[Review] Led Zeppelin (1969)

The beginning of a musical voyage unlike any other, reaching new heights of rock and roll.

Kronomyth 1.0: Honest, it’s completely a mass of smoking wreckage.

If hard rock fans seem more fanatical than other music fans, consider that their icons stand taller than most. As hard rock coalesced in the late ‘60s, artists like Cream and Jimi Hendrix appeared larger than life: their music was devastating, their talent redefined what was possible. This first wave of legends burned brightly but briefly. In their place grew a new wave of heavy rock gods with names that alluded to the dark metallic tones of their music: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin. These groups continued the dialogue begun by Cream and Hendrix, using their knowledge of and affection for the blues as a launching point for psychedelic exploration and rebellion on an epic scale.

Good Times Bad Times rips loose from its mooring with a remarkable rhythm from John Bonham and a group sound that felt like a tightly wound coil finally sprung free. Their treatments of traditional blues songs are equally amazing, from Robert Plant’s smoldering performance on Babe I’m Gonna Leave You to Jimmy Page’s stellar fretwork on I Can’t Quit You Baby. Other rock & roll bands had burned their incense at the altar of blues before, but this is the blues burst into towering flames.

The intensity of their music doesn’t let up: Dazed and Confused, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown. It’s all canon in the great book of rock and roll. Even the instrumental Black Mountain Side, which is pretty much just acoustic guitar and tabla, has its proper place on Led Zeppelin. There had been high-water marks before this, from Disraeli Gears to The Doors, but this was a tsunami of sound that trampled everything before it. Although Led Zeppelin were never part of the progressive rock movement proper, they set the bar for every musician who came after them wishing to elevate rock and roll to its full sonic potential. What you have in Led Zeppelin is not only the birth of a titan, but the progenitor of a race of titans.

Original elpee version

A1. Good Times Bad Times (Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones/John Bonham) (2:43)
A2. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (traditional, arr. by Jimmy Page) (6:40)
A3. You Shook Me (Willie Dixon) (6:30)
A4. Dazed and Confused (Jimmy Page) (6:27)
B1. Your Time Is Gonna Come (Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones) (4:41) (4:14*)
B2. Black Mountain Side (Jimmy Page) (2:06)
B3. Communication Breakdown (Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones/John Bonham) (2:26)
B4. I Can’t Quit You Baby (Willie Dixon) (4:42)
B5. How Many More Times (Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones/John Bonham) (3:30) (8:28*)

Note: Songwriting credits have changed over the years; above are the original writing credits.

* There are discrepancies of several seconds in track times listed on the elpee and the compact disc versions, which is pretty common. In two cases, the difference was significant enough that I’ve included the CD track times (which appear to be more accurate) in parentheses.

The Players

John Bonham (drums, tympani, backing vocal), John Paul Jones (bass, organ, backing vocal), Jimmy Page (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar, backing vocal), Robert Plant (lead vocal, harmonica) with Viram Jasani (table drum on B2). Produced by Jimmy Page; director of engineering: Glyn Johns; executive producer: Peter Grant.

The Pictures

Cover design by George Hardie. Back liner photo by Chris Dreja.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on January 12, 1969 in the UK (Atlantic, 588171) and the US and Canada (Atlantic, SD 8216) [red/plum label]. Some color variations exist for the cover. Reached #6 on the UK charts and #10 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 8x platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1971 in the US (Atlantic, SD 8216) [green/orange label].
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the UK, France, Germany and Poland (Atlantic, K 40031).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1972 in Venezuela (Atlantic, 50.014).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1977 in Chile (Atlantic, SD-8216) [red label].
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Atlantic, P10105A) with gatefold cover, insert and poster.
  6. Re-issued on elpee in 1982 in Czechoslovakia (Atlantic, 1113 3099).
  7. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and compact disc in the US (Atlantic, SD 19126) with yellow cover lettering.
  8. Re-released on remastered compact disc and cassette in July 1994 in the US (Atlantic, 82632).
  9. Re-released on remastered 180g vinyl elpee in 2013 in Europe (Atlantic, 8122-79664-1).
Led Zeppelin cover variation
Led Zeppelin SD 8216 album cover

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