Led Zeppelin Album Reviews
Hastily formed by Yardbirds’ guitarist Jimmy Page in order to tour to fulfill contractual obligations – he grabbed another session veteran, John Paul Jones, on bass, and recruited singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham from a local band. Given the circumstances of this pragmatic and sudden formation, it’s surprising that Led Zeppelin have become one of the most enduring bands in the classic rock canon – it seems likely they’ll be remembered by posterity as the archetypal hard rock band. But their high degree of virtuosity, Page’s excellent production skills, and a solid core of great songs on each of their eight studio albums, makes them a justifiable choice as an all time great.
Replicating the lineup dynamics of The Who – the maned blonde singer, the guitarist as the primary creative force, the manic drummer, and the quietly brilliant bass player – but dispensing with Pete Townsend’s predilection towards rock operas, Led Zeppelin came to personify the excess of rock during the seventies. They covered a lot of ground in their ten year career, starting off a blues rock band, but taking in influences from English folk and progressive rock. My favourite Led Zeppelin period is Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti, where they were trying all sorts of styles, from pastoral prettiness to overblown blues epics.
I had barely heard any Led Zeppelin songs until I bought their albums in my early twenties, but they always had an aura of occult about them. While it’s true that Page was fascinated by Aleister Crowley, Robert Plant’s lyrics are generally about Tolkien and Vikings, and ‘In My Time of Dying’ from Physical Graffiti is straight out gospel. If anything’s offensive in the Zeppelin catalogue, it’s the raunchy early blues material like ‘The Lemon Song’.
Faced with personal difficulties from the mid-seventies – Plant was involved in a serious car accident and lost a young son to illness, while Page and Bonham struggled with addictions – their career petered out, with their two last albums, 1976’s Presence and 1979’s In Through The Out Door generally regarded as their two weakest. The band dissolved formally after Bonham’s death in 1980, and have periodically reunited for live events but have never recorded in the studio.
Ten Favourite Led Zeppelin Songs
Hey Hey, What Can I Do
When The Levee Breaks
Stairway To Heaven
Achilles Last Stand
Over The Hills and Far Away
The Rain Song