Sunday, 3 June 2018

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II (1969)

  

Released October 1969

Recorded at various studios

Following on quickly from their stunning blues rock debut, Led Zeppelin were back with more of the same. Some of the rough edges ironed out from the first album (although it still retains a rough and ready appeal), this album has been regularly quoted by critics as being one of the most influential albums of all time.

It is a album of blues-influenced heavy rock. Tracks are mostly extended and almost have a “played live” appeal, particularly the well known opener, the electrifying “Whole Lotta Love” and “The Lemon Song”, with its impressive, bass-driven ad hoc Robert Plant vocal part half way through about “the juice running down my leg”. Then at the end, the rousing lead guitar joins in. Heady stuff. There are not quite as many drawn-out slow blues rock numbers, though, the run of tracks from “Heartbreaker” to “Living Loving Maid” to “Ramble On”, why they are almost commercial.

“What Is And What Never Should Be” is also an exhilarating extended slow blues rock number, with alternating quiet and loud passages, as indeed does “Thank You”, although the latter has organ-based echoes of 60s trippy pop of The Small Faces, Traffic or Cream. It has one hell of a powerful drum sound though, and the acoustic guitar in the middle is razor sharp. “Heartbreaker” is one of the best riffy full on rockers on the album. “Living Loving Maid” is as close as they get to upbeat, stirring, almost radio-friendly rock. If Led Zeppelin released singles, which barely bothered about it, this should have been the one. Deep Purple sounded a lot like this on “Black Night” a year or two later. The Alice Cooper Band used riffs such as are found on here too. Argent used organ breaks such as on “Thank You”. The influences here are very apparent.

Led Zeppelin’s fascination with Tolkeinesque imagery and mythology first made itself known on “Ramble On”. There hadn’t been any of that stuff on the first album. Here we saw the acoustic and the electric merged together perfectly with the mellifluous bass too and the ethereal passages in between the heavy rock that so typified Led Zeppelin’s early- mid 70s output. It started here, with this track. It deserves to be in any Led Zep Top Ten.

Then there is “Moby Dick” with the dreaded drum solo. It is a John Bonham drum solo though. Great heavy guitar in it too. As on the fist album, many tracks go straight into the next one, and we are into the slow bass beginning of “Bring It On Home”, with its blues harmonica/blues vocal part before it explodes into a blast of pure Led Zeppelin power. It is at points like this that one realises, as good as the first album was, this was where this album saw improvements.

Most of the songs are defined by their guitar riff as opposed to the chorus or verses. Yes, we can all sing “I wanna whole lotta love” but we sing “da-da-da-da-dahhh” a lot more. “Heartbreaker” is similar in that respect - crammed full of riffs. As is the whole album.

B+


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