Immigrant Song 45 by Led Zeppelin

April 13, 2012

I remmeber I was just about the only person in my college dormitory who liked the LED ZEPPELIN III album better than LED ZEPPELIN II. On the other hand I was the program director of the college radio station for two years so my opinion really counted.

“Immigrant Song” was the lead single from LED ZEPPELIN III. It was a brilliant song that combined Norse mythology with hard rock. It just rumbled out of the speakers and overwhelmed the listener.

Led Zeppelin will always be remembered for selling over one-hundred million albums but every once in awhile they had a hit single in the United States. “Immigrant Song” first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, November 21, 1970, and became a hit peaking at number 16.

It was one of six singles by Led Zeppelin to crack the American Top 40.

Whole Lotta Love 45 by Led Zeppelin

February 20, 2012

Led Zeppelin was an album band but they did have ten singles reach the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, 1969-1979.

Their biggest hit and the only one to reach the top ten was the classic “Whole Lotta Love.” Released during the fall of 1969, it reached number four.

This was a period when I was working for my college radio station and this particular song, and the whole second Led Zeppelin album for that matter, was played to death.

This was Led Zeppelin at its rocking best. Jimmy Page’s guitar solo in the middle still mekaes me stop what I’m doing and take notice.

Coda by Led Zeppelin

October 28, 2010

Led Zeppelin had dissolved and John Bonham had died a little over two years before Coda was released November 19, 1982. It was cobbled together from unused tracks that covered the band’s career. Whether intended or not, it ended up as a nice presentation of the development of their sound.

Why the album was actually released is open to question. One possible reason was to officially issue some of their tracks that were being bootlegged. Another reason may have been that the band owed their label one more album, and Coda fulfilled their contract.

The main weakness is the lack of any memorable or essential tracks, although the final one comes close. It is an album comprised of mostly good material that for one reason or another was left off previous albums.

Side one of the original vinyl release includes two covers of old blues tunes, and both were recorded January 9, 1970 at the same concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London. “We’re Gonna Groove” is a Ben E. King tune and at 2:42 is one of the tightest live tracks that Zeppelin would produce. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” was a Willie Dixon composition made famous by Otis Rush. The song has been inducted into The Blues Hall Of Fame. It is basic 12-bar blues and a perfect vehicle for Jimmy Page.

“Poor Tom” was a Page/Plant composition that was left off of their third album. The lyrics are somewhat of a mess but the acoustic work by Page almost saves the day. “Walter’s Walk” was left off of Houses Of The Holy. It is John Bonham’s drumming that is the best thing about this performance.

Side two features three productions eliminated from the In Through The Out Door sessions. “Ozone Baby” is a competent up-tempo rocker. “Darlene” is more interesting with nice piano runs by John Paul Jones and some rockabilly type guitar from Page.

The gem of the album and a song that deserved better is “Wearing and Tearing,” which closes the album and Led Zeppelin’s studio career. It is one of the hardest rockers of their career and was recorded at the height of the punk rock era in Europe.

The eighth track was a drum solo by Bonham titled “Bonzo’s Montreux,” which Page added instrumental backing too after the fact. It remains the least satisfying track.

Coda may not be the most exciting album and is among the weakest in the Led Zeppelin catalogue, yet is was a good way to fill in some of their career gaps. It is an acceptable listen but is mainly for Led Zeppelin fans who want everything.

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In Through The Out Door by Led Zeppelin

October 28, 2010

In Through The Out Door was released August 15, 1978, and it would be a number of lasts for Led Zeppelin. It was their last album to reach the number one position on The United States album charts. It was the last studio album before the group’s dissolution and the last album of drummer John Bonham’s life, as he would pass away during 1980 at the age of 32.

It remains somewhat of an oddity in the group’s catalogue. Jimmy Page and John Bonham were dealing with their addictions and were often late or missing from recording sessions. Robert Plant and especially John Paul Jones stepped into the breach and created a different sounding Led Zeppelin album. It was also the disco and punk rock era, and while the album cannot be classified as either of those styles, it did contain a heavy synthesizer sound.

The album’s jacket was very creative. There were six different pictures used for it but it was covered by a brown paper wrapping so a person did not know which one they would receive when making their purchase. There was, however, a code on the jacket that would tell you which was inside, but that fact was unknown to most buyers. It was a challenge for fans and collectors who wanted a complete Led Zeppelin collection. It also received a Grammy nomination for Best Album Jacket Of The Year.

The band sounds a little tired but rises to the occasion in places despite being only average in other areas. The results are diverse and even eclectic, if you will.

I tend to prefer the first side of the original vinyl release as it contains the two best songs. More on that later.

“In The Evening” contains some nice guitar riffs and distortion on top of a synthesizer foundation. The vocals are layered in among the sound. “South Bound Suarez” features a honky tonk-type piano by Jones and complements Page’s guitar playing. The song was never performed live and was one of very few Led Zeppelin songs that Page did not write or co-write.

The last two tracks on the first side are the best. “Fool In The Rain” is part reggae and part samba. Cute lyrics of boy waiting for girl on a street corner only to be disappointed when she does not arrive and then realizes he is on the wrong corner highlight the track. It would be the band’s final successful single.

“Hot Dog” owes a lot to country and rockabilly, as Plant gives his best Elvis impersonation on this loose-sounding but fun track.

The second side is less appealing, but at least one song is very imaginative. “Carouselambra” is divided into three sections. It moves from keyboards to guitar, then to a final uniting of the entire band. It may not be completely successful, but it is interesting for 10 minutes and at least they took a chance.

“All My Love” is poignant, progressive rock as Plant had just lost his five-year-old son, and this is a tribute to him. “I’m Gonna Crawl” is an average rock/blues closer.

In Through The Out Door is one of the Led Zeppelin albums that I visit the least. Still, it contains a few high points and is a nice change of pace every now and then.

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The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin

October 22, 2010

The Song Remains The Same was not very accurate when it came to this album, as many of the songs were really not the same given their extended length.

Led Zeppelin brought their live act to Madison Square Garden in New York City for three shows during July of 1973. These performances were recorded for a film which would be released to theaters worldwide.

The soundtrack album was issued September 26, 1976 to mixed reviews. It would, however, be another commercial success for Led Zeppelin, as it topped the charts in their native country of England and reached number two in The United States, selling four million copies.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have expressed dissatisfaction with the album over the years. One reason may have been the three-plus year passage of time between its recording and release. Led Zeppelin had acquired some new material in the interim and in some ways this live set was a little antiquated. Still, it was the only live document of their career for a number of years.

I find the album to still be interesting. I have also seen the film, and it does work well visually, especially on the longer tracks. But the album does give an accurate portrait of their live show. The group liked to improvise and here, Led Zeppelin is presented at their early seventies live best.

I still like this album and have replaced my old vinyl copy with the CD, as I find it a good traveling companion for my car CD player on long trips.

The original vinyl release clocked in at close to 100 minutes, yet only contained nine songs and four were on the first side of the two-record set. “Dazed and Confused,” at over 26 minutes takes up the entire second side itself.

The highlights are a 10-minute version of “Stairway To Heaven” and a 14-minute workout of “Whole Lotta Love.” The basic song structures are retained but also serve as jumping of places for Jimmy Page and friends to move in different directions. Page is one of those rare musicians who can pull off not having a rhythm guitarist in support. The near 14-minute performance of “Moby Dick” is almost of the same quality.

There have always been complaints that some of the music from the film was left off the album and visa versa, and in some cases performances from the concerts were left off both. “Black Dog,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Bron-Yr-Aur,” and “Autumn Lake” all grace the movie but were nowhere to be found on the album. The 2007 reissue coordinated the two but did chop up several of the songs. My advice is to stick with the original and ignore the extras.

The Songs Remains The Same is a look back at a different Led Zeppelin. It remains an excellent document of their concert style.

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Presence by Led Zeppelin

October 22, 2010

Robert Plant was involved in a serious auto accident in Greece during 1975 which put a crimp in Led Zeppelin’s touring and recording plans. Presence was finally released March 31, 1976.

It was a more modest affair than their last studio album, the long, sprawling and brilliant Physical Graffiti. In a way it was less ambitious as it contained no acoustic tracks or keyboards. Still, even an average Led Zeppelin album was better than 95% of the rock that was being produced during the mid-seventies. It’s amazing to think it was one of their least commercially successful releases yet still reached the number one position on the United States album charts while selling three million copies.

The album only contained seven tracks. The best of the lot was the 10-minute lead track, “Achilles Last Stand.” John Bonham’s powerful drumming and Jones’ use of an eight-string bass provided a solid rhythm foundation. Jimmy Page then overdubbed his guitar parts more than a dozen times. The song became a staple of their concert act and the various ways Page played the guitar parts were always an adventure. “For Your Life” contains a classic Robert Plant vocal delivered while he was still laid up in a wheel chair. John Paul Jones, a transvestite, New Orleans, and a hotel fire are part of the lyrics of “Royal Orleans.”

The second side of the original vinyl release begins with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The writing credit was given to Page and Plant but grew out of Blind Willie Johnson’s “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” which he released during the late 1920’s. Zeppelin’s version features modified lyrics plus they transform it from a traditional blues piece to a building rock/blues classic. “Candy Store Rock” has a fifties rockabilly feel as Plant tries to channel Elvis Presley. “Hots On For Nowhere” is my least favorite track as it just loosely rolls along. “Tea For One” is a nice slow blues outing. This nine minute track evolves as it progresses and features some nice interplay between Bonham and Page.

Presence has aged well over the years. It may not reach the consistent heights of the group’s previous studio albums but does contain some solid and at times excellent rock that one would expect from them. It is still well worth a listen now and then.

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Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin

October 22, 2010

It had been nearly two years since Led Zeppelin had released a studio album when Physical Graffiti made its appearance February 24, 1975. It would become their second most successful commercial release, selling 16 million copies in the United States alone. Rolling Stone would name it to their list of The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.

Zeppelin’s contract with Atlantic had expired and they decided to form their own label, Swan Song. In addition to themselves, the label would become the home for such artists as Bad Company, Dave Edmunds, The Pretty Things, and Maggie Bell before folding during 1983. Today it is just used exclusively for reissues.

The album jacket cover of the original vinyl release was very innovative. It pictured an actual tenement building in New York City located at 96 and 98 St. Mark Place. The inner sleeve allowed you to change the pictures in the windows.

Physical Graffiti was a long, sprawling double album which reached out in a number of musical directions. Led Zeppelin’s albums were always an attack on the ears and senses and this double dose is almost overwhelming. The length allowed the group to try new things and also reach back into their past for some forgotten, unused material.

I have always found the first disc the stronger of the two with three of the tracks ranking among their best. The album begins with “Custard Pie” with blues riffing and wah-wah guitar by Page. The lyrics are filled with sexual innuendo and are an immediate attention grabber. “In My Time Of Dying” clocked in at over 11 minutes and was the longest studio track of their career. It had the sound and feel of improvisation which was always a good thing for the group. “Kashmir” remains one of my favorite Zeppelin tracks. Page’s playing is some of the best of his career as the tonal shifts and sophistication are phenomenal.

“Houses Of The Holy” was written for their previous album but was left off at the last minute; oddly, it was still the title of that album. This mid-tempo rock track features heavy bass riffs. I have read the song was never played live by the group. “Trampled Under Foot” is another solid rock song.

You have to dig a little deeper on the second disc. “In The Light” constantly reminds me just how good a keyboard player John Paul Jones was but it is Page’s use of a violin bow to play his acoustic guitar that makes the song unique. “Ten Years Gone” is a nice example of Page’s production prowess as he continually overdubs his guitar parts. “Boogie With Stu” was resurrected from 1971 when the Rolling Stone keyboardist, Ian Stewart, sat in on a studio jam. “Sick Again” is an ode to the teenage groupies that used to follow the band.

Physical Graffiti may not be cohesive and is a little excessive but it remains another definitive statement by Led Zeppelin. It is also another brilliant example of heavy rock music at its best.

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Houses Of The Holy by Led Zeppelin

October 17, 2010

I really don’t play Houses Of The Holy enough. I tend to focus on the first four Led Zeppelin releases and ignore the rest most of the time, which is my loss as it is an excellent album.

It was their fifth studio album and continued their commercial success by reaching the number one position on The United States album charts and selling in excess of 11 million copies.

Jimmy Page provided a much smoother production, and it may also be the most melodic of their albums. Page layered many of his guitar parts, giving the music a fuller sound which presented problems playing some of the material live. Rolling Stone Magazine named it one of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.

The cover is immediately recognizable and the album won a Grammy Award for Best Recording Packaging. The idea was taken from the Arthur C. Clarke science fiction story Childhood’s End.

Side one of the original vinyl release is the stronger of the two. “The Song Remains The Same” is an example of Page’s multi-track guitar production, which is both interesting and effective. It was originally intended as an instrumental track but vocals were added late. It would become more famous as a live track but this original studio version is solid. “The Rain Song” has grown on me over the years. It is a sprawling seven minute love song which twists and turns with a number of surprises along the way. “Over The Hills And Far Away” is one of those building acoustic to rock songs they were so good at producing. “The Crunge” is just a fun funk type jam.

The final four songs which comprised side two of the original release contain a number of good stand alone songs but really do not form a consistent unit. “Dancing Days” features some excellent, and by this time expected, riffing by Jimmy Page. “D’er Maker” was a surprise hit single. It has a reggae feel and is one of the more different songs in the Zeppelin catalogue. Great song but it would be a difficult fit on any of their studio albums. “No Quarter” has a jazzy/blues feel. John Paul Jones provides some of the best piano work of his career, and in many ways it is his signature performance. “The Ocean” and John Bonham bring the album to a satisfying if a little odd conclusion.

Houses Of The Holy was a creative outing from Led Zeppelin. The individual parts added up to a fifth superior album in a row.

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Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin

October 17, 2010

After releasing three albums Led Zeppelin was recognized as one of the superstar groups in rock music. Little did they realize at the time but it was only the beginning of their popularity.

Led Zeppelin IV was released November 8, 1971 and would become one of the best selling albums of all time. It has sold 23 million copies in the United States alone, ranking it third all time. The amazing thing is the album never reached Number One on the American album charts, having peaked at Number Two.

Anyone interested in rock music or its history is probably familiar with this album. It is recognized as one of the masterpieces in rock history and many of its tracks continue to receive extensive airplay today.

“Stairway To Heaven” remains its centerpiece. It begins gentle and acoustic, gradually morphing into a hard rock anthem. It has been estimated that the song has received well of three million radio airplays since its release. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame selected it as one of the 500 songs that have shaped rock ‘n’ roll. “Stairway To Heaven” is an essential rock listening experience.

Many times it is forgotten that “Black Dog” was released as a single and was the group’s second-biggest hit, reaching number 15 on the American charts. It is a complex song with a unique bass line, shifting tempos, and another superb guitar solo by Jimmy Page. Rolling Stone ranked it as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

“Rock and Roll” is another Zeppelin tune which The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame honored as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll. It is a classic rock/blues track with Robert Plant’s vocal wailing above the mix.

I have always been attracted to “The Battle Of Evermore,” and it’s the only Led Zeppelin song I can think of to use a guest vocalist. Sandy Denny, who gained fame as a member of Fairport Convention, duets with Robert Plant. She would pass away in 1978 at the age of 31. It is a folk song with acoustic guitar and mandolin. Plant has been performing the song live in recent years with Alison Krauss.

The other outstanding track is the mid-tempo “Misty Mountain Hop” on which John Paul Jones’ keyboards provide the foundation for Page’s guitar and Bonham’s drumming.

Led Zeppelin IV has received just about every honor a rock album can achieve. It has also been played over and over again yet remains fresh. It’s that good!

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Led Zeppelin III by Led Zeppelin

October 10, 2010

When Led Zeppelin III was released, I was the only person in my college dorm who liked it better than their second album. My feelings may have changed forty years later but by October 5, 1970, I was the program director of the college radio station, so my opinion really mattered. I still feel it is an excellent album and a unique release in the Led Zeppelin catalogue.

It seemed everyone was waiting for the second coming of “Whole Lotta Love,” but Jimmy Page went in a different direction. It was not as heavy, as it featured a number of acoustic pieces and even contained some folk elements. It had a slicker production than their first two albums and strayed from their established raw blues style. For many of the tracks, mellow and thoughtful were words of the day. While critical reviews were mixed, at the time it was a commercial success, as it topped the American album charts and has sold in excess of six million copies.

This is also an instance where the original vinyl cover adds some panache to the affair. It had a rotatable disc which added hours of additional entertainment pleasure while you listen to the music. Yes, I am over exaggerating but it was innovative.

“The Immigrant Song,” which opens the album, is a quick burst of energy. It contains folk lyrics hidden in some typical Led Zeppelin mind thumping music. Robert Plant’s voice hits some impossible notes.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is an enduring blues rock song and would have fit well on either of their first two albums. Written by Page, Plant, and John Paul Jones, it was recorded virtually live in the studio and thus has more of an improvisational feel. Jimmy Page’s guitar solos are some of the best of his career and the song became a staple of their live shows.

Side two of the original vinyl release is where Led Zeppelin really strikes out into new territory. “Gallows Pole” is an update of the old folk traditional song “Maid Freed From The Gallows,” but they used Fred Gerlach’s version as their inspiration. The track begins gently and builds throughout. The acoustic trio “Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp,” “Tangerine,” and “That’s The Way” are all acoustic-based, and when taken as a unit as the original album intended, it presents Led Zeppelin in a new light. “Tangerine,” in particular is a lost treat as it is one of the most intricate songs of the band’s career.

Led Zeppelin III is sometime overlooked, as it was released in between two of the best selling albums in rock history. It remains one of the more interesting stops in the Led Zeppelin journey.

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