Led Zeppelin are simply the most influential band of all time. If you speak to any rock musician in the modern world, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’ve been influenced by Zeppelin, or by a band that was influenced by them. The fact the band transcend generations with their high octane rock is astounding. Comprised of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham, they changed the rock music blueprint completely. The watershed moment for their careers was their seminal second album: “Led Zeppelin II”.
The album opens with one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time; the main riff to Whole Lotta Love. One of the band’s most recognisable songs, it is built on the jackhammer riff from Page’s Gibson Les Paul. Leading into a heavy groove laid down by the concrete rhythm section of Bonham and John, the song comes across accessible yet completely true to its roots. Later becoming the theme for the chart countdown on iconic music show “Top of the Pops”, this particular song’s cultural impact is there for all to see.
Up next is What Is, and What Should Never Be. This song initially has a much more relaxed feel, and then kicks into a classic power groove, with Plant’s full vocal range on show. The mid section of the song where it drops right down into a slide guitar solo is so pure and simply incredible. Jimmy Page is one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and fully shows it on this album. John Bonham’s sense of dynamics on the drums are there to be admired; his control and skill is what makes him one of the greatest ever.
Following on is The Lemon Song, which is pretty much a soul song. The versatility of this band is simply astounding. What jumps out of the speakers here are Page’s lead guitar lines and little guitar figures that complicate the simple riff. The whole band’s feel is incredible and the way they can jump around between time signatures so effortlessly is a wonderful thing to hear. Young musicians, listen to this song in particular. It’s dynamic feel and time structure is something to be studied repeatedly. Do it!
Next up is Thank You, a song which is acoustic led. Even with its soft feel, the song swings wonderfully, and the added organ sounds in the background really creates an ethereal effect. Plant’s vocals are on top form (when are they not), and his incredible range is on show once again. He was the first real “frontman” so to speak, and the combination of Plant’s vocal range and the band’s understanding of dynamics is simply sublime.
Next is Heartbreaker, which is another Jimmy Page signature riff. It sinks into the mind of the listener, especially Plant wailing like a banshee with a stubbed toe. Bonham’s groove absolutely makes this song, with his simple pattern allowing the riff and vocal melody to fly over the top. However, it is the guitar solo in the middle of the song which is the major mind blowing part of this song. Page did things to his guitar on this song that had never been done in such a way before. Such is his feel with the music that even though you can’t see him playing, you can imagine the concentration and emotion etched into his face. This is unquestionably hard to do, and one of the main reasons that he is so legendary.
Following this is Living Love Maid (She’s Just A Woman) – classic 60s rock and roll, but with a different feel due to the sheer virtuosity of the band. They manage to make simple beats and riffs sound incredibly complicated by executing them so perfectly. Again, this shows their versatility; by doing something so simple so well, they have again showed why they are one of the greatest bands ever. Ever. No arguments.
Next up is Ramble On, which is one of the absolute highlights of this album. Starting off very relaxed, the song’s lyrics conjure up beautiful images of nature, and the background sounds contribute to this perfectly. When kicking into the chorus, Zeppelin up the ante with a heavy groove, which is in 4/4 but has a brilliant odd-time feel. Plant’s vocals over this shriek perfectly, and fill the space among the guitar, bass and drums. This is an absolutely dynamically perfect song, with many different feels available to the ears. It is simply stunning.
Following this virtuous song is the equally unbelievable Moby Dick. The heavy intro riff (though not what this song is most famous for) inspired a generation of guitarists and gets stuck right in the listener’s head. However, it is the drums that this song is most famous for. John Bonham’s solo during this instrumental brought drums to the fore in most people’s eyes. Many people, young and old, really sat up and took notice, and were inspired to pick up the sticks and play for themselves. His use of linear patterns between his hands and feet create a wonderful effect. What’s even more amazing is that live Bonham often played parts of this solo with his bare hands. Simply one of the greatest of all time, Bonham cemented his legacy here. Inspiring and truly great.
Closing the album is Bring It On Home, a song which utilised the second most underrated instrument of all time: the harmonica. (In case you were wondering, number one is the cowbell). After the harmonica section, the song kicks into classic Zeppelin, with beautiful layered guitars that simply rock. Bonham’s crushing drum fills here provide great space between the different patterns and link everything perfectly.
In closing, this is one of the greatest albums of all time by one of the greatest bands. The word great is used all too frequently these days. Messrs Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham, you truly are great. Listen to this album, now. It’s an education in music, emotion, and simply put it is an education in life.
FOR FANS OF: Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix
Find out where John Bonham came on our Top Ten Drummers of All Time