Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Led Zeppelin From Worst to First

I didn't make this list already? Hmm. I guess I need to correct that. Led Zeppelin is one of those bands you just think of when it comes to heavier music. They are one of the archetypes like The Beatles or Elvis that everybody knows. Are they the best band ever? I wouldn't say that. I hope that the best band ever is still yet to come, but if I had to choose one then it would probably be The Beatles (at least from a purely objective standpoint). My personal opinion is Black Sabbath, but opinions are like assholes.

Notice that you won't find Coda on here. I consider that more of a compilation and I don't like listing compilations. 

08. In Through the Outdoor - I like to call this the John Paul Jones album and I'm pretty sure you know why. I don't dislike this album because there are a few pretty good jams on it like In the Evening and I'm Gonna Crawl (tell me that one couldn't be a James Bond theme song), but it just doesn't really gel with me as an album. South Bound Saurez is a nice little ditty, but it's a far cry from many of the other songs in the Zeppelin catalog. The same can be said of Hot Dog and the ten minute epic Carouselambra. And just what the hell is with Carouselambra? It's a trippy enough song, but you can barely tell Jimmy Page is on the song until about the four minute mark. The more well-known songs like All My Love and Fool in the Rain are popular radio fodder, but they are far too soft for my taste. 

In Through the Outdoor is an album that doesn't have a lot of balance. Or teeth. There are times it tries to be heavy, but those moments are frequently drowned out by keyboards. It's almost like Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were trying to compete with each other with John Paul Jones coming out on the winning end each time. Of course, Jimmy Page's heroin addiction might have had something to do with that. 

Perhaps this album was Jones' unintended revenge on Page for dominating Presence so thoroughly. 

In the Evening 6:49
South Bound Saurez 4:12
Fool in the Rain 6:12
Hot Dog 3:17
Carouselambra 10:32
All My Love 5:51
I'm Gonna Crawl 5:30

07. Presence - Jimmy Page called this Led Zeppelin's most important album and I can understand why he calls it that. Written and recorded during the time when Robert Plant was recovering from injuries caused by a car accident, Presence is quite possibly one of the heaviest and most straightforward albums in the Zeppelin catalog. It's difficult to believe that this album was recorded and mixed in eighteen days. Eighteen days!

The centerpiece of this album is undoubtedly the ten minute epic Achilles Last Stand. Maybe it's not quite the radio darling that Nobody's Fault but Mine is, but Achilles Last Stand for my money is a much better song. The first time I heard it I could only marvel at John Bonham's insane drumming and John Paul Jones' masterful galloping bass. The primary draw is Jimmy Page, though. Not only does he dominate the song Achilles Last Stand, but he also dominates Presence.

You won't find the experimental passages that found a way on all of the other Zeppelin albums. There's almost nothing acoustic or laidback about this album. It's relentless and in a way that is what turned a lot of people off just as often as it turned people on.

Achilles Last Stand 10:25
For Your Life 6:24
Royal Orleans 2:58
Nobody's Fault but Mine 6:16
Candy Store Rock 4:11
Hots on for Nowhere 4:43
Tea for One 9:27

06. Led Zeppelin III - Of the first four albums this one is probably the most jarring since it is the most folksy. This album was their "acoustic" album. I really like it, though. Immigrant Song and Since I've Been Loving You are probably the two most well-known songs from the album and those alone should prove that this album is certainly not entirely acoustic. Out on the Tiles and Celebration Day are also pretty hard rockers. The rest of the songs are largely acoustic, but they aren't bad. One thing Led Zeppelin could do well that many other heavy bands then couldn't do was play unplugged. They showcased that just a little bit on the first two albums, but they expanded even more so here. And it works. Acoustic doesn't mean bad, people!

Gallows Pole is acoustic, but it also rocks. Friends sounds absolutely evil with its middle eastern-tinged verses, does it not? Bron-Y-Aur Stomp is a blast and a perfect song to break out with some drinking buddies. Assuming your drinking buddies like acoustic Welsh hoedowns. 

Immigrant Song 2:26
Friends 3:55
Celebration Day 3:29
Since I've Been Loving You 7:25
Out on the Tiles 4:04
Gallows Pole 4:58
Tangerine 3:12
That's the Way 5:38
Bron-Y-Aur Stomp 4:20
Hats Off to (Roy) Harper 3:41

05. Houses of the Holy - How do you follow up one of the greatest rock albums of all time? Well, with another of the greatest rock albums of all time, of course. The odd thing about Led Zeppelin that they made a career of doing that. Houses of the Holy is a turning point in the career of Led Zeppelin, though. With this album they distanced themselves from their blues roots and really pushed for sleeker production and multi-layered musical passages. The Rain Song, an idea supposedly suggested from George Harrison, and No Quarter are perhaps where that new direction is executed the strongest.

However, Houses of the Holy was not without its points of contention for many fans. Those points being D'yer Mak'er and The Crunge. They are undoubtedly silly songs, one of them being a James Brown-influenced jam with the other being a reggae-influenced romp. I can understand the dissent, too. When you consider just how many songs were recorded for Houses of the Holy but didn't make the cut for whatever reasons it really is kind of mind-boggling. The songs are fun jams to an extent, but how the hell did D'yer Mak'er make album over The Rover? How did The Crunge make the album over Black Country Woman or Houses of the Holy?

The Song Remains the Same 5:32
The Rain Song 7:39
Over the Hills and Far Away 4:50
The Crunge 3:17
Dancing Days 3:43
D'yer Mak'er 4:23
No Quarter 7:00
The Ocean 4:31

04. Led Zeppelin - This is where it all began. With this album they helped pave the way for a new brand of music that they would further expand upon with later albums. You could argue that without Led Zeppelin there wouldn't be heavy metal, but I don't think that is quite true. I think that without Led Zeppelin there wouldn't be any progressive rock. At least not the same way there is today. However, the first Led Zeppelin album isn't very progressive. It isn't until their third album that they really start to tear down some walls, but Zeppelin was just as good as being bluesy as anybody and they proved that from the start. While Dazed and Confused is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the album, it's songs like How Many More Times and Babe I'm Gonna Leave You that make me appreciate this album. Of course, every song I just mentioned is cover of some sort. Even Dazed and Confused had its roots elsewhere. 

However, it's the album cover that really sends the point home. It was controversial upon its release, but it has since gained a bit of a reputation as being a symbol for both rock n' roll. That and it's also famous for looking kinda like a penis. I don't really see it, but that's what I've read. I'd say all those people are nuts. 

Okay, the cover does look oddly phallic. The whole "nuts" thing was a joke. I thought it was mildly amusing, okay?

Good Times Bad Times 2:44
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You 6:40
You Shook Me 6:30
Dazed and Confused 6:26
Your Time Is Gonna Come 4:34
Black Mountain Side 2:13
Communication Breakdown 2:29
I Can't Quit You Baby 4:43
How Many More Times 8:28

03. Led Zeppelin II - It's not perfect. Have you ever really listened to the guitar solo in Heartbreaker? That guitar solo is actually a half-step out of tune. It's sloppy as hell and yet somehow it manages to still be listenable and an inspiration to other aspiring ax-men. Whole Lotta Love is one of their most well-known songs, but even that one was accused of being wholly unoriginal much like most of Zeppelin's early material. 

What Zeppelin offered though was a mysticism and a charisma and damn good musicianship, too. Yes, they blatantly took other people's songs (Deep Purple did, too), but they made them their own and perfected what was already there. Don't even try to be pretend you listen to the Willie Dixon song You Need Love on a regular basis. Nope. But you've heard Whole Lotta Love a gazillion times, I bet. 

And why? Because it's good. Even the lesser known songs like The Lemon Song and Thank You are really good in their own right. In fact, The Lemon Song was one of the very first guitar riffs I ever learned. Thank You, on the other hand, is one of Led Zeppelin's few ballads and I like it because of its distinct 60's flavor. It's not terrible like a lot of 80's ballads. 

Whole Lotta Love 5:34
What Is and What Should Never Be 4:44
The Lemon Song 6:19
Thank You 4:49
Heartbreaker 4:14
Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman) 2:39
Ramble On 4:23
Moby Dick 4:21
Bring It On Home 4:20

02. Physical Graffiti - Lots of bands have done double albums, but none of them did it quite the way Led Zeppelin did. They didn't throw everything in including the kitchen sink on this one just because they could. They actually combed through a lot of their unreleased material and combined it with their newer material to make a bit of a greatest hits album. Think about this. Only eight of the songs on this album were actually recorded in 1974. If they were to have released only those 1974 songs on this album then it would still have been a candidate as one of Led Zeppelin's greatest albums. The tracklist would have been something like Custard Pie, In My Time of Dying, Trampled Under Foot, Kashmir, In the Light, Ten Years Gone, The Wanton Song, and Sick Again

However, once you add in those older songs you get new beast. You get the multifaceted masterpiece that Physical Graffiti is rightly considered to be. It doesn't sound like any of the songs are out of place and that is the genius of Led Zeppelin in their prime. Some of the older songs could have been on the untitled album or Led Zeppelin III or Houses of the Holy, but they all seem to fit well here. You'd think they were all recorded during the same studio sessions. I only wish Hey Hey What Can I Do could have made this album. 

Custard Pie 4:13
The Rover 5:37
In My Time of Dying 11:04
Houses of the Holy 4:02
Trampled Under Foot 5:37
Kashmir 8:32

In the Light 8:46
Bron-Yr-Aur 2:06
Down by the Seaside 5:13
Ten Years Gone 6:32
Night Flight 3:36
The Wanton Song 4:10
Boogie with Stu 3:53
Black Country Woman 4:24
Sick Again 4:42

01. Untitled (Led Zeppelin IV) - It's probably a bit of a cliche to list an album that features Stairway to Heaven as number one. However, I think a lot of us take for granted just what a guitar masterpiece Stairway to Heaven is for Jimmy Page. The song contains the "Spirit" of rock. There's a reason that the guitar solo contained within that one song is frequently listed as one of the greatest of all time. Now consider that Jimmy Page actually had three different solos to choose from for that famous song. I've always wondered what the other solos were like, but I'm sure that the one we get to hear everyday on classic rock radio was the right choice. 

Describing this album should be a bit redundant, I would think. Everyone has heard this album multiple times and probably in multiple formats. Vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, mp3, etc. You've heard it a million times and you might even be sick of it by now. 

But someone somewhere is discovering Led Zeppelin's fourth album for the first time. Why? It's just one of those albums that are forever ingrained into the psyche of rock n' roll fans. At the risk of sounding slightly sacrilegious, this album is kind of like the rock n' roll bible. Not being familiar with it is just... Well, it's like saying you don't like bacon.

This isn't the most diverse Zeppelin album, but it is perhaps the one that is surrounded by the most mysticism. From the four symbols to the artwork and even to the lack of a title, this album encompasses just about everything Zeppelin stood for to people back then and what they stand for today. It's an institution.

You've heard them all, but they still stand up today as hard-hitting rock songs. Except for Going to California and The Battle of Evermore since those are more folky than anything else. Still good, though. 

Black Dog 4:54
Rock and Roll 3:40
The Battle of Evermore 5:51
Stairway to Heaven 8:02
Misty Mountain Hop 4:38
Four Sticks 4:44
Going to California 3:31
When the Levee Breaks 7:07


  1. My list has In Through The Out Door and Presence solidly at 8 and 7 respectively. After that, on any given day I could rank any of the other albums 1-6. Despite D'yer Mak'er, Houses Of The Holy will often top my list although I think some of the live versions of No Quarter are better than the studio version. But, it's still pretty awesome on HOTH. I can't listen to Stairway anymore because I've heard it so many fucking times. If you think they play it a lot now, you should have been alive in the 70s and 80s. I never tire of When The Levee Breaks, though. It is without a doubt my #1 Zep song. One thing that was great about Zep was that they always changed their sound a little from album to album (except for 1 & 2) and each album has it's own distinct feel. As for Jimmy Page and In Through The Out Door, I think that he had a pretty serious drug addiction around that time and that probably accounts for JPJ being more in charge on that album.

    On a side note, I really like much of Robert Plants solo career too. He's been very adventurous and made a couple of missteps (like Shaken and Stirred and The Honey Drippers - but it was the mid 80s and everyone sucked so he wasn't alone). Two of his more recent albums, Mighty Rearranger and Band Of Joy are superb.

    1. I haven't really listened to a lot of Robert Plant's stuff. I've heard just about everything by Page, but not Plant other than a few songs like In the Mood and Tall Cool One.

    2. There are really 2 Robert Plant solo careers and they are split by the few years he did the Page-Plant thing in the 90's. Pre Page/Plant is where you will find the stuff you hear on the radio. In this period, he tended to blend his music to the modern sounds and styles of the day. Post Page/Plant is a more rootsy sound and more (for lack of a better term) world rhythms. There is some good stuff is phase one but I like the phase two Plant the best. He did an album with the country/bluegrass star, Alison Krauss that is excellent but countryish. Mighty Rearranger is more different rhythms and Band of Joy is rootsy. Dreamland is a covers album but a great one. Most of the covers are kind of obsure. The point is that he isn't too worried about popularity anymore and he seems to be doing what he likes and I think it's great.

      Here's a good one from Band of Joy