Led Zeppelin I (1969)


 
1. Good Times Bad Times 2. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You 3. You Shook Me 4. Dazed and Confused 5. Your Time is Gonna Come 6. Black Mountain Side 7. Communication Breakdown 8. I Can't Quit You Baby 9. How Many More Times

 

Widely considered one of the best hard-rock outfits in the history of rock and roll with a not so subtle stamp on the decade of the 70s. For the casual fan, and especially the non-fan, this band, sadly, always had a moniker of being over-played when listening to the radio. With the ubiquitous trend of “Classic Rock” stations that permeated the airwaves all over the world, Led Zeppelin seemed to be a favorite of DJs, and people were exposed, over and over, to this band’s most popular 4 or 5 songs of all time. So yes, many were sick of this band without ever knowing much about them.

I bring this up because one really must listen to their entire catalog, song for song, to fully appreciated the diversity and dexterity of this group. Not only are all four members top notch, but when one hears their vast catalog for the first time, they can finally hear what all the fuss is about. Their debut release, which came out in 1969 is unique in that it showcases that the band was able to tackle many styles without sounding too eclectic, and at the same time, showing off just how great a band they were.

Before Led Zeppelin, guitarist Jimmy Page was most known for his work with The Yardbirds. In fact, it was once a consideration to call this band “The New Yardbirds”. Fortunately, this idea was quickly nixed as this band really didn’t have that much in common with Page’s prior group. Although most would probably agree that Page had the strongest presence amongst the four, that is hotly debated as drummer John Bonham is widely regarded as one of the best drummers of all time. Robert Plant was what one might call a “perfect” lead singer. His range was mighty – being able to scream when necessary, yet he also possessed enough meekness to gently croon some of the band’s softer material. John Paul Jones is also highly regarded, not only for his steady bass thumping, but also for his ability to play a mean set of keyboards when necessary.

All one has to do is listen to side one of this brilliant record to see the many faces of the band. Good Times, Bad Times starts of the album in a rather simple arrangement, yet it’s a very powerful pop rock song. My only complaint about this track is it seems a tad short at less than three minutes. Now that I know limitations of the old vinyl record, it makes sense as the remaining three songs are in excess of six minutes and they obviously need the room for maximum effect. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You shows a bit of the softer side of Zep – at least initially. It manages to crescendo into quite the rock out (a trait common for this band), and the effort is so smooth, that the song can instantly rank as one of their best of all time. You Shook Me has the guys showing off their blues chops, and they prove that if they had done nothing but blues, they still might have reigned as one of the best bands of all time. The best of the best, though, is the side closer Dazed and Confused which has a bit of the psychedelic hippiness thrown in that was prevalent in the late sixties. Again, though, the band manage to explode midway through the cut and bring the house down with their hard-licking energy.

Side two is a bit less memorable, yet just as strong. Like side one, they manage to display the perfect blend of diversity, yet being consistent at the same time. Jones gets to show off on the mellotron on Your Time Is Gonna Come while Page provides us with a nice instrumental acoustic piece on Black Mountain Side. Communication Breakdown has the distinction of being the hardest, most straight-forward thing here, yet sadly, is also too short at 2 ½ minutes. They go back to the blues once again on the brilliant I Can’t Quit You Baby before closing the set with the underrated funky, groovy 8 ½ minute How Many More Times that seems to incorporate every style that I’ve already mentioned on every other song.

There were many that lamented the fact that the sixties were ending, yet retrospection shows us that with a band like this ushering in rock and roll to a new decade, music lovers would still have a lot of new sounds and styles to keep the genre very fresh and extremely exciting.

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