Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Atlantic
Classic Rock
9 songs (44:26)
Release year: 1969
Atlantic Records
Reviewed by Goat

It would be unfair for me to start waffling on about exactly when, how, from who, and why Led Zeppelin were formed, since this is part of Rock legend and really, you’re quite capable of looking the band up on Wikipedia. No, what this review will focus on is the music itself, and whether you love Led Zep as much as I or despise them for copying others’ work without giving them the proper credit (a controversial topic that I’m not going to focus on at all in this review) you have to admit that Led Zeppelin is an absolute Rock classic that deserves every bit of love thrown at it. It’s hailed as a masterpiece of the time, taking the proto-punk of MC5 and The Stooges and adding polish and prowess to create a formula that had very wide appeal, using the guitar riff as an essential songwriting tool and creating an anthemic form of Rock that appealed to the 60s fantasist as much as the 70s realist. The four members are legendary for a reason – pages could be written, but who could forget Robert Plant’s diverse and arresting voice that has influenced everyone from Geddy Lee to Rob Halford? Jimmy Page’s guitar hero status makes his a name on the lips of virtually every guitarist ever, including the likes of Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Dave Mustaine and Alex Lifeson. And of course, John Bonham and John Paul Jones are the most legendary rhythm section in Rock, and with good reason – the former one of the first things you hear on this album after that first perfect riff with a nicely diverse, almost proggy bit of sticksplay – and together they form an absolutely solid backbone.

What has to be stressed, however, is the sheer wholeness which this fantastic unit play together, the absolute perfection of the music itself. Everyone has their own favourite Led Zep song, but it’s always been hard for me to pick – I generally say Stairway To Heaven just to annoy whoever’s asking. For my money, though, it’s hard to get a much more kickass album opener than Good Times Bad Times, two minutes and forty-something seconds of rock bliss with catchy, singalong vocals, complex backing drums to air-tap along to, and of course the awesome riffs that Jimmy Page gifts us mere mortals. The birth of Metal is a topic hotly discussed with a wide variety of opinions, but it’s hard to listen to that heavy bass and not at least feel the child kicking – Black Sabbath may have been heavier, but it was released nearly a year later, and whilst Led Zeppelin may not strictly be Heavy Metal, it’s certainly Heavy Blues, the heaviness without challenge.

On the whole, Led Zeppelin’s songwriting was absolutely stellar. I’m not normally a ballad man, but Babe I’m Gonna Leave You is such a perfect, emotional wail of regret that it’s impossible not to love it – the complexity of Page’s acoustic guitars and those stomping riffs help, too! I can’t find much on the album not to love, frankly; the Blues of the sombre I Can’t Quit You Baby and the sleazy Willie Dixon cover You Shook Me are both hypnotic, the latter’s proggy organ solo showing Jones at his multi-instrumentalist best. The descending bass noodle that opens Dazed And Confused is as famous as the first line – that perfect build-up to the central riff should be taught in schools, whilst the ensuing near-ambience and launch into freewheeling rock loveliness puts a smile on my face every time. It’s easy to forget the sheer variety on show, going from that to the psychedelic organs of Your Time Is Gonna Come, which develops nicely into acoustic, almost folksy rock of the highest order (not to forget that amazing yell-along chorus) and then to the instrumental, Eastern-kissed whimsy of Black Mountain Side. All these disparate elements come together without feeling out of place or jarring, expert musicians clearly at their best.

It’s impossible to stress how influential this album was. Even beyond the individual members’ various places in Rock history, there are plenty of modern rock bands of high quality that make it their business to sound as much like Communication Breakdown as possible. None sound as good as the original, of course – selling more than two hundred million albums generally means that a fair few musicians will have heard your music, too! And with good reason, as the eight-minute closing monster How Many More Times proves, taking you on a epic journey up there with many prog rock epics, one of the band’s most underrated tracks and a fine way to close the album. It’s impossible to close this review with a similarly high level of quality, so I’ll content myself with this: few albums are so well summed-up by the cover art. That crashing Hindenburg is about as iconic as it gets, Eva von Zeppelin’s legal threats not diluting the sheer imagery of a civilization’s brightest hopes going down in flames – a phallic object exploding a great way to visually describe the band’s music too, of course. This isn’t just music, however. This is Led Zeppelin! And wherever your affections lie longest in their discography, don’t overlook where it all began, the birth of a legend that continues to thrill over forty years later. A vital classic for all.

Killing Songs :
ALL
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Led Zeppelin that we have reviewed:
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Led Zeppelin - How The West Was Won reviewed by Jeff and quoted no quote
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