I hear the horses’ thunder
Down in the valley blow,
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon,
Waiting for the eastern glow.
After the Yardbirds split, their founder Jimmy Page wanted to form a new band, tentatively called the New Yardbirds. His friend Keith Moon, (drummer for The Who) quipped “That’ll fall like a lead zeppelin.” And that is how the legend of Led Zeppelin began. This time for Jason’s Jukebox, it’s time to rank all 9 Led Zeppelin studio albums. Let’s meet the band:
- Robert Plant: Vocals
- Jimmy Page: Lead guitar
- John Paul Jones: Bass
- John “Bonzo” Bonham: Drums
Led Zeppelin I (1969) ****
Singles: “Good Times, Bad Times”, “Communication Breakdown”
From the very beginning, Led Zeppelin was a hit. There has never been a debut quite like this, either before or since. It doesn’t matter that “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby” are actually covers. Led Zeppelin takes them and makes them their own. “Good Times, Bad Times” is a solid opening track. “Dazed and Confused is like two wizards dueling. “Communication Breakdown” is a frantic onslaught. This is a great debut.
Best Tracks: “Good Times, Bad Times”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”
Led Zeppelin II (1969)*****
Singles: “Heartbreaker”, “Whole Lotta Love”
It’s not easy to top a debut like Led Zeppelin I, but II is the best of the “numbered” albums. To think it only took some weeks to record, between breaks during the tour for the first album. So many standards in Classic Rock radio are here: “Whole Lotta Love”, “Ramble On”, and “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)”. “Moby Dick”, the band’s sole instrumental song, is a showcase for John Bonham’s awesome drumming, and doesn’t need lyrics to pull it off.
Fun Fact: On the original LP, the running time for “Thank You” is incorrectly listed as 3:30 due to a false fade. This was corrected in subsequent reissues.
Best Tracks: “Whole Lotta Love”, “Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid”, “Ramble On”, “Moby Dick”
Led Zeppelin III (1970) ***1/2
Single: “Immigrant Song”
This album doesn’t have the airplay of its predecessors, but it’s still great. It’s the most acoustic of the albums so far, not discounting II’s “Ramble On” or the debut’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”.
Best tracks: “Immigrant Song”, “Celebration Day”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “Gallows Pole”
Untitled (1971) *****
Singles: “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”
Call it 4, Signs, Hermit, whatever–this album will forever be known as a classic. Don’t dismiss “Stairway to Heaven” because DJ’s play it for bathroom breaks. And don’t let Spirit’s lawsuit for the track get more press than it deserved. “Stairway to Heaven” has much more riding on it than a short riff. “When the Levee Breaks” is an excellent cover.
Best Tracks: “When the Levee Breaks”,”Black Dog”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Battle of Evermore” “Misty Mountain Hop”
Fun Fact: “When the Levee Breaks” was sampled by the Beastie Boys for their song “Rhymin’ and Stealin'”