So tonight marks something of a landmark in my musical listening, namely, that I now have Led Zeppelin albums and have actually been listening to them. Yes, I know there’s no reason a healthy 27 year old music fan (rock n’ roll fan, at that) should go through life without listening to Led Zeppelin, but such has been my reality up until tonight. I figured I’d best mark such an event with a bit of an “early impressions” writeup of one of the most famous albums in music:
This sudden influx of Led Zeppelin (or “Lep”, as I accidentally called them while chatting with a friend, and that kind of stuck so I’m going to use it) into my life came at the expense of a dear friend, that is, my Zune. See, I bought the sucker from Best Buy and, being one who has destroyed 5 Mp3 players in the past couple of years, opted for the additional protection plan. Indeed, when the thing died, I was awarded a gift card with all the money I paid for the thing on it, and the Sansa I replaced it with, even with the additional case and 16GB memory card, only used up about half of that store credit, so I had a surplus of monies to spend. Certainly, if they had awarded me cash, I would have given it to charity or used it to feed the homeless, but since this was store credit, I had to find something that cost around $100 that could be found at Best Buy.
Hence, I bought the complete Led Zeppelin box-set, thus taking my Lep collection from “0″ to “everthing” in one fell swoop. I have spent nearly all of the time between then and this writing listening to each album in a row. Of course, I have been happy with my purchase (which, after store credit, amounted to $2.14 out of my pocket, not a bad price to pay for ROCK), and when it came time to figure out what I wanted to write about today, of course I knew what I had to do.
Certain publications have dubbed the no-name fourth album from Lep as “the best album ever”, and it’s nice to see that distinction given to someone who’s not The Beatles. Nevermind that “best ever” is within the confines of “Hard Rock” only; in listening to mandolin/acoustic guitar stuff like “The Battle Of Evermore” and “Going To California” can hardly be called “hard” rock, but that should just go to show you how much of the rest of the album rocks.
Indeed, though tonight was my first time listening to The Album Which Is Not Named, I’ve easily heard at least half of it from various sources; even someone with as much self-inflicted shelteredness can’t escape these songs. Sure, I may not have known that “Black Dog” was that song with that riff, but I still think about that song with that riff every time I think of this band. Even though I have had it spelled out to me in Wikipedia, I still can’t tell you what kind of time signature this is, but that’s mainly because, despite being a bit of a Prog fan, weird time signatures kind of scare and excite me.
One of the reasons I had not gotten around to listening to Led Zeppelin, even while growing my digital music collection exponentially with my short-lived Zune Marketplace membership, is because I found it remarkably hard to find Lep material on the web. Yeah, sure, I could get it all on iTunes, but why pay the per-song price when the box-set is actually cheaper? I couldn’t find it on Zune unless I purchased it, in DRM’d .wma 192kbps files. Yeah, I and my $500 headphones say no thank you, Microsoft.
The weird thing is, even back in my pirating days, I couldn’t find Zeppelin stuff in any kind of quality. Apparently the band’s fogeyism when it comes to digital distribution reached out to their fans, who are not known to be the most scrupulous bunch, unless they are collectively ignoring anti-drug laws but abiding by anti-piracy ones, but I digress.
The point is, I know the album’s second song, “Rock And Roll”, because I heard it in a damn car commercial. I’m just saying, Lep, maybe you can let up the slack on letting people actually hear your music? Either way, “Rock And Roll” is still a great song, calling upon the early, bygone (even in the 70′s) days of the genre. Deep Purple did the same with their cover of “Lucille” and their song “Speed King”, but neither had the same effect as “Rock And Roll”, and Robert Plant put out a much more generally appealing squealy high note than Ian Gillan, but let’s not fight over this, both bands are trillionaires.
The only song that I kind of scratch my head over is the song “Misty Mountain Hop”. The song barely holds together, and it’s almost like the band recorded it in 4 seperate rooms without listening to any of the other parts (and without a common beat), and then the whole thing was duct-taped together. Not that it’s a bad song, how can a song about marijuana and Lord Of The Rings be all that bad? I’m just saying, if we’re talking about the best rock album ever made, some attention should be drawn towards what I would call the weakest link.
Of course, the song “Four Sticks” is much more like it, providing this kind of crazy beat that has its own novella of a story behind it. Basically, the drummer is using four sticks, so the song is called “Four Sticks”. However, though it’s not my place to directly quote Wikipedia, I do kind of like this blurb about what happened when the guys tried to play it with an Indian orchestra:
“The project is said to have run into problems because the orchestra didn’t keep time in the Western style and some of them drank rather a lot.”
That’s just great, I also love how Robert’s crooning in the very last part of the song sounds like it’s being pitch-corrected, way before such technology existed. Seriously, this band had to have worshipped Satan to get such technology so early, if indeed the legends are true and Satan is actually Cher.
One more note about “Going To California”, I absolutely love the kind of diminished chord parts that occur between the mandolin and guitar between singing parts. That and the echoey minor-key verses that Robert Plant belts out make this a reall appealing song, despite being, in no way, Hard Rock.
Finally, we’ve got “When The Levee Breaks”. Now, I know that Led Zeppelin got in trouble for stealing a lot of things (apparently they didn’t give writing credits to a blues guy after playing his song), but to rip a beat off the Beastie Boys? Totally not cool, guys, I don’t care if you ARE the biggest band in the world.
All right, joking aside, “When The Levee Breaks” is actually a really awesome song, perhaps one of the few examples of a legit “Hard Rock” song where the harmonica is one of the main players. This song is really sludgy and slow-moving not only because of the ominous, thundering beat (which, again, has an entire encyclopedia’s worth of writing dedicated to how it was done, basically your man John was at the bottom of some stairs and was recorded from the top of the stairs), but because of the fact that it was played faster and then slowed down to pitch. This move would later be callously copied by my own heroes Gentle Giant on the song “Working All Day” from Three Friends. Whether this really cool move was intentionaly ripped off or not, I don’t care to know, I just know this album predates at least 90% of the technology that was used to create it, meaning that Lep probably were all sorcerers.
Either way, these sorcerers have conjured their ways directly into my heart, and despite what I’ve heard about one of these albums, I am sure I’ll continue to enjoy them, even if on a much cheaper Mp3 player.
Fun Fact: I considered the idea of writing about one Lep album a day until I got through all of them, to make up for lost time. I instantly regretted the idea, though I am sure I will be revisiting them within the month and a half I have left on this album-a-day blog.
Also I feel like I’m forgetting something… oh well!