Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No. 75: Led Zeppelin II

Band: Led Zeppelin
Album: Led Zeppelin II
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: A furthering of the band's debut, "Led Zeppelin II" shows the band stretching its collective legs a little more. "Ramble On" examines some acoustic leanings of Jimmy Page, "Thank You" is a slow ballad, "Moby Dick" is John Bonham showing off and "Whole Lotta Love" is the band going full throttle in "we're a bunch of badasses" mode.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's probably repetitive to have this record and the first record on here.
Best song: "Whole Lotta Love" is one of Zep's iconic songs.
Worst song: I'm not really keen on "The Lemon Song."
Is it awesome?: It is, but to have it this high may be too much.

This is going to sound stupid, but I don't have a whole lot to say about "Led Zeppelin II" that I didn't say about the first Zep record. This is the fourth Zep record so far, tied with Dylan and the Stones for second-most in the top 75. That's fitting, of course, as Zep is about as important as you can get in hard rock.

"Led Zeppelin II" is mostly an extension of the first record. Save for "Whole Lotta Love," there isn't a whole lot of experimentation (and "Whole Lotta Love" basically is just dicking around in the studio). There are new takes on blues standards ("The Lemon Song," the disputed lyrics on "Whole Lotta Love"), a real riff-tastic duo ("Heartbreaker" and "Living Loving Maid"), some soft/loud dynamic stuff ("Ramble On" and "What Is and What Should Never Be") and, of course, Plant's screaming howl (just about every song, but especially pronounced on "Whole Lotta Love" and "What Is and What Should Never Be").

"Moby Dick" was something to behold. The "drummer as centerpiece" is not a concept popular rock and roll; Even The Who -- a band with a pretty amazing drummer -- never put Keith Moon on center stage. "Moby Dick" does just that. After a righteous Jimmy Page riff, Bonham just takes over. Legend has it that Bonham's drum solos would go for anywhere from 12 minutes to over half an hour. A sight to see, I'm sure.

I'm not sure it needs to be number 75, but "Led Zeppelin II" is pretty amazing.

1 comment:

fft said...

I left this comment before, but I just want to point out that RS originally *hated* Led Zep.

Here is the original RS review of this album from RS:

Hey, man, I take it all back! This is one fucking heavyweight of the album! OK—I'll concede that until you've listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it's just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides. But, hey! you've got to admit that the Zeppelin has their distinctive and enchanting formula down stone-cold, man. Like you get the impression they could do it in their sleep.

And who can deny that Jimmy Page is the absolute number-one heaviest white blues guitarist between 5'4" and 5'8" in the world?? Shit, man, on this album he further demonstrates that he could absolutely fucking shut down any whitebluesman alive, and with one fucking hand tied behind his back too.

"Whole Lotta Love," which opens the album, has to be the heaviest thing I've run across (or, more accurately, that's run across me) since "Parchmant Farm" on Vincebus Eruptum. Like I listened to the break (Jimmy wrenching some simply indescribable sounds out of his axe while your stereo goes ape-shit) on some heavy Vietnamese weed and very nearly had my mind blown.

Hey, I know what you're thinking. "That's not very objective." But dig: I also listened to it on mescaline, some old Romilar, novocain, and ground up Fusion, and it was just as mind-boggling as before. I must admit I haven't listened to it straight yet—I don't think a group this heavy is best enjoyed that way.

Anyhow . . . Robert Plant, who is rumored to sing some notes on this record that only dogs can hear, demonstrates his heaviness on "The Lemon Song." When he yells "Shake me 'til the juice runs down my leg," you can't help but flash on the fact that the lemon is a cleverly-disguised phallic metaphor. Cunning Rob, sticking all this eroticism in between the lines just like his blues-beltin' ancestors! And then (then) there's "Moby Dick," which will be for John Bonham what "Toad" has been for Baker. John demonstrates on this track that had he half a mind he could shut down Baker even without sticks, as most of his intriguing solo is done with bare hands.

The album ends with a far-out blues number called "Bring It On Home," during which Rob contributes some very convincing moaning and harp-playing, and sings "Wadge da train roll down da track." Who said that white men couldn't sing blues? I mean, like, who?