Review Summary: From a land of midnight sun and hot springs...
Sales wise, Led Zeppelin III was more modest than Led Zeppelin II and I. However, the artful expansion of their craft to master acoustic guitars, folk genre and mystic lyrics would ultimately lead to a combination of their first three albums to create the epic Led Zeppelin IV.
The only electric songs on III are two of Zeppelin's biggest; the metallic Viking rocker 'Immigrant Song' and a minor masterpiece; the epic sum-of-their-parts blues 'Since I've Been Loving You,' with Page's spontaneous, raw solos, Plant's agonised howls and Jones' dark keyboard.
Standout acoustics include the darkly humorous 'Gallows Pole': a man sentenced to hang tries to bribe the executioner with silver, gold and then his sister. In a bizarrely morally satisfying twist, the hangman takes all three-then lets him swing anyway. Page's romping banjo adds a particular element of fun.
The beautiful 'Tangerine', the musical blueprint for 'Stairway To Heaven' and the lyrical forefather of 'Going To California', proceeds the heartbreaking 'That's The Way'- a song about a friendship between a black girl and a white boy being broken by their parents, because "that's the way/that's the way it oughta be.''
The bodacious 'Bron-Y-Aur Stomp' is a wonderful track, the album capped off by 'Hat's Off To Roy Harper', in which Jimmy flips his fingers inside out with a muffled blues steel string with Plant's intense glowering straight out of the heart of the Deep South.
Although Plant's vocals are slightly jarring on 'Friends', 'Celebration Day' and the rolling 'Out On The Tiles', this doesn't detract from the overall experience: leafy acoustics and poetic lyrics on an album that was Led Zeppelin's finest, subtlest work of art ever.