, he did a good job, both in selecting performances and making the sound quality as clear and sharp as possible. The band really is on fire almost throughout, ripping through their material with an amazing combination of power and precision, and Plant is (mostly) in much better form than on TSRTS, not to mention that the asinine vocal asides are almost not to be found. Even Bonham, as much as I'm not crazy about his "make the bottom as heavy and earth shaking as possible, at all times" mode of attack, manages to sincerely impress me with the strength he provides the sound.
Indeed, disc one and disc three are just a stone's throw away from 70's heavy metal perfection, coming on the verge of knocking off Deep Purple's Made in Japan as my favorite representative of that album genre. If I had to quibble, I guess it would have been nice if the acoustic set at the end of disc one had less mellow, more majestic material (ie exchange "That's the Way" and "Bron-Yr Stomp" for "Gallow's Pole" and "Tangerine," hee), but that chunk, led by a very lovely "Going to California," is done well enough regardless. And the rest, hoo boy. I have no idea how to adequately describe anything else on these two discs using anything except, "WOW, this is awesome," but I guess I'll make a stab at it. The 23:08 "Whole Lotta Love" medley, incorporating all sorts of hilarious covers of oldies, highlights once again the band's expertise at covering other people's material, not to mention that the "main" part of the song rips just as much as ever.
The amazing trio that comes after it, though, and that ends the show, may be even better, though. "Rock and Roll" ANNHILATES the Song version (and maybe the original), "The Ocean" chews up and spits out its studio counterpart far into the distance, and even :Bring it On Home," which I never adored in the first place, works perfectly as a closer, probably because the aural claustrophobia that I get from so much of II simply can't be found in a live setting. And disc one (apart from the acoustic set, which is good anyway), holy cow. These are the sorts of performances that truly make me understand what created so many drooling Zep fanboys in the 70's, as the band comes close to creating definitive versions of EACH of the first six tracks they do here. For a fan of 70's hard-rock/heavy-metal, these are a total necessity, to be sure.
So why only a C? Because, even in putting together a top-notch archive live album, Page (imo) screwed up. Disc 2, alas, is extraordinarily painful to listen to, and to not punish the rating for the pain it put me through would be unjust. Ok, so there's a nice runthrough of "What is and What Should Never be," which is good, but then they do "Dancing Days," which I've always hated and dislike just as much here. But ok, that's forgivable, one bad track isn't fatal. However, problems arise with the first and last tracks of the disc. I'm sorry, but I'll just have to state it loud and clear - Robert Plant should have been forbidden by law to perform "Dazed and Confused" after 1971. Every performance of the track I've heard through the BBC sessions has had incredible vocals, and every version after has had this horrid screech that makes me want to cover my ears in pain. Granted, he's not as bad as he is on the TSRTS version, but that thin wail is like jabbing an icepick into an exposed nerve-ending in a cavity in my teeth. As for other aspects of the track, this 25:25 rendition is much like the 26:53 rendition from Song, which is good and bad - good soloing, overlong guitar bowing, you get the drill. I still maintain that the 18 minute length on BBC is the perfect length for D&C - any longer is simply pushing it. But whatever.
None of this compares, however, to the horror of 19:20 of "Moby Dick." Maybe it was cool to watch in concert, I'll give that. Yes, I'm sure he's not just blindly hitting the drums, and that he actually has some sort of plan of attack to all this. But whatever may be, making the solo part last over 15 minutes is both a waste of Bonham's talent (the quality of a drummer, in my arrogant opinion, is how well he works when playing with everybody else, not how much of a sonic hell he creates by himself) and a capital crime against good taste. Man, at least when, say, Yes would do their percussion thing in the middle of "Ritual," it was a group effort, the rhythms were reprisals and expansions of previous themes, it had a menacing keyboard overlay in the background, and it only lasted three minutes. Even when the most excessive of drummers, Carl Palmer, would engage in one of his lengthy solos, he'd make it five or so minutes tops, and often with a lot of cymbal presence. Here, though, I want nothing more than to resurrect Bonham so that I can beat him over the head with his tom-toms.
But other than that, this album is pretty great. And it's surprisingly cheap, too, for a 3-CD set. All Zep fans need this.
"Alakulju, Matti" (Matti.Alakulju.SWTP.RU) (8/26/03)
I haven't listened this one enough yet, so I'd like to give only two "besides" comments:
One: It's funny how somebody can love and somebody can hate any vocal performance. I guess you just like some singer's voice, or you don't. I happen to love Plant's Dazed on TSRTS. The worst ever vocal performances can be found on Deep Purple's This Time Around, by that bassist, you know. Now that's what I'd call screeching! Anybody can freely disgree, of course. By the way, I feel that the No Quarter solo section on TSRTS is the peak of Zep's career.
Two: Any drum solo is doomed to sound boring, if you don't happen to be a drummer. But some bands are clever enough to do drum "solos" with the rest of the band playing along. Actually, guitar players usually play their solos with the rest of the bunch playing along, so why should drummers play alone? Check Thorazine Shuffle on Gov't Mule's Live With A Little Help... (Matt Abts) or Finally Free on Dream Theater's Scenes From A Memory (Mike Portnoy). Those two solos can really blow your mind, once you realize that there's a drum solo going on!
Mark Nieuweboer (ismaninb.teacher.com) (06/13/09)
This time I am gonna keep it short. I don't know the DVD, only the music. I think as a live release it's superfluous. It's not bad, but every single song is performed better somewhere else. The only exceptions are the few songs I did not like in their original versions anyway. I don't have it in my collection, I don't want it and I don't need it.
Best song: Walking Into Clarksdale
Now, the thing is, I'm really confused by my reaction to this album. I mean, Robbie and Jimmy were never the most brilliant melody writers in the world, but every Zeppelin album at least had some genial riffs and melodies here and there. Here, though, even those melodies that turn out to have some vague semblance of memorability in parts do so more through incessant repetition than through any interesting or unpredictable twists. Likewise, good riffs aren't a factor here - after all, this makes no pretense of being a rock album (though there isn't anything necessarily wrong with that), but rather a sloooooow sluggish album that happens to use rock instruments. In other words, we have an album whose musical essence and foundation, upon which other aspects are built, is almost negligible.
Yet despite that, and the fact that Plant's vocals are about what we'd expect of a mid-50's Bilbo Baggins lookalike, this album is surprisingly enjoyable. Honestly, though, that doesn't surprise me to a terrible degree - I mean, let's face it, good riffs and good melodies were never the main attraction of Zeppelin, even in those cases where they churned out goodies in each department. It was always about two things, really - Page's guitar, on the one hand, and the sound and atmosphere on the other. And it's in these departments where Clarksdale somewhat succeeds, even if on a song-by-song basis it's more or less boring as hell. There's always a vague touch of the Led Zeppelin Atmosphere on here, even if it's much more distilled and less fantasy-oriented than in the 70's - you know, the majesty, the overbearing strings, the bits and pieces of Eastern and Mid-Eastern themes. Even though almost none of the songs really do anything with this atmosphere, essentially stagnating on it and accentuating it ad nauseum, it's definitely not the worst atmosphere in the world, and I can definitely stand it through the album's entirety.
I'm also quite pleased with the guitar work on this album. Now don't be fooled, this is NOT the Page of the 70's, nor should we expect it to be - in other words, there's not a single great guitar solo on the album (actually, is there even a single guitar solo on the album? I'm having trouble coming up with one), but Page nonetheless is able to keep his work interesting throughout. The most important thing is that Page works in a lot of different styles on here - on first listen, it might seem like just the same background drone again and again, but it's really not - except for Houses of the Holy, I'd be hardpressed to think of a Zeppelin album that had this much diversity as far as Page's playing approach, and that's definitely a plus for the album.
Oh, ok, you want to know about actual songs? Er, well .... the title track is really good! The opening easily has the best riff on the album, with a neat shimmery eastern tone on the guitars, and while the riff of the "regular" part of the song is much more conventional, they work together with Plant's vocal delivery to make the sort of cool "mystical blues" that made Zeppelin so famous long ago. As for elsewhere, um, the opening "Shining in the Light" is cool, with some semblance of a hook in the chorus, and "Most High" has the Zeppelin vibe going on something fierce, so that's something.
Otherwise, though, this isn't an album you listen to necessarily for the individual songs. And, truth be told, it's probably not one I'll be listening to again for a while. But it's still pretty decent as a whole, and I'd definitely recommend paying $5.95 for it like I did.
I saw Page and Plant in 98 when they were touring off this album. Its okay I guess. Had some decent atmospheric stuff on it. But when it come down to it, who cares?
My biggest memory is being disappointed every time they played one of these tracks live instead of a classic tune.
Best song: Please Read The Letter or Nothin'
I don't think it's unfair to say that, apart from when Page & Plant came on the scene in the 90s and did Walking Into Clarksdale (and the Unledded live album that I haven't heard yet), Robert Plant's post-Zeppelin career prior to this album was niche at best and irrelevant to pop culture at worst. Alison Krauss, on the other hand, had been a major force in the world of bluegrass since the early 90s, basically becoming a vacuum cleaner for Grammys as a solo artist and with her group, Union Station, as well as a popular contributor to movie soundtracks. Despite coming from very different eras and worlds, both of them admired the other's work, and through various means they decided it would be interesting to collaborate together on a covers album. In making this decision, they also agreed that the project required an expert producer to make such an odd pairing function, and the expert producer in question was T Bone Burnett, who had risen from relative obscurity in the 70s as a guitarist in Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue band to become one of the most sought-after producers around, especially in the world of Americana and roots rock (I previously knew his work primarily through his contributions to famous movies and his production on Elvis Costello's King of America). The process of making this album was a labor of love, in which the material to cover (and how to sequence it) was chosen with great care, and the production here shows meticulous attention to detail without feeling overdone. The resulting album far exceeds the NPR-catnip novelty label that I initially assumed I would attach to it; I wouldn't say that everything here works ideally, but much of it is amazing.
Of the thirteen tracks here, I'd say that two of them don't work quite on the level established by the album in general. "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" is an Everly Brothers cover, with Plant adopting a curious Elvis-like hiccupping delivery, and this is a case where the elaborate production somewhat pales to the snappy stripped down production of the original (in particular the drums here are a slog compared to the drums of the original). The cover of "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson" (by Milton Campbell) is nice enough on its own, with a fun recurring descending guitar line, but it feels drastically out of place given the track it immediately follows ("Nothin'" by Townes Van Zandt, mentioned later), and more than that I'm not sure it would have fit much better anywhere else on the album, which leads me to think that maybe it should have been a B-side or a bonus track. Both of these tracks are also cases where they come in at 4 minutes, which isn't especially long in and of itself, but where I'm never really sure after the fact how they cobbled together enough material to get the songs even to that length.
The other eleven tracks are fab, though, and they're sequenced in a way that I'm able to think of this album as having three distinct main acts, with the two tracks above functioning essentially as intermissions and the final track serving essentially as an encore. The first four tracks, to me, are primarily notable as a demonstration of the potential of Krauss and Plant as singers in this new configuration, with Burnett's production creating the perfect back-drop to highlight their strengths and occasionally demonstrate some sonic flourishes of its own. The opening "Rich Woman" (Dorothy LaBostrie and McKinley Millet) puts Krauss and Plant in a duet that shows they can blend together perfectly while sounding completely effortless, and it helps that it also features an absolutely hypnotic performance from the rhythm section and, especially, a great guitar part that sounds like it was recorded backwards but doesn't actively draw attention to how it sounds like was recorded backwards. "Killing the Blues" (Roly Jon Salley) is another duet, but the emphasis here in the vocals is on "gentle" instead of on low-key "strutting" like in the first track, and the pedal steel parts in this song sound like magic. "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" (Sam Phillips) is Krauss on lead with Plant providing quiet wordless backing vocals, and it creates an eerie and mystical feeling of being somewhere halfway between this world and the next that I find rather entrancing; the banjo parts are a great touch as well. And finally in this group, "Polly" (Gene Clark in collaboration with the Dillards) is Plant on lead vocals (with Krauss providing occasional harmonies), but in a way completely unlike anything he ever attempted with Led Zeppelin; the sound is quiet and still, with hints of drum and guitar and pump organ in the background, and the sense of melancholy created here is rather stunning.
After "Gone Gone Gone" comes the second act, kicked off by another Gene Clark song, "Through the Morning, Through the Night," this time with Krauss taking lead. I don't find this quite as remarkable as "Polly" (though it is amusing how Krauss didn't bother to change the genders in the song) but the pedal steel guitar once again cures all, so if it's a minor song on the album, it's still an absolutely lovely one. Up next, then, is one of the album's great triumphs, at least in terms of how much the cover improves upon the original. "Please Read the Letter," in its original Walking Into Clarksdale form, always struck me as just one of that album's typical tracks, an exercise in which they were trying to calibrate how much they should sound contemporary vs. how much they should sound like Zeppelin, with not enough consideration given to the question of how to just make it into a top-notch track. Here, though, divorced from any pretense of needing to live up to expectations, the song becomes the top-notch pop song it was always meant to be, with clear verses and choruses and an absolutely charming fiddle solo from Krauss for good measure. The combination of Plant and Krauss on this song makes for absolute magic, turning a fairly trite set of lyrics into a pleading for someone to save them from their loneliness, and the song hits me with a wallop every time I listen to it. Rounding out this trio is "Trampled Rose" (Tom Waits), originally from the back half of Real Gone and sung by Krauss in a way that preserves all of the intensity and sonic pain of the original while still sounding very different from it (since, well, Alison Krauss and Tom Waits have pretty much the exact opposite voices); I personally think it's an excellent cover, and that the mournful banjo is a great touch, but I could definitely understand if somebody didn't like this, what with Waits being an acquired taste and all.
The third act in my conception of the album kicks off with a cover of "Fortune Teller" (Allen Toussaint), and I'll be damned if this isn't the best cover of the song I've heard (and that list has some stiff competition). Plant sounds completely at home with this song, killing it in every detail (especially with the knowing way he delivers the line "And now I get my fortune told for free"), and Krauss' backing harmonies create an incredible mystical atmosphere while the guitars burn things up with parts that aren't quite blues and not quite rock but are all parts awesome. "Stick With Me Baby" (Mel Tillis) is next, and it's a quiet and subdued duet with a quiet and subdued recurring guitar line that feels like it vaguely evokes a dozen different famous songs but doesn't specifically evoke any of them; it's easy to lose track of this one at this point in the album (sandwiched between two of the album's highlights), but it's super nice. What comes next, though, can't be described as "nice" in any way, though "great" may help get the point across; "Nothin'" is a 6-minute cry of pure pain that originally came from one of the saddest figures in 20th century pop music, and Plant sings it as somebody who knows what it's like to feel one's life crumbling around and inside them. The guitars practically scream in a wave of self-loathing agony, and Krauss' fiddle, with the "mourn" setting switched on and pushed into the red, is an absolutely crushing final touch in a performance that, quite honestly, is what I realize now I had kinda always wished Led Zeppelin could sound like but never did (something along the lines of "Kashmir" but without the self-congratulatory bravado). And finally, after "Let Your Loss be Your Lesson" provides a slight misstep, the album closes with "Your Long Journey" (Doc Watson and Rose Lee Watson), a song about saying goodbye to a loved one when they die, but done here in a way that's wistful rather than depressed (as the lyrics could potentially allow). It makes for a perfect album closer and, given that these two wouldn't make another album together (despite attempting to do so), a perfect end to one of the great lightning-in-a-bottle collaborations of all time.
There's no guarantee, of course, that somebody who likes Led Zeppelin would enjoy this, though I suppose it's at least somewhat likely for somebody who enjoys Alison Krauss to find this a blast even if they don't like Led Zeppelin. For me, though, this album matters as much to Plant's legacy as much as any Zeppelin album with the exception of the debut and IV, if only because it shows the full potential of Plant as a vocalist when freed from (a) the debauched lifestyle that characterized so much of Zeppelin's career, and (b) the need to live up to any expectation of what he was supposed to sound like (since, well, this is about as far from the generic impression of Plant as one could get to this point). Yes, it's a covers album, and yes, horrors of horrors, Alison Krauss is a girl (and since Led Zeppelin is primarily a band for 8th grade boys I could see where that might be a problem), but if you can get over these points, there's at least some chance that you might find this a blast.
Best song: No Quarter maybe
Despite the band's inconsistency as a live unit for most of its life in the 70s, and despite the fact that the handful of reunions since then (a couple of one-off performances in the 80s, as well as the Page/Plant album and tour in the 90s) had been greeted with a mix of ambivalence and derision, the desire on the part of Led Zeppelin fans in general to see the band get back together for more performances didn't abate. Page would totally have been game, and Jones became more publicly open to the idea over time, but Plant was perfectly happy to leave Zeppelin in the past and keep going with his surprisingly successful solo career (and his collabrations with bluegrass artist Alison Krauss). What ultimately brought Plant on board for a performance was the 2006 death of Ahmet Ertugen, the founder of Atlantic Records, and the organization of a concert in late 2007 to honor him. And so Plant reunited with Page and Jones, bringing Jason Bonham (John's son) in on drums, and the band proceeded to rehearse like mad to make sure that this one-off show, unlike the one-off shows they'd done before, would be something worth remembering.
They succeeded. Ok, so I'm not really thrilled that they included "Misty Mountain Hop" in the setlist, and it's a little odd that they didn't bother with any acoustic songs, but the concert basically features everything I would want from a Led Zeppelin show at this point with almost nothing I would want left out. Aside from "Misty," the only song in the setlist that I don't really like in its studio form is "In My Time of Dying," but that one always sounded much better live, and it works out really well here. The setlist includes two tracks from the debut ("Good Times Bad Times," "Dazed and Confused"), two from II ("Ramble On," "Whole Lotta Love"), one from III ("Since I've Been Loving You"), four from IV ("Black Dog," "Stairway to Heaven," "Misty Mountain Hop," "Rock and Roll"), two from Holy ("No Quarter," "The Song Remains the Same"), three from PG ("In My Time of Dying," "Trampled Underfoot," "Kashmir") and two from Presence ("For Your Life," "Nobody's Fault by Mine"). That is a remarkably crap-free setlist for a band that had such a tendency (to my ears) to place garbage side-by-side with gems on its studio albums.
The overall performances deserve notice beyond just listing out the included tracks. Plant, in particular, sounds great on this album. Yes, he muffs a couple of lyrics here and there, and yes, he has to drop out some phrases because he just doesn't have the range he once did, but these issues don't nullify the overall effect of his performance. He sounds every bit of his 59 years, but he sounds like the young Robert Plant aged 40 years through natural processes, as opposed to the 70s Robert Plant whose voice should have been in its prime but had clearly been altered by various forces. The core of his voice is clearly healed from whatever damage it had suffered decades ago, and I love listening to him on this album nearly as much as I did on I, even if he sounds so very different. Plus, he's far less prone to engage in obnoxious ad-libs and asides here than he'd once been; he sings his parts and doesn't expand them excessively, and the music is greatly served by it (for instance, compare this version of "Stairway to Heaven" with the SRTS version).
Beyond Plant, there's just such a welcome sense of home in listening to these performances, not least because neither Page nor Jones have really lost a thing (well, maybe they had, but they sure got it back for this performance). "Dazed and Confused" is about 12 minutes, a perfect length for it, with Page breaking out his bow as he once did and soloing up a storm elsewhere. "No Quarter" lets Jones shine on keyboards, with great interaction between him and Page, and I see little reason to enjoy this less than the SRTS version of the same. "Trampled Underfoot" and "Kashmir" also provide great showcases for Jones on keyboards, "For Your Life" (in its debut live performance, along with "Ramble On") absolutely roars and slashes, "Whole Lotta Love" has Page doing his awesome stuff on the therimin, "Black Dog" continues to sound better and rougher live than it did in studio ... I could just go on and on.
There's probably not a Led Zeppelin fan in the world who doesn't already own this album and enjoy it to pieces, but if you somehow don't have it, go buy it (and the corresponding DVD) already. Yeah, I suppose it would have been nice if they'd immediately followed this with a full reunion tour, but I can think of no better way to cap off the legend of Led Zeppelin than with this farewell concert. No, it's not exactly an essential part of their legacy (and obviously it can't live up to the best parts of the band's 70s live recordings), which is why it doesn't get an even higher grade, but it's a delight, and that's enough. Hats off to them.