Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)

AllMusic Review: Led Zeppelin returned from a nearly two-year hiatus in 1975 with the double-album Physical Graffiti, their most sprawling and ambitious work. Where Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy integrated influences on each song, the majority of the tracks on Physical Graffiti are individual stylistic workouts. The highlights are when Zeppelin incorporate influences and stretch out into new stylistic territory, most notably on the tense, Eastern-influenced “Kashmir.” “Trampled Underfoot,” with John Paul Jones’ galloping keyboard, is their best funk-metal workout, while “Houses of the Holy” is their best attempt at pop, and “Down by the Seaside” is the closest they’ve come to country. Even the heavier blues — the 11-minute “In My Time of Dying,” the tightly wound “Custard Pie,” and the monstrous epic “The Rover” — are louder and more extended and textured than their previous work. Also, all of the heavy songs are on the first record, leaving the rest of the album to explore more adventurous territory, whether it’s acoustic tracks or grandiose but quiet epics like the affecting “Ten Years Gone.” The second half of Physical Graffiti feels like the group is cleaning the vaults out, issuing every little scrap of music they set to tape in the past few years. That means that the album is filled with songs that aren’t quite filler, but don’t quite match the peaks of the album, either. Still, even these songs have their merits — “Sick Again” is the meanest, most decadent rocker they ever recorded, and the folky acoustic rock & roll of “Boogie with Stu” and “Black Country Woman” may be tossed off, but they have a relaxed, off-hand charm that Zeppelin never matched. It takes a while to sort out all of the music on the album, but Physical Graffiti captures the whole experience of Led Zeppelin at the top of their game better than any of their other albums. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

All tracks are written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Date and location Length
1. “Custard Pie” January–February 1974, Headley Grange, Hampshire 4:13
2. “The Rover” May 1972, Stargroves (Houses of the Holy outtake) 5:36
3. “In My Time of Dying” (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Page, Plant) January–February 1974, Headley Grange 11:04
Side two
No. Title Date recorded Length
1. “Houses of the Holy” May 1972, Olympic Studios, London (Houses of the Holy outtake) 4:01
2. “Trampled Under Foot” (Jones, Page, Plant) January–February 1974, Headley Grange 5:35
3. “Kashmir” (Bonham, Page, Plant) January–February 1974, Headley Grange 8:37
Side three
No. Title Date recorded Length
1. “In the Light” (Jones, Page, Plant) January–February 1974, Headley Grange 8:44
2. “Bron-Yr-Aur” (Page) July 1970, Island Studios, London (Led Zeppelin III outtake) 2:06
3. “Down by the Seaside” February 1971, Island Studios, London (Led Zeppelin IV outtake) 5:14
4. “Ten Years Gone” January–February 1974, Headley Grange 6:31
Side four
No. Title Date recorded Length
1. “Night Flight” (Jones, Page, Plant) January 1971, Headley Grange (Led Zeppelin IV outtake) 3:36
2. “The Wanton Song” January–February 1974, Headley Grange 4:06
3. “Boogie with Stu” (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant, Ian Stewart, Ritchie Valens) January 1971, Headley Grange (Led Zeppelin IV outtake) 3:51
4. “Black Country Woman” May 1972, Stargroves (Houses of the Holy outtake) 4:24
5. “Sick Again” January–February 1974, Headley Grange 4:43

 

Schill Score:  9/10

 

Listen to Album

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

AllMusic Review: Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock. Expanding on the breakthroughs of III, Zeppelin fuse their majestic hard rock with a mystical, rural English folk that gives the record an epic scope. Even at its most basic — the muscular, traditionalist “Rock and Roll” — the album has a grand sense of drama, which is only deepened by Robert Plant’s burgeoning obsession with mythology, religion, and the occult. Plant’s mysticism comes to a head on the eerie folk ballad “The Battle of Evermore,” a mandolin-driven song with haunting vocals from Sandy Denny, and on the epic “Stairway to Heaven.” Of all of Zeppelin’s songs, “Stairway to Heaven” is the most famous, and not unjustly. Building from a simple fingerpicked acoustic guitar to a storming torrent of guitar riffs and solos, it encapsulates the entire album in one song. Which, of course, isn’t discounting the rest of the album. “Going to California” is the group’s best folk song, and the rockers are endlessly inventive, whether it’s the complex, multi-layered “Black Dog,” the pounding hippie satire “Misty Mountain Hop,” or the funky riffs of “Four Sticks.” But the closer, “When the Levee Breaks,” is the one song truly equal to “Stairway,” helping give IV the feeling of an epic. An apocalyptic slice of urban blues, “When the Levee Breaks” is as forceful and frightening as Zeppelin ever got, and its seismic rhythms and layered dynamics illustrate why none of their imitators could ever equal them. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Black Dog”
  • Jimmy Page
  • Robert Plant
  • John Paul Jones
4:54
2. “Rock and Roll”
  • Page
  • Plant
  • Jones
  • John Bonham
3:40
3. “The Battle of Evermore”
  • Page
  • Plant
5:51
4. “Stairway to Heaven”
  • Page
  • Plant
8:02
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Misty Mountain Hop”
  • Page
  • Plant
  • Jones
4:38
6. “Four Sticks”
  • Page
  • Plant
4:44
7. “Going to California”
  • Page
  • Plant
3:31
8. “When the Levee Breaks”
  • Page
  • Plant
  • Jones
  • Bonham
  • Memphis Minnie
7:07
Total length: 42:34

 

Schill Score: 10/10

 

Listen to Album

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III (1970)

AllMusic Review: On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth. And even the rockers aren’t as straightforward as before: the galloping “Immigrant Song” is powered by Robert Plant’s banshee wail, “Celebration Day” turns blues-rock inside out with a warped slide guitar riff, and “Out on the Tiles” lumbers along with a tricky, multi-part riff. Nevertheless, the heart of the album lies on the second side, when the band delve deeply into English folk. “Gallows Pole” updates a traditional tune with a menacing flair, and “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” is an infectious acoustic romp, while “That’s the Way” and “Tangerine” are shimmering songs with graceful country flourishes. The band hasn’t left the blues behind, but the twisted bottleneck blues of “Hats off to (Roy) Harper” actually outstrips the epic “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which is the only time Zeppelin sound a bit set in their ways. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Immigrant Song”
  • Jimmy Page
  • Robert Plant
2:26
2. “Friends”
  • Page
  • Plant
3:55
3. “Celebration Day”
  • John Paul Jones
  • Page
  • Plant
3:29
4. “Since I’ve Been Loving You”
  • Jones
  • Page
  • Plant
7:25
5. “Out on the Tiles”
  • John Bonham
  • Page
  • Plant
4:04
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Gallows Pole” Traditional, arr..

  • Page
  • Plant
4:58
2. “Tangerine” Page 3:12
3. “That’s the Way”
  • Page
  • Plant
5:38
4. “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”
  • Jones
  • Page
  • Plant
4:20
5. “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” Traditional, arr.. Charles Obscure 3:41

 

Schill Score:  7.5/10

 

Listen to Album

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969)

AllMusic Review: Recorded quickly during Led Zeppelin’s first American tours, Led Zeppelin II provided the blueprint for all the heavy metal bands that followed it. Since the group could only enter the studio for brief amounts of time, most of the songs that compose II are reworked blues and rock & roll standards that the band was performing on-stage at the time. Not only did the short amount of time result in a lack of original material, it made the sound more direct. Jimmy Page still provided layers of guitar overdubs, but the overall sound of the album is heavy and hard, brutal and direct. “Whole Lotta Love,” “The Lemon Song,” and “Bring It on Home” are all based on classic blues songs — only, the riffs are simpler and louder and each song has an extended section for instrumental solos. Of the remaining six songs, two sport light acoustic touches (“Thank You,” “Ramble On”), but the other four are straight-ahead heavy rock that follows the formula of the revamped blues songs. While Led Zeppelin II doesn’t have the eclecticism of the group’s debut, it’s arguably more influential. After all, nearly every one of the hundreds of Zeppelin imitators used this record, with its lack of dynamics and its pummeling riffs, as a blueprint. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Whole Lotta Love”
  • John Bonham
  • Willie Dixon
  • John Paul Jones
  • Jimmy Page
  • Robert Plant
5:34
2. “What Is and What Should Never Be”
  • Page
  • Plant
4:46
3. “The Lemon Song”
  • Bonham
  • Chester Burnett
  • Jones
  • Page
  • Plant
6:20
4. “Thank You”
  • Page
  • Plant
4:50
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Heartbreaker”
  • Bonham
  • Jones
  • Page
  • Plant
4:14
2. “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)”
  • Page
  • Plant
2:39
3. “Ramble On”
  • Page
  • Plant
4:34
4. “Moby Dick” (instrumental)
  • Bonham
  • Jones
  • Page
4:20
5. “Bring It On Home”
  • Bonham
  • Dixon
  • Jones
  • Page
  • Plant
4:18

 

Schill Score: 9.5/10

 

Listen to Album Below

 

 

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)

AllMusic Review: Led Zeppelin had a fully formed, distinctive sound from the outset, as their eponymous debut illustrates. Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme, Zeppelin created a majestic, powerful brand of guitar rock constructed around simple, memorable riffs and lumbering rhythms. But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos. As Led Zeppelin proves, the group was capable of such multi-layered music from the start. Although the extended psychedelic blues of “Dazed and Confused,” “You Shook Me,” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby” often gather the most attention, the remainder of the album is a better indication of what would come later. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” shifts from folky verses to pummeling choruses; “Good Times Bad Times” and “How Many More Times” have groovy, bluesy shuffles; “Your Time Is Gonna Come” is an anthemic hard rocker; “Black Mountain Side” is pure English folk; and “Communication Breakdown” is a frenzied rocker with a nearly punkish attack. Although the album isn’t as varied as some of their later efforts, it nevertheless marked a significant turning point in the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Good Times Bad Times”
  • Jimmy Page
  • John Paul Jones
  • John Bonham
  • Robert Plant
2:46
2. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”
  • Anne Bredon
  • Page
  • Plant
6:42
3. “You Shook Me”
  • Willie Dixon
  • J. B. Lenoir
6:28
4. “Dazed and Confused” Page, inspired by Jake Holmes 6:28
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Your Time Is Gonna Come”
  • Page
  • Jones
  • Plant
4:34
2. “Black Mountain Side” Page 2:12
3. “Communication Breakdown”
  • Page
  • Jones
  • Bonham
  • Plant
2:30
4. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” Dixon 4:42
5. “How Many More Times”
  • Page
  • Jones
  • Bonham
  • Plant
8:27

 

Schill Score: 7/10

 

Listen to Album Below