Thursday, October 17, 2013

75 Led Zeppelin II (1969) Led Zeppelin



1. Whole Lotta Love
2. What Is and What Should Never Be
3. The Lemon Song
4. Thank You
5. Heartbreaker
6. Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)
7. Ramble On
8. Moby Dick
9. Bring It On Home


It's currently considered cool to point out Led Zeppelin's music is... how shall I put this...  heavily influenced by old records. Their fans claim they're inspired by old blues tracks but their detractors are happy to call them thieves and plagiarists. Where you stand probably depends on your viewpoint.

Certainly the courts have sided with several old blues writers who heard Led Zeppelin II and thought "hang on a minute" and felt the need to consult a lawyer. The original album featured 9 songs credited to the bandmembers but later pressings have amended the credits of Bring it on home, The Lemon Song and Whole Lotta Love to include Willie Dixon and Chester Burnett whose music and lyrics the band borrowed heavily from. The band claim they're leaning on an old tradition of blues singers who take each others tunes and modify them and steal them from each other and steal them back and generally turn the genre into a kind of cooperative soup which anyone can dip into from time to time. They claim it's an old tradition that they were simply entering into. The blues musicians in question say that's all very well but they never tried to claim full credit for their adaptations and then put them on an album which sold 12 million copies.

I didn't know any of this back when I was 15 and played my Zeppelin tapes over and over again but I do know it now and I have to say it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference. They might be musical thieves and blatant plagiarists, hell they might even have waited outside Willie Dixon's house and personally tortured him until he wrote down chord structures but I really don't care. This album rocks. It rocked me when I was younger and loved leaping around my bedroom air guitaring and head-banging like a loon and it rocks me as an adult too (quietly looking around and seeing if anyone would notice a discrete air guitar and head bang).

The individual members of Led Zeppelin are sufficiently talented that their music would be great even if all they did was blatantly rip off old radio jingles, let alone great blues tunes. John Bonham is an absolute beast behind the drums who belts the hell out of those things. He's one of the guys who took drumming away from the guys in suits making a delicate tapping motion with their wrists and put in the hands of huge sweaty guys who flailed madly around a drum kit. John Paul Jones was a great bass player and multi-instrumentalist and the perfect partner for Bonham's volume. Howling over the top was Robert Plant who has one of Rock's best and most powerful voices. The man was barely out of his teens when Zeppelin started but he had a furious talent and sang like a seasoned pro with the energy or a teenager.

Driving everything Zeppelin did forwards was the guitar of Jimmy Page. Led Zep was Page's band and he produced all their albums and was responsible for their direction and style. His monster guitar work is just ferocious all through this album and in the years since it's been released it's inspired countless teenagers to think "that's how I want to sound". Page's riffing invented Heavy Metal and hard rock and wrote the blueprint for how rock bands behaved.

There's not a dud song on Led Zep 2. Whole Lotta Love is the obvious stand out but Heartbreaker and Ramble On (which at the time of writing are still considered original compositions) are outstanding proto-metal hits and even the lesser tracks (Lemon song, living loving maid etc) are strong enough that other bands would have made them into hit singles. It's a monster 40 minutes of power riffing, epic soloing and howling vocals.

My first ever CD purchase was Led Zeppelin and my first ever action when I got my hands on a computer that burnt CD's was to make my own Led Zep compilation. This album and its predecessor could fit onto one CD (if you dropped Moby Dick and Black Mountainside) which turned it into one massive rocking freak-out of a trip which demanded to be listened to at full volume and left the listener exhausted at the end of it.

Their later albums are often more acclaimed but to my mind they never hit these heights again. This is one of the all time greats and even if by purchasing this I'm technically guilty of receiving stolen goods I don't care. Led Zeppelin are one of the few things my 16 year old self and I agree on and I'm sure I'll still love this nonsense when I'm old and gray and air guitairing my arthritic fingers with joy.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Whole Lotta Love' is the only one of Led Zeppelin's very top tracks to appear on this album. "

-Wait... Hearbreaker? Ramble on? These are not great Zeppelin tracks?

So is this greatness for you or would you rather just ramble on? Let me know below

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