Monday, June 05, 2006

Random Led Zeppelin Favorites

I'm in the mood for some apropos-of-nothing rock bloggage. I'll spare you the lists and countdowns and such; this is just my current feeling on these songs.

In The Light. This would have been a natural pick for 1994's Unledded show. The spooky mellotron part could have been played by that guy with the hurdy-gurdy. The relative obscurity of this song is a testament to the greatness of the album it's on, Physical Grafitti. This droning, double-length epic, with its chiaroscurist use of dark, dissonant chords and that noble, rising guitar figure, would have been a standout on most other Zep albums, and a career best for most other bands. On PG, it's just another cut.

Poor Tom. Some hair band in the 80s was supposed to have invented something called "acoustic metal". I wonder if it sounded anywhere near as rockin' as this? Bonham's drum part is absolutely smashing--they could have dubbed a kazoo quartet on top of it, and it would still be killer.

Gallows Pole. One thing Led Zeppelin were always very good at was creating songs that gradually sped up as they went along. Gallows Pole is a diamond perfect example. By the time the final bars roll around, the song is rocking furiously, and the listener is surprised when Jimmy Page's blistering electric Gibson comes in. You mean it's been all acoustic up til now...? And you've gotta love that banjo! "...a cross between Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, and total incompetence.", said Page, of his performance.

Stairway to Heaven. I was sick to death of this song for the longest time, since I have heard it every week on the radio my entire music-listening life. But for some reason, even though every note is still engraved on my DNA by now, I've been listening with fresh ears, and am amazed anew at what a marvel of construction and inspiration this track is. It's a textbook example of Page's thunderous yet eldritch sound.

Hey, Hey, What Can I Do. Arguably the funniest song ever cut by a hard rock band. The only contender I can think of off-hand is Blue Oyster Cult's ETI (Extra-terrestrial Intelligence).

Communication Breakdown. A barracuda bite to the nervous system, as Lester Bangs once described the heavy metal of this era. Features one of Pagey's finest assaults on the notes-per-second barrier.

Immigrant Song. The enduring potency of Led Zeppelin's best songs is due to their gigantic bottoms. John Paul Jones was a true bassist, who understood that bass is not about licks, but about tone and time. No knock against improvisationalists like Jack Bruce, Flea, and Jaco Pastorius, or riff-bashers like John Entwistle, but if Zepp had used their approaches the songs would pack much less wallop.

When the Levee Breaks. See what I mean? The greatest "downer" metal song ever waxed.

Ten Years Gone. The older I get, the less I enjoy bashing my brains out with the hard stuff. It's a testament to Zepp's greatness that they cut a great many quality ballads. This one is a current fave, as poignant as it is heavy. The Rain Song, That's The Way, and Down By the Seaside are also favorites in the same vein.

Bonzo's Montreux. A synthed-up drum solo, better than Moby Dick, IMO. I can imagine Bonham pummeling the folks in the adjacent hotel rooms with this, late at night.

And a couple of Zepp songs I actively dislike. No one's perfect. Rembrandt didn't produce a masterpiece everytime he faced his canvas. Mozart's first dozen or so symphonies are mostly of historic interest. There are entire Beatle albums that I don't care for; entire eras of Stones music that I shun.

Led Zeppelin's catalog is remarkably tight. They had talent, chops and vision like few other bands. But there are two songs that I can't stand, and which make me switch off the radio when they come on. "D'yer Maker". As an introduction to reggae, this is a failure. It doesn't do anything for me in and of itself, and it doesn't inspire me to check out real reggae (like Clapton's "I Shot The Sheriff" did for so many future Bob Marley fans). That stuttering guitar lick is just annoying--a piano lesson scales exercise set to a stadium rocker's idea of a dub beat. In songs like "Four Sticks", they succeeded in making a great song out of a simple figure, but IMO not here.

"Wearing and Tearing." Since this doesn't get played on the radio, I don't have to hear it. They were being slagged as rich, out-of-touch, drugged-up dinosaurs at the time by the younger set. So, they decided to cut a new wave song to demonstrate their "relevance." A rare lapse of self-perception on their part--they didn't need to prove anything to the skinny-tie boys. And this track sounds like Godzilla pogoing at (or on) CBGB's would look. At least they had the sense not to put it on _In Through The Out Door._

That's my opinion; I'm willing to accept the existence of yours.

1 comment:

  1. Because of the Net, when I hear Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song,", I have visions of those Flash-generated Viking Kittens. They are on


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