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Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969)

February 24, 2014

[Album 290/1001]220px-Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_II


At the risk of earning the nickname Captain Obvious, Led Zeppelin II (LZII) is great.  Hardly breaking news, I know!

The more divisive question: is LZII, to quote Tina Turner, Simply the Best?

Because it’s perfectly normal to do so, I will present arguments for the defense, immediately followed by the prosecution’s rebuttals.

I will leave it to my dear readers, the esteemed members of the jury, to determine the verdict.

The Defense: Why LZII is LZ’s finest

Exhibit A. Whole Lotta Love is the benchmark for side one, track ones.  The killer riff to kick it off, they break it down in the middle, and Bring it on Home with the Robert Plant ‘my, my’ wail.

B. The influence of this album knows no bounds.  If you’ve enjoyed a single note of music since 1969, you are welcome to express your gratitude for this record.

C. Moby Dick is a mainstay on many ‘top instrumentals’ lists.

D. Question: Who rapped the following, “I don’t rap about bitches and hoes…”?  If you buzzed in here, A Tribe Called Quest would be a logical answer.  Though when the quote is completed, “…I rap about witches and trolls,” that could only be Flight of The Conchords in the song Frodo, Don’t Wear the Ring (at 1:44).

Robert Plant beat them to Lord of the Rings by almost 4 decades with the song Ramble On.  For critics who accuse rock music of being all about sex/drugs/rock n’ roll, on LZII, Plant sings about Gollum & Mordor!  Not exactly conventional subject matter, the kind of atypical material you’d expect on a top album.

E. Apart from the opener, this album contains very few of the group’s best known songs.  It’s akin to Exile on Main Street in that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Take Mick Jagger’s assessment of Exile: “I’m not too sure how great the songs are, but put together it’s a nice piece.”  The same could, and should, be said for LZII.  This is no singles collection: like the best batting order in baseball, it’s not about having a handful of superstars.  It’s about having 9 solid individual parts that work extremely well together.

The defense rests.

The Prosecution: Why LZII is, at best, second best

1. No truly epic song, à la Stairway or Kashmir.

2. No mandolin, denied!  LZIII wins as a result.

3. To paraphrase the Buggles, Radio Killed The Zeppelin Single: A Whole Lotta Love is a whole lotta overplayed.

4. LZIV has more J.R.R. Tolkein references.

5. At 41:24, it is among the shortest of LZ’s studio albums.  With LZ, more is more, Physical Graffiti is therefore double the fun.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I leave the final decision in your capable hands.  Beyond any reasonable doubt, is LZII the career peak for Bonham/Jones/Page/Plant?

Here’s how it will work:

In the comments section, please RANK your TOP 3 LZ ALBUMS.
You have until February 27th, 11:59 p.m. EST.
If you’re like me, your answers may change on a daily basis, so think of it as your LZ Top 3*.
(*as at the time of responding, naturally subject to change)

I practically insist you post links to reviews from your blogs to use as supporting evidence!

I’ll compile the results on Friday, February 28th in the table below:

STUDIO ALBUM (3 points per vote) (2 points per vote) (1 point per vote) POINTS RANKING
Houses of the Holy
Physical Graffiti
In Through the Out Door

Thanks in advance for participating, looking forward to seeing the results!

From → 1960s

  1. I love this post. Zeppelin has been my favorite band for 35+ years now, and John Bonham is still my biggest drumming influence (even though my style hasn’t been like his since my college days). Sorry to say I can’t participate in the survey because I find it impossible to rank their albums. On any given day, any of their albums could be my favorite. “Coda” doesn’t really count since it was a collection of outtakes, but when it came out in ’82 it was my most-played album that year.

    However, if I was asked to rank their albums for someone who’s never heard their music, I would probably go with: (1) Zeppelin IV, (2) Zeppelin II, (3) Physical Graffiti and (4) Zeppelin III. Sorry, it’s impossible to go with only 3 albums, so I had to extend it by one. I could easily argue that Houses Of The Holy or Zeppelin I should be someone’s introduction to them, with only Presence & In Through The Out Door being recommended for people who have already heard at least a couple of the others. I think those are both amazing albums but maybe not as universally essential as some of the others.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out, and reading everyone’s thoughts. It’s always interesting to hear opinions from people who don’t consider Zeppelin their favorite band.

    • Thanks Rich – and I understand! Excellent choice of influential drummer as well.

      I’d agree with IV as a gateway album – maybe not my favourite overall, but a nice introduction to the different sounds of Led Zeppelin.

    • Shoot I forgot III. Oh well I submitted my list already.

  2. Yeah, this album’s rad. But then again, so is everything else that Led pretty much touched.

    • I can’t think of another group that’s been so consistent!

      • Most of my CDs are from groups of which I own only a couple of CDs and probably won’t buy any more. There are a few groups all of whose CDs I have, though in almost all cases some are significantly less good than the best. However, I think that one could make a case that Iron Maiden are the most consistent band of all time.

        The first album I bought was Dance of Death, the third most recent and the second after the return of Bruce. In other words, a late album. But there is not a single bad track on it. I quickly progressed to the rest of the Bruce albums. Again, all good. There is no filler album and it is difficult to find a filler song on any album. People warned me that, coming from progressive rock, I might like Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son most and the following two, No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark less, since they are more “stripped down” (and even caused Adrian to leave). Actually, though, while not my absolute favourites, the stripped-down albums aren’t bad at all. (The “progressive” albums are also good, but not my favourites.) I imagined Blaze to be a boring singer and the first two albums to be too raw. Far from it! I will definitely get the Blaze albums after hearing some songs on internet radio. Certainly not a bad singer and the music is good as well. I don’t have the second album yet but do have the first. Yes, not quite as polished as the later albums, but definitely not sub-standard.

        15 studio albums, with absolutely no duds. 35 years in the business. Still playing live in essentially the classic lineup. A great live band (with many live albums to choose from). Has any band even come close to this level of consistency?

      • Phillip, Maiden is not a bad suggestion for most consistent band, but as much as I love them and agree that they’ve maintained a high quality through the majority of their albums, they didn’t cover the diverse musical ground that Zeppelin (or The Beatles or The Stones or The Who or Pink Floyd or Yes, etc) did. That’s one of the things that makes those bands so impressive, and for my money Zeppelin tops them all with the sheer scope of the styles they covered…and mastered over just a single decade.

      • I agree, but the question was about consistency, not breadth of style.

        Yes, Maiden do have a rather narrow range of style. However, I actually see that as a good thing (which is not to say that a range of styles is bad). Maiden is one of the few bands whose music I can listen to time and again without it ever stopping to sound fresh.

        Range of style? Among the bands I like, the Beatles would probably be at the top. And all within less than a decade. Jethro Tull also cover quite a range of styles, but still always manage to sound like Jethro Tull, even without the flute.

      • Iron Maiden makes 2 appearances on the list – the debut + Number of the Beast. I’ll be looking at Third albums in March so that might be an opportune time to look at that one. From what I gather, that’s Dickinson’s debut. So with that & Faith No More’s The Real Thing, a new theme may be emerging of ‘3rd albums but 1st with new singer!’

        I might have to give the diversity award to the Beatles (the 4 singers and the white album being the main supporting points) but maybe not the most consistent. The highs were remarkably high but I would say they evolved over the 8 years as opposed to maintained a level of excellence.

      • As I said, no bad albums, but it’s not obvious to me why the first and third made the list. Maybe the first since it was the first album by the essential founder of (at least modern) heavy metal and the third because it was their first really successful album.

        The third album (yes, the first with Dickinson, but still with drummer Clive Burr) is of course classic Maiden but is perhaps a bit more diverse than later efforts.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if those were the reasons – the book seems to favour records that were either the first of its kind or were big hits

  3. Great idea! I’m going to plump for…
    1. Physical Graffiti
    2. Houses of the Holy
    3. Kingdom Co… Sorry, LZIII

    • My thanks – I think I’ll join you on at least 2 of those. I want to like The Crunge!

      • I didn’t like The Crunge for ages but it’s grown on me now. Not a song I’d put on a mix tape though!

      • Admittedly, ‘that confounded bridge’ line is becoming something I look forward to when I put on houses. Glad to hear there’s hope for the tune!

      • Little did I know at the time that “The Crunge” was preparing me for James Brown. It wasn’t until the late-80s when I got into The Godfather Of Soul that I understood the “confounded bridge” line.

  4. 1. Led Zep 4
    2. Presence
    3. Houses of the Holy

    I think they’re all good though, no Zepp album I don’t like.

    • The first six Zeppelin albums are pretty close to critically immune. I’ve heard less favourable reviews of later ones but I can’t say I’ve ever heard any grumbling about the first half of their career – thanks for the votes!

  5. Top 3 at the time of this post:
    1. Houses
    2. Physical
    3. In Through

  6. Ok, here I go…
    1. IV
    2. III
    3. Houses ( I Love The Crunge, always have!)
    It might be nostalgia for me…the albums are also in the order in which I bought and listened to LZ when I was a teen. Of course their boxed set with the orange zeppelin is wedged in there too, but I’ll stick with these three 😉

    • I remember that box set – a friend had that in high school! I think I’d probably rank most groups based on the order I heard them (it’s tough for me to choose anything other than Fully Completely as my favourite hip).

      • Got the boxed set in xmas 1990! The cassette boxed set! Still have the box, but not sure where the cassettes went…

  7. As not a crazed Zeppelin fan but a mild Zep enthusiast.
    I go: LZII, LZIV and Houses of the Holy-
    What makes the three spot for me is the cover for “Houses”; as a big fan of the whole trippy cover art of that era. it was the whole package that made these guys special.

  8. Ovidiu Boar permalink

    Nice post! I’ve unfortunately overdosed on Led Zeppelin when I first started to listen (as in ‘really listen’) to music so I can hardly stand hearing them anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that they were quite amazing.

    1. LZ II (perfect, one of the most glorious rock ‘n’ roll albums ever released)
    2. LZ IV (we gotta keep in mind that overplayed doesn’t automatically translate to overrated)
    3. LZ I (not consistent throughout, but the best of it is as good as anyone’s best)

    Unfortunately, I’ve yet to write a Zep review, so the best I can give is a ‘Top 5 Albums of 1971’ which features their forth:

    • I’ve been there with OD’ing on certain songs especially. I had to make a rule for myself in high school, I could only listen to a given song once per day!
      Nice picks – and good point about being fair to IV, it’s not their fault Stairway became the obligatory school dance closer.
      I think I’ll do a ‘top 5’ musical years at some point – based on your list, ’71 might be right up there!

  9. nicksalbumreviews permalink

    Hmmm. It always changes with me. But here goes:

    1. Houses of the holy.
    2. Led Zeppelin I
    3. Physical Graffiti.

    • Good choices – and I think I’ve changed my mind a few times since I made my picks!

      • nicksalbumreviews permalink

        “Houses of the holy” I bought a little while ago and haven’t stopped listening to it.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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