Tag Archives: led zeppelin

Acclaimed Albums – Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 212/250Title: Physical Graffiti
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1975
Position: #116

Over four years have passed since I last listened to Led Zeppelin for the purposes of the album list. Previously, I remarked that in Led Zeppelin II I found an album of theirs that I enjoyed, but that was not the case with the later Led Zeppelin IV. Continuing on with that pattern, I just didn’t get on with Physical Graffiti.

Reading around, I see that many have complimented this on being their creative peak – which it would need to be since this is a double album that goes on for nearly 90 minutes. It’s also an interesting way of phrasing the compliment seeing how a number of tracks are from the sessions of other albums – but that happens when a track doesn’t quite fit the tone of that particular album.

In the end though, I think I just need to accept that the music of Led Zeppelin is not for me. There are some songs that, in the past, I have enjoyed, but never a whole album. Not really. In the end, my thoughts on their albums have always been kinda relative. Thing is, this style of harder and progressive rock of the 1970s is not my thing and that’s okay. It isn’t exactly my thing nowadays unless there are some post-punk influences.

With a band like Led Zeppelin though, there is almost this feeling of guilt for being able to see why here so high on this list. I’ve never felt that way with the Beatles, maybe because I always saw them as being hyped into oblivion and it’s okay to go against that. In the end though, taste is taste and the reason for doing a list like this is to see where taste can expand further, just happens that it won’t be in theirdirection.

1001 Songs – 1971: Part Two

Imagine – John Lennon

Starting off this post with, arguably, the most beloved song to come from 1971… as well as one that I actively cannot stand. Whilst I appreciate the idealism here of a multi-millionaire playing a song about having no possessions whilst he is sitting in a mansion, it still comes across to me as being something vague that a high school student might write and think that they’re being very deep.

I can also appreciate what Phil Spector was trying to do with the production here, but it just comes across as overwhelmingly sentimental when it could have stood to be a little subtler.

Laughing – David Crosby

Usually when I listen to a song for this list I tend to write some notes as I go along and then fluff them a bit out later. With ‘Laughing’ I found myself a bit bewitched at trying to work out all the individual parts of the song that I didn’t manage to get a single word written down.

It’s what tends to happen when I am presented with a song with this many layers and sections. My brain tries to work out everything rather than trying to feel. A second listen really helped. This song is beautifully layered and complex to the point that I still find myself swept up in it rather than finding a way to actually talk about it… so let’s move on.

When The Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin

Well, this is a real flashback to about two years ago where I last heard this track as part of its parent album. Back then I wasn’t too impressed with the album, to the point that I barely wrote anything about it and instead focused more on Led Zeppelin.

As with ‘Eleanor Rigby’, this is a song that I was better able to appreciate in isolation. I am still not the biggest fan of this type of heavy blues rock, but at least I can better appreciate the number of different things going on here. The weird sounding harmonica, for example, makes this track unique.

It’s just that, as with most things Zeppelin, I would not have minded a few minutes being shaven off.

Surf’s Up – The Beach Boys

Feels like forever since I last heard something by The Beach Boys. It’s been even longer since I listened to the Brian Wilson’s Smile, where this song finally found it’s proper home.

Songs like this are why I will always prefer the Beach Boys to the Beatles. The level of complexity present puts it on par with a lot of what prog rock was starting to do and continues to do so to this day. However, this is still very much planted in the chamber pop landscape. It’s a lovely song and it makes me want to listen to the album again.

Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes

This must be one of the most quoted and pastiched themes of all time. The Simpsons, Father Ted, Scrubs and even the video game LEGO City Undercover have all borrowed from it. Yet this is actually the first time I have heard the whole song.

How is it that such a famous film theme contains no lyrics until over halfway through? Well, maybe because Issac Hayes’ vocals are mixed right down to the point of being nearly completely drowned.

Interesting to see another song where funk and soul are beginning to morph into disco. I wonder how long it will be before that onslaught truly begins.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron

In the context of this list, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ feels a lot like a sequel to ‘When The Revolution Comes’ by the Last Poets. Both songs are spoken word poems referencing ‘the Revolution’ and are set to some sort of funk music.

The key difference is Gil Scott-Heron is able to better articulate his message. His choice of words is more careful, the music better supports his voice and he, at no point, has a random backing singer come onto the track.

Seeing how this sort of spoken-word funk has developed between these two songs, it’s only a matter of time before rap starts.

It’s Too Late – Carole King

Tapestry is an excellent album. It would have been easy to choose a large section of songs to be prospective entries on the list – so they went for one of the two that managed to snag a Grammy.

It isn’t just the Grammy win for Record of the Year that gave ‘It’s Too Late’ a place on this list. Carole King is one of those great workhorses of this era of American music with her penning hit songs for the likes of Aretha Franklin and The Shirelles.

With this song you see the RnB influence mixed with some soft rock to make a track about a break-up that is mature, honest and mutual.

Dum Maro Dum – Asha Bhosle

Okay, so we’re ending on a drastically different song here. I guess it’s only fair to have a song by Lata Mangeshkar‘s younger sister seeing how they are both Bollywood playback singer royalty.

You start a song from a Bollywood film with a certain preconception and ‘Dum Maro Dum’ walks in a shatters them. Sure, you have the backing singers singing so loud that they end up distorted (which is something I really cannot abide) as well as the almost lilting vocal delivery by the lead, but something is really different.

This is, basically, a Bollywood rock song that takes notes from what was happening in the West at the time. There are electric instruments like synthesisers and guitars that really drive this song. Looking back on the other Bollywood song for this list, ‘Dum Maro Dum’ must have felt like a huge shift in what could make for a successful Bollywood song.

It would be utterly brilliant if it wasn’t for that hideous distortion.

Progress: 337/1021

1001 Songs – 1969: Part Three

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Is It Because I’m Black? – Syl Johnson

It’s weird to think that if I’d split the songs a different way we could have had this following straight after after ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’. From a song banned for its explosion of sexuality to this slow funk lamenting the injustice of racism.

The thing is, at least for me, this isn’t a song, it’s a poem put to music. It’s a powerful poem about civil rights (and there are powerful lines in this) put to a slow funk backing. This music is on a loop, which means that there is little to no variation in the seven and a half minute run of the song.

It sounds harsh to say this, but this song is dull and would have been better with an impassioned reading and no music.

I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & The Family Stone

I have yet to listen to the Sly & The Family Stone album that this song came from, but I am going to venture that this song is a bit of a joyful explosion in an otherwise political album. It’s more than likely that I am going to be proven wrong on this one.

As with the previous song, there is that repetition in the backing music. I mean this is what I have come to expect from funk, that backing that doesn’t change too much between song parts (even modern songs with funk roots, such as Janelle Monae’s ‘Tightrope’ does this). However, there is enough riffing and energy in the music to keep this song moving forward.

The band themselves are an interesting part of music history since it contained a mix of race and gender – something that I don’t think I’ve seen so far on the song list. Did it really take until 1969 before we had such an integrated band? That, in itself, is shocking.

The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson

Oh hi progressive rock, how good it is to see you again. I signalled in a previous post that we were seeing the morphing of psychedelic rock into progressive rock and I think ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ helps to provide a look at that jumping off point.

This is a song that could not have existed without The Beatles having previously experimented with songs like ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Similarly you have the trailblazing done by Brian Wilson and Frank Zappa which lead to bands being able to have that much more creative control in the studio. I cannot imagine King Crimson even dreaming of putting together this grandiose piece without those three artists coming before them.

As with a lot of the jazz and classical music that prog rock likes to emulate, ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ has parts/movements. It never stays too long on one section and yet everything is tied together by that Mellotron. Hearing this in proper context, this song is groundbreaking. I need to listen to this album again.

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

It’s says a lot about Led Zeppelin II where two songs off the album appear in the 1001 songs list. It speaks for the album’s variation and importance as even the Beatles didn’t manage that feat.

I find it hard to get past the fact that the main riff of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was the theme music to Top of the Pops… especially since this song is on the list because of that guitar riff and not the stolen lyrics.

As a song on Led Zeppelin II it stands out, but after ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ it starts to pale.

I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges

When I listened to The Stooges’ eponymous album I thought of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ as being one of the standout tracks. Now that I listen to it again I marvel at my missing the sleigh bells that are constantly being played in the background.

It’s nice to be back to a shorter rock song again and get back to the world of proto-punk. ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ feels so different to the music around it and, when you look at the massive list of cover versions on Wikipedia, really appears to have been a song that grabbed people. That distortion throughout also signposts the start of noise rock/pop… and considering that means the eventual path to Loveless it’s pretty exciting.

Kick Out the Jams – The MC5

The ‘motherfucker’ in the songs opening line might be the first swear word I have heard on the song list. It’s fairly normal to swear in songs now, but wow this instance must have courted controversy at the time. Then again this is from one of the most influential proto-punk albums of all time… so it was always going to be controversial.

One thing that’s interesting to note is that with this and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ we are moving away from bands just trying to make loud music. We’ve had a lot of that loud music as garage rock, but that was loud for the sake of loudness. These tracks are now moving towards loud and with power. We’re not quite at Panthera level, but it won’t be soon before long.

I Want You Back – The Jackson 5

In the words of my husband, “are you ready for mood whiplash”. A 11-year old Michael Jackson and already he has all that charisma. Knowing what we know now about the goings on with the Jackson 5… well it just makes you wonder.

On the more pleasant side of things, ‘I Want You Back’ is an unusual example of soul crossing over into pop. With later releases by the Jacksons this line isn’t just crossed repeatedly, but is erased entirely.

Also worth noting is that, at least on the recording, none of the instruments were played by the Jacksons. The label would only allow session musicians on the recordings – so the only thing Jackson about this song are the vocals. So this song is pretty much a Michael Jackson song…

The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King

And here we are, the final song of the 1960s. It has been a long time coming (and means we are nearly a third into this list) and we end with B.B. King whose last song on the list was from 1953. Talk about a long career.

As a song ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ feels like a throwback to some of the earlier blues songs, which has made me feel nostalgic for two years ago. Why? Because that’s when I started with the very first songs of 1960. It’ll probably end up taking me as long to get through the seventies… so I probably should get on that.

It’s a bit of an anti-climax to end on as it’s not too dissimilar to blues songs that went before it. At least that’s how I feel… I probably don’t know enough about the blues to comment.

Progress: 293/1021

1001 Songs – 1969: Part Two

Wow that was a long break between songs. I guess that live and a re-emerging love of cinema got in the way… also RuPaul’s Drag Race. Man, I love those girls. So let’s continue on and finally get out of the 1960s!

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Sister Morphine – Marianne Faithfull

I am probably in the minority of people in my generation to have listened to a Marianne Faithfull album (Broken English) at some point. I’d forgotten just how haunting her vocals can be, that is until ‘Sister Morphine’ starts. I don’t know if I have ever heard such a frank song about drug addiction – granted we’ve had ‘Heroin’ by the Velvet Underground – where the singer is exposing her own dark dependencies… and at the time of recording her drug habits were just on the precipice of an even deeper addiction. In part, because the money she made from this song helped her to afford more drugs, like the titular morphine.

The huskiness in Faithfull’s voice is haunting and the history of this song make it one of those weird relics that won’t soon be forgotten.

Okie from Muskogee – Merle Haggard

Okay, so this is how I would imagine Hank Hill as a country singer. On the surface this is a song about a man in Middle America looking at the youth culture (the then hippies and the drugs that they took) and being glad to be the sort of man he is. It’s hard to go beyond the surface because Merle Haggard himself keeps changing his story as to what this song means i.e. is it a satire or is he playing it straight. He basically veers between those depending on the company.

Personally I didn’t read it as satire – it feels just like someone rolling their eyes, shrugging their shoulders and going “kids these days”.

Heartbreaker – Led Zeppelin

I said previously that with Led Zeppelin II I finally found a Led Zeppelin album that I enjoyed. I wrote that two years ago and the moment ‘Heartbreaker’ started it took me right back to that sunny day when I was listening to this on the train.

With ‘Heartbreaker’ in a better context I can really appreciate how this fit into music at the time. Hard rock is becoming harder and you can see that metal is just around the corner. In fact, you might even call this and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (which will be in the next batch of songs) metal – just not heavy metal.

Is That All There Is? – Peggy Lee

Turning the dial right down from 11 here as we go for something completely different. Something utterly depressing. I’ve heard this song before, but never listened to this song before. I think that the character in the song is depressed and displaying some flat affect.

This is a woman who knows that despite being able to find any joy in love or the circus there is no point in ending it all… because death is it’s own type of disappointment. I mean, good God! Also, good on Peggy Lee for actually taking on a song like this in the twilight of her career. Her voice is sultry enough to pull this of despite the weirdly upbeat banjo in the background.

And wouldn’t you know, this helped Peggy Lee stage a comeback. Uttlerly brilliant.

Sweetness – Yes

Ladies and gentlemen, progressive rock has just arrived. If I hadn’t been so focused on the interplay between hard and soft rock in previous songs I probably would have noticed that prog-rock was quietly developing in the background – thanks in no small part to the Beatles and the Beach Boys. In the next post we’ll have a King Crimson song, which also signals the point where psychedelia is coming to an end and is mixing with the baroque rock/chamber pop of the Beach Boys to make prog-rock.

‘Sweetness’ is a song you could imagine the Beatles singing in their Sgt Pepper days, but I think it is better that this song belongs to Yes. Even if just for the sweeter vocals that the Beatles couldn’t really do.

Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley

You have to hand it to Elvis, he had a long career. He managed to jump genres and change with the times. Granted that this will have been a lot down to the management knowing what they are doing, but credit where credit is due.

It’s still very much an Elvis song though and it could belong on his Memphis album if it had been recorded earlier. He sounds so good on this song and it’s just a pity that it has that weird fade out-fade in thing going on around the 3.5 minute mark. I guess that’s the producer wanting to put his mark on the song or something like that… but that’s probably just when the song should have ended.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Crosby, Stills, & Nash

Bonus marks for this song for doing something very different. Structured more like a classical piece ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ is formed of four distinct parts to make one contiguous piece of music. It’s always an upbeat song, but it goes through variations in harmony, orchestration and (for the final section) language.

I think most people would find themselves recognising the final part of ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ and not being sure exactly how – but it’s pretty recognisable for its unintelligability.

Pinball Wizard – The Who

We close this group of songs with two incredibly famous entries. Whilst I have not seen Tommy the movie, I have listened to the rock opera. Within the story of Tommy ‘Pinball Wizard’ is a song about the deaf-blind protagonist becoming a world class pinball player (is player the word for pinball) just through sensing the vibrations.

I mean this is drug-fuelled rock we’re talking about so it doesn’t have to make that much sense as it veers between rock and pop.

Je t’aime… moi non plus – Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg

So the story goes that there is a generation of people that have been conceived to this song. I love this idea. It’s bizarre, but I’m going to run with it. The other story goes that the heavy breathing is because of Birkin and Gainsbourg having sex during the recording. Again I love this idea if just for the logistics that would need to be involved.

Okay so both of those stories are baloney, but isn’t it great when a 4 and a half minute song can develop such a rich mythology. Especially a breathy erotic song like this one. I was about to go into how stupid it is that a song like this was banned from radio in a number of countries… but now that I’ve listened to it all the way it makes sense. There is a lot of heavy breathing in this and I can just imagine the kids in the playground mimicing this without knowing why.

Got to say that this is a weird song to end the post on…

Progress: 285/1021

Acclaimed Albums – Led Zeppelin II & IV

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 85/250

Title: Led Zeppelin II
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Year: 
1969
Position:
#74
Title: Led Zeppelin IV
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1971
Position: #28

So my Kindle died on me this morning, currently on volume 3 of Clarissa for the book list, so I figured that I would try and get some albums in. Since, as of writing, the 2015 update of the Acclaimed Albums list was not out I figure that I might as well mine some of the safer entries for listens.

A while has passed since I listened Led ZeppelinPart of me thought that I would come back to it in the year afterwards, but it just didn’t happen. My distaste for too many guitar solos on one record probably kept me away.

Still, I have been thinking about a return to the later albums, if only for the iconic ‘Stairway to Heaven’. It’s one of those songs that everyone heard, if not heard of. I still find it amazing that it was able to gain so much traction despite not being released as a single. Where I am musically, I can pretty much take or leave it to be honest. In fact, whilst I definitely see how Led Zeppelin IV is better than their first album it was Led Zeppelin II that I enjoyed a whole lot more.

Maybe it was because the opening track, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, made me think of those Friday nights as a boy watching Top of the Pops. I certainly don’t think it is because of a love of that kind of hard rock music, because that is not true, there is just something about the album that was far more attention-grabbing and could then keep hold of it. It even provided a good backdrop for some of the more tedious office work.

So yes, it appears that with Led Zeppelin II  I have found an album by led Zeppelin that I enjoy. Led Zeppelin IV? Not as much.

Music Monday: Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 30/250Title: Led Zeppelin
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1969
Position: #116

I’m sticking around in 1969 for a while since it is, apparently, the year that holds the most albums within the Top 250. In face the time between 1967-1971 holds just over 27% of the entries on this list so I will eventually become very well acquainted with this era.

The choice of doing Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut album actually comes from the fact I found on Dusty Springfield playing a large role on the band getting a record deal with Atlantic Records. It also helps that I have never really listened to any Led Zeppelin because of their association with metal and hard rock. Still, with four albums on this list it made sense to get the first one over and done with now.

I say over and done with since I didn’t expect that I would enjoy it, surprisingly I did. The reason being that despite this album being an important landmark when it comes to heavy metal… it is as much metal as The White Stripes were. Yes, there are a number of guitar solos (I mean the album opener ‘Good Times Bad Times’ has some epic guitar playing, so they really did start as they meant to carry on) and it was a lot louder and more in your face than other albums that were popular at the time. In this way whilst it is a precursor to heavy metal it is far closer to blues rock, something that I tend to like anyway.

As with other albums of this era there is a change in the music upon the disc flip. For this album I have to say that it was the second half that really struck me more immediately. It opens with ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ which is heavy on the Hammond organ and features a very upbeat chorus for a song hoping for the downfall of an unfaithful girlfriend. This then leads into a very faux-Indian sounding track (The Beatles would be happy) which, again, is not what I expected to hear. This pattern of defying my expectations just kept on repeating throughout the album.

I guess why Led Zeppelin was able to surprise me was that it was light on the guitar solos that I know they are famous for. Whilst many are able to appreciate these I can not help but see them as showboating and not much else. We’ll see how I feel when I get to their later albums.