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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin CD (album) cover

LED ZEPPELIN

Led Zeppelin

 

Prog Related

3.98 | 661 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
3 stars THE STOLEN ONE

Here is the recipe to shape one of the greatest and most successful ROCK band in the music history.

First ingredient is to grab a great manager/producer. Get Peter Grant for instance : tour promoter for The Shadows, as well as for some rock'n' roll legends like Cochran, Little Richard and Berry. He started his management experience in late 1966 with the ... Yardbirds.

Second thing you need is a gifted and experienced guitar-session player. He will incidentally be the last member of a band that will ...disband and leave him no choice than quickly find a trio to perform the last shows of a Scandinavian tour that was planned before the split. Since he had worked with an incredible number of session musicians, he reminded of a bass player called John Paul Jones. You'll take care as well that your first choice for a lead singer will decline your offer, but will suggest another one : Robert Plant (who preferably will accept).

Page traveled to Birmingham to see him perform. "His vocal range was unbelievable," recalls Page. "I thought : Wait a minute. There's something wrong here. He's not known". I thought, "he must be a strange guy or something". Then he came over to my place and I could see that he was a really good guy. I still don't know why he hadn't made it yet...". It would be entirely coincidental that this guy will recommend a young boy (20) called John Bonham whom he knew from The Band Of Joy.

To gain in cohesion and experience, you'll have to manage to participate in an album recording as guests. Here is what P.J. Proby recalled from these sessions : "Come the last day we found we had some studio time, so I just asked the band to play while I just came up with the words. ... They weren't Led Zeppelin at the time, they were the New Yardbirds and they were going to be my band." ...So was "Three Weeks Ago" recorded and only remembered because of the backing trio (Bonham, Jones, Page) rather than for its commercial success.

You only need half a name to start with : The NEW Yarbirds. It is contradictory though that they ever played under that name. To introduce one of their first concert in Scandinavia, a local Swedish press article will mention :

"Bluesgroup from England. The Yarbirds, a renowned group visiting Sweden at the moment. Those who want to hear the youngsters will get their opportunity at Angby Park on 14th of September 1968. Page, guitar and violin, has allied himself with three new qualified musicians. Drummer John Bonham has played with American singer Tim Rose. John Paul Jones, bass, took part in the recording of Donovan's three latest LPs. Fourth member is vocalist Robert Plant who has got a good reputation in British blues circuits".

In an interview in 1993 Robert said that during this concert, the audience threw mud at them. Not a great debut, right ? The ticket for the concert only refers to "The Yardbirds".

To finalize your name, you will manage to create some interest and spread out the rumor that you want to create a supergroup, let's say with Beck, Entwhistle, Moon and either Donovan, Winwood or Steve Marriott as a lead singer. Some of those people will incidentally help you to find a final name for your project. It has been reported (but not confirmed) that Keith Moon would have said : "With that line-up, you'll go down like a lead zeppelin". Peter Grant will suggest to drop the 'a' in "Lead" to prevent "thick Americans" (his words, not mine) from pronouncing it as "leed".

Your manager will also take care to sign a good contract (for the band, not only for the record company) with an established firm (Atlantic for example).

So, what else do you need now ? Well, maybe a good album to settle your growing fame won't be a bad idea, right ?

About the recording sessions, Plant says: "I'd go back to the playback room and listen," he recounts. "It had so much weight, so much power, it was devastating. I had a long way to go with my voice then, but the enthusiasm and sparking of working with Jimmy's guitar...it was so raunchy. All these things, bit-by-bit, started fitting into a trademark for us. We finished the album in three weeks. Jimmy invested all his Yardbirds money, which wasn't much, into our first tour. We took a road crew of one and off we went...."

Their debut album can be outlined in three sections.

Since Led Zep only exists for a few months, they do not have sufficient own material to release a full original record. As Plant has the fame of a great blues performer, they will include two cover songs from the blues legend Willie Dixon "You Shook Me" and "I Can't Quit You Baby" . I do not really like these, but they will be classic of their early live performances. The third one is "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" from Anne Bredon / Anne Briggs (same person under both her original and "musical" surname). She is now retired and living well thanks to the credit she obtained.

When you compare this version and some earlier interpretations, there are of course no similarity. This Led Zep one is fabulous. It will be the inspiration source for a track like "What Is and What Should Never Be" for instance. When Page and Plant were listening to each of their favorite music at Page's home a few days after their first meeting, Page will put the Joan Baez's version of, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" on the pick-up. "I'd like to play it heavy," he said, "but with a lot of light and shade". I bet ya !

So, now we have already forty-three per cent of the record.

Then you start a reprehensible habit brilliantly outlined by Easy Livin' in another review (it will unfortunately last for a very long time) : you appropriate existing numbers (or portion of it) without giving credit to their original composer.

"Dazed and Confused" was released by Jake Holmes in 1967. It is featured on his album "Above Ground Sound". What follows are excerpts from an interview during September 2001 by Will Shade (from Perfect Sound Forever, an on-line music magazine).

"Do you remember playing at The Village Theatre on August 25, 1967 with The Yardbirds and The Youngbloods" ? Jack Holmes : "Yes. Yes. And that was the infamous moment of my life when "Dazed And Confused" fell into the loving arms and hands of Jimmy Page". WS: What exactly is that song about? I've read that it's about a bad acid trip, but the lyrics really don't seem to justify that interpretation? JH: No, I never took acid. I smoked grass and tripped on it, but I never took acid. I was afraid to take it.

The song's about a girl who hasn't decided whether she wants to stay with me or not. It's pretty much one of those love songs. I guess because of the fact that we had this open section, this instrumental break where we were getting into this psychedelic music . . . we weren't really doing it for the actual psychedelic aspects. We were doing it because it was cool to extend songs out and do these long musical ideas, kind of exploding your music out. Letting people riff more".

It will exactly be the case as well with Led Zep. They will expand this song to anything between six and over forty minutes while playing live. The longest version I know was recorded in Seattle (March 21st, 1973). It clocks at 43'46" !

Next of the genre is "Black Mountain Side" from Bert Jansch (featured on his album "Jack Orion" released as soon as 1966). It's an instrumental version of a traditional folk song called "Blackwater Side". Page's guitar arrangements were virtually identical to Jansch's version. Bert said : "The accompaniment was nicked by a well- known member of one of the most famous rock bands, who used it, unchanged, on one of their records". No comment, he is fully right.

The fabulous "How Many More Times" is an incredible number. Fantastic Page riff, extremely powerful rhythm section and great Plant vocals exercise. It is a partial cover of "How Many More Years" from Chester Arthur Burnett (known as Howlin' Wolf).

This song clearly announces "Whole Lotta Love" : same structure with a rather psychedelic middle part. About this one, it appears that the sung section includes an old blues song called "The Hunter" from Albert King (another blues guitar legend) which is not credited either. You'll hear this when Plant will start singing : "They call me the hunter...Ain't no need to run. 'Cause I've got you in the sights of my..........gun"! The "stolen" part lasts for about forty seconds. It starts at 6'20".

This song will be a highlight of their early live sets. It will also be extended quite a bit. Page will use the same bow technique as for "Dazed & Confused". There is a fantastic version of it on the semi-official audio "Live At The Royal Albert Hall" (January 9th, 1970), clocking at 24'58" ! (it is featured on their Led Zep DVD released in .2003.

So, you'll get now over 80% of your record. Cover and "stolen" songs all together. I guess it's time to have some original ones, no ?

"Your Time Is Gonna Come" is an acoustically-driven song credited to Page and Jones. It won't be remembered as a great track, I'm afraid. Since Led Zep "borrowed" so many tracks (or partial tracks) on this debut effort, one tried to add this number to the list saying that it stole the riff from "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (1967) from Traffic. I have carefully listened to this track and I could not find the slightest sign of this. So, let's take for granted that it is a Page/Jones track (but again, rather weak).

Can you figure out that there are even two non-controversial tracks here! "Good Times, Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown". Two great heavy rock numbers. Both will appear on the sole single released from this album (A and B-side). It will "peak" at the Nr. 80 in the US charts.

The album will reach Nr. 6 in the UK and Nr. 10 in the US.

A few words upon the cover artwork. It represents the "Hindenburg" disaster that took place on May, 6 (1937). It was built by Luftschiffbau... Zeppelin, a German company founded by Ferdinand von ... Zeppelin. It has also been said the pictured symbolized a phallic symbol...Make up your mind...

Led Zep have recorded this album in less than two days. It will cost about 1,750 £ to create (including sleeve artwork !). Profit for this album will be in excess of SEVEN MILLION US $ (these numbers reflect the situation till 1975)... Not too bad for a first album, right ? Tell me : are there a lot of bands who did better ?

Led Zep will also embark for a US tour as a support act for Vanilla Fudge (Jeff Beck Group had just cancelled it). Peter Grant needed to convince the band to leave their homes for the Christmas / New Year period. They wisely accepted.

Plant recalls : "We'd barely even been abroad, and here we were. It was the first time I saw a cop with a gun, a twenty-foot long car. The whole thing was a complete bowl- over. It was Christmas and Christmas away from home for the English is the end of the world. I went wandering down the Sunset Strip with no shirt on.

There were a lot of fun-loving people to crash into...and we started out on a path of positive enjoyment. We met a lot of people who we still know, a lot of people who've faded away. Some of them literally just grew up. I don't see the point in growing up...." "The important thing," Robert said recently, "was that Peter (Grant) told us if we didn't crack San Francisco (Fillmore West), we'd have to go home.

That was the place that was considered to be essential, the hotbed of the whole movement. It was the acid test, forget the Kool-Aid, and if we weren't convincing, they would have known right away. I said "I've been singing for years. I'd be happy to sing anywhere". The band had to play with Taj Mahal (!) and Country Joe and the Fish. Led Zep was only advertised as "Supporting Act." Led Zep took the stage with a devastating willingness for vengeance. Page felt something happening in the audience : "It felt like a vacuum and we'd arrived to fill it," he explains. "First this row, then that row...it was like a tornado and it went rolling across the country."

By the time the band reached the Fillmore East end of January 1969, they were headliners of course. Led Zep will tour the US three times in 1969. Successfully. This first effort holds two emblematic songs : "Dazed" and "How Many..."; two very good hard-rock numbers (but very short : total 5'16" - "Good Times..." and "Communication..."). The only prog-related track (my feeling) is "Your Time." (10% of the album).

AT THE TIME OF RELEASE, NO ONE WOULD HAVE EVER CONSIDERED THIS ALBUM AS PROG RELATED. NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN THE MEANTIME. STILL IT'S A GOOD DEBUT OF ONE OF THE GREATEST BAND OF ROCK HISTORY.

Three stars.

ZowieZiggy | 3/5 |

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