Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Still One Of The Greatest Albums Of All-Time

Honestly, people, come on. Sure, I don't reach for it as often as I once did (like say, multiple times a day every day of 6th grade). But, this bad boy is brilliant! After the lukewarm reception for their unexpectedly acoustic-dominated third album, Led Zeppelin appear to have concocted the perfect blend of mellow and heavy...a stone cold classic.

Side One opens with "Black Dog," which is quite possibly the greatest hard-rock groove e-v-e-r. Hey, hey, mama/Said the way you move/Gonna make you sweat/Gonna make you groove...bodacious, my brother. And Plant's Ah-oh, Ah-ah, Ah-oh, Ah-ah, Aaaaaaaah...? You know you love it.

"Rock and Roll" is up next, and only slightly less classic on the classic rock scale (say 9.99 as opposed to the 10.0 of the opener). But, why split hairs? It's been a long time since I rock and rolled...Page was certainly at the top of his "guitar-god" game in 1971. (PS - Damn the Cadillac commercials.)

"The Battle of Evermore" is acoustic based, and features the guest vocals of the late Sandy Denny--the only Zep song to feature a guest vocalist, unless I'm forgetting something. It's likely the most skipped song in the history of rock albums, purely as a result of its placement in the running order, coupled with the immense number of casual fans who've purchased this album (sales over 20 million). Heck, even I'll admit to having skipped it many times 'back in the day' (to use the parlance of our times). It might bloody well run on a bit long at nearly 6 minutes, but it's a damned fine tune nonetheless. It's probably even enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence, given the whole fantasy/Lord of the Rings boom.

"Stairway to Heaven" closes the first side. What can be said? It's a perennial winner of "greatest song ever" contests run by classic rock stations across this great land. Page's guitar solos in this song are widely touted as amongst the greatest ever recorded. And, of course, it is the perfect blueprint of the slow-mellow-song-turned-heavy-hard-and-fast. Let's not hold all of its imitators against it, please.

Side Two opens with "Misty Mountain Hop," one of my personal favorites. Great, great guitar/keyboard combo from Page and the ultimate utility man, John Paul Jones. Of course, Bonzo pounds away at the drums, as well.

"Four Sticks" is a heavy/dark/groovy song for which the title is allegedly based solely on the fact that Bonham played the drums with 2 sticks in each hand on the recording. It's not my favorite by any means, but still a solid track.

"Going to California" is a folk-rock acoustic tune, allegedly an ode to Joni Mitchell. An excellent song to mellow one's mind. Beautiful.

The album closes with a classic tour-de-force, "When the Levee Breaks." This is basically the culmination of, and good-bye to, Zeppelin's original heavy blues roots. It's quite possibly the quintessential example of their shameless plundering of the blues, albeit amped up with tremendous volume and heavier riffs. There's really not another song from this mold on any of their subsequent albums, although their first two had been full of them. I love that stuff, myself, which is why I count their first, second and fourth among my very favorites. Don't get me wrong. There are great hard rock tunes on their later albums, and they never fully removed themselves from the blues. They just became less blatant about the whole imitation-is-the-highest-form-of-flattery approach.

#66 on the Rolling Stone "Top 500" list? I'd say "underrated" doesn't begin to describe that placement.

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8 Comments:

Blogger rabidt said...

I know I promised to send you the Mickboy version of this months ago and never did. Have you obtained it through another source? If not, I'll bring you a copy when I'm down your way leter this month - hopefully we can meet up on April 21 or 22. I'll get in touch with more details as they get planned, but I believe you are aware of the event on the 22nd (sure to be interesting, if nothing else).

I'm pretty sure I was with you when you bought this LP all those years ago, hopefully I'm remembering that correctly. Ah, the days when one small mall could have TWO record stores. Definitely remember listening to it over at your house, esp. "Black Dog."

Speaking of the parlance of our times, is "Zoso" still the preferred nomenclature for this? Haven't heard that in years, but that was the name to use back in the day, right?

11:41 AM, April 05, 2007  
Blogger rabidt said...

Oh, and one more thing, FUCK Rolling Stone. As you know, I'm not a huge Zeppelin fan, but if this is not a Top Ten LP, I don't know what is. Shit, they can't even get the easy stuff right.

11:46 AM, April 05, 2007  
Blogger haahnster said...

You are remembering absolutely correctly! As I recall, I was contemplating the purchase after just having learned that the name of that amazing song was, quite inexplicably, "Black Dog." I knew about "Stairway to Heaven." Still, there was quite a bit of $$ at stake for an 11 or 12 year old in 1981/2 (probably either $6.99 or $7.99 plus tax). You informed me that "Rock and Roll" was "that song that starts It's been a long time since I rock and rolled..." Well, that was all the convincing necessary!

I am still in need of the Mickboy version, please! And, I can't wait to see "the bongo player," by the way. Should be excellent. I can (finally) return your Buffalo Springfield box set, too!

Now, was it Musicland or JR's Music Shop? That is the question. I'm guessing JR's (if I'm correct in remembering it was the one downstairs), as it was my preference (for who-knows-what reason). Those were the days...

1:17 PM, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Grant Miller said...

The drums on that album were recorded perfectly - PERFECTLY. That had that weird sound like he's banging on trashcans and playing a harp. The drumming on that album is just perfect. I need to listen to it right now.

5:40 PM, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

"allegedly an ode to Joni Mitchell"

I hope she was the one that "plays, guitars, cries, and sings...la-la-laah," instead of being the "woman unkind."

You know, clicking that Sandy Denny link of yours was the gateway, I managed to spend over two hours Wiki-ing, old metal and hard rock acts, as well as looking for rare CDs. It was most entertaining, thanks : )

12:03 AM, April 06, 2007  
Blogger haahnster said...

GM: Always good to make a little time for the mighty Zep.

WP: Always good to make a little time to click endlessly about cyberspace. (See also my comment on your post linking to my post to which I refer in this comment response to your comment on my post.)

12:15 AM, April 06, 2007  
Blogger rabidt said...

That's great about "Rock and Roll," though I didn't remember that part. What I recall about that day was that my mom must have picked us up from the mall and then stopped at Randall's, because I remember us opening and looking over the LP as we sat in the car as my mom shopped. Don't know why I remember that, but I can picture it quite clearly. (Funny, I don't have any recent memories of going out and downloading music with a friend; oh wait, that's right, you gotta do that at home by yourself!)

I don't know which store it was, either. Must have been JR's (downstairs)- it was FAR better. OK, I'm sure Musicland had almost exactly the same stock, but I always preferred JR's, too. Actually, as we got older, I remember JR's having a decent cutout section where I scored some goodies. So, I suppose it catered more to the record hounds, and we were able to recognize that at a very early age.

2:30 PM, April 06, 2007  
Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

This album is a top ten in any list. Never ever a "66".

And truly, as we saw in Katrina, "When the levee breaks, you got no place to stay".

8:17 AM, April 09, 2007  

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