Sunday, 3 June 2018

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III (1970)

  

Released October 1970

Recorded at a variety of studios

Rather than release more of the same, Led Zeppelin turned things very much on their head with this, their “acoustic, folky” album. Yes, there is still the classic full on rock of “Immigrant Song” and the typical Led Zep blues rock of “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, but other tracks on this innovative album are somewhat different from what people had come to expect.

This album saw a clear change in focus for the band from late 1960s hard rock to a more folk influenced and acoustic sound. These styles had been present to a lesser degree in the band's first two releases, (“Black Mountain Side” from “I” and “Ramble On” from “II”) but here they received the main emphasis, and would remain prominent to various degrees in the group's later albums. This development is said to have endeared the band to many folky, bearded, cheesecloth-wearing prog-rock fans who would never previously have listened to Led Zeppelin's established blues and rock repertoire. With this album the group's songwriting dynamic also changed, from Jimmy Page's domination of the first two albums towards a more democratic situation in which all four group members contributed their own compositions and ideas - patterns that would continue in future sessions and no doubt led to the four symbols (one for each band member) being included on the cover of the next album.

That said, tracks such as “Friends” and “Celebration Day”, while having their acoustic moments, still are rock songs and contain some truly great lead guitar. “Out On The Tiles” is a powerful rocker that would not have been out of place on either “I” or “II”. Indeed, the old “side one” is pretty rocky, to be honest. So, the whole “the folk album” is a bit misleading. just as “Beatles For Sale” was not a “country album”. There are some tracks that certainly fit the bill, but not all of them. 

It is “side two” which saw the real change that people are referring to and the use of the material recored in the Welsh Cottage, Bron-Y-Aur. “Gallows Pole” leads it off with an acoustic folk lament about being kept from the gallows pole and attempts to bribe a corrupt hangman. As well as the acoustic guitar and mandolin, there is still a potent rock drum sound from John Bonham and John Paul Jones underpins it with a rumbling electric bass. Plant’s voice, of course, is no folky whisper, either. Electric guitar kicks in at the end. Again, begging the question just how folky is it, really? Sounds like Led Zeppelin to me.

Using acoustic guitars was nothing new, The Beatles had used them a lot, also contemporary artists like Marc Bolan and David Bowie were merging rock and folk sounds.

“Tangerine” is a perfect blending of the acoustic and electric. Once more, the track has a great bass line and a truly huge drum sound. “That’s The Way” has a much more laid-back feel to it. Plant’s voice is gentler and another lovely bass makes the fade out so appealing. “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” is folky, for sure, but it is, as its name suggests, a stomper, and Plant’s voice is at its blueiest here, funnily enough. Even more so on “Hats Off” which I would say is bluesily experimental as opposed to folky.

Quite why this album garnered such bad reviews a the time is incomprehensible. Time has seen opinions change. however.

B-

 

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