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CD REVIEW: LED ZEPPELIN – Reissues, Led Zeppelin I, II and III

| 23 July 2014 | Reply

CD REVIEW: LED ZEPPELIN – Reissues, Led Zeppelin I, II and III
Atlantic/Swansong
June 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
I – 7.5/10
II – 8.5/10
III – 8.5/10
Extras on each – 5.5/10

Led Zeppelin reissues 2014

These are the albums that changed the course of rock n’ roll.

Seasoned London session men Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones recruited Robert Plant and John Bonham from the Midlands and set about electrifying the blues in a way hitherto untried (except, perhaps, by Jeff Beck, setting in motion a grudge still held, albeit lightly these days between former Yardbirds bandmates Page and Beck)

Plant would come into his own by the time they recorded Led Zeppelin II, and latter Zep records would drip sexual debauchery, but lyrically LZ I is pretty tame and traverses the usual themes of love and it’s endings for the most part.

Good Times Bad Times and Communication Breakdown lead the charge for original material, while their take on older numbers such as Willie Dixon’s You Shook Me and I Can’t Quit You Babe, along with the Page-inspired-by-Jake Holmes Dazed & Confused set a new benchmark for hard edged rock n’ roll.

The bonus disc here features live recordings from a 1969 Paris gig, and shows that the band took to these songs instantly, as did their audiences.

First embarking on a tour of Scandinavia as The New Yardbirds to road-test the tunes, Led Zeppelin found the songs and the band’s chemistry an immediate hit, and with the take-no-shit intimidating presence of Peter Grant as their hands-on manager – a man with rock n’ roll business sense and other-side-of-the-law contacts to match his considerable brawn, they could hardly fail.

Led Zeppelin II spoke of a band brimming with confidence and sexual bravado. A group who readily accepted the adulation thrown their way. Whole Lotta Love remains immortal to this day. Heartbreaker and Living Loving Maid (She’s A Woman) are faultless. Thank You hinted at the more pastoral flavours to come on the next record, and Ramble On, John Bonham’s drum solo vehicle Moby Dick and the closing cover of Willie Dixon’s Bring It On Home all reinforce the elevation of Led Zeppelin to legendary status.

The bonus disc here is largely early versions of the songs, all of which hold some interest but not enough – especially when there are many bootlegs from the studio and live out there of covers as diverse as Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill. ‘New’ track LaLa is little more than a sketch, and certainly not lost treasure.

Led Zeppelin III was a dramatic left turn for the band, veering sharply away from chest beating hard rock (for the most part) and into more rustic, acoustic realm (which would remain a permanent resident of the bands sound for the rest of their career.)

It worked magnificently on the likes of Friends, Gallows Pole, That’s The Way and Bron-Y-Aur Stomp , and the Viking invaders track Immigrant Song and blues Since I’ve Been Loving You make sure no-one leaves without a favourite.

The bonus disc to LZ III again features early (in a couple of cases, very early) demos and takes, and again will be of enduring interest only to obsessive.

Overall the remastering sounds great – though not dramatically better than the 1990 Remasters series. The booklets appear to be nicely done, though of course we’re not shown them for review purposes, so I can’t elaborate. The extras seem aimed squarely at compulsives rather than seeking to share any hidden goodies, live rarities or anything of any real value, and in that respect the reissues are a lost opportunity.

Shane

Category: CD Reviews, Shane's Rock Challenge

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