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Led Zeppelin - II (1969)

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by gcczep, Jun 3, 2014.

  1. gcczep

    gcczep Ever Onward...

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    Led-Zeppelin II
    Released: October 22, 1969

    The band’s sophomore release was an extension of the first though formed while on the road on an extensive tour of America. Bits were recorded here and there at various locations giving the album that frenzied and on the move appeal. The foursome were brimming with ideas that were coming at a fast pace from playing live. Coupled with an unfettered energy, these musical structures had to be written down then committed to tape in any place possible. Even though it did not have the sophistication of later albums, the immediacy and the group’s feverish hunger shines through. Frankly, I’m surprised it is not a ramshackle, cobbled collection given the circumstances.

    Nicknamed affectionately by the group’s following as “The Brown Bomber”, it placed the band front and center as it knocked the hallowed Beatles “Abbey Road” off the No. 1 spot. The times they are a changin’. Of course, the band’s detractors will come to pigeonhole them with this style of music. What is given is what to be expected, an artist possible growth as a musical entity be damned. Of course, for their own satisfaction [and sanity?], they would never follow the previous template to their next output. On to the tunes.

    Side 1:

    Whole Lotta Love – That iconic riff. It is unique and not a copy of anything I’ve heard. What landed the band in hot water was Plant freely quoting “You Need Love” by Willie Dixon which ended up with the latter receiving credit under his real name Chester Burnett. I still get a kick out of the slide guitar note that augments the lyrics during some of the verses. Page employs the theremin with its wails and Bonham’s bongo track was added. The middle freak out section is a great way to show off an ace stereo system with the panning effects even if some may find Plant’s screaming off putting. I found it fun and didn’t. I just read recently that the ghosting of his vocals was the result of a separate backing track bleeding onto the tape. That’s how powerful his voice was back then. Then engineer Eddie Kramer and Page decided not to take it out. In concert, the band would use this song to play medleys of their favorite early rock songs and blues covers.

    What Is And What Should Never Be – Plant’s song about his road mistress whoever she may have been. It has this languid, sleepy intro which lulls the listener then hits the mid peaks. Even the solo comes off understated on purpose. The track’s ending has Page panning his guitar notes from this channel to that channel. It is another song that I never had a handle on. I wouldn’t seek out but I wouldn’t turn away from it either.

    The Lemon Song – The band at its minimal best. Just a studio run through on Howling Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and that is all it is. Live with no overdubs or effects. Plant is in great voice here and Page’s playing along with the solo is fluently executed. It is a more cohesive version than the improvised and sometimes haphazard concert renditions. Of course, it is also known to fans for the crude yet tongue in cheek “squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg” Robert Johnson lines from the 30’s.

    Thank You – Plant’s love poem to his wife Maureen. I find it funny how this side has him fawning over an affair outside of his marriage and expressing his devotion to his other half. The lyrics display a grateful, loving tribute to the woman who stood by him prior to him hitting the big time with Led-Zeppelin. Jones’ keyboard and Page’s acoustic guitar solo lends a gentle beauty to this song. Jones delayed keyboard outro ends this last track on Side 1.

    Side 2

    Heartbreaker – Heavy, sharp guitar riffs bathed with enough reverb, this is an underplayed favorite. In the middle of it, Page pastes on a guitar exercise workout done on the spot. In concert, he would often slip in bits off “Greensleeves,” the “59th Bridge Song” or a Scotty Moore rockabilly licks. Then it is on to the solo with the rhythm section of Jones and Bonham swinging with him. Plant’s vocals really reach heights here.

    Living, Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman) – The band’s song about a tale of a washed up, domineering groupie. It comes off as a poppish throwaway for me. Never did care for it and still don’t even if I’ve heard it before countless times. On the radio, they often played this immediately after Heartbreaker. I really wish they wouldn’t. Thank goodness my iPod does not.

    Ramble On – With a breezy acoustic intro. Bonham’s pitter patter percussive effect [bongos?] and Jones’ jazzy unobtrusive bass, Plant spouts his Tolkien inspired lyrics. I love the changes in dynamics along with how Page incorporates his electric guitars in a downshifted solo and a second one at a higher key both in a dual effect. It is another fine example of Page’s “light and shade” compositions.

    Moby Dick – For better or worse, this becomes Bonham’s vehicle to show off his chops as a drummer. I really dig the boogie-woogie instrumental that accompanies this track both at the beginning and the end. It dances. I maybe in the minority but I can sit through a drum solo both in studio or live. Bonham was influenced by old soul records where it is more than just rhythm where he did not overdo a fill or a run. Plant remarked that it was this style where it was what he left off that gave his playing slink. He does here yet still maintaining that primal edge.

    Bring It On Home – A walking bass line, slurred vocals then one, two, three…those sharp, slicing riffs. It is like a train coming down the tracks only it is off a stack of Marshall amps. A four minute and change unapologetic album closer, it never lets up and smokes. In concert, Page, Plant and Bonham would extend this to include a harmonica solo plus call and response sections between the three of them with Jones holding it all together. I’d like for it to have had a guitar solo though it stands out on its own without one.

    After the fourth and Graffiti, this was the third album of theirs I picked up which I listened to probably more. To me, it had that simple, straight ahead rock your senses vibe. You get electric numbers like Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker and Bring It Home, a slow, grinding bluesy workout in The Lemon Song, a ballad in Thank You and a Middle Earth travelogue in Ramble On.

    The cover is an interesting one with a pic of the band’s faces superimposed as part of a flight crew. It includes Peter Grant and what appears to be Lucille Ball. The fold out has an art design of a Zeppelin flying over a building with the band members’ names on slabs with four spotlights. Looks dated now but surely hip back then.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
  2. Lynch

    Lynch Rockin' Out

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    Good review. I agree with your thoughts on some of the songs. To me, LZ2 is the best they ever were. I used to think IV was best and at one point, PG was almost my favorite, but for quite a few years now, LZ2 has been my alltime favorite album. So much of this album is incredible. The riffs, the solos, the bass lines, the drums, even Plants vocals are at their best here, for me. I've long been critical of Plant's vocals being annoying and screechy but aside from that middle section of Whole Lotta Love, his vocals don't agitate me at all on this album.

    IMHO, this is one of the most important and iconic albums of the last 50 years (any genre). :bow:
     
  3. LG

    LG Fade To Black

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    This is probably my pick of the litter when it comes to Zeppelin, although IV is also right there. I went a long time without listening to this band because they were so overplayed when I was a teenager, but time and space have a way of bringing you full circle so now I dig out my Zeppelin albums a lot more than I did 20 years ago.

    I know a lot of people don't like Plant's...vocal excursions on Whole Lotta Love, but it remains one of my favorite rock riffs of all time and I like it a lot.

    Another top shelf review George, take $20 out of petty cash you earned it.:cheers2
     
  4. Vehicle

    Vehicle Shinedown Fanboy

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    Top notch review. I was a late bloomer with Zep. I had older cousins, so they weren't new to me, but I didn't really get into them until I was in my late teens.

    Overall, II is probably my favorite, but most of my favorite cuts are from PG.
     
  5. Hurdy Gurdy Man

    Hurdy Gurdy Man Senior Member

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    This was the one that made Zep the way we know them today.The first album was great,but it was more of an extension of what Jimmy Page might have done with the Yardbirds had they continued pn after '68."Zeppelin II" was their REAL breakout record that gave them their true signature sound...
     
  6. Riff Raff

    Riff Raff The Kevin Owens Show Staff Member

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    Much better album than IV in my opinion.
     
  7. Dr. Love

    Dr. Love Member

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    II has always been my favorite overall Zeppelin album (although IV is a fairly close second fave). The only song I don't care for is "Thank You". I love the riff in "Moby Dick" (but percussion-wise I prefer Page's genius "Moby Dick/Bonzo's Montreux" amalgamation - the whole of which is greater than the sum of the parts.) The rest of Zeppelin II is pure rock gold.
     

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