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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III CD (album) cover


Led Zeppelin


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3.93 | 908 ratings

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This was my entry album to Led Zep (in October 1971). Before this, I only knew the single "Whole Lotta Love"/ "Livin Lovin' Maid" (what a single)! After the tornado of Led Zep II, and the subsequent touring in the US (more than two years, almost non-stop), the band was looking for some retreat to record their third album. They found it at Bron-Yr-Aur, a small cottage in Wales.

The rather "countryside" mood of the location might have influenced their inspiration for what will remain their main acoustic effort. IMO, Plant has never been in better shape before. He is fantastic throughout the album. Page recalls : ""It was the first time I really came to know Robert," says Page. "Actually living together at Bron Y-Aur, as opposed to occupying nearby hotel rooms. The songs took us into areas that changed the band, and it established a standard of traveling for inspiration... which is the best thing a musician can do".

The fabulous "Immigrant Song" with the high-pitched Plant voice is one of their most brilliant songs. It will be a classic opener for their live performances. No subtlety here : strong, heavy rock. It is a warrior song (reference to the Valhalla : Vikings paradise), it was very much influenced by their visit to Iceland : "We come from the land of the ice and snow, From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow". It will be released as a single (but not in the UK). One of their very few, since Led Zep was an album band.

Next one is the very good acoustic "Friends" (Page/Plant). There is a conversation going on before the tracks really starts. I found a written transcription for it : "Look at the shit going off. Turn it down a little. It must be Happy New Year ! Alright Jim? I never have touched there! Oh piss off ! Jim? He's falling out over it. Get out you fucker! Separate it, separate it. It's shit Walter ! There's a fuck up on it. Ten. Fuck..." (last one credited to Jimmy).

Background orchestration is somewhat Middle-East oriented (Plant is fascinated by this region). Already an indication for "Kashmir" maybe ? It flows nicely into "Celebration Day" which is a more traditional Led Zep song. Great riff, solid rock my friend.

Jones will co-sign three songs on the album (of which the sublime "Since I've Been Loving You"). Although I'm not really into blues (to say the least), this number has a so passionate mood that I always succumbed to its incredible guitar solo (but not only). The drumming from Bonham is gigantic here. The sound that comes out of his drum is incredibly heavy. His bass drum was over-dimensioned to reach such a result. This is an anthology piece of rock music. One of my two preferred ones in their whole repertoire. Just sit, listen and appreciate.

"Since." was written well before this recording. As soon as during the Led Zep II sessions. The band had played it live frequently. It was replaced by "Whole Lotta Love" on the album. But who can blame them for this ? It was the only track from the third album that the band had played live prior to the recording sessions. Page did his guitar solo in one take. He knew a bit the song already since the inspiration for it was "New York City Blues" which he wrote with the "Yardbirds".

"Out On The Tiles" features Bonham in the song-writing (hence the title which is slang- oriented and means: a night on the town. With his reputation, it was always great partying. It's a kind of "love" song : "I got me a fine woman, who says that I'm her man, A-one thing that I know for sure, gonna give her lotta lovin'. Like nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody can". Again Bonham's heavy drumming is fabulous and so, so efficient. This solid hard/heavy-rock track is another great piece of music : good guitar riff, very strong backing band and Plant, as usual...The anecdote around this song is that Page can be clearly heard saying "Stop" at 1:25 . The legend will tell that he did so to remind to get the timing right because he kept messing it up during practice... Anyway, a great number to close this excellent side one (five stars level, IMO).

The most controversial side of any Led Zep album, opens with the wonderful "Gallows Pole". It's a traditional English song revisited by Page. this is what it is mentioned on the album sleeve. Still, the original folk song was recorded in 1939 as "Gallis Pole" by folk singer Lead Belly (1939).

Starting as a nice little folk tune, the beat grows throughout and "Gallows Pole" ends up in an extraordinary "call & response" session from Plant and the backing vocals. Rhythm having reached its climax and being real rocky by now. This song is extraordinary when played live (I saw Page/Plant performing it during their world tour in 1998, Ghent). It was a fabulous moment of the concert.

The next duo of tracks belong to the most subtle and quiet Led Zep songs. Melodies are very nice in both acoustic numbers. These will be highly criticized by the rock press at the time of release. Plant will mention, that if Led Zep hadn't been doing this, they would have written songs like "Whole Lotta Love" for ever. And he did not want this. Who can blame him ?

"Tangerine" has its origins in an old Yardbirds song (but it was never released as such). These two songs "That's The Way" and "Tangerine" (together with another one or two - "Going To California" , "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp") will be the core of their acoustic set during concerts while Page / Plant / Jones will almost sit on the edge of the stage to bring more feeling to the audience. These were marvelous moments even if they are of course not the favorite ones of the hordes of Led Zep fans from the early days (to which I belong).

These acoustic tracks will attract a new category of fans who were more keen on folk songs. Old fans, though, will get more trouble with them. I must say, that at the time of discovery, I was not too enthusiast about them, but time has worked on me and when I decided to re-purchase their whole catalogue in CD format (which I did in December 1998), I re-discovered these tracks with a different view but not to such extent to have them in my top twenty faves from the band. Average songs, that's it.

"Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" is another highlight of this album. Even if it's an acoustic song, the rhythm is fabulous. The solo introduction from Page is just great, and his complex play during the whole song is a real "chef d'oeuvre". Bonham, once again, sets the pace brilliantly. I have always wondered how an electric version of this song would sound...but I'll never know. The intro was "borrowed" from an old "friend" : Bert Jansch ("The Waggoner's Tale" is the title of his song). It's the second time that Page will do this (first one was ""Black Mountain Side" on their debut album).

It's a "countryside" love song (hell! I'm getting lyrical here) : "As we walk down the country lanes, I singin' a song, Hear me calling your name. Hear the wind whisper in the trees, Telling Mother Nature 'bout-a you an' me". Plant will refer to a blue-eyed merle : "Tell your friends all around the world, Ain't no companion like a blue eyed merle". Plant's dog was . a blue eyed merle. Its name was Strider and it is also mentioned in "The Lords Of The Rings"... Plant will refer to "Strider" when performing the song on stage (just mentioning "Strider" at the end of the song).

"Hat's Off", the closing number is rather weak. Jimmy playing sliding guitar while Plant distorted voice is not of the best effect. This song is credited to Charles Obscure, who was a pseudonym for Page. The title referred to Roy Harper who was a British folk- singer. Page appreciated him a lot for never having sold off to the record industry. He will play with him several times (on stage or in the studio). Roy Harper was the lead singer on the song "Have A Cigar" ("Wish You Were Here" from the Floyd). The song is a collage of excerpts of old blues songs written by blues veterans (Bukka White and Oscar Woods). They won't be credited as such, unfortunately. This song will never be played live (guess why).

It is a poor closing number for this great album. As Led Zep II, this one will top both the UK and the US charts. Led Zep will be voted the best band of 1970 in the Melody Maker's poll. For the first time in nine years The Beatles were dethroned.


Four stars.

ZowieZiggy | 4/5 |


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