Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin I Review

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Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin I
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Brian Dickson's review of Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin I

Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin I - People say... ”


written by Brian Dickson on 20/10/2004

Good Points
A landmark album. Part of rock history.

Bad Points
By today's standards it's nothing special.

General Comments
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin I - People say...

"Led Zeppelin are far and away the best hard rock band of all time. They singlehandedly invented all forms of heavy metal and hard rock, and rock died when they split. Bands like Black Sabbath, Van Halen and Nirvana are just pale imitations of the mighty Zeppelin. No band has ever come close to the sheer talent they had. The four greatest musicians ever assembled. I don't know who they were, but they must have been either aliens or Gods to give us music that great. Everyone must bow down in supplication when they hear a Zeppelin song."

That's the accepted wisdom it seems from my nearly 20 years experience of hearing rock fans speak their opinions. Except that I disagree with the accepted wisdom. I think Led Zeppelin today are overrated. Okay you all want to burn me for heresy for saying that. I'll explain....

If I pictured myself back in 1969 hearing Led Zeppelin for the first time I would no doubt be impressed. They didn't sound like The Beatles, or The Stones, The Kinks or Hermans Hermits. That's refreshing right there! There's some hint of the Who there and Hendrix. But mainly I suppose they sound like The Jeff Beck Group, only louder and with crisper production. I would no doubt be pretty impressed with them for being quite fresh sounding. Except.....it's not 1969 anymore. For all Led Zeppelin's influence I think other bands have made better hard rock since them. Even their two contempories Black Sabbath and Deep Purple I thought were better in some respects. The problem is that Black Sabbath and Deep Purple went on too long and went through endless line up changes and frankly, released some pretty bad albums, tarnishing their reputation. Led Zep, however, split, more or less preserving their reputation intact. Ozzy Osbourne today is a clown, further diminishing Sabbath's reputation. So, IN MY OPINION, Led Zep are to hard rock what Space Invaders is to video games. The most influential, probably (although not the first, nor was Space Invaders strictly the first video game), but not superior to what followed in its footsteps. That analogy is exaggerated of course, since today Space Invaders has been FAR exceeded whereas I don't think it's as extreme in the case of Led Zeppelin. Or you could use The Wright Brothers airplane analogy. It was the first, but by today's standards it's not the fastest or most maneuverable, or... you get the idea. Being first doesn't always mean best. But people will still be talking about The Wright Brothers airplane in tones of reverance 50 years fron mow while later, better planes are long forgotten. And to take as an example two of their most lauded songs. Black Dog and Stairway. When I first heard the riff to Black Dog in 1986 I thought it sounded like a randon collection of notes. And today I still do. Sure it's complex and must take skill to play, but it doesn't overlook the fact that its "hook" factor is close to zero to me. Contrast that to the much simpler yet much catchier Smoke On The Water riff! Or Sweet Leaf, a riff that is almost maddeningly catchy. Stairway might be a slick song but I'm afraid the main guitar-line is a slight reworking of Taurus By Spirit, so Led Zep can't take as much credit as some might hope. And really, most of their best moments are actually when they're covering others' songs! It makes you wonder alright. Were Led Zep geniuses at.... songwriting? or arranging?

I don't think that any single one band started heavy metal. What's the definiton of heavy metal? Probably most would say amped-up guitars, high-pitched, impassioned vocals and a headbanging riff. But can't you bang your head to Purple Haze, Spanish Castle Magic or even My Generation? Amped-up guitars? Hendrix, Cream, Jeff Beck. High-pitched vocals? Well I'd say that Paul McCartney on Helter Skelter did a good job there. And Rod Stewart singing for The Jeff Beck Group could get a mention. Tbe thing with Zeppelin is that they didn't start anything at all, they were more of a melting pot of influences. You could say that their first two albums defined their sound, which is mainly fiery blues rock I suppose. But what's so revolutionary about blues rock? They just made it more intense. For their era. People often say that no band has ever touched Zeppelin, which is adorably enthusiastic and naive, but how - and I stress this point - can you make that judgement if you haven't heard all of what's been happening in the 35 years since Led Zeppelin's debut? Nobody's going to make the effort of listening to the thousands of other hard rock albums that have been released since 1969, however. Led Zep could play their instruments well and churn out a decent song but so what? How many other bands could that apply to? Led Zep are a middle-of-the-pack band to me. I've heard maybe 500 or so rock/metal albums from 1970 onwards and to me Led Zep stand out in no department as the best of its kind. In terms of riffs, melody, singing, speed, atmosphere and guitar virtuosity Led Zep have been surpassed by others. And furthermore, it seems that Led Zep base their sound mainly on the electric guitar. But the problem is that even if you enjoy the electric guitar sound, it doesn't sound all that great on the Led Zep albums. Technology has moved on and today's recording techniques allow a much better guitar sound. So even there Led Zep have been trumped.

Part of Zeppelin's enduring popularity is due to peer pressure, especially among high schoolers. Among the rock culture not liking Zeppelin is practically heresy. The Emperor's servants in The Emperors New Clothes fable spring to mind. They couldn't see the Emperor's clothes either but didn't want to say so for fear of seeming stupid. So they tag along gamely. In earlier centuries, heretics were burnt at the stake. These days, thankfully, measures are not so severe, but not liking the Mighty Zeppelin is still a serious matter to rock fans. Oh well, they'll just have to buy "Early Days" "III" and "How The West Was Won" and show them to their friends. Replies of "You've finally got taste!" are uttered and the storm blows over. Phew! You've joined the ranks of People With Taste!

I can in some ways respect their contribution to rock music, but I've never really been a fan. I've bought most of their albums and listened to them, but really it was out of a sense of duty I suppose. It's virtually REQUIRED for a rock fan to listen to Led Zeppelin. They have their place in rock history but the pedestal they're on is so high they need oxygen masks.

Overall, today, I still think that Led Zeppelin improved on The Jeff Beck Group, but that isn't enought to justify their "Rock Gods" status for me. Still, they've got a cool name. It sounds so right doesn't it? Just say it out loud....Led......Zeppelin. It sounds formidable... and I think it's also a reason why Led Zep get the "mighty" reputation. The Zeppelins of old are huge, awe-inspiring things. Watching the Hindenburg go down in flames is a sight that no-one who's ever seen can ever forget. And the name Zeppelin sinks into the average 13-year-old rock fan's impressionable mind like... a lead zeppelin.

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Houxty1's Response to Brian Dickson's Review

Written on: 29/03/2007

I've listened to Led Zeppelin for over 30 years. I still listen to them more than any other artist. Why?
<br/>Because when you&#039;ve heard the best, there&#039;s little point listening to poor substitutes.
<br/>Greatest rock band in the 1960&#039;s, the 70&#039;s, the 80&#039; and on an on. Unsurpassed and unsurpassable. Do not trust anybody who believes otherwise, they are most likely just out of the asylum.

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