OAAR: Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II (1969)

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The 1969 follow-up to their first iconic album, Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin II carries with it even more memorable songs that will turn out to be classic tunes recognized to this day. Led Zeppelin II off with "Whole Lotta Love", a song whose title you don't say as much as you sing it then follow it up with the guitar slide. One of the best parts of this song is the breakdown jam section leading into the guitar solo. I bet you could ask a few generations of music fans if they could hum or whistle this solo and about 85% could actually rock it off the top of their heads. This is just one example of how classic this song is. "The Lemon Song" was probably one of the lower points on this album with the song not seemingly able to decide whether it wants to be structured or a jam session, but even having said that, the vocals and fantastic bass presence backing the guitar solos help keep the song above the average mark.

The "second side" of the album, starting with "Heartbreaker" really helps to lift this album up to new heights. The key to this are the three iconic riffs that pretty much all classic rock fans recognize anytime they hear them. The high point of this album, though, has to be "Ramble On" with its smoking bass riff, hard hitting chorus and just an all around fantastic song structure. The last noteworthy track is the instrumental "Moby Dick" featuring fun guitar solos but what really stands out is John Bonham's drum solo which sounds like is mainly accomplished with his fingers and not the use of drum sticks (at least for the most part) which is an incredible feat in and of itself. As a whole, Led Zeppelin II doesn't really make it on experience score for the same reasons as the first album, but is a wholly better album than Led Zeppelin I.

Author: Jake

I mean holy shit I forgot how good this album is.  Where Led Zeppelin paid homage to the blues that had gone before, Led Zeppelin II is 41+ minutes of Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham taking the blues and making it their own.  (With a few borrowed bits from Willie Dixon, of course.)  Everyone gets their chance to shine, but Jimmy Page's guitar drives the album from the opening hook of "Whole Lotta Love" to the surprisingly catchy hook in "Bring It On Home".   The arrangement of the songs, whether pure accident or intentional, sets a perfect flow, as the more gentle middle tracks are bookended by some heavy, aggressive cuts.

Yet, as a whole, the album still feels incomplete.  Zeppelin produced a great sophomore effort before it was important to do so, and the songwriting on Led Zeppelin II is far superior to that of the debut, but the band's ability to produce a true opus wouldn't finally appear until Physical Graffiti.  It may only be a semantic distinction, but it's important to remember that in 1969, most albums were intended to be considered in their entirety.  The modern convenience of surrounding two or three single-quality songs with some ambient noise and throwaway tracks would have resulted in a short career at best.  Much like Led Zeppelin, the songs of Led Zeppelin II all stand out on their own - even the instrumental "Moby Dick" - but Led Zeppelin II  gets a more favorable rating because the songs are better.  I have always viewed Zeppelin's albums as representative tours de force (even if this does prejudge the more unique releases like Led Zeppelin III  and In Through The Out Door) and as such, Led Zeppelin II seems now, 43 years later, to be the apex of the band's studio releases.
Author: Pete

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