Collaboration post! Sarca from Caught Me Gaming and Kevin from Buried On Mars take on Led Zeppelin! Each week, we will be reviewing a Led Zeppelin album on our respective blogs! So don’t forget to check out Kevin’s blog too!
This week, Led Zeppelin’s first album, Led Zeppelin (1969)
If you read my last post, you would have discovered my first owned Led Zeppelin album was their fourth album (Led Zeppelin (1971) or Led Zeppelin IV) on cassette in 1990, and I then got the orange box set (Christmas 1990). If we’re talking the first Led Zep album from 1969, named Led Zeppelin, I didn’t even own a copy of it until much much (much) later on in my Led Zeppelin fandom – later, like third year uni later (1996).
Why so late?
I had already owned the Led Zeppelin Complete orange box set, as well as the Led Zeppelin Remasters set (acquired around 1996). Between the two, I owned most of the songs found on this album; why bother buying it? Listening format, baby. My orange box set was on cassette; is that enough of a reason? The Led Zeppelin Remasters was a 3-CD set, and a truncated version of the orange box set containing only 26 songs. I definitely didn’t have every song on CD. And frankly, my box set cassettes were wearing down to nothing from listening to them constantly, so their sound quality was for shite.
When I first bought Led Zeppelin I, and listened to it for the first time, I have to say I was ambivalent about it maybe because I’ve heard most of these songs a million times. Were they good? Bad? It was Led Zeppelin! They were gods in my book. Even the worst song was good, damn it! Yet, I’ve owned the CD for 25 years, and I can honestly say, it wouldn’t be part of my 5-CD carousel of Led Zeppelin music. Could Classic Rock Radio be blamed? Maybe…
Listening to the first Led Zeppelin album today with “fresh ears” and a more mature outlook, I can say this: the album was an ambitious effort of artistry. It’s obvious to me that the band tried really hard to prove their musicianship, and to be authentic, and they succeeded. Good Times Bad Times, the first song on the album, was the first song released commercially, and it really showcases each member’s musical prowress, particularly John Bonham’s ability on the drums. Dazed and Confused, fourth song on the album, is an auditory treat, complete with reverse echo and Page using a violin bow on his guitar. Communication Breakdown is an upbeat rocker with a great Page rif (and is a lot of fun to jam to…). There is also an amazing moment of greatness that I feel should have had more attention, particularly the last song on the album, How Many More Times – a song that isn’t found on either of my boxed compilations and is, in my opinion, a real Tour De Force; this one kicks the door down and lets the rock in!
But, if I am to critique…
Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary…to be a painter, you need to know how to paint, and when to stop.” I find Led Zeppelin’s first album suffers a little from being a tad overworked. Led Zeppelin the band were no doubt great musicians. But, to my ears, the album suffers a little from post production overdub-itis (reverse echo 2 the max!) to the point that made me briefly ponder if any song on this album could stand on its own without effects. Perhaps a bad example, but my two least favourite songs on the album are the church-organed Your Time is Gonna Come and the awkward instrumental, Black Mountain Side – two songs that were left au naturel, yet weren’t great either. Does Led Zeppelin need to overwork to be great? Then again on second listen, I Can’t Quit You Baby, the eighth song, used no real effects and the result was an honest and great blues song. Hm.
Although I do find Led Zeppelin’s first album to be a bit unbalanced and tad overworked, it’s still a decent effort with listenability (hey, this album was played four times in a row for this review!). It is not my favourite Led Zeppelin album, but as first albums go it does show potential of what the band are capable of.
Led Zeppelin (1969)
Produced by Jimmy Page
Now go check out Kevin’s blog!