Led Zeppelin is undoubtedly one of the most influential rock bands in history. Disregarding any plagiarism they undoubtedly committed during their career, they almost always did things in a different and exciting way that caused them to be a veritable phenomenon in both their time and ours. Bands like Cream and Boston may have been huge for their time, very few have had the continued success and recognition that Led Zeppelin have received over the years.
Do I understand all of the hoopla? In a way, yes, but then again, not at all. Undoubtedly innovators, I just cannot see past the fact that the music has not aged well. Sure, some of their material has done so (Particularly the second and fourth self-titled albums, and [i]Physical Graffiti[/I), but most of their discography just doesnít excite like it did 30 years ago. Most fittingly, the album that most suffers from this is their first release, Led Zeppelin I
Most of what is presented here is material that would be improved upon in later releases, or abandoned altogether for generally better ideas. John Bonham had not yet reach the ďstratosphericĒ heights as a drummer like he later would; although he still banged on those drums ferociously, it wasnít with anywhere near the skill weíd see on tracks like When the Levee Breaks
or Achilles Last Stand
just five or six years later. John Paul Jones is arguably the most impressive member of the band here, as he letís loose some of the most rollicking basslines of his career on tracks like Dazed and Confused
and particularly Black Mountain Side
Jimmy Page also shows off his chops, coming directly from the Yardbirds. While not at the height of his technical prowess, he still makes enjoyable guitar melodies and grooviní riffs, much akin to those found later, albeit not as ear catching. Of course, there is Communication Breakdown
, a song driven by one of the most famous Zeppelin riffs, and Babe Iím Gonna Leave You
, technically featuring the first Zeppelin guitar solo. Throughout the albums he is the prominent member, but also the one who stands out the least from his works on other albums.
The most subtly disappointing member is singer Robert Plant. Always known more for his energy and live performances, he eventually gained tremendous respect as a vocalist for songs such as Stairway to Heaven
and even Immigrant Song
. Here, however, itís almost painful to listen to him. The best comparison would be to a guy who can actually sing quite well, but he decides he should get tanked before a recording, and then just half-mumble and wail through his parts. Plant undeniably has a unique voice, but due to what seems to be a general lack of experience, he just doesnít come across well on the album, and itís a near deathblow. He shines at times (mostly with background ďohísĒ and wails), yet at most heís painfully average.
Of course, the songwriting itself is as tight as ever, which is both a good and bad thing. There is no weak track on here, the closest being the overstuffed and trudging You Shook Me
, which just drags along at such a pace to put you to sleep. Mostly everything else ranges from good to great, with the singles easily being the strongest songs from the album. Theyíre hard rocking, energetic, and generally enjoyable songs that can pick up at a moments notice. Whether itís the soft acoustics of Babe Iím Gonna Leave You
, the sprawling and bombastic How Many More Times
, or the sweet balladry of Your Time is Gonna Come
, you cannot call the album a one trick pony.
This is unfortunately also the albums fault. Going back to a previous theme, this album doesnít really distinguish itself in any way from other Zeppelin releases. Nearly everything shown here is improved upon on just their next release, and then the formula becomes expanded and the songs become grander and more epic in tone on both their 4th release and Physical Graffiti
. This unfortunately leaves Led Zeppelin I
in a strange place; as a single album, itís fairly good, and as a debut record, itís close to being fantastic. However, these days, there are just so many better albums to look at.
This lands Led Zeppelin I
near the bottom of Zeppelinís discography. While better than later albums in the bands catalogue, it still pales in comparison to many of the mid-career Zeppelin albums, of which every album from Led Zeppelin II
to Physical Graffiti
is both of higher quality and more fun to listen to. The album isnít bad in any sense, just in the year 2006, itís dated, and nothing special. The album gets a 3 in the end; itís a singularly great album, dampened by the fact that when taken in todayís context, it just doesnít stack up.