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A heavy metal blitzkreig
Led Zeppelin I - Led Zeppelin
Member Name: Mr Chubbers
Led Zeppelin I - Led Zeppelin
Date: 28/06/05, updated on 30/06/05 (114 review reads)
Advantages: Heavy riffing, Light and shade
Disadvantages: Not for the faint hearted, Some of Plant's wailing
The year 1968 was a pivotal one in music. The lighter pop sounds of the earlier decade had started to give way to a harder-edged, heavy blues, typified by Cream and its spin-off Blind Faith,. Across the Atlantic a band called Iron Butterfly had blown up a storm with their In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, an album which had a foot in both camps, consisting of one 17-minute heavy blues composition and lighter pop material.
In Britain a guitarist called Jimmy Page had set new standards when he joined the Yardbirds, somehow ending up owning the name of the band but having no-one in it left to play with. Page had a keen ear for what were the prevailing music trends and he sensed America was were it was going to be at, having toured there with the Yardbirds extensively. He set about recruiting a "supergroup" to perform this new "heavy music", bringing in London session bassist John Paul Jones and two unknowns, Robert Plant (vocals) and John Bonham (drums), both of who had a big reputation in the Birmingham area but not elsewhere. Recording of their debut album began in October 1968 in London.
This album set out the Zeppelin credo, alternating light sections of music with heavy bombast, carefully timed and structured, at first consisting of reworkings of old blues standards "How Many More Times" and "You Shook Me" For its time the sound was cutting edge, with new technologies and styles of recording, using multi-microphones and distancing them at various places in the studio to create time lags in the mix. Not only was Page the complete guitarist he was also more than at home as a producer too.
One big criticism of the album was that the band seemed to have lifted whole sections of old blues guitarists like Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters' riffs without crediting them as co-writers. Whilst this was true to an extent I think this is balanced with their own compositions here. Lighter tracks like "Your Time Is Gonna Come" and the measured execution of "Good Times Bad Times" show the band quite at home playing either sturm-und-drang metal or heavy pop. My own favourite track here is the cover of Joan Baez' "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", starting off with acoustic guitar before ending up as an all-out heavy blues attack.
I suppose "Dazed And Confused" is the one song most fans will remember from this album, from the first bar Zepp grab you by the throat and pull you into a nightmare blood-and-guts light and shade scenario, just as the title suggests. "Communication Breakdown" is a fast hard-edged number and Page gets to show off a bit on the instrumental "Black Mountain Side". Just to leave your ears throbbing, "How Many More Times" with Plant's trademark banshee wail, is possibly even louder and crazier than "Dazed".
With the release of this Zepp had set new standards and kicked open the door for literally hundreds of thousands of bands and the rock world would never be, or sound, the same again! Considering this came out nearly 37 years ago it still sounds like the band walked into a studio yesterday and recorded it right there and then. An excellent album.