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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Review by Gary Hill

It’s hard to believe that it’s been forty years since this album was released. It’s still a classic and probably always will be. Coming out of the ashes of The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin began as The New Yardbirds to fulfill gig obligations left behind by that band. You can hear a lot of The Yardbirds in this release, but there are hints of things to come – like visions of both the second and third albums from Zep here. It’s a great album that still holds up quite well despite its age.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Good Times Bad Times
You could look at this as the opening salvo from Led Zeppelin's career since it's the first song from their first album. It's an intriguing song. It has a cool bluesy bass in a lot of ways. The hard rock that came to be a trademark of Zep is here. There is actually a bit of a psychedelic edge. You have to listen to John Paul Jones' bass work on this thing. He is so under-rated, and this is a great example of his skill. It has a killer guitar solo section. Robert Plant's vocals are perhaps a bit understated and by the numbers. I think that maybe he hadn't come into his own yet. This is a great tune that still holds up pretty darned well.
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
Perhaps not as instantly accessible, this is none-the-less more interesting than the opener. It’s got a bluesy, folk sort of presence on the verses and powers out for the chorus. I’ve always loved the mood and tone of this piece. The hard rocking, driving extended motif later (a variant on the shorter hard rock section) is a real killer, too.
You Shook Me
A full on blues treatment, this is quite tasty. It’s also another cut that isn’t a far stretch from the Yardbirds music at all. This has some tasty slide guitar work and a nice harmonica solo.
Dazed And Confused
Now, this heavy rock, rather psychedelic, extended rocker is a classic, and rightfully so. The track has an almost heavy metal texture at times and yet has serious ties to the Yardbirds sound. This one is just plain awesome – to this day. The extended instrumental section is intense. 
Your Time Is Gonna Come
The keyboard based opening on this reminds me a lot of something from early Yes. While the keys remain, after this extended intro the cut shifts to a guitar based rocker that alternates between mellower, more intricate sections and harder rocking choruses. This has always been one of my favorites on the disc. It leads straight into the next number. 
Black Mountain Side
Not waiting for the previous cut to end, this guitar and percussion solo (with it’s folk meets Indian and other sounds motif) starts right out while “Your Time Is Gonna Come” is still playing. This is perhaps more indicative of some of the music that Led Zeppelin would later explore more fully on the Led Zeppelin III album.
Communication Breakdown
This is a real screamer and seems to be a precursor for the band’s energized, powerhouse second album. It’s not that far removed from some of the music on that disc. It’s another that gets a lot of radio airplay. 
I Can't Quit You Baby
Here’s another extremely bluesy cut. It’s got some killer Page soloing and a great Plant vocal delivery throughout. This seems a great link between the music of the Yardbirds and the sounds the band would showcase on their next album. This segues straight into the previous number.
How Many More Times
Coming immediately after “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” this is another killer hard rocker. It’s not extremely fast (rather mid-paced) but the riff that drives it is both classic and nearly metal. The tasty, dropped down, section is an excellent touch. It’s heavy and rather dark – and yet fairly atmospheric. It’s also just plain cool. This is another that bridges the gap between the Yardbirds and the classic Zep sound. It’s a highlight of the set and a great way to end it in style.
 
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