1 January 2014

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

We're moving on with the Led Zeppelin back catalogue as its stock increases on the Spotify playlist. Good move too. As I gaze at the sleeve, you might want to know that this is their only studio album cover with the band members featured on it. And certainly one of the best in my opinion. The London/Birmingham foursome has been clearly superimposed on a World War One photo with a squadron of German ace pilots, lead by Manfred von Richthofen aka The Red Baron, along with a couple of other musical personalities also airbrushed in. And perhaps for good measure following on from their debut, there's also a white silhouette of the Hindenburg and its fateful moment.

Just a pity The 'Zep weren't allowed to use their moniker when they were touring Germany in those early days, especially with the threat of a lawsuit from Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin's family for improper use of the name, so they had to perform  in the Fatherland as The Nobs. And it must also be said, I find it absolutely staggering that in the middle of their touring schedules they somehow managed to find time, space and a few recording studios to hand in order to cut the music they wrote. Granted there wasn't much time but what they came up with was in my opinion one of the greatest records ever. II also sees Robert Plant's composing debut and it certainly springs onto us with some punch and vigour to the foray not just in edge but in gracefulness too.

Whole Lotta Love as I'm sure many of you know by now is a sexually charged number with some end-all-and-be-all riffs  with a theremin and a few other pre-production switching and button pressing. I also get the impression that Page was going through a wasted period during the mixing and yet it all falls smartly into place. Music fans from the 1970s will instantly know that it was turned into a funky theme for a certain BBC TV music magazine. But the suggestive lyricisms don't stop there, Lemon Song follows on from their debut with a blues theme which has "developed" some guitar notes from Howlin' Wolf, and he is mentioned in the songwriting credits. It certainly has the whiff of the stifling heat of the Mississippi as the paddle steamers trundle by, but the tempo doesn't always stay the same, a couple of Jimmy Page instrumentals between the verses keeps it all lively and less blues hardcore. There was also another threat of a lawsuit of plagiarism by fellow bluesman Willie Dixon as again he wasn't mentioned in the credits initially in the final track Bring It On Home until a court case reversed that decision. The source of the gripe came from the Robert Plant harmonica introduction and endings and there would be more Dixon and Robert Johnson influenced material to come in the coming albums.

All tracks on this album are notable, this, in my opinion is what makes II a bona fide standout, and it's the variety of genres on it what keep the new eager listener so interested on it. And aside from their Deep South loves, there's also some of the most folksy songs as well ans influences of Tolkien, you can hear the blatant references of the legendary English writer's works in the acoustic laden Ramble On. However, I really don't think you'll ever find many more soul baring songs in Thank You which Plant wrote for his wife Maureen. And so easy to visualise a panoramic vista where he may have sat down and surveyed the splendour of the mountains and lakes that bore fruit in his songwriting. That said, this offering doesn't completely depart from its burgeoning metal impulses as Heartbreaker has Jimmy Page coming up with some of the most memorable guitar notation introductions I've ever heard. And if each band member HAD to showcase their talents, then you've got John Bonham with some handy stickwork in Moby Dick although this album track at four minutes really only scratches the surface as to what Bonzo was capable of. His live performances lasted at least 5 times as long and his efforts were manyfold.

What Zeppelin lack in proliferation of tracks in this cut, it's more than made up in the content. Led Zeppelin II is a working progress from their debut, a fantastically cacophony which I dare say is all things to all people. But of course, like The Beatles and a handful of other acts back then, the foursome were the roots of the rock/metal evolution by the end of the sixties hence my thought on the cultural significance of II. And I have no concerns that because of the impact on its launch and right throughout the forty or so years since then that this will ever be forgotten. It's music on an unparallelled scale, that's the best I can do to avoid the overuse of superlatives and metaphors of what is worthy of a musical equivalence of the National Film Registry. If ever there was one.

10 out of ten. This is proof there is a God.

Best track : Whole Lotta Love

Official Led Zeppelin Website on this link
Buy the album here on Amazon
Listen to Led Zeppelin II here on Spotify

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