Saturday, September 03, 2011

Led Zeppelin II (1969)

It's much easier for me to see now that this is likely the inferior album compared to the debut, if one of them has to be considered inferior. But it was the first Led Zeppelin album I acquired, in thrall to "Whole Lotta Love," and I had never before heard anything remotely like it. Once again the sound is just as big as it can be, colossal, a veritable sperm whale roaming the depths, breaching the surfaces bristling with guitar riffs and pyrotechnics, Robert Plant's unholy shrieking, and a drumkit as big as any room you play it in, as big as the inside of your head, pounding away relentlessly. I thought it was so good, in fact, that I started to wonder what the critics in "Rolling Stone" were complaining about so much. I still wonder, in many ways—not the same things I complain about now anyway, that's for sure. The songs are shorter; only one ranges over six minutes. I miss the willingness to take them out, not that the impulse is necessarily in short supply. Even the psychedelic passage of "Whole Lotta Love" satisfies the desire, and the pivots and turns are there all the way through this. But the most memorable song here after "Whole Lotta Love" may be "Heartbreaker" and very little else, even as the other shards and fragments of the skimmed cream of jam sessions serve their purposes. It's hardly unlistenable, and beyond "Moby Dick" it rarely feels padded out, put it that way. But as with eating empty calories the pleasures tend to be fleeting and the appetite not quite satisfied, even with a stomach painfully distended. I might have worn out my first copy of Led Zeppelin II, but it was as much about engaging with the ideas it suggested as with the sounds and tones actually set down. That and playing "Whole Lotta Love" until it was a grayish band of vinyl compared to the other tracks on the LP. Even as it remains a deeply ingrained favorite, I can see it's probably not the right place to start with Led Zeppelin. On the other hand, if you have three Led Zeppelin albums I can't see how this isn't one of them.


  1. If I had only three Led Zep albums (well, if I still kept music around as albums, you know what I mean), they would be Physical Graffiti, IV, and I. II would probably be 5th, after III. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'd listen to any of those five with pleasure. If I listened to one track, it would be "Kashmir," but since that's an obvious choice, I'll go with "Since I've Been Loving You."

  2. This is actually good to hear. I was reading someone earlier this week absolutely raving up II as the best and I started to think I had underrated it. For me, now, it's I, IV, II (I has recently shot up higher than ever). For a single track, yeah, I will take the obvious choice: "Kashmir"

  3. Setlist the time I saw them:

    The Song Remains the Same / The Rover (intro) > Sick Again / Nobody's Fault But Mine / Over the Hills and Far Away / Since I've Been Loving You / No Quarter / Ten Years Gone / The Battle of Evermore / Going to California / Mystery Train / Black Country Woman / Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp / White Summer > Black Mountain Side / Kashmir / Trampled Under Foot / Guitar Solo > Achilles Last Stand / Stairway to Heaven / Whole Lotta Love(intro) > Rock and Roll