Led Zeppelin had a fully formed, distinctive sound from the outset, as their eponymous debut illustrates. Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme, Zeppelin created a majestic, powerful brand of guitar rock constructed around simple, memorable riffs and lumbering rhythms. But the key to the ...
Led Zeppelin had a fully formed, distinctive sound from the outset, as their eponymous debut illustrates. Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme, Zeppelin created a majestic, powerful brand of guitar rock constructed around simple, memorable riffs and lumbering rhythms. But the key to the group's attack was subtlety: it wasn't just an onslaught of guitar noise; it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos. As Led Zeppelin proves, the group was capable of such multi-layered music from the start. Although the extended psychedelic blues of "Dazed and Confused," "You Shook Me," and "I Can't Quit You Baby" often gather the most attention, the remainder of the album is a better indication of what would come later. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" shifts from folky verses to pummeling choruses; "Good Times Bad Times" and "How Many More Times" have groovy, bluesy shuffles; "Your Time Is Gonna Come" is an anthemic hard rocker; "Black Mountain Side" is pure English folk; and "Communication Breakdown" is a frenzied rocker with a nearly punkish attack. Although the album isn't as varied as some of their later efforts, it nevertheless marked a significant turning point in the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal. [Led Zeppelin launched a massive reissue campaign in 2014, supervised by Jimmy Page. The album proper has been remastered but the centerpiece for this deluxe edition, as it is for its companion reissues, is an additional disc of unreleased bonus material. Page dug through the Zeppelin archives to find rare -- and often un-bootlegged -- recordings, relying on alternate mixes and backing tracks but occasionally excavating unheard songs. However, the music contained on the deluxe edition of Led Zeppelin does not fall into these categories. The entire disc of bonus material is dedicated to a concert given at the Olympia in Paris in 1969, right between the recordings of the debut LP and Led Zeppelin II. This tape has been bootlegged before; indeed, it came to Page's attention relatively recently -- somewhere between the release of Mothership and Celebration Day -- and it was e-mailed to him by a fan. What's presented here is edited slightly from that version -- "How Many More Years" suffers the most, cut from its original 20 minutes by nearly ten minutes, and there are slices made to the guitar solo on "Heartbreaker" and "Moby Dick" has been truncated -- but most listeners won't much care because what's presented is so powerful. Often, the group drifts into endless jams -- "Dazed and Confused" clocks in at 15 minutes, "You Shook Me" at nearly 12 -- but this never seems ponderous, possibly because it opens with a version of "Good Times Bad Times" that the group quickly abandons for an insanely fast "Communication Breakdown," playing it as if they were sprinting to the finish. It's not tight but that's its appeal, as it shows how the band was a vital, living beast, playing differently on-stage than they did in the studio. This is also true of the liquid psychedelia of their blues -- they never miss an opportunity to sink into an endless groove but there's a kineticism to the interplay that almost always prevents it from seeming ponderous (the exception is, as ever, "Moby Dick," whose success relies entirely on your personal taste for drum solos). Zeppelin never felt this nervy again: they harnessed their majesty and knew how to deploy it, but here it still seems like they weren't quite sure of their limits, which is why it's a particularly exciting bonus disc.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi