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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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4.03 | 874 ratings

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4 stars Studio Genius Steps Forward

Blues has always been a music of simple ideas, turned and transformed into something magical, transformative for a given time, often only a single evening. The form has morphed many times, with phrases and structures being repeated over and over again, but often with some new flavor, some new piece of another world being touched. For a few years, Led Zeppelin took (and yes sometimes stole) those ideas and turned them into something never seen before and never again matched. Their blues, whether direct covers (You Shook Me, Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, Black Mountain Side) or their adaptations (Dazed and Confused, Communication Breakdown) had an intensity, a texture that was their own. It was just the SOUND.

This element, of course, came courtesy of guitarist Jimmy Page and his extensive studio experience. Live, Led Zeppelin could be amazing, but also extremely uneven. It was in the studio that Page moved from being a very good guitarist to being a unique artist wielding the paint brush of the recording studio unlike anyone besides George Martin (or perhaps Brian Wilson) had done before. The lushness of Babe I'm Gonna Leave You on record is incredible, and it is the specific echoes, the way the multitudes of guitar tracks are combined, the composition of small sonic details, that made Led Zeppelin what they were. Similarly, the blues-psychedelia of Dazed and Confused alternates between walls of layers and stripped-down glory and it works wonderfully. For the fools who tell you that the original Yardbirds did a better job on this song, just look on youtube. Despite the lyrics making more sense in the original form, the studio LZ version transforms the song finally into the otherworldly vision Page had for it. Similarly, youtube Page doing versions of Black Mountain Side without the tabla or overdubs. It's just not the same. Again, while the band boasted individual talents, chemistry, timing, and aggressive promotion, their magic really lie in the studio wizardry of Page.

Led Zeppelin I is the most often referenced album for the current trend of bashing the legendary band. But even the most untrained ear can hear that something very different, and at the time, new, was happening on this album. Compare You Shook Me on this album to Jeff Beck's version or to Muddy Waters great original recording. It's just bare blues, the song less important than the expression, and in this case interpreted and transformed by a studio genius. To some extent, this is why the accusations that Led Zeppelin were frauds because of their failure to credit their covers is missing the point. I fully support those artists raiding Page's coffers for what they are owed, as he should have credited them and paid them. But....Led Zeppelin did not become popular because of which songs they picked to cover or adapt. They are popular because of their sound, the expansion of their use of the album as their canvas and the studio as their palette. It is this that put them alongside progressive bands (it is not surprising that both Chris Squire and Ian Anderson made overtures to Page for projects) in envisioning a new rock and roll for the 1970's.

This album contains three of the most signature Zep tracks (Dazed, BMS, and Babe, all cover/adaptions) and some of their best heavy blues. A few of their signature elements have yet to be completely realised (the use of pure riffage will develop to much better effect on later albums), but the magic sound is already here. Must own for any rock collection, and an excellent addition to a prog collection.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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