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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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4.03 | 869 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars The new New Yardbirds album of old old songs

From the ashes of the Yardbirds came the New Yardbirds, who quickly metamorphosed into Led Zeppelin. The choice of name was not without its initial problems, with a descendent of the creator of the Zeppelin taking exception to the sleeve image of a crashing Hindenberg (leading to the one off use of the name The NOBS for a 1970 gig while the matter was resolved!). Incidentally, the cover picture is not actually a photograph but an artistic representation of that famous photo.

Led Zeppelin's first album is firmly rooted in folk and blues, influences they would gradually interweave with many others to become the world dominating band we have come to know. There is also a residual pop element to some of the songs. While there is certainly a pioneering feel to this album in the way the band fuses blues and folk with heavy rock, this was in many ways little more than a taster for the classic works which were to come, especially on the second and fourth albums.

The album opens in a fairly conventional pop rock manner with "Good times, bad times", a song with more than a passing resemblance to the second album's "Heartbreaker". "Your time is gonna come" follows these pop leanings, especially on the now dated sounding harmony choruses.

"Babe I'm gonna leave you" is an interpretation of an old folk song which Joan Baez had previously breathed new life into. The interpretation here is bluesy, offering the first real indications of the power of Jimmy Page's guitar work.

"Dazed and confused" is one of the album's centrepieces. The song was written by a folk singer by the name of Jake Holmes, who had supported the Yardbirds on a US tour. The Yardbirds developed their cover of the song on subsequent tours, but it was Led Zeppelin who finally recorded a studio version. The song features Jimmy Page using a violin bow on his guitar, giving a rather spooky, spaced out effect to the drifting middle section. This was also one of the earliest examples of Led Zeppelin failing to give due credit to the songwriter, the credit being claimed by Jimmy Page. Had Holmes taken legal action at that time, it may have persuaded the band to be more careful with the writing credits, and thus avoid the retrospective actions they have since found themselves embroiled in. That said, Led Zeppelin's version is far from the folk based original, including as it does a fine guitar solo by Page. The song went on to be played live in longer and longer adaptations, including one entire side of "The song remains the same".

"Black mountain side" sees Page once again claiming credit for someone else's song, this time taking Bert Janch's interpretation of the traditional "Blackwater side". The tune is a brief acoustic melody.

"Communication breakdown" is another album highlight, being a raucous forerunner to "The immigrant song". Here, Robert Plant uses many of the vocal tricks he would develop so successfully on subsequent albums. A simple song, but the inspiration for so many which followed by so many bands. Although Led Zeppelin did not release singles in the UK, this was unsuccessfully put out in that format in the US.

"I can't quit you baby" is one of the band's earliest blues interpretations, being penned by Willie Dixon. Led Zeppelin's version is primarily a vehicle for Jimmy Page's guitar virtuosity, the track feeling similar to the second album's "Lemon song". "You shook me" is another Willie Dixon number which went unaccredited (until he successfully sued the band!). The song is a more orthodox blues interpretation, including some fine organ by John Paul Jones, sounding like Booker T.

The closing "How many more times" is the longest track on the album, running to over 8 minutes. Once again, the song is rooted in blues, this time taking melodies and lyrics from different blues standards (but unfortunately, once again failing to give due credit to them).

For a first album, this is a fine collection. It is full of originality and invention. It is a pity therefore that the band did not have the self confidence to pay tribute to the many songwriters whose work they claimed as their own. While none of the music here is overtly prog, much of it lays the strong foundations subsequent prog bands used when pushing the genre forward. For that, we should be eternally grateful to Led Zeppelin.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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