Their debut is Led Zeppelin’s most blues oriented album, and a lot of these songs are derived from traditional blues material. This means that it’s less diverse than their following albums, and it’s easily my least favourite of their early albums, especially as it takes a dip in quality at the end with the last two songs dragging. The album is unique for Led Zeppelin in that it was recorded before their stardom, particularly evident in Plant’s relatively restrained vocal performance. A lot of the hard rock of the 1970s can be traced directly to Led Zeppelin; it has precedents in other blues-rock acts like Cream and Hendrix, but there were few other sixties albums with such a dark and potent atmosphere. There’s a gulf between ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ that is somehow wider than the mere two years between them.
Key songs on Led Zeppelin include ‘Dazed and Confused’, where Page innovates with a violin bow to create the ominous guitar tone, and the abrasive ‘Communication Breakdown’. ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ is eclipsed by the third album’s ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, but it’s still a terrific blues ballad. The psychedelic ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’, with Jones on organ, and the folk instrumental ‘Black Mountain Side’ add some eclecticism to the middle of the record.
I’d rank Led Zeppelin higher if it was the band’s only album, but I rarely feel like returning to it, and their later records are more diverse and more interesting.