14 December 2013

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin

This is truly a landmark album - usually that is a sentence that is left for the end of a review, but here it needs to be noted from the off.  When this first came out in 1969, these guys had been formed out of the Yardbirds and after a contractual obligation tour of Scandinavia, they hit the studio to record their debut album under the new mocker of Led Zeppelin.  Recorded over a week, with only 36 hours of that time actually in the studio (this is including the mixing - Axl Rose, take notice), this album was done to Jimmy Page's own visions as he knew what he wanted the band to sound like - it was his production on the album with the help of engineer Glyn Johns.  When it was released, it came out to the sound of a damp fart.  The music press at the time were far from impressed with it, but the general masses were far more positive to the album, with the album making the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and top 40 in various charts around the world.  The effects of this album cannot be understated and there is an argument that this was a precursor to what would eventually be termed heavy metal.  But that is all in the future for this record in a way, so let's just focus on the nine tracks on offer here.

In someways this album is very conservative in its openings - "Good Times Bad Times" is a strange little opening for the tracks on offer, it is almost like the first time you meet a new puppy, yapping and trying to get your attention.  It is also just as annoying to be honest; but whilst it is not my favourite song on the album, a few things about the track strike me - for starters, the drumming of John Bonham is praised for all the right reasons; it is like rhythmical gold, the man may have been a bit of a nut bar (and to be honest, every drummer I have met is a little crazy), but he was an awesome drummer.  Also, the playing he is of a really high quality - especially Jimmy Page's solo near the end.  But this album really starts for me on "Babe, I'm Going To Leave You".  With the acoustic flared opening and the unleashing of Robert Plant's towering vocals just cannot be undersold.  This is the song I feel in love with when I was a teenage (not when it originally came out - stop sniggering at the back!!!!) - it had the solo, the bass playing genius of John Paul Jones, the subtle drumming when needed and with Messer Page in full control it set the bar for many things to come from the band.

Next up is "You Shook Me" which has that true blues soul about it.  You have the tone, the harmonic solo, the heavy emphasis on the bass and drums whilst the guitarist goes off wondering with his guitar solo and the vocalist holding his own asking for his woman to come home after she went away.  It has been played many times before, but this is one of the originals and is played to perfection.  Well, not totally to perfection, you can hear the odd dropped not, Mr Plant coming back in a little too early - but this was before pro-tool records and it is great to hear these mistakes.  It is natural, this is how music is really played and it is how it should be - warts and all as they say.  But the track does not move me as much as the next one, "Dazed And Confused".  With the opening rumbles of John Paul Jones and Mr Plant bemoaning is wrong-doing's at the hands of an evil temptress, when you get to the bridge and Mr Page and Bonham kick in, you are in the palms of the best track of the album.  The duel between vocals and guitar before the super speed solo is timeless (and is still yet to be bested if I am honest).  This is how you make a hard rock song sound like manner from heaven and when it comes back from the solo back to the main riff, I was in love with track once more.

"Your Time Is Coming" follows on from this and it has such a hard task to do.  Keeping the momentum up after "Dazed & Confused" was always going to be a tough order, but I think they went down the wrong route here.  With the opening organs and almost blues gospel backing, it just feels like the album hits a brick in the middle of the road at 100 miles an hour, very jarring - well played, but jarring.  However, next up is Black Mountain Side", an off-beat little number which would have been better placed coming after "Daze And Confused".  With tabla playing courtesy of Viram Jasani, this little traditional number with a slight new arrangement from Mr Page is a ray of sunshine on even the coldest winter day. Then comes "Communication Breakdown" which puts the peddle back down to the floor, it is quick, sharp and dangerous.  The main player here is John Paul Jones who keeps everything together so the other members can get on with the business of making a hell of a lot of noise.  This can be classed as one of the moments when music went for a more heavy direction, the blues took a back seat to the rock; it is a stand out moment for this album.

"I Can't Quit You Baby" brings the blues right back to the centre of this record and is the natural twin to "Babe, I'm Going To Leave You".  Whilst not being as impressive as the former, it is still a brilliant blues song; all the players bring all their own special moments to the song and are all allowed to shine.  I love the interplay between all of them and the natural feel of the record.  Ending this album is "How Many More Times" which drives how the rock/blues hybrid that would be their bread and butter for many years to come.  It is the best track to end the album on; it ends with that bang and does not steal anything from what has gone on before. Now, what I feel for this album is that it was a great place to start.  It has a couple of classics on it and started them on the road that will eventually lead to 'Physical Graffiti'.  Is it the best debut ever?  No, it is very good but it is not the best ever; there are a few moments which stop that from happening.  However, its importance cannot be understated - as stated at the beginning; it is truly a landmark album. It came in with the fan base and not the press; this is a better way for it to come.  Whilst it is not my favourite it still holds a place in my heart.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Led Zeppelin website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is the live version of "Dazed And Confused" from the live show - The Song Remains The Same

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