Led Zeppelin managed to create a much loved and lasting body of music, starting in 1968 with the release of "Led Zeppelin I," and concluding with 1982's "Coda." The band became well known for their (at the time) revolutionary combination of the blues, folk music, Celtic, and Middle Eastern and Indian elements, with the emerging 'heavy metal' style of rock and roll. Their live performances were known to be loud, sexually charged, energetic, and amazing experiences, and they quickly gained a reputation for unsavory and excessive behavior! And of course, the band also gained a reputation for writing great songs.
Many of us may not care, though , to ever hear "Stairway To Heaven" again, but songs like "Kashmir," "Over The Hills And Far Away," "Dancing Days," "All Of My Love," and "Ramble On" have much commercial appeal. Those songs are undoubtedly great, but I feel many of the songs on "Led Zeppelin III" are great in very creative and unexpected ways, and to many listeners they remain undiscovered and unappreciated.
In 1970, the band released the simply titled "Led Zeppelin III" (the previous two albums were titled "I" and "II," respectivelly). The album wasn't highly regarded by critics, and actually confused many fans. It included a very psychedelically influenced cover, and even had a rotateable kaelidescopic disk to play with in the inner sleeve! listeners had become accustomed to hard-rocking, blues based compostions, with a handful of acoustic pieces included in each previous album. The third album's entire second side was acoustic, and this was a surprise for many. Lets go track by track now and examine each of these great and creative songs...
"Immigrant Song" is the album opener, and is propelled by a very heavy (for 1970) guitar riff, and includes lyrics about Viking conquest and "calming the tides of war." I can imagine the numbers of adolescent males enthralled by lines such as "We are your overlords."
"Friends" is surely influenced by Indian music, and features Jimmy Page's extremely down-tuned acoustic guitar, as well as an underlying and repetitive melodic drone. Robert Plant's lyrics seem to be about the virtues of friendship. The song wraps up in a frenzied state, and the drone continues on, leading seamlessly to...
"Celebration Day." This is a riff -heavy rocker that speaks about being happy and joining the band, singing and dancing in celebration, and finding the "promised land."
Next, we have "Since I've Been Loving You," a slow minor-key blues with fantastic guitar work from Jimmy Page, great organ touches courtesy of John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant's very emotive vocal delivery. This song is about a bad relationship-the kind that may make you lose your worried mind!
"Out On The Tiles" has always been one of my favorite tracks from this album. It is held together by a couple of great and very crunchy guitar riffs, and is a song I always feel like playing loudly in the car. Plant tells us, "All I need from you is all your love. All you gotta give to me is all your love." I'm sure many fans wished they could heed his command!
Led Zeppelin really dug deeply into the roots of American folk music with "Gallows Pole." This is their version of the much older traditional song "The Maid Freed From The Gallows," and tells the story of a young man pleading to his family to save him from hanging! The dark subject matter, the inclusion of banjo and mandolin, and the driving tempo make for quite an engaging number!
On "Tangerine," we find Robert Plant reflecting on a lost love from sometime ago, and asking," Do you still remember times like these-to think of us again?" and declaring that the hours bring him pain. I'm not sure how a tangerine can be thought of as a "living reflection of a dream," but the pedal steel guitar really gives a nice country flavor to this track.
"That's the way" has always elicited an emotional response in me. Beautiful acoustic guitar work (it really reminds me of Joni Mitchell) is featured throughout, and here Plant sings about young love, flowers, and "fish that lay in dirty water dying," while also reminding us that "Mama said that's the way it ought to be." I find the instrumental coda to be especially beautiful- the band really manages to capture an usually tender and reflective mood here.
"Bron Yr Aur Stomp" is another very folk influenced song, with lyrics about a beloved dog, and has an irresistible rhythmic feel. Plant sings, "Hear the wind whisper in the trees, telling mother nature bout' you and me." The song is named for the valley in northen Wales where many of the album's songs were written, and "Bron Yr Aur" would also become the title of a lovely guitar instrumental from 1975's "Physical Graffiti."
"Led Zeppelin III" concludes with "Hats Off To Roy Harper," a psychedelic tribute to fellow British musician, Roy Harper. The band approaches this song as an LSD-drenched delta blues, and this serves as an odd but memorable closer to this fine recording.
I always recommend Led Zeppelin's third effort to people not familiar with it. It is an incredibly musical and creative effort, and I think it marks a point of departure for the band- away from the almost strictly blues influenced work of their first two recordings-and into a much more exploratory realm.
Here is a great deal on this fantastic album!
Amazon Price: $18.98 $3.98 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 31, 2013)