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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III CD (album) cover

LED ZEPPELIN III

Led Zeppelin

 

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3.92 | 630 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
3 stars At some point in 1970 (or thereabouts), someone must have come up to Jimmothy Page and said, "Hey man, I dig your heavy blues and all that, but can't you play anything else?" And it must have hurt the man deeply. I mean, he slept with an acoustic guitar, and I guess he felt it was time the world needed to know that. So he and Iron Butterfly here got together and put out Led Zepp III: The Folk Album; aka, Lead Zeppelin III: The First Truly Boring Led Zeppelin Album.

But how not to alienate our thirteen-year-old boy fan base? AHA! Let's open with a crunchy headbanger! Thus, "Immigrant Song" enters the halls of history as the first heavy metal song about Vikings (and far from the last). Much like "Hole Lotta Love," it's got a simplistic, but undeniably catchy riff, and is probably the best song on the album. No, seriously, I really like this song. It's so stupid, it's fun. And awesome. Just ignore Plant's moans, and focus on how sadly short it is (live versions got a guitar solo at the end).

Now, on to the folk! "Friends" is a toe-tappin', if harmless, acoustic piece. I like the ominous, and probably "Kashmir" leaning, keyboard (string?) effects in the background; I just wish they'd been attached to something with a little more substance. This bounds right into "Celebration Day," a country- ish ditty. It's pretty solid, with tight instrumentation and soloing, but the lyrics are pretty retarded. Plant wailing, "I'm so happy, I'm gonna join a band?" Sadly Robert, you're already in one.

Some folks like the seven-minute sprawler "Since I Been Loving You," but I think it's a little much. It's one thing for a blues to leak emotion; it's another for it to leak sap. I don't believe Plant for one minute when he tells us he's "gonna lose [his] ever lovin' mind." The later re-tread "Tea For One" is far more intelligent and impressive (and doesn't have that dopey organ). Thank goodness Page can still solo like a bluesman.

"Out on the Tiles" is an effective, if not jaw-dropping, hard rocker, with a nice chorus. It's also a little longer than need be. Slightly better is "Gallows Pole," but then again, with a name like that, who could screw it up? Basically a folk showdown (or hoedown, mayhaps), "Pole" is a fast ballad that contains lots of genuine sentiment; or, at least, genuine instrumentation.

"Tangerine" is trying to be bleak, and perhaps it succeeds, but I can't help feeling like it would have been better in the hands of someone else. It can't decide if it wants to be moody folk, or downbeat country, so it lives somewhere in the middle of the road, but it sorta works anyway. "That's the Way" wants to follow the same path, but has none of "Tangerine's" charm and it's twice as long, it just ends up being boring.

"Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" pretty much lives up to the "Stomp" part, with the Zepsters trying to channel the Rolling Stones right down Plant's vocal style. It's pure country, and kinda stupid, but kinda fun all the same. Besides, the guitar picking within and throughout is Jimmy's best stuff with the acoustic on the album.

But just in case you thought that Led Zep had gone totally insane, we close with "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper," a totally insane piece of blues mockery. At least, I hope it's mockery, because if they were serious about this thing...suffice to say that it brings to mind all the best material off of Led Zep II, only if it had been REALLY ANNOYING instead of really cool. The only thing more irritating than the guitar effects during the "solo spots" is Plant, who is six times as bad through a variety of voice distorters and echo machines. Thanks for a crappy ending to an album I already wasn't in love with boys.

Yeah, so, they screwed up. Who can blame 'em? They didn't want to release the same album a third time in a row. The problem is, the boys still have Viking aspirations with their mandolins and banjos. Therefore, the roots rock stuff is sometimes fun, sometimes lame, and always stupid. Either way, most of this material is listenable, but would have been much more impressive in the hands of...oh, I dunno, Family or The Strawbs or someone.

As for the standards? I dunno what to say. The hard rockers are still intact, if very lean this time around, but the blues? Grr. I REALLY don't know what to say there. Blues was always Zep's best point. That's what made II so awesome. Why they'd totally abandon that and replace it with ugly experimentation ("Hats Off") or almost campy cliché ("Since") is beyond me.

Point is, this record feels very out of place in the Zep canon. They wouldn't start making weird goof-ups like this until a few years later, and even then, they had enough experience under their belts not to make total assholes of themselves. Just cling onto the first couple of songs and be glad that nothing here is all that long. Because then we'd REALLY be in trouble.

The Whistler | 3/5 |

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