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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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3.94 | 899 ratings

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4 stars Getting The Led Out

Acoustic music had always been integral to Led Zeppelin and the notion that they were a heavy metal band has always been an inaccurate supposition propogated by the music press. Ironically the moniker "Hammer Of The Gods " a favourite nickname applied to them by bookwriters and fans is a line taken from Led Zepelin's opening track "Immigrant Song" which is the only really earthshaking episode to occur on this acoustically derived album. When the line is actually considered within the context of the song with it's wailing battle cries and pounding main riff it is more reflective of early English history and Viking raiders and really had nothing to do with the heaviness of Led Zeppelin's music.

Fortunately the opening mayhem lasts a mere two and a half minutes before instruments such as mandolins, steel guitars and banjos and a moog synthesizer are introduced that had never been heard before on a Led Zeppelin record. Although acoustic folky rhythms wrested from the likes of Bert Jansch an Fairport Convention abound, Led Zeppelin III remains rooted in the blues albeit with a more puritanical resolve. The forthright blues rave ups " Since I've Been Loving You" and " Hats Off To Roy Harper" exemplify these intentions as if to say they weren't really four young English lads hellbent on desecrating the blues. If anything it certainly demonstrated the impact the band had created in the two short years since their inception.

Sometimes referred to as " The Cottage Album", much of Led Zeppelin III was concieved during a "working holiday" spent at a secluded run down cottage in the Welsh country side known as "Bron -yr-yaur" or in English " The Golden Breast". The after effects of treks through local forests and valleys were conducive to creative processes that produced such rustic compositions as "Celebration Day", "That's The Way" and "Bron-y-aur Stomp" which must have baffled fans who were expecting more of the thunder & lightning heard on Led Zep I & II. Nonetheless the album shipped gold and went to number 1 on both sides of the pond. "Immigrant Song" made it into the North American top 20 ( Led Zep only released singleds in the UK for promotional purposes as part of Manager Peter Grant's gameplan ) and could have been better replaced on the album by it's flip side " Hey Hey What Can I Do ", a folky lament for a lady of the night that themeatically predated the Police's 1978 smash "Roxanne".

Although the magic & mysticism that was to become part of the Led Zeppelin experience was still in the not-too-distant future, Led Zeppelin III actually foreshadowed the darkness that would prevail on subsequent works by the sureal psychedelic cover alone which was concieved by one of guitarist Jimmy Page's friend's from art school who went by the handle Zarcon. Contrary to what has been surmised, the idea behind the spinning disc and the conjecture that it was a revolutionary one is completely false. It was based on the concept of a volvelle or paper computer with rotating graphics that was used for mathematical calibrations that dated back to ancient times but had also become assciated with the occult and witchraft, something guitarist Jimmy Page had more than a passing fancy for. Early pressings even had inscriptions of Aliester Crowley quotes etched into the vinyl and are not as rare as some internet sources would suggest. The cover, despite it's bubble gum qualities, also illutrates the ctreative flexibility afforded to album designers back in the glorious days of vinyl who had larger canvasses on which to create their masterpieces. Modern British and Japanese CD releases have tried to replicate the original Led Zeppelin III spinning cover but with less impact than the original vinyl format size.

As for the music, which was largely dissmissed by the masses at the time who misunderstood the band's intentions. There were actually tracks like the aforementioned " Immigrant Song", "Out On The Tiles" and " Gallows Pole" that still possessed the power and glory of previous hard rcockers such as Whole Lotta Love which seemed to be the song singled out by fans for the band to top. "Gallows Pole" was based on an old blues standard entitled "The Maid Freed From The Gallows" which was popularized by American blues legend Huddie William Ledbetter or "Lead Belly" under the title "Gallis Pole" in the 1930s . Although the Zeppelin rendition here was based on a later version, the interpretive genius of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant can be appreciated by listening to the earlier "Lead Belly" recordings, one of which can be heard on "The Early Roots Of Led Zeppelin" compilation CD on Catfish Records.

Led Zeppelin III which is for the most part a joyous musical experience that shifted it's gears down from earlier harder edged blues blowouts. A more collaborative effort prevailed and the infrastructure to "Out On The Tiles" was even constructed from a drinking song that was invented by drummer John Bonham during nights "down the pub". The togetherness of the band was also exemplified by the acoustic "sit downs" that accompanied the songs in live performances and became a staple of their shows long before other " heavy bands" would capitalize on unplugged concerts and albums for novelty effect or for commercial gain. Page also focusses more on the production process and less on freaking out and consequently Led Zeppelin acquires more depth, the signifigance of which would become more evident with more hindsight.

Some of the most honest music that Led Zeppelin ever produced can be heard on Led Zeppelin III that has a wonderful trippy hippie jive to it that flows and grooves. It was pivotal in the sense that fans would anticipate each subsequent Led Zeppelin record not for the next skull crushing riff but for the unknowns which made them more than just the no 1 band on the planet. A very important and special Led Zeppelin album that was too hastily disregarded by fans and critics and perhaps the one which attracted the interest of fans of progressive rock because of it's production and predominant acoustic textures.

Vibrationbaby | 4/5 |


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