Saturday, August 27, 2011

Led Zeppelin (1969)

I don't know what there is to say. I didn't expect it would all sound so fresh and so vital still. I mean, the gap between Iron Butterfly's signature LP and this first of an impressive run by Led Zeppelin feels positively galactic now. Iron Butterfly was just a clown car circus act by comparison, unpacking guitar, organ, drum, weird-noises passages stacked onto its dinky wheezy rickety chassis and chugging around the ring in circles. By comparison, this is Olympian-like and of the gods not just in its big thundering attack system (prototyped two songs in with the 6:41 "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"), signaled in the first place by the brash and brisk opening of "Good Times Bad Times." And on to the good stuff, the rest of the original side 1: "You Shook Me," "Dazed and Confused." It's all the confidence. Here they are, busy at inventing a whole new architecture of rock 'n' roll, with guitar riffs, power chords, a crunchy bottom, a singer and lead guitar player who interact with one another as call and response unit, a prototype of metal singers who ply the higher registers (and may or may not wear leotards). This really is all business, even with four songs longer than six minutes each. It's funny to look at the "Rolling Stone" and various hippie-oriented reviewers of its time, who spoke as though cautiously down on them, vaguely disapproving, comparing them unfavorably to the Jeff Beck Group and Cream. They must have known on some level they had a tiger by the tail. Or perhaps the music was too big to sight clearly along the edges, overwhelming to the task of description. It couldn't be any more clear to anyone listening today, I think. This is theatrics but tight and controlled, and all strictly of the aural persuasion, the insinuating levels at play, the soaring and swooping and the plain gestures of strength, as when "Dazed and Confused" goes off a cliff. It's just so big, all of it, every moment, track to track. A total homerun. Also no accident I imagine that Page would know, from previous experience in the Yardbirds and a predisposition to it in the first place, how to root this so plainly and so persuasively in mid-century American Mississippi River musical blues forms and gestures and vocabulary. He did (and wasn't always exactly ethical about it), even if it was hard to see at the time. Just solid.

1 comment:

  1. Death Panel Truck1:16 AM, August 28, 2011

    Gotta admit, I loved this album the first time I heard it - when it was called Truth, by the Jeff Beck Group.