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upon us all a little rain must fall

 

Led Zeppelin

 

I've decided that the only way to get anyone to comment on this site is to review a band that's considered one of the greatest ever by six trillion "classic rock" fans, but that I don't like that much. C'mon, people, admit it, John Paul Jones was the only talented one!

lineup: John Bonham (drums and lager); John Paul Jones (bass, keyboards); Jimmy Page (stolen guitar riffs); Robert Plant (irritating vocals and dumb lyrics)

review index: I / II / III / The One with the Guy with the Sticks on His Back / Houses of the Holy / Physical Graffiti / Presence / In Through the Out Door / Coda

solos & sides:

Page & Plant: No Quarter

missing: the two boring-ass double-live sets, The Song Remains the Same and BBC Sessions.

apex: Houses of the Holy
nadir: Presence
overlooked: In Through the Out Door


...reader comments...

Yinon (kuper@bezeqint.net) eloquently intones:

you dont know shit about music, man!
how do you dare talking about pink floyd and led zeppelin ???
show some respect, man....

Cole Responds:

That's nice. Is that a haiku? More educated than I'd expect from a Zep fan. Thank you for writing.

or, as Jacob (jacobrainey3@hotmail.com) eruditely explains:

You need some repsect beaten into you boy. Led Zeppelin is great, I understand that you hate life and suck at everything you do but dont try and put greats down. Your a dumbass to think that JPJ was the only talented one in that band! Both him and Jimmy were sessionists which basically means they are the best at what they do. Jimmy being rated the top 3rd guitarist ever right behind Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Bonham, to say he has no talent would be to say the earth is flat. You are absolutely losing your mind, which, my freind, is probably why people even comment on your site. You obviously have much to learn about blues, after reading what you have to say about "Stolen Riffs." Robert Plant, irritating voice? The power behind it is awe inspiring, said to be the greatest rock voice of all time. Wait, yeah I'm so sure you are smarter than the "six trillion" others.

Cole Responds:

What's "repsect"? Is this some kind of classic rock cult? Oh, wait, I forgot, it's a "typo" (one of many). You might consider running down to the local bookstore, picking out a dictionary, and looking up the definition of the words "sarcasm" and "joke". This, of course, is after you consider whether third-rate blooz-rawk bands like Led Zeppelin are worthy of my respect (I do, after all, have to listen to these things, and these boys offend my ears more often than they please them). And why is it you say "beaten" into me? Will the threat of physical violence make a difference, especially when you're more than likely several thousand miles from my location, in my perception of music? Would you really be willing to assault someone just because they don't like a certain band?

Re: the members of Zeppelin, I will actually address their talents, or lack thereof: Page was a master of pentatonic blues-derived riffs, but his ability to wank endlessly on their blues ripoffs derails the band's coherence half the time. Bonham was a prototypical hard rock drummer -- he played loud, unsubtle, and his tonal palette was, shall we say, limited. Jonesy I like. And Plant shrieks and creaks his way through the Zeppelin catalog, once again choosing the most irritating of timbres. Not to mention his laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame lyrics. Oh, and Zeppelin stealing riffs has no bearing on the blues: these were English businessmen copyrighting other peoples' work (and making a hefty profit), not broke black Americans with beat-up acoustic guitars sharing songs with each other.

In reference to your intimation that I "hate life" and "suck at everything [I] do", I tolerate life just fine, and judging by the angry tone of your epistle, I don't suck at baiting classic rock morons like yourself with blatantly over-the-top criticisms of bands that I daresay are overrated just a tad. Oh, and as for calling me "boy": well, if you're younger than me then you have no business, and if you're older than me, this whole missive indicates a pretty sad state of affairs. But that's the American education system at work, after all.

In closing, I may not be smarter than every other classic rock fan, but I'm sure about one, at least.

but RustyHandle@aol.com actually agrees with me:

awww man... if there's one thing i hate... it's a fuckin' jimmy page guitar solo... terrible terrible soloist... with a few exceptions... since i've been lovin' you... and stairway to heaven... sure it's overplayed but that solo kicks way more ass than that straight phrased noise crap he plays on everything else... i mean before the even crappier synths... man do zeppelin suck... especially plant... emotional? awe inspiring? he's a hack! terrible voice.. overly bombastic and annoying... it's like bono meets fran drescher... and i like bono! but those would be some ugly kids huh? ohhhhhh ugly loud annoying kids... anyway... yeah you're right on about JPJ... bonham should be licking the toes of baker, densemore, and copeland... he's decent... but one decent, two hacks, and an almost expert dont make a good band... well wait... page was a great producer... the production values and all the little intricacy's of the first few zeppelin albums are great...even i cant stand the tone... zeppelin lovers bite my ass and buy some cream... ya fucks!

Shawn (shawngtp@yahoo.com) has a lot to say:

I stumbled across your site when doing a search for information on the Bonzo's Montreaux recording.  I was mostly uninterested with reviews of Led Zeppelin in general, but you caught my attention with, ". . . John Paul Jones was the only talented one."  I read most of the page and also noticed, "Bonham was a prototypical hard rock drummer -- he played loud, unsubtle, and his tonal palette was, shall we say, limited."  Your comments don't surprise me since they're hardly anything new, but perhaps a bit inaccurate.

You suggest that JPJ was the only talented one.  Regarding Page and Plant, I'll let someone else comment if they wish.  Regarding John Bonham, you essentially say that he was among the first to use a particular hard rock drumming style and that he played loud.  The former is true and hardly negative and the latter is more hype.  Bonham was a firm drummer.  He was also _recorded_ loud.  The dynamics and tonality are still there, when and where they are meant to be.  Tony Williams did play loud.  Always.  Was he not a gifted musician?

You may disagree, but most who have studied drumming disagree.  If John isn't among the great drummers, then who is?  He was influenced by great drummers and it showed in his drumming.  To quote Hendrix he had a "right foot like a rabbit."  Give Tangerine another listen.  His influences continued throughout his career as evidenced by the "less is more" approach he started using on the latter half of the albums.  A lot can be said about JB, most of it positive.

I've listened to my share of Zeppelin over the years.  I have to agree with a lot of what you had to say.  Just how many of their songs don't have "baby", "mama", etc. in them, anyway?  I always found that a bit annoying.  The Bonham part stuck out for me, but I know more about him and his drumming than I do about the rest of Zeppelin.

You made an interesting comment about No Quarter.  The studio version could never be duplicated live, since they recorded everything but the drums, slowed it down, and laid the drums over it.  That said, I'm not sure why they shouldn't play it live.  It will be different, but so what?


I - 1969

Rating: **
Best songs: Communication Breakdown, Good Times Bad Times, I Can't Quit You Baby
Worst songs: How Many More Times, You Shook Me, Dazed and Confused

 

Okay, so they're still in their boring "we play the blues" phase, as opposed to their boring "we rock hard" phase. The best songs on here are the only two that they didn't steal (presumably) -- "Communication Breakdown" is a nice, thrashy rocker, and "Good Times Bad Times" has those great bass breaks. And the rest is dull blues and folk. Well, "I Can't Quit You Baby" is good blues, and "Your Time Is Gonna Come" and "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is decent folk. But the rest is bleah city. I mean, "How Many More Times" are they gonna leave me "Dazed and Confused" with their "Boring Blues Jams"?


II - 1969

Rating: ***
Best songs: What Is And What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker
Worst songs: Moby Dick, Bring It On Home, The Lemon Song

 

Well, this is better -- the blues ripoffs are still present in "The Lemon Song" (get a load of that bassline, man!) and "Bring It On Home", but they finally realize that their forte is rockin' out (as in the big radio hits "Whole Lotta Love" and "Heartbreaker") and mystical acoustic stuff (as evidenced by the radio standard "Ramble On", which is a decent tune despite their Tolkien fetish, and also the underappreciated gem "What Is And What Should Never Be"). Plant also gets to croon a cheesy gospel ballad named "Thank You", and there's a dull drum solo and a couple other tracks I can't think of. Better, at least.


III - 1970

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: That's the Way, Immigrant Song, Tangerine
Worst songs: Hats off to (Roy) Harper, Out on the Tiles, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp

 

Okay, the mystical acoustic stuff is nice, but did we need a whole album of it? Aside from "More Blues" (Floyd ref!) in the 'original' "Since I've Been Loving You" and the great opener "Immigrant Song", this is mostly acousticish balladish stuff. They pull it off with such classics as "That's the Way" and "Tangerine", and "Celebration Day" is a neat little riff tune, but we don't need crap like "Hats off to (Roy) Harper" and "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" clogging up the waterworks.


The One with the Guy with the Sticks on His Back - 1971

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Rock and Roll, When the Levee Breaks, Going to California
Worst songs: Misty Mountain Hop, Four Sticks

 

Yeah, like the world needs another review of this album. What's so great about it? Three words: "Rock and Roll". That song just kicks so much butt -- I mean, the song before it is just a copy of it. And how a song can copy something that comes after it, I'll never know. But man that song just kicks--

Err, anyway, yeah, there's some other stuff on here. "The Battle of Evermore" has some stupid Tolkien-derived lyrics, but is redeemed by a great vocal performance from Sandy Denny, "Going to California" is so great Pearl Jam ripped it off 26 years later, and "When the Levee Breaks" is a wonderful dirgey blues-rocker. Of course, Led Zep can't do an album without a couple crappy songs, and this time they're the moronic "Misty Mountain Hop" and the dull synthfest "Four Sticks". Overall, however, this is worth getting, unless you listen to classic rock radio, in which case you can hear most of it all the time anyway, sandwiched in between "Don't Stop" and "Running on Empty".

Hey, look, I reviewed this album without mentioning "Stairway to Heaven"! I feel so pr--

oh, shit.


Houses of the Holy - 1973

Rating: ****
Best songs: The Rain Song, No Quarter, Dancing Days, Over the Hills and Far Away
Worst songs: The Crunge

 

Yeah! Now you're speaking my tongue. Out of eight songs, only one really sucks (the horrible funk parody "The Crunge"), and they include the two greatest songs they've ever done -- the beautiful "The Rain Song" (even if it evokes more of an after-the-rain atmosphere to me) and the spooky "No Quarter" (love those keyboards!). And the rest is purty good as well: chimey rockers like "Dancing Days" and "The Song Remains the Same", the radio staples "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "D'yer Maker", and the rock/doo-wop number "The Ocean". Thumbs up, guys!


Physical Graffiti - 1975

Rating: **
Best songs: Custard Pie, Trampled Under Foot, In the Light
Worst songs: In My Time of Dying, side four

 

Here's a tip to you aspiring musicians out there: when you've done your best album, DON'T follow it up with a double album, because you'll be berated for being excessive, self-indulgent, pretentious, etc.

Oh yeah, also, it's because double albums tend to suck. It's the English Settlement syndrome: they didn't have enough songs for a double album, so they made them as long as possible in order to fill out the space. Sure, there's some good stuff, such as the sparkly poppy rocking out on "Houses of the Holy", "Custard Pie", and "The Rover", and a silly Stevie Wonder ripoff in "Trampled Under Foot", but the majority of disc 2 is worthless. I like the spooky synthesizers in "In the Light", and the moody "Down By the Seaside", but most of the rest is just dull boring overlong (pick one). And "Kashmir" is _not_ worth listening to for eight minutes, I don't care how many times the radio shoves it down our throats.


Presence - 1976

Rating: *
Best songs: Achilles Last Stand
Worst songs: Candy Store Rock, For Your Life, Royal Orleans, and that other one I can't remember

 

Okay, so you didn't follow my advice, and you released a double-album after your best one. What do you do now? Well, don't get addicted to drugs, because this is what happens. It sounds like they took the worst half-hour of Let's Get Physical Graffiti, stretched it out more, and called it the new album. I find it hard to even find a high point on this one: I'll go with "Achilles Last Stand", though it goes on for TEN MINUTES. The rest is just... bleah. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is actually a decent song, though it wouldn't be worth hearing until that Page/Plant Unledded thing turned it into a hurdy-gurdy driven acoustic folk song (which it probably was before they "appropriated" it).


In Through the Out Door - 1979

Rating: ***
Best songs: All My Love, In the Evening, Fool in the Rain
Worst songs: I'm Gonna Crawl, Carouselambra

 

With everyone else out getting stoned and/or drunk, John Paul Jones was left on his own in the studio, and managed to come up with a decent swan song for the group. Aside from the disco epic "Carouselambra" and generic blooz #6000 "I'm Gonna Crawl", you can listen to this one without reaching for the Alleve. Jones splatters synthesizers all across the great droney "In the Evening" and "All My Love", and pounds a piano for the bouncy "South Bound Saurez" and the pop tune "Fool in the Rain". There's also a silly country song called "Hot Dog". And that's the end of Zeppelin, Led.


Coda - 1982

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: We're Gonna Groove, I Can't Quit You Baby, Ozone Baby
Worst songs: Walter's Walk, Bonzo's Montreaux, Poor Tom

 

Some scrapings from the bottom of the tape deck released well after John Bonham drank himself to death, this is really really really nonessential. It could at least include the III-era b-side "Hey Hey What Can I Do", but nooooo!

Well, anyway, there are a couple good trashy rockers in "We're Gonna Groove" and "Ozone Baby", and an adequate performance of "I Can't Quit You Baby", but stuff like "Poor Tom" and "Walter's Walk" make it clear why this stuff wasn't released previously. "Darlene" has some great piano work (see, I told you JPJ was the most talented one), and there's a couple other songs which I don't want to mention. Only buy it if you find it cheap, like I did (50 cents).

Okay, okay, I'll add this: "Bonzo's Montreaux" is a drum solo. It's slightly more interesting than most, but it's still a drum solo.


Postscript: Solo Albums and Side Projects


Page & Plant, Unledded - 1994

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Nobody's Fault But Mine, That's the Way, Gallows Pole, The Battle of Evermore
Worst songs: Four Sticks, No Quarter, the new stuff

 

Live versions of Zep classics, along with a few new tracks. Of the Zep tracks, "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is a clear winner -- it kicks the butt of the original with its hurdy-gurdy drones and acoustic guitars and stuff. Probably how it was before Zep "appropriated" it. The rest of the tracks are pretty-well selected, with some interesting semi-obscure numbers ("Gallows Pole"? "The Battle of Evermore"!) and only one or two stink-fests (um, who ordered the "Four Sticks"?). Also, they really shouldn't try to attempt "No Quarter", there's no way they'll get it as good as the studio performance. But why does Plant insist on using that 50s Elvis echo on his vocals? Christie Brinkley, what is this, the Honeydrippers?

Did I just make a Christie Brinkley reference? What the fuck year is this, 1983?

Anyway, uh, there are also three new tracks on here. They suck. Don't get this record unless you're a big Zep fan. That is all.


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