On January 12th, 1969, a then-unknown quartet formed from the ashes of 60s pop band The Yardbirds and recorded an eponymous debut album–Led Zeppelin.
Spearheaded by former Yardbirds guitarist/bassist Jimmy Page, his new band was predicted to “Go down like a lead zeppelin” by The Who drummer Keith Moon. Fortunately, Led Zeppelin did not succumb to their predicted fate. Within a few short years they would become the biggest rock band on the planet, thanks in large part to their powerhouse of a debut album released 52 years ago today.
Led Zeppelin sounded unlike anything on rock and pop radio at the time, cultivating a blues-rock sound with a crisp heaviness and psychedelic themes capable of being performed as open-ended jams in a live setting. Perhaps it was the combination of Page’s swift blues guitar foundation in conjunction with the unparalleled falsetto of singer Robert Plant or the thunderous drumming of John Bonham alongside the low-end musicianship of John Paul Jones. Whatever it was, Led Zeppelin remains a sublime listening experience all these years later.
From the opening chords of “Good Times Bad Times” to the closing notes of the blues saga “How Many More Times,” there isn’t a single dull moment on the whole album from start to finish. Styles and genres covered a wide range of ground, from hard rock to deep blues to acoustic-driven folk–three styles that the band would embrace while writing and recording throughout their 12-year run. Transitions like the steel-string acoustic guitar ballad “Black Mountain Side” into adrenaline-pumping “Communication Breakdown” immediately showcased this band’s extraordinary talent.
Of course, no discussion of Led Zeppelin is complete without a mention of their early psychedelic anthem, “Dazed and Confused”. With its slow, descending bass-line alongside the wavy, dreamy notes of Page’s guitar, the song soars in the melodic abyss before punching its way into hard rock lore. Add in a guitar solo played with a violin bow by Page during performances, and you have yourself an instant classic.
Where would music be without the mighty Zeppelin? Fortunately, we don’t have to answer that question. From a band that pioneered hard rock and heavy metal, Led Zeppelin was the album that started it all.
Relisten to the album’s 2014 deluxe reissue in the audio player below. Safe travels.
Led Zeppelin (Deluxe Edition Reissue)
[Originally published January 12th, 2017]
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